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Native American Woman Mysteriously Disappears After Leaving Oklahoma Home — What Happened To Her?
Aubrey Dameron disappeared on March 9, 2019 after her mother said she walked out the door around 3:30 a.m. and never returned home.
It was 3:30 a.m. on March 9, 2019 when Aubrey Dameron’s mother says she last saw her daughter.
The 25-year-old told her she was “going out to meet somebody,” walked out the door, and disappeared, according to a new episode of the podcast "Dateline: Missing in America.”
When Dameron disappeared, she was straddling two worlds — that of a beautiful transgender woman and a proud Cherokee native in a northeastern Oklahoma Indian reservation where the community may not have fully accepted the choices she made to live an authentic life.
“In this series we’re getting to tell some stories that don’t often make it into the national media, and Aubrey Dameron is a perfect example of that,” “Dateline” correspondent Andrea Canning told Oxygen.com. “This is someone from an Indian reservation in northeastern Oklahoma, a community we rarely hear about. But this is where a vibrant young Cherokee woman, on the verge of a whole new life, apparently stepped out of her home in the middle of the night and disappeared. What happened to her?”
In the years since she disappeared, her aunt and uncle have tirelessly worked to find Dameron, organizing search parties, tracking down clues, and launching social media campaigns to raise awareness for their niece.
Dameron and her uncle Christian Fencer — who is just six months older than her — had been raised much like siblings. The pair’s connection deepened further when they both came out to one another as teenagers, each confessing to a crush on a boy at school.
But the development wasn’t well received by those around them.
“Her and Christian dealt with a lot of homophobic slurs, and Christian didn’t tell me a lot of the details until after Aubrey went missing about them being chased home from school by people in a vehicle and, you know, them yelling slurs and stuff like that,” Pam Smith, Fencer’s sister and Dameron’s aunt, told the podcast of their adolescence, calling it “heartbreaking” to learn.
The animosity in the community — and even among some of Dameron's own family members, Fencer claims — only grew when Dameron decided to transition.
“It was something that was new to everyone within our community, but it was really new to our family,” Fencer said. “They didn’t really know how to take it. I know they could have taken it a lot better.”
Fencer now believes there’s a “high probability” Dameron’s decision to transition could have played a part in her disappearance but acknowledges there are still so many unanswered questions.
After she disappeared, her aunt and uncle believe her case wasn't taken seriously enough by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and have said Dameron’s mother — the last person reported to have seen her daughter — stepfather, and brother have shown little interest in her case.
Dameron’s mother, Jennifer Byrd, did not respond to a request for comment from “Dateline,” nor did Dameron's brother. But Byrd told News Nation in 2021 that she believes Dameron is dead.
“I felt my child pass. A year ago,” she said. “A mother and child has a bond. And I felt it. I hit the floor.”
Her aunt and uncle have also expressed concerns about another relationship in her life. They said just a year or two before she disappeared, Dameron had moved to New Mexico to stay with a boyfriend and get breast augmentation surgery as part of her transition.
When she returned home to Oklahoma, Smith said Dameron told her that it had been a bad relationship.
“She said, ‘I just needed to get away,’ and, and then she started crying, saying that she felt like she should go back, like she owed him something, and she said he would tell her that she owed him for everything he did for her,” Smith said.
“Dateline” tried to reach to her ex but was unable to track him down.
To this date, no one has been charged in connection with Dameron's disappearance and no suspects have been named.
Native American women face violence rates that are as much as 10 times higher than the national average, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.
“It’s actually been researched by professors in universities that the selling, the trading, the exploitation of Indigenous women and children is no new thing,” Lynnette Grey Bull, founder and director of Not Our Native Daughters, an organization created to increase awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, told “Dateline.” “This has actually been something that’s been going on since the first settlers came to this country.”
In the years since Dameron has disappeared, her family has gotten some promising leads, including a tip that Dameron’s body was buried on a hill near a friend's house. Specially trained K-9s hit on a spot on the hill, and a black leather jacket similar to the one Dameron had been seen wearing when she disappeared was found nearby. However, no body was discovered in the area and the jacket did not have any forensic link to Dameron.
The case got a much-needed break in the case in July 2022 when the Supreme Court rules that cases regarding Indian reservations in Oklahoma must be investigated by tribal police and the FBI, opening the case up to fresh eyes and more investigative resources.
Shannon Buhl, the director of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, told “Dateline: Missing In America” that investigators are now “playing catch up” to try to piece together what happened to Dameron. They are focusing on those closest to Dameron after finding a tarp with a blood-like substance on it in a shed on her family’s property that they believe could be connected to the case.
But as of today, what happened to the vibrant 25-year-old remains a mystery.
“She was a beautiful woman. That’s what she was. You could tell she was a beautiful Cherokee woman that was proud, that was happy, that had a future,” Buhl said. “This is a girl with desires and wants and needs and it’s my hope that she found those wants and is living happy in whatever. If that’s not the case, somebody cut that short and we’ve got to find out if that happened, who that was.”
Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or Cherokee Nation Marshal Service at 918-207-3800.
For more on this case and others like it, tune into the podcast “Dateline: Missing In America,” which is available for free on Apple Podcasts, Amazon, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn. New episodes drop weekly on Tuesdays.