At just 2 years old, Claes Schneider might not know much about the world yet, but he does know one thing — his grandmother, Tracy Lynn Day, is missing.
This year’s Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, marks four years since the then-43-year-old Tlingit woman was last seen in Juneau before she disappeared without notifying family or friends about where she had gone.
“It’s like this giant cut, a wound, and not knowing is like you don’t get to heal that wound and let it become a scar,” said Kaelyn Schneider, Day’s daughter. “It rips open every day — how can we move past something that continues to rip open?”
Police described Day as a 5-foot-5 and 135-pound woman who was last seen with brown hair with bangs at the time of her disappearance. According to Juneau Police Department spokesperson Lt. Krag Campbell, Day’s case is still open and under investigation.
In an email response to the Empire, Campbell said JPD remains committed to investigating new tips or leads that are sent in regarding the case but noted JPD has not received any new tips regarding the investigation in the past several months. He said there is no new information about the case that can be shared at this time.
Schneider said she still holds onto the hope that one day her son might someday know where his grandma went, but after four years of her mother being missing, she’s come to the conclusion that her mother is most likely dead. She said that still doesn’t stop the pain of wondering if she might be wrong because the case remains unsolved and her body has never been found.
Schneider said she feels the police have “given up” and are “not doing enough. She said she is disappointed with the lack of answers she has received regarding the investigation.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It seems like there is no evidence, there’s no body — she literally vanished,” she said.
Campbell said JPD has been in contact with the family of Day’s family to provide updates on the case as they have become available and will continue to work with the family to keep them up to date on the status of the case.
Schneider said as a Tlingit woman, her mother’s disappearance and the absence of an answer about where she went, is yet another example of the lack of attention cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women have received across the nation.
“Our women are going missing,” Schneider said.
The state of Alaska ranks fourth in the nation for the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women cases according to a 2020 study by the Urban Indian Health Institute. Across the country, it’s estimated that approximately 4,200 missing and murdered cases that have gone unsolved according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau Indian Affairs.
Before her disappearance, Day was being treated for bipolar and schizophrenia and had battled with drug addiction for most of her life. Schneider said throughout the years of her mother’s disappearance, many people have told her that Day’s struggles with mental health were the reason behind her disappearance, though she rebuts those claims strongly.
Before her mother went missing, Schneider said nothing seemed out of the ordinary nor did she see any signs of Day’s mental health struggles being a cause of worry for her safety though Schneider said Day told multiple family members in the weeks leading up to her disappearance that she thought someone was after her.
Schneider described her relationship with her mother as being extremely close, and said that as each year goes by that her mother remains missing, it’s the little things that make the unknowing more painful than knowing what might be the bitter reality of her mother’s location.
“I don’t know whether to mourn her or search for her,” she said. “Everything you can think of to do, I’ve done it ten times over.”
Schneider said she still feels the urge to call her mom when she’s overwhelmed even though she knows she won’t be at the other end of the line. She struggles with whether to tell her son that his grandma who he’s never met might still be out there or if she should tell him she’s gone. She struggles with wanting to visit her mother’s grave site which doesn’t yet exist.
She said she refuses to legally declare her dead until her body is found, or some other evidence convinces her of a probable conclusion.
After her mother’s disappearance, Schneider began using online platforms like TikTok and YouTube to find comfort and share her mother’s story, which since she began posting has grown in viewership by the thousands. Recently, she also participated in the filming of a documentary about her mother’s disappearance, which she said is set to be released later this year.
“I’m trying to keep her story alive,” she said.
Schneider said she will continue to do anything she can to bring more attention to her mother’s disappearance and spread more awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women happening across the state and country.
For now, she said she likes to pretend like her mom isn’t missing. That she’s living her best life somewhere that she’s warm, somewhere that she’s happy.
“I just pretend she’s doing something fun, otherwise it really messes with me,” she said.
Campbell said JPD encourages anyone with information about Day’s disappearance that they haven’t already provided to police to contact the JPD business line at (907) 586-0600. Anonymous tips can be made through www.juneaucrimeline.com and information about missing person cases in Juneau can be found at JPD – Missing Persons – City and Borough of Juneau.
“Our hope is that as time has passed, anyone who has pertinent information regarding the disappearance of Tracy Day, and who hasn’t spoken to the police already, may now be willing to come forth,” he said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.