For 10 years, Melanie Dawn Geddes's children have wondered what happened to their mom.
It's a question that has become part of their daily lives and one to which they really want an answer. If it could be answered, it would give them the freedom to grieve her loss fully and embrace the memories they have left of the happy, dedicated mother. A woman who hugged and kissed her girls every morning before she left for work, had supper ready every day when she got home and tucked them in every night.
"I don't really remember that much but I remember the times that I really enjoyed with her," 14-year-old Tiara Cleveland said. "Like when I was little she took us to this sleigh ride at Scott Collegiate and we got our face painted. And we were sitting with her in the back of the sleigh and we were just laughing and having a good time."
That's one of the last memories Tiara Cleveland has of her mother, who was only about four years old when her mother disappeared.
Melanie Dawn Geddes was born in Lestock, Sask., the youngest of four children. Her mother, Valerie Smokeyday said from the beginning Melanie was a happy child and she grew into a determined young woman. Melanie grew up both on Gordon's First Nation, near Punnichy, Sask., as well as Regina after her parents divorced.
Melanie put herself through school. She and her partner, Eric Cleveland, met in high school. Smokeyday said the couple was very happy and always supported one another. They also had three daughters together.
"She loved being with her children," Smokeyday said. "She loved camping. That Sunday before she went missing she wanted to go camping and nobody would go, so she pitched a tent in the backyard and slept outside with the girls."
On Aug. 12, 2005, Melanie went to a party in her north central Regina neighbourhood. She was celebrating getting a new job. Her mother and stepfather were staying with the young family. Eric was out with a few other friends and went to bed around the same time as his in-laws. In the early hours of Aug.13, Melanie left the party, which her sister was also attending, to walk about four blocks to her house. She never made it home.
"That night when she went out she gave us a hug and a kiss and said she'd bring us a treat when she came back," Melanie's daughter Katie Cleveland said. "But I never saw her again."
For weeks after, the family searched, joined by the community, friends and family from Regina and Gordon's First Nation, as well as police. Each search ended with no tangible leads. Smokeyday said she knew something was wrong, because Melanie never went anywhere without calling home and she would never leave her children.
Smokeyday said in addition to dealing with her daughter's disappearance, she was also forced to deal with the rumours and speculation surrounding it. Suddenly, Melanie was characterized as a woman who had been living a high risk lifestyle, which Valerie knew was not true.
Smokeyday said it's so sad how "it wasn't the outside world. It was actually our own people."
More questions than answers
On Dec. 30, 2005, the remains of a woman were found north of Regina in a field on the way to Southey, Sask. That day, Smokeyday was attending a gathering for families of missing and murdered indigenous women, and when the announcement was made that remains had been found, she said she knew.
DNA testing later confirmed Melanie's remains had in fact been found.
Almost a decade has passed since Melanie went missing and her mother said not a day goes by that she doesn't think about her and wonder if she will ever know what really happened.
"I just want to know. I'd like to know, I'd like to find out whatever, whoever murdered my daughter," Smokeyday said. "I'd like to see justice served and finally rest in peace. To me, I figure she's still wandering around, she's still looking. But hopefully, very soon the person, whoever murdered her, will come forward so she can just rest."
Today, Melanie's is one of more than 30 unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Saskatchewan. Smokeyday said as each year passes, new cases have replaced Melanie's on police officers' desks.
"I feel like I got to get out there myself and do it because I feel like it's just dead, it's just gone," Smokeyday said. "I feel like it's over. So they found her, they buried her and I feel like I'll never know who murdered her that's where everything stopped."
In the weeks and months that passed after Melanie's disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her remains, her sisters, cousins and the grandparents rallied around Melanie's three daughters. They helped the girls understand, cope and continue to move on.
Smokeyday said if there is any peace, it's in keeping Melanie's memory alive and reminding people that her remains may have been found, but the person or persons who killed her remain at large.
"She'd lie on her doorstep and look up, even in the city, she'd lie there and look at the stars," Smokeyday said. "She was a hardworking woman, loved her kids and her family very much, she would do anything for anybody. And she always had a kind word to say."
Melanie's three daughters are also part of her legacy, a reminder of a mother's love and dedication, and a family's resilience in the face of tragedy. Melanie's first granddaughter, Dustina, also came into the world just eight months ago. Dustina's mother Katie Cleveland says even though she has few memories of her own mom, she wants her daughter to know everything she can about her grandmother Melanie.
"I'm going to tell her if you want to see your grandma look up at the stars and smile and tell her that mom's taking good care of me," Katie said.
There is little doubt that the happy baby sitting on Katie's lap has some of her grandmother in her. And the baby's grandmother would be very proud to see how her parenting skills have rubbed off on her daughter.
If you know anything about this case or any of the others listed on CBC Saskatchewan, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.