The boyfriend of missing Lewiston woman Stacey Smart spoke to the Journal on Tuesday, saying he doesn’t know what happened to her and he’s cooperated fully with investigators.
The Journal also spoke to the detective working on the case from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office.
The boyfriend, Tony Brand, had been living near the Pine Cove Marina by Lewiston Lake with Smart when she went missing around the middle of October. Her debit card was last used Oct. 16 at approximately 6 p.m. in Lewiston, investigators found.
Smart’s daughter, Nicole Santos-Hamann, reported her missing to the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 2 after Smart’s family had been unable to reach her for several weeks.
Brand told the Journal he didn’t report Smart missing because he thought she had left him without letting him know. She had her own room in the home in addition to their shared room, and he’d been working long hours, said Brand, who said he provides home care for seniors.
“This whole time we’ve just been waiting for her to come back and show up and she hasn’t,” Brand said. “I just hope and pray that she’s OK. I do really love the girl and we did have a lot of good times.”
Smart’s family has said that Brand isn’t answering the many questions they have about the disappearance.
However, Brand said when Smart’s family began asking about her, he answered all their questions and those of investigators from the Sheriff’s Office.
That included signing papers so the Sheriff’s Office and family could come in and search the home, which they did, he said.
Brand acknowledged he was asked to take a lie detector test but said he didn’t flat out decline. He wanted to make sure it was done correctly and had not talked to his attorney at that point, Brand said.
He hasn’t been asked by the Sheriff’s Office to take a lie detector test since, he said, adding he doesn’t see the point since he is no longer considered by the Sheriff’s Office to be a person of interest in the case.
Detective Ron Whitman said Brand has been cooperative in the case and has allowed searches of the home and property. However, Whitman did say Brand declined a lie detector test, saying he wouldn’t take one without consulting an attorney first.
Although Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney told the Journal last week that the “boyfriend” is not currently considered a person of interest in the case, Whitman said everyone who had contact with Smart is a person of interest, and “we haven’t ruled out anybody.”
Smart’s family noticed missing carpet in the home Brand and Smart shared. Brand said he and Smart had cut out a piece to make a nice entry to the master bedroom and he had made a design there with pieces of carpet. Brand added that he offered that the deputies could pull up the design to look underneath, and they did.
“We weren’t able to inspect the carpeting removed because he couldn’t tell us where it was,” Whitman said, adding that there were certainly pieces of carpet found around the property but none that matched.
That said, Whitman confirmed that the carpeting had been pieced into a design. Investigators looked under the new padding at the flooring underneath which was not new, Whitman said, and saw nothing such as dried blood to indicate anything had happened.
The carpet changes are odd, Whitman acknowledged, but he added that Smart told a friend they planned to make this change to the carpeting before she went missing, and that friend spoke to investigators.
Whitman added that there have been several reported sightings of Smart in front of Weaverville Gas. She was reported to be with an older man in a green SUV. These are people that know her, “they saw and hugged her,” he said.
The people thought these sightings were within the week leading up to Halloween. Whitman said he has so far been unable to confirm this with surveillance video, although it might have been off-camera and the camera did cut out from time to time.
This information has been shared with the family, he said. He asked that anyone who saw Smart after Oct. 16 call the Sheriff’s Office at 623-2611.
Santos-Hamann is skeptical about the reported sightings of her mother at the gas station.
“I think they’re either off with their dates or they are thinking of my aunt, people get them mixed up all the time,” she said.
It doesn’t make sense that her mother’s debit card hasn’t been used, Santos-Hamann said, and “I know that if she was able to contact us, she would contact us.”
There have been several community searches for Smart or for evidence as to what happened to her led by Angie Forslund, hired by Smart’s family as search manager.
Forslund sent a statement to the Journal saying that another search is planned for this coming Saturday, Dec. 3. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Pine Cove Marina. Boats with sonar are needed.
“We have reasons to believe that Stacey Smart is deceased and that her body is still in the Lewiston area,” Forslund said.
Furthermore, detectives have been unable to make contact with a key witness in the case — a woman who left the state, she said.
The family is bewildered as to why the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team hasn’t been deployed, noting that the place to start is outward from a radius of where Smart was last seen.
“We want to bring Stacey home and give her the proper memorial she deserves,” Forslund said. “We need closure for this family and the community.”
Stacey Smart, also known as Stacey Hamilton, is described as 51 years old, white, 5 feet 8 inches, 180 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. She reportedly has shorter hair now and likes to wear hats.
Anyone with information on the Stacey Smart case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 623-2611, private search manager Angie Forslund at 739-4007, or the NorCal Alliance for the Missing at 378-4491.
A GoFundMe account has been started to pay for a private investigator and reward for information. It’s at www.gofundme.com/help-find-stacey-smart.