Tootsie Tuccaro knows her daughter’s killer is still out there.
Seven years to the day 20-year-old Amber Alyssa Tuccaro was found missing, her family is still searching for answers.
Tuccaro, originally from the Mikisew Cree First Nation, was last seen in Nisku on Aug. 18, 2010, and her remains were found in the same area two years later.
Despite the harrowing phone recording the RCMP released in 2012, they have identified no suspects. On the tape Amber can be heard arguing with a man, demanding to know where he is taking her. She was never seen again.
“Somebody out there does know,” Tuccaro said. “And how they’re able to sleep at night knowing what they do know is beyond me.”
The family is launching a new social media campaign Friday, and distributing updated posters to remind the public that Amber hasn’t been forgotten. Part of the reason is because the original tips website launched by the RCMP’s Project KARE high-risk persons unit no longer exists.
Although Amber is no longer with the family, Tootsie is reminded of her every day when she looks at her grandson Jacob, who was 15-months-old when his mother was killed.
She sees her in his attitude; in the way he looks at her, and most of all, in the way he walks.
“When Amber went missing, I always showed him pictures of his mom,” Tootsie recalls. “I played the music she used to play to him. I sang the songs she used to sing to him. Because she was supposed to come home.”
But she never did. Not long after her disappearance, Tuccaro reported her missing to the Leduc RCMP. The way that was handled still stings.
“Right from the start when I reported Amber missing, the response was ‘She’s probably out partying’. It’s really sad to say, but because we’re Indigenous people … We’ve been stereotyped as drunken Indians,” Tootsie said.
She compares the attention Amber’s murder got to the case of Lyle and Marie McCann, which received widespread media coverage. Although their bodies were never found, the RCMP launched a massive investigation that eventually convicted Travis Vader of the murders.
Tootsie has several grievances with how her daughter’s case was initially handled. For one, she says they refused to launch an investigation right away. Later, she found out they destroyed Amber’s belongings, which had been discovered in a Nisku motel.
She also wonders why they released the phone call recording two years later.
“Had the recording been released sooner, would Amber have been found sooner? There’s just so many questions.”
Corp. Hal Turnbull, a spokesperson for K-Division (which operates Project KARE), said the RCMP continue to work on historical cases, including Amber’s, but could not get into the specifics of the file.
“These files aren’t just sitting on a shelf gathering dust,” he said. “Some homicide investigations are more difficult to solve than others. That doesn’t mean they’re not solvable.”
He said the case is “very much a priority” and the RCMP welcomes the family’s efforts to bring the issue back into the spotlight.
“This is a heinous crime … There is someone who knows something about Amber’s case out there. The RCMP welcomes the public to provide any information they may have on this file.”
Tootsie has been in regular contact with Project KARE over the years and said the experience has been “totally different” than from when she was dealing with Leduc RCMP, in a positive way.
She’s hoping that the renewed campaign will help generate more tips that may help the police eventually identify a suspect.
“That’s what I pray for every day.”
Most of all, she wants answers for Jacob.
“It’s just through me that he remembers Amber,” Tootsie said. “But he’s eight years old now, and he hears things at the playground or on the news sometimes. And he wants to know what happened to his mother.”
Members of the public can send their tips and messages to www.Facebook.com/JusticeForAmberTuccaro.
This story was originally published in Metro Edmonton.