Police lights

OGDEN — Amber Lyne Smith was looking for happiness but didn’t seem to be getting very far.

Friends, family and acquaintances said the young Ogden woman had ricocheted from a failed relationship, then an unwelcome advance by a man she next stayed with.

Meanwhile, because Smith’s father was Native American, Smith had been seeking help from “pathfinders” to get closer to her heritage and a connection to her tribe of origin.

But Smith, 23, went missing about April 2, 2015, and her decomposed body was found by a mountain biker about a month later, May 4, near the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the unincorporated foothills east of North Ogden.

The investigation remains open but inactive, and some of those who were close to her are calling for a renewed probe into the cold case.

According to Weber County Sheriff’s Office investigation reports obtained with a public records request, authorities determined someone moved Smith’s body, dragging it more than 200 yards down the mountainside before leaving it in dense undergrowth.

“The body was lying in very thick oak brush and was hard to see until you were almost standing over it,” the incident report said.

The mountain biker and his dog were led to the body by the smell of decomposition.

Detectives repeatedly interviewed the man Smith had been staying with and at one point screened the case with the Weber County Attorney’s Office for homicide prosecution.

Prosecutors determined detectives lacked sufficient evidence for charges. The case has remained open ever since.

An autopsy and toxicology results determined Smith suffered an overdose of methamphetamine, the sheriff’s office said a little more than a year later.

Documents showed that the investigation centered on a man known by the nickname “Gumby.”

Police interviewed him three times and reported he gave conflicting statements about why Smith had left his home, whether she had been using methamphetamine and whether he had gone into the foothills with her.

Asher Browne of Ogden contacted the Standard-Examiner recently, describing herself as Smith’s former foster mother and de facto stepmother. Browne is also the sister of “Gumby,” whose name is Joseph Laumann.

Browne said the case needs renewed investigation and listing as an official cold case as permitted under state law.

“At the very least I want it listed there because it is an unsolved murder,” Browne said. “We know somebody moved her. Someone was there with her. That person exists and is real.”

Browne contended as well that it might have been a hate crime, because depictions of penises were spray-painted on rocks near where Smith’s body was retrieved.

“My foster daughter very much wanted to be a boy and had looked into how people had changed,” Browne said.

She also questioned the police focus on Laumann.

“They concentrated on my brother because they say he was the last one to see her alive,” Browne said. “There are other people who could have messed with her.”

Browne said Laumann has moved away from Ogden because of the fallout of the case. Efforts to contact him through her were unsuccessful.

Sheriff’s investigators checked into Laumann’s claims that he had made fliers about Smith having gone missing and that he had posted them and handed them out around a convenience store at 26th Street and Adams Avenue that Smith had frequented.

Detectives said they could not find any fliers and no one interviewed in the area remembered any fliers or Smith distributing them there.

In their third interview with Laumann, police told him that Smith’s mother, Rachel Christiansen, her brother, Robert Smith, and her former girlfriend all had reported that Smith had gone missing after leaving Laumann’s home.

Laumann insisted he did not remember what their disagreement was about, but detectives told him “we have been informed by everyone that (Laumann) was trying to have sex with Amber and that was what the fight was about.”

In an earlier police interview, Laumann said he had never gone into the foothills with Smith. But after a detective asked whether cameras on the hillside would show he had been up there, Laumann said he had gone up the hill to pick sage with her about a month before she disappeared.

Laumann, in the final interview, urged police to look at several other people.

He blamed Smith’s former girlfriend for “brainwashing” her; he said Robert Smith may have been the last to see Amber alive because she had called him for a ride; and that she may have gone into the hills with a “pathfinder” who had been staying with Christiansen.

Documents also showed indications that Amber Smith may have been suicidal.

Detectives sent Amber Smith’s phones to a forensics lab in St. George for data recovery. Reports said the process revealed several text messages leading to that question.

“Im go hang myself love you goodbye,” said a message to Christiansen on March 30.

To a friend of Smith’s on April 2: “Homey I love you im going to connect to mother earth I may go forever but dude I love you.”

And to her former girlfriend: “goodbye baby.”

The former girlfriend told officers that Smith “had cervical cancer and had been stressed about that.” They had broken up about three weeks before she disappeared.

She said Smith “had been suicidal in the past but she didn’t believe Amber would have gone into the mountains by herself to commit suicide,” according to the police report.

Efforts to contact Lt. Cortney Ryan, Sheriff’s Office spokesman, about the current status of the case were not immediately successful.

Smith’s mother, Christiansen, declined requests to be interviewed about the case.

In a brief conversation outside his mother’s workplace, Robert Smith said the family supported Browne’s effort to seek a cold-case review, but they preferred not to speak further publicly.

Robert Smith did say his sister had called him for a ride before she disappeared, but he could not pick her up because he was on the run from jail at the time.

In a 2016 interview with the Standard-Examiner, Christiansen praised Amber Smith as a devoted daughter who helped raise her other children. She said she had no knowledge of any drug use by her daughter.

Smith was devout in her Native American beliefs, Christiansen said.

“Everything has a spirit and a soul,” she said. “I still can’t smash a spider. Amber would catch and release them.“

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801-625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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