100 light blue balloons filled the sky of Lewiston, California Thursday as part of a vigil for missing California mother Stacey Smart.
It was Stacey’s 52nd birthday. Light blue is her favorite color.
“It just meant a lot to our family that the community came out to support us,” Nicole Santos-Hamann, Stacey’s daughter, told Dateline. “We’re staying as hopeful as we can.”
Stacey, also known by the name Stacey Hamilton, was last seen on October 12, 2016 at the home she shared with her boyfriend, according to the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. The details of what happened in the surrounding days remains unclear.
Stacey is usuallyin contact with her family daily. Most of her immediate and extended family live in and around Lewiston. The group had just gotten together on October 2, to celebrate Stacey’s mother’s 74th birthday. Everyone was in good spirits, Nicole said.
“My mom made her breakfast in bed; eggs, bacon, a waffle. The works,” remembers Nicole.
But later that week, Nicole stopped hearing from her mother. Then, as Halloween quickly approached, the concern quickly grew, especially after news of Stacey’s grandmother’s death. The fact that no one could get ahold of Stacey weighed heavily on everyone.
“My grandmother called and said her phone was disconnected,” Nicole said. “I called and it was disconnected. So I drove up there. No one answered the door. I left a note asking that my mother call me, that it was urgent. I never got a call.”
Family members reported her missing shortly thereafter, on November 2.
There have reportedly been multiple sightings of the then 51-year-old, but none has been confirmed. Several major searches have also been conducted over the past couple of months, but little evidence has been uncovered. Dive teams searched Lewiston Lake in early December. That search turned up no clues of significance.
Many of the searches have been organized by Stacey’s family. They hired a certified search manager to lead both public and private searches.
But family members remain concerned that not enough is being done to find Stacey.
“We live in a small town, a very small area. I’m just afraid they don’t have enough resources to look into this thoroughly,” Nicole told Dateline.
There is one thing that’s especially troubling for the family. There have been several anonymous people who’ve come forward with specific and similar information regarding the case, but Nicole is concerned authorities are not taking that information seriously.
“I think every lead is worth looking into and being followed up on. Let’s not leave any stone unturned,” Nicole said. “It’s devastating that it isn’t being taken seriously enough.”
Another area of concern for the family surrounds Stacey’s boyfriend. Family members say Stacey had met him earlier in 2016 and moved in with him at his property outside town shortly thereafter.
Shortly before Stacey vanished, the invitations for family to visit them at that house near the lake decreased.
“As I was starting to ask more questions, people started coming up with that they had seen them fighting in public,” Nicole told Dateline. “There have been red flags in that direction definitely.”
No one has been named a suspect or charged in connection with Stacey’s disappearance. Investigators with theTrinity County Sheriff’s Office are continuing to investigate.
Many online have connected Stacey’s case to that of Sherri Papini who disappeared in November. Papini was found alive on Thanksgiving day. Both women disappeared from the same region in Northern California. However, authorities have made it clear they do not believe the two cases are connected in any way.
As the months have gone on, Stacey’s family has had to celebrate the holidays without her. All they are now hoping for is answers of some kind.
“My mother has never taken off. I’ve never not been able to get in contact with her,” Nicole told Dateline. “She always put her family first and that’s what we need to do for her.”
Stacey Smart is described as 5’8” tall, weighing 180lbs. with blue eyes and blonde hair.
If you have any information regarding her whereabouts, you are urged to call the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office at (530) 623-3740.