Surrounded by Indigenous leaders, the family of a missing Bella Coola man made a passionate plea to the public Thursday Jan. 12 for any information regarding his whereabouts.
Carl William Charlie Schooner, 30, was last seen in Williams Lake on Dec. 4, 2022. At a press conference held at Williams Lake city hall, Nuxalk Chief Sam Schooner said the nation and family are offering a $10,000 reward for any information regarding his disappearance.
“There are people who know something. This is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Carl Schooner Sr., the missing man’s father. The family has been searching the city for weeks looking for their son. “We are very worried. Please, please, please, let us bring him home.”
His mother Stephanie Wilson, originally from Bella Bella and living in Vancouver, sat with her brother Kelly Wilson in the front row.
“My son is a nice boy, he is a good boy. I just want him home,” she told the Tribune.
Around 70 people attended the conference, including First Nations leaders from various communities, Williams Lake mayor Surinderpal Rathor, city coun. Michael Moses, RCMP members from Williams Lake and Prince George as well as the general public.
There were opening prayers, closing prayers, and drumming songs that added solidarity.
“We are asking the person or persons to do the right thing and come forward to the Nuxalk or the RCMP,” said Chief Schooner.
North District RCMP media relations Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said Schooner arrived in Williams Lake from Bella Coola in the middle of November 2022 and was reported missing to police on Dec. 6. His family last heard from him during a Facebook messenger call Dec. 1.
She said the RCMP took conduct of the investigation on Dec. 8 and police have been unsuccessful in locating him.
Saunderson said the case remains a priority for the RCMP and that police have some information that cannot be released at this time because it might jeopardize the investigation.
“We encourage anyone to call RCMP. Every piece of information is helpful.”
Former Esk’etemc Chief Charlene Belleau facilitated the press conference and encouraged anyone with information to know there will be a safe space for them to come forward.
“We want to create closure so the family can heal.”
There have been several searches in and around Williams Lake already and Belleau said the family will continue to search.
The public can help by keeping their eyes and ears open, she added.
“Every home and business owner should walk and check their property,” she said.
She also said to keep praying, keep doing food offerings to feed Schooner Jr.’s spirit.
“During the searches an eagle has been with us.”
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars said it is important to empower people to use their voices and come forward if they know something.
“The more people that come forward the better. Fifty is better than one,” Sellars said. “People are scared when they shouldn’t be.”
Schooner is described as Indigenous, weighing 161 pounds. He has short black hair and brown eyes with a tattoo that says Rosa on his right forearm.
He has no cell phone or vehicle and was last seen wearing a black hoodie.
Anyone with information is asked to call the RCMP at 250-392-6211, Nuxalk Nation at 250-799-5613 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Dozens of reward posters were handed out to people at the press conference to distribute.