Case #7: Amber Tuccaro

This case is one that really encapsulates the purpose behind this blog. We’ll only talk specifically about one victim in particular today, but her story is just part of a bigger, more terrifying phenomenon happening in Canada over the past decades. The blame for these violent crimes is, of course, on the perpetrator(s), but it’s also partly on the community these victims were part of and the media in the area. These victims were allowed to be cast aside, forgotten about, and disregarded because of their identities: indigenous women from Canada’s First Nations tribes. Their stories reflect the horrific abuse and discrimination the indigenous people of Canada have faced at the hands of their own government and communities.

This is also a case that has very little public information available about it. When law enforcement, communities, and local media don’t care enough to spread the word about a victim, it limits the opportunities for people to learn what happened and for them to be able to communicate pertinent information and leads to investigators. Because of this, Amber’s case is officially considered all but non-existent—but there’s still a chance justice can be found for her.

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On August 17th, 2010, Amber Tuccaro, a Mikisew Cree indigenous woman, flew from Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, to Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, with her 14-month-old son. She had told her mother that she’d been needing to get away for the weekend, and that she’d be staying with a female friend in Edmonton. Amber, her friend, and her son all stayed in a small hotel just outside of the city of Edmonton, in a town called Nisku.

By the second night of her daughter’s trip, Amber’s mother has stopped hearing from her, which was odd—the two almost always were in close contact, especially if one was away. When her mother calls Amber’s friend’s number, she realizes that Amber isn’t in the hotel room with her. Amber, the friend told her, had gone out to see the city, and had left her son in the care of her friend. It isn’t known, at least not to the public, why Amber chose to do this this night. Was she planning to meet someone specific? Did she have any set plan? Or did she really truly just want to get away and see some sights? Regardless, why didn’t her friend accompany her, and why couldn’t she have taken her son along?

Amber’s mother, looking for the same answers, frantically calls the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to file a missing person report for her daughter. But, as I mentioned, the Tuccaro’s were living in a place where their identity was seen by many as lesser. As in so many cases of vulnerable people gone missing, the police failed to take Amber’s mother seriously. Since she was an adult, police told her mother that they were sure Amber was just off partying, and that she would come back home eventually. Only after continuous pressure from Amber’s mother did they actually file an official report, and even then, they released a statement several weeks later announcing that they had no evidence or reason to suspect that Amber was in any danger or had even left the Edmonton area.

From that point on, Amber’s family, friends, and son were essentially told to go home and wait. And they did, for nearly two long, excruciating years, with nothing to show for it. That is, until one day in 2012, when RCMP officers call the Tuccaro family out of the blue. They tell a stunned family that, after two years of seemingly no progress, they have reason to believe that Amber was murdered back in 2010. A few months after they drop this news, they release the biggest bombshell in the case so far: audio recording of the last phone call Amber Tuccaro made before she disappeared.

Again, the specific circumstances of this call are unknown by the public. All we can definitively tell is that the call took place in a moving vehicle that Amber was not driving. She was in the back or passenger seat of this car, and was talking both to the person on the other line and the driver of the car. During the call, Amber is asking this driver where they’re headed. It appears that she is confused and upset with the direction in which they’re driving, saying several times that she wants to go into the city, and that that’d better be where he’s taking her.

Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mEeyd1sF6g&feature=emb_logo

This audio that was released is actually only 61 seconds of a 17 minute long phone call. The call, it was found out, had been from Amber’s brother, who had been in custody in prison at the time. Because the call was made from a prison, its contents were recorded by the facility, which, in a total coincidence, is how the RCMP was able to obtain it.

The RCMP, as the spokesperson says in the above video, believe that the man who was driving Amber took her south instead of north, to rural area in LaDuke County, to kill Amber and dispose of her body. And, sure enough, just four days after this audio recording is made public, Amber is discovered. Horseback riders come across her remains buried in a small field belonging to a farmer in LaDuke County: south of the hotel in Nisku Amber had been staying at.

Since this call has been released, there have been a few pieces of information submitted by members of the public that seemed like a possible lead in the investigation. In 2012, a woman contacted the RCMP after hearing the audio, claiming that “I know that voice. I’ve ridden with that voice before on several occasions. There’s no doubt in my mind that is his voice.” She gave the RCMP a name, a name that, CBC News later discovered, had also been given to police in regards to this case by two other women living in Edmonton at the time. None of these women’s name were released, nor were any possible links or connections between them and Amber, or even between each other.

Like I said before: Amber’s case isn’t an isolated incident. According to CBC News’ Aboriginal Unit in 2015, there have been at least 15 indigenous women in the Edmonton area who have gone missing or been murdered under mysterious circumstances, all of which are unsolved cases. 3 of these women’s remains were discovered just kilometers away from the area where Amber’s skeleton was found.

The Tuccaro family has not given up on trying to find justice for Amber, even after the horrific ordeal they’ve been through. They eventually filed a complaint with the RCMP, claiming that the LaDuke County’s investigation into Amber as a missing person directly harmed their investigation into Amber as a murder victim. They point to the fact that LaDuke police had all of the belongings found with Amber and in her hotel room destroyed right after her name was taken off their list of missing persons, something that, legally, should never have been allowed to happen. Even worse, these events took place a mere month after Amber had been reported missing.

The Tuccaro family also has set up a Facebook page in Amber’s memory that urges people to keep her story alive and to contact authorities with any information they may have. The man driving in Amber’s phone call is still unidentified. If anyone recognizes his voice or might know who or where he is, please contact  mmiw@cbc.ca.

https://www.facebook.com/JUSTICEFORAMBERTUCCARO/

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