Missing and Murdered: Family, Friends, and Activists Gathered at the Humboldt County Courthouse Seeking to ‘Motivate the System’ and the Community

Jessica Wilson, a makeup artist, sought to draw attention to the death of her cousin Tamera Sanders, who was killed in a suspicious barn fire in Del Norte County. [Photo used with permission of Jessica Wilson]

At Wednesday’s rally, Jessica Wilson, a makeup artist, sought to use her art to draw attention to the death of her cousin Tamera Sanders, who was killed in a suspicious barn fire in Del Norte County. She surrounded images and words with makeup that evoked the burns suffered by her cousin’s body. [Photo used with permission of Jessica Wilson]

On Wednesday evening at the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department in Eureka, tribal community members and activists gathered to “motivate the system“ to seek justice for missing and murdered indigenous women and people in the community. 

According to a 2020 report, native people go missing at a much higher rate in Humboldt County than in other areas across the state and even across the nation. The report notes, “28 tribes are represented among the victims, with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, and Round Valley Tribes most highly represented.” 

This Year One Project map shows that Humboldt County reflects the most MMIWG in California compared to other counties, with the possible exception of counties whose data is not reflected. The report reads, “In general, rural regions are highly overrepresented. For example, the Lost Coast area has more than double the number of cases than the Bay Area, despite the Bay Area having an Indigenous population approximately 3 times larger than that of the Lost Coast.

This Year One Project map shows that Humboldt County reflects the most MMIWG in California compared to other counties, with the possible exception of counties whose data is not reflected. The report reads, “In general, rural regions are highly overrepresented. For example, the Lost Coast area has more than double the number of cases than the Bay Area, despite the Bay Area having an Indigenous population approximately 3 times larger than that of the Lost Coast.

In Humboldt County, the burden born by those experiencing the confusion and pain of losing a loved one to trauma or disappearance is almost common among native communities and the rally goers sought to remind the community of their need for justice and, in particular, to bring attention to several cases, that of recently missing native woman, Emmilee Risling here in Humboldt County, Tamara Sanders whose suspicious death occurred in Del Norte County, and the case of Khadijah Britain who went missing in Mendocino County.

Local activist Jesse Armstrong has been organizing protests and rallies throughout the area for the last couple years in support of providing resources and attention to missing person’s cases in the region.  

We spoke with MMIW activist, Jesse Armstrong, at the protest Wednesday night in front of the courthouse in Eureka.  [Video by Ryan Hutson.]

According to Armstrong, there will be a search party deployed today at 11 a.m. in Orick, in an effort to locate 32-year-old Emmilee Risling who has been missing since Monday, October 11th–ironically she was last seen on Indigenous People’s Day. 

Facebook post from Jesse Armstrong

A post late Thursday October 21, from MMIW activist Jesse Armstrong‘s Facebook page indicates an urgent search is underway looking for Emmilee Risling from Orick to Hoopa, at 11 o’clock AM Friday morning.

In an emotional interview during the protest Wednesday evening, our reporter spoke with a woman who describes herself as the second mother of Emmilee. She implored the public to assist in locating the missing woman.

Leslie Nichols pleads for help from the public to find Emmilee Risling. [Video by Ryan Hutson]

While the search for Emmilee Risling is urgent, many other local families are experiencing loss as well and are also actively seeking information about missing loved ones, or even seeking justice for those deceased.  Those who were present on Wednesday were eager for change as they demanded justice

Emmilee Risling was last seen Monday October 11th, and a missing persons report has been filed with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department according to family.

Emmilee Risling was last seen Monday, October 11th, and a missing person’s report has been filed with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, according to family.

Armstrong was hopeful that social media attention could generate tips for law-enforcement on the whereabouts or circumstances regarding missing persons cases, and unsolved deaths. He made mention of the recent media coverage surrounding the Gabby Petito homicide case and the effort to find the person of interest in her death, Brian Laundrie – which recently captivated the nation and beyond, harnessing resources from the FBI and ultimately finding evidence as a result.

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Jesse Armstrong wants to get local missing and murdered native people national attention. “Everybody’s seen the Gabby Petitio Case, you know, it was around the world,” He explained. [Video by Ryan Hutson]

One local family that knows the pain of not knowing what happened to their loved one is the family of Tamera Sanders, whose death under suspicious circumstances has prompted an investigation by authorities.  

Below Jessica Wilson, cousin of Tamera Sanders, uses her creativity as a makeup artist to capture the pain seared into her family with the suspicious nature of Sander’s death which occurred when a barn burned in the Crescent City area this May.

In an artful TikTok video posted to Facebook by Jessica Wilson, she captures the pain of family and friends missing her cousin. She told us,

I did the look in honor of my cousin, because her life mattered. Anyone who was blessed to know her, saw she had the most lovable energy, and the kindest soul. She was younger than me, but I’ve always looked up to her. She showed me how to be a better person, at a very young age…[b]y her consistent kind actions – and lack [of] negative energy – no matter the situation.

We spoke with Tamera’s mother, Kelley Metcalf, who while reluctant to say much regarding an active investigation, did tell us, “We are waiting for some pathology results to come back, and the Sheriff’s Department tells me they are actively investigating.” 

