Someone Knows Something

New Someone Knows Something investigation follows mother's search for answers in son's disappearance

Debra Skelley has been searching for her son Donald Izzett Jr. for 25 years. A new season from Someone Knows Something joins her search for answers.

Debra Skelley last spoke to her son Donald Izzett Jr. in 1995. She suspects he was killed

Debra Skelley has been searching for her son Donald Izzett Jr. for 25 years. (David Ridgen/CBC)

The critically-acclaimed podcast Someone Knows Something is back with a new investigation that explores the lengths one mother will go to in seeking justice for her missing son.

Years in the making, Season 6: Donald Izzett Jr., follows Debra Skelley's decades-long search to find justice for her son Donald, who she believes was killed during a road trip across the U.S. in 1995. He was 19 years old.

The two last spoke on Mother's Day of that year, but the call ended abruptly after Skelley heard a scuffle on the other end before the line went dead. Since then, the Maryland mother has stopped at nothing to find out what happened to her son.

David Ridgen, host, creator and investigator of the podcast, spoke with The Current's Matt Galloway about the new investigation. Here is part of their conversation.

Tell us briefly a little bit about Donnie and his mother and this disappearance that you're investigating in this new season.

It's really the story of a mother looking for answers. She'll do anything to get those answers.

All of the victims' family members I've worked with suffer from incredible guilt, incredible self-immolating guilt, about the disappearance or murder of a loved one. Many are self-destructive and it just consumes them.

My task — I feel anyway, as the host of SKS — is to be a conduit for their journey into sort of reconciliation with themselves. So it's less true crime and more self-healing, I like to say. And this case is no different. 

About a year before Donnie went missing, he came out as being gay to Debra. She didn't react well to that. And they had a gigantic fight. And even though they made up fairly quickly, she's always felt that that fight helped distance Donnie from her and helped make him more vulnerable. So these are the kind of partial-truth propagandas we tell ourselves. And that's a big part of what I do to help victims unpack.

Donnie Izzett Jr. was a 19-year-old college student when he went missing in 1995. (Debra Skelley)

What sort of connection do you build over the course of working on these stories? What sort of connection do you build with family members like Debra? 

Well, with victims' family members, it's kind of an interesting connection and not normal because of the length of time I take to work, over years, with people. I still have connections with people that I've worked with since 2004. 

All the family members I've worked with, I'm in touch with and continue to work on the cases if they haven't been solved. So it's really a commitment — a life commitment — that I make and that they make. So it's really something that never goes away. 

It gives me a sense of purpose. I mean, I live once on the planet, and I don't want to do things that are...meaningless.- David Ridgen, host of

Were you surprised with what you learned in Donnie's case, the further you got into it? 

There's always surprises. And in this case, particularly with regard to Debra's work on the case, especially. This is a single mother, I would say an impoverished mother, vulnerable in many ways, and who struggled many years to work on her own and spent her own limited funds to work on the case. And at every turn, she seemed to be able to uncover things on her own, which is awesome and hard not to respect. 

So I come into the scene piggybacking on her work and we help each other through the rest of the way. I think it's a pretty exciting case and I'm still working on it. And there's things unfolding even, say, yesterday that are going to be getting into the series.

Filmmaker David Ridgen spent several years working alongside Debra Skelley to find answers about her son's disappearance. (Owen Ridgen)

How do you do this over and over again?

Well, it gives me a sense of purpose. I mean, I live once on the planet, and I don't want to do things that are what I see as meaningless. I like to be useful. I like the value-add to anything I do. And these cases are good examples of that. 

They're hard. I mean, I choose to do them. I understand how officers and first responders suffer from PTSD. And you know, there are images you can't unsee ... but it's nothing compared to what victims' families and communities feel. So if I feel like I can be useful, then that's a good thing.

Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Interview produced by The Current's Peter Mitton.

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