Marilyn Wilson struggles to hold back her emotions at the thought of Mother’s Day without hearing from her daughter.
It’s been more than a year since Lori Dee Wilson walked away from a Juneau drug treatment center and vanished from public view. There has been no word, not even a phone call.
“We haven’t lost hope,” Marilyn said by phone Thursday. “We keep hoping she’ll be found or chooses to get treatment. You don’t just disappear and no one hears from you. She has never not contacted her kids for this length of time. Not a year, not like that.”
It is particularly puzzling to her family that Lori Dee has not reached out to her three boys in the last 14 months, despite her strong attachment to them.
On March 16, 2016, before she headed to rehab, Lori Dee wrote a letter to her sons.
“Mamma is in a safe place right now far away,” she wrote. “I will be back when they say I am good and all better … Just a little while longer and we will be back with each other.”
Lori Dee reassured her sons she would write every chance she got and asked them to stay strong, ending her letter in all caps and drawn hearts, “Big hugs & kisses, always, Mom.”
Eight days later, she reportedly was seen jumping out of a ground-floor window at the drug treatment center. No one has seen her since, despite numerous appeals to the public for information and lengthy searches by her family.
The Wilsons reported Lori Dee missing to the Juneau Police Department on April 4, 2016; since then, family members, JPD officers, and others have looked all over Juneau and even Anchorage for her. Her family has spent nearly $2,000 to date to put a recurring ad in the Empire and has been in town as recently as January, handing out fliers.
Juneau does not get many true missing persons, said Lt. David Campbell. What is more common is juvenile runaways, which typically are short-term, he said.
Campbell estimated Juneau sees one or two every couple of years, adding that to have two missing in one year — Lori Dee Wilson and Christopher Orcutt, missing since August 2016 after leaving a downtown party — was unusual.
There has been very little information to go on for either Orcutt or Lori Dee, said Lt. Kris Sell.
Sell urged anyone with information regarding Lori Dee to contact the police department at 586-0600 or the Juneau Crime Line at http://juneaucrimeline.com, which she stressed is “completely anonymous.”
“Even an anonymous tip, anything would be great,” Sell added. “If anyone (with information) has any sympathy for the family, please come forward.”
‘No one’s mad. Just call, or come home’
Lori Dee had struggled with drug addiction for a while, but had always bounced back in the past, her mother said.
“She would be gone for days at a time, leaving the kids with a sitter,” Marilyn said, adding she asked for custody.
At Christmas in 2015, Marilyn said, Lori Dee looked homeless and said she had been living in her car.
“I could see she was trying, but she just slid back into” using drugs, Marilyn said.
By March, Lori Dee was “acting paranoid,” her mother said. “She thought somebody wanted to kill her.”
Lori Dee has undergone an annual surgery for her throat after she accidentally swallowed lye as a child, and needed to be clean for that, explained her sister, Gwen Larson. She was committed for a short period of time for mandated psychiatric help and treatment for heroin abuse. Then, once Lori Dee got through detox, she agreed to go into a 30-day treatment program in Juneau, which the family encouraged because it was a place where no one knew her, Larson said.
“I think she was only there for a day,” she said. “I talked to her that morning.”
Lori Dee wanted her sister to visit, Larson said, adding, “That was the last conversation I had with her.”
Larson thinks Lori Dee went out the window later that same day, even though she was there of her own volition.
She remains puzzled, and frustrated, by her sister’s disappearance.
“I think she’s (still) out there,” Larson said. “I think she’s just stuck in the drug world.”
Before this, Larson said, the longest she had gone without talking to her sister was two weeks.
“I’m her only sibling,” she said. “If something was wrong, she would come to me. The last time she left treatment, she showed up on my door.”
There have been tips and photos and even video, but none of those women were Lori Dee, Larson said. The family has gotten calls placing Lori Dee in Sitka, in Palmer, in Wasilla, in Anchorage.
“Figuring out what’s what is the hardest part,” she said.
Larson says she has a gut feeling that something is wrong with Lori Dee, something that is preventing her from making contact.
“We love her and miss her, we really want her to come home,” Larson said. “No one’s mad. Just call, or come home.”
“If she’s OK, we’ll drop it,” she continued. “We just want to know. Her oldest son asked me, ‘Is Mom still alive?’ All we can tell the kids is she’s just mixed up.”
Marilyn Wilson wrote her own letter to her child, hoping against hope that somehow, Lori Dee will see it on this important day.
“To my sweet daughter, Happy Mother’s Day — wherever you are,” she wrote. “I want you to know you are loved and missed by your family.”
In the letter, Marilyn offers up news of Lori Dee’s three boys and events in the family.
“I read (the) letter you wrote last year to the boys, whenever they are sad and missing you — it’s a beautiful letter,” she added. “We pray for you every day, at every meal.”
• Liz Kellar can be reached at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.