“You could just tell it was right from the heart,” said her mother Vivian Tuccaro who can’t help but chuckle at the memory. “And she would just hit her leg. It was real. It got others laughing too.”
It’s these kind of stories that will be shared at the second annual Amber Alyssa Tuccaro Memorial Round Dance, taking place Saturday in the community of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta.
“We’re raising awareness at the same time,” Tuccaro said, referring to the number of aboriginal women and girls who have disappeared. “(There's) a table set up and pamphlets with tips for women on how to stay safe. We need to do that.”
The traditional gathering is also a healing ceremony for family and friends. It serves as a reminder that her daughter, who was from Mikisew Cree First Nation on the southwest tip of Lake Athabasca, was loved and her death affected many in the isolated community.
This kind of community support is important to Tuccaro. “It motivates me and keeps me positive so I can keep searching for answers.”
What happened to Amber?
Amber Tuccaro was last seen on August 18, 2010 in Nisku, just outside of Edmonton.
At the time, she was living in Fort McMurray with her mother but was visiting Edmonton with her 14-month-old son Jacob and a female friend.
When she didn’t return to the hotel where they were staying, her mother knew something was wrong.
“Her number one priority in her life was Jacob. Being a mom … and that’s what she lived for,” Tuccaro said.
More than two years later, in September 2012, her daughter's remains were found on a rural property near Leduc County on the outskirts of Edmonton.
No arrests have been made and the file remains open with the RCMP’s Project KARE which investigates murdered or missing people in Alberta.
“Every time we were seeking the public’s assistance there was some tips and people calling,” said Sgt. JoseeValiquette of Alberta RCMP media relations. While Valiquette won’t say whether any tips have led to a suspect, she urges the public to continue to come forward.
Hoping for new leads
Vivian Tuccaro has moved back to her reserve where resources are limited. That’s one of the reasons she started the memorial round dance celebration.
“Living in Fort Chipewyan, we are isolated. So it’s hard for me just to get up and go (search) any time I want as opposed to me living in Edmonton.”
Tuccaro hopes a cellphone conversation between her daughter and a third party released by police in 2012 will produce new leads.
In the audio, an unknown man was trying to convince Amber Tucarro he was driving east of Nisku on a back road that would lead back into Edmonton.
Tuccaro believes someone out there knows who that man is, as does the RCMP who erected billboards in Nisku asking passers-by “Have you heard the voice?”
"It’s important that people go (listen) again because two years ago maybe they may not have known the voice but maybe they do now," Valiquette said.
Tuccaro's reaction to the billboards changes on any given day.
“Amber wasn’t the best singer but she loved singing. She drove me crazy,” Tuccaro said in between laughter and a sob as she shares a long standing joke between the two.
“She would be like, 'Mom, one of these days you aren’t going to be laughing when I am going to be a big star. I’ll be on those big boards and stuff like that.' Well what goes and happens? She’s on billboards but not the way we would’ve liked.”