With many eyes on Gabby Petito’s case, local advocates are working to raise awareness of the number of Oklahoma missing whose cases remain unresolved.
Statistics show Oklahoma has the second highest number of missing persons cases in the country, and a local family said even two and a half years later, they were not giving up hope that their loved one would be found. .
“You wake up and you’re in this nightmare that just keeps on going,” Aubrey Dameron’s aunt Pam Smith said.
Dameron left his home in Grove in March 2019 and has never been seen or heard from again.
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Dameron is Cherokee and transgender, and Smith said they initially struggled to get help for his case.
“I think because she’s transgender and Native American they don’t care,” Smith said.
NamUS statistics show that Native American women make up 12% of the state’s current number of missing persons. Black women account for 25% of the unresolved missing persons cases in Oklahoma.
Advocates for DVIS also believe there are major differences in the way missing persons cases are handled based on race.
“What would it be like if every victim of violence had the support of a nation like Gabby Petito?” asked DVIS CEO Tracey Lyall. “The more labels you put on people and situations, the easier it is to underestimate or devalue human life.”
Lyall said that many women who are killed each year in Oklahoma and across the country are victims of domestic violence.
“There is no such thing as a perfect victim,” Lyall said. “We have people from all walks of life walking through our doors and we believe that everyone’s life should be valued in the same way.”
Smith said her heart went out to Petito’s family and that she was happy his body was found, but she couldn’t help but think that her family might have answers right now if more resources are given to the case of Dameron.
“I believe that regardless of color, gender, status quo, deserves to be searched, deserves to be found and those who are murdered deserve justice,” Smith said.
Smith said they were still receiving advice on Dameron’s case, even two and a half years later.
Anyone with information is urged to call the FBI at (918) 664-3300 or the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service (918) 207-3800.