According to the Yurok and Sovereign Bodies Institute which co-authored the Year One Project released in August of 2020 which highlights the plight of missing and murdered indigenous people, “[I]n Northern California, 37% of cases where case classification is known were misclassified as suicide, undetermined, or accidental.” The report tallied 105 cases of the missing and murdered between 1900 and 2020, and found that one in five were located in Humboldt County. They noted, “22% were Hupa, 16% were Yurok, and 11% were of the Round Valley Tribe.”

Below are some of the other cases that MMIP activists want the community to remember:

Grandparents of Khadijah Britton at a rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Fortuna.

Grandparents of Khadijah Britton remember their missing granddaughter at a rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Fortuna last October. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

A banner carried at yesterday's rally in Fortuna for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

A banner carried at last year’s rally in Fortuna for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People remembers both Kason Crutchfield and Tawny Ervin. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Richard Estrada [Photo by Ryan Hutson from October 2020] mmip

T-shirt memorializing Richard Estrada [Photo by Ryan Hutson from October 2020]

aDDIE rAE MMIWG [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Sign remembering Addie Rae at the October 2020 rally [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

 

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Mega me
Mega me
1 month ago

I do feel sorry for these family members but Sometimes there isn’t enough evidence to figure out what happened.

Voice OfsoulD
Voice Ofsoul (@brianmerrickishtar)
1 month ago
Reply to  Mega me

Horse crap investigations are lazy or written off like for a person cared about in the photo and it’s odd the numbers of missing in Humboldt county

Last edited 1 month ago by Voice Ofsoul
Tamara Lynn Diffin
Tamara Lynn Diffin
1 month ago

Can only hope da does anything for anyone it starts with the justice system an from what ive seen growing up in humboldt county my whole life is they do nothing unless youve got money to give them you get away with murder molestation all of it in humboldt county take marci kitchen for example just hope an pray for all of the missing an murdered am community has to band together cause justice system aint going to do sh**

Mega me
Mega me
1 month ago

The DA doesn’t solve murders or find missing people.

Detectives won’t do there job unless you give them money? Care to provide an example?

Tamara Lynn Diffin
Tamara Lynn Diffin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mega me

Example i know of one person whoms gotten away with sexual assault multipal times in the last twenty years being investigated as we speak an every single time so far the da has thrown it out so theres my example of humboldt county da an its justice system the investigators did there job da makes final choice

meme
meme (@meme)
1 month ago

There has to be enough evidence to make it stick. Victims need to cooperate.

Martin
Martin
1 month ago

I just hope that their actions will kick our legal system into more action regarding finding lost folks. It makes me sad to see all of them trying to find answers for a loved one or a friend. I wish them nothing but the very best of luck.

Pat Bitton
Pat Bitton
1 month ago

Was she last seen on the 11th or the 13th? Both dates appear in the article. Also, I am assuming that a spellchecker turned Emilee’s last name into a type of wine …

Casey
Casey
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat Bitton

Speaking jive

Casey
Casey
1 month ago
Reply to  Casey

Or ebonics

Casey
Casey
1 month ago
Reply to  Casey

Those spell checkers

Captain 'MuricaD
Captain 'Murica (@disqus_dotf42mpek)
1 month ago

I hope these families get the closure they want.

Violent crime and missing persons cases are seemingly out of control in our county.

Stay safe out there folks, and watch your six.

Country Joe
Country Joe
1 month ago

Motivate the system? Someone in the community should provide badly needed evidence…

Thirdeye
Thirdeye
1 month ago
Reply to  Country Joe

Exactly. People who know something about the people in these cases need to speak up. Too often that is overridden by various agendas – protecting someone from the law (either directly or tangentially related to the case), protecting the reputation of the deceased or someone else close to the case, or just plain not wanting to get blamed for being a snitch. The Nix/Masten investigation over 30 years ago foundered because those who knew something stonewalled for various reasons. If there’s anything that would motivate “the system” it is knowing that they have the full support and co-operation of all the communities they are sworn to serve.

Steve Koch
Steve Koch
1 month ago

“The report tallied 105 cases of the missing and murdered between 1900 and 2020, and found that one in five were located in Humboldt County. They noted, “22% were Hupa, 16% were Yurok, and 11% were of the Round Valley Tribe.”

So about half of the missing or murdered in Humboldt were from 3 tribes? Seems like those tribes should figure out why they are murdering and disappearing so many of their own tribal members and what they can do to help cops investigate these crimes. Cops are not geniuses, they mostly need tips to solve crimes.

Thirdeye
Thirdeye
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Koch

But that would require overcoming political baggage and taking responsibility.

Voice OfsoulD
Voice Ofsoul (@brianmerrickishtar)
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Koch

Maybe let them do what makes them feel happy and gives them hope to fix a racist corrupt system who doesn’t care these kinds of comments on here are rude and kinda heartless

Thirdeye
Thirdeye
1 month ago
Reply to  Voice Ofsoul

But what they are doing is not making them happy and it’s not up to anyone else to “let” them do anything. Safety of tribal members is an issue the tribes need to rally around internally.

Theresa adams
Theresa adams
30 days ago

They didn’t mention Susan Irene Quinn-erickson 61 originally from eureka is native American and she’s missing haven’t seen her since 2016

Kym Kemp
Admin
Kym Kemp (@kymk)
30 days ago
Reply to  Theresa adams

Theresa, would you like me to give your email address to Jesse Armstrong who organizes these rallies?