When you think of Canada, your brain probably starts an internal slideshow of images like the beautiful scenery, hockey, maple syrup, insanely nice people, and William Shatner. Unfortunately, Canada is also home to a sinister 450 mile long stretch of highway dubbed the “Highway of Tears”, in honor of the astonishingly large population of indigenous women who have disappeared or been murdered traveling on the road. Recently, the spotlight has been placed on Canada and the mistreatment of their indigenous women.
The mistreatment of Canada’s indigenous women doesn’t stop at the Highway of Tears and has a long history in Canada. One of the most notorious serial killers in Canada, Robert Pickton killed primarily indigenous women, 33 in fact. Out of the entire Canadian female population, only 4% are indigenous. These women only take up 4% of the population, however, they make up 16% of all Canadian female homicides, and 11% of the missing persons between 1980 and 2012. That is a heartbreaking, spine-chilling statistic. Indigenous women are FIVE times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime, than anyone else. They are lumped into the same category of easy targets like drug addicts and prostitutes because their cases typically get overlooked, or written off like society won’t miss them. Society has taken notice, and these women finally have people fighting for them.
One of these women is Amber Tuccaro and her mysterious and horrifying story has haunted me since I first discovered it. Amber was a 20-year-old mother to a 14-month-old son named Jacob. Amber absolutely adored Jacob. She was of Mikisew Cree First Nation living in Alberta, Canada. On August 17, 2010, Amber, Jacob, and a female friend flew to the town of Edmonton for a getaway. The trio stayed in a hotel outside of the city in Nisku, presumably because it was cheaper.
The next day, Amber unexpectedly left Jacob with her friend so she could go into town. It’s unclear as to why she wanted to travel into town alone. When Amber never returned that night, her friend contacted Amber’s mom, Vivian, who goes by Tootsie, who in turn called the police. Tootsie knew it wasn’t like her daughter to leave Jacob, or to not be in contact. She knew in her soul, something was wrong.
When Tootsie contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they seemed extremely unconcerned and told Tootsie that they were “sure she’d show up”, and that she was “probably just out partying”. This can be a common occurrence for almost any adult that is missing. Unfortunately, adults do have the right to go missing, and often times that leads to law enforcement not taking a report seriously.
On September 4, 2010, just a few weeks after Amber went missing, the RCMP announced that they didn’t think Amber was in any danger and that they knew she was around the Edmonton area. Without anyone having contact with Amber, the RCMP removed her from the missing persons list the month following her disappearance. They also didn’t offer up any proof as to how they knew she was in Edmonton. Her personal items left in the hotel room were also destroyed since there wasn’t an open case, leaving no possible evidence to be looked back on. Devastated and confused, Tootsie had to fight tooth and nail for the next month to get Amber put back on the missing persons list. No further information, no word from Amber, and no activity in the case at all for two years.
Suddenly, in early 2012, the RCMP told Amber’s family that they now believed Amber was murdered. Then, a few months later, in late August the RCMP released an audio recording to the public for the first time ever in a homicide investigation. The RCMP released 61 seconds of audio from a 17-minute call made from Amber’s phone the night she vanished. The entirety of the call has never been released. The recording is chilling, you can hear the voice of Amber’s abductor, and you hear the fear in Amber’s. I have included the recording and transcript.
Sometime during Amber’s journey into Edmonton, she was picked up by a man who was heard on the recording. Whether she was hitchhiking, or he had a cab, or anything else, we just don’t know. Most people assume she was hitchhiking because that was common in that area. Amber knew she was in danger, you can hear it in her voice, she knew this man was not taking her where she wanted to go. You can also tell she’s trying to convey her situation to the person on the other end of the phone. That person was Amber’s brother Paul, who was incarcerated at the time, which is how the phone call came to be recorded. It is unknown how or when the RCMP came into possession of the recording.
Four days after the recording was released as a public plea for someone to come forward recognizing the voice, another gruesome discovery was made. On September 1, 2012, horseback riders stumbled upon a skull in a farmer’s field in Leduc. Leduc is south of Edmonton.
The skull was Amber’s, and no other remains of hers were found. Due to the level of decomposition and only having partial remains, the cause of death could not be determined.
Tootsie was right, her daughter didn’t walk away from her precious son, or her family.
Seventeen minutes. That’s how long the phone call was, which is also close to the drive time from the hotel to where her skull was found. In the recording, you can hear Amber telling him that he should be going north towards the city, but she knew he wasn’t. He even slipped up at one point and said “south” but then corrected himself to “north”. You also hear her ask if they are driving on gravel at the end.
I found this comment by an individual local to Edmonton and Nisku that explains the area and roadways. I also verified this with multiple google maps searches.
“In between the motel she was picked up to 50th street, there are no perpendicular gravel roads that would connect, all roads are paved now. So he clearly took her down a parallel side road, in the opposite direction. This was someone who knows the area and knows exactly where to go. This area is fairly sparsely populated, mostly small acreages and farmland. It takes about 10 minutes to get from Nisku Motel to 50th street towards Beaumont. I drive that road 3-5 times a week. So if the call was 17 minutes long, I strongly believe he was backtracking and heading down random side roads to confuse or disorient her. There are times where I’m on those roads at 9pm and never see another car until I hit Beaumont, so I have a very easy time believing they could go unnoticed later in the night on the back roads. I think he drove her down Airport Road towards 50th, crossed 50th, and then turned South down RR241. It would match the timeline. RR241 is gravel.” – Reddit yeshunty
This was a man who knew exactly what he was doing. His voice was calm and precise on the audio as if this was just another normal day for him. I highly doubt Amber was his first victim or his last.
Since the release of the audio recording, at least three women have come forward claiming they know the man behind the voice. All three women identified the same man.
One woman said she “knew the voice like the back of her hand”.
Another of the women stated ‘I know that voice, I’ve ridden with that voice before on several occasions. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s his voice.”
An investigator for the RCMP came forward stating that the man accused of being the voice of the recording had been looked into and had been ruled out as a person of interest. The women are still to this day convinced it’s that man’s voice. I discovered the identity of this man on Reddit while researching this case, and he is definitely sketchy. I would love to know how the RCMP ruled him out as a suspect. He is known for luring people into his truck and to his ranch. Here is the link to a thread discussing this man’s horse ranch. Link for the possible man behind the voice.
There are at least fifteen other unsolved cases of missing or murdered women around the Edmonton area, three of which were found within three kilometers from Amber’s remains. Is or was there a serial killer in the area targeting indigenous women?
In March 2014, Tootsie filed a complaint against the Leduc RCMP for the mistreatment of Amber’s case. The Leduc RCMP wouldn’t elaborate but said its policies and procedures have changed as a result of the Amber Tuccaro investigation.
Justice still evades Amber and her family. No arrests have been made, no suspects have been named, and more indigenous women go missing every single day. The man behind the voice is still out there. I think Tootsie sums up her daughter’s case better than I ever could.
“It’s kind of messed up because Amber’s case is about the voice, the man’s voice, and now I’m Amber’s voice.” – Tootsie Tuccaro
Until the voice is identified, Tootsie will continue to post the recording to social media every single day hoping someone will hear it and justice for Amber can be achieved. With the only evidence in this case, being a voice recording, I don’t know if Amber’s family will ever have justice. Perhaps with forensic voice analysis, a positive identification can be made. How many other women have lost or will lose their life because of this man? Someone out there knows that voice.
To stay updated about Amber’s case, you can follow the Facebook page Justice for Amber.
Crime Junkie Podcast
CBC Missing and Murdered
Obscura: A True Crime Podcast