The search for Montana mom Sally Demarais Smith ended in tragedy on Sunday when her body was found inside her car in a storage unit on the edge of town.
A longtime speech and language pathologist at a local elementary school in Great Falls, where she lived with her husband and four children, Smith had been missing since Sept. 25.
An autopsy was completed on Tuesday, but authorities are still not releasing any information about her death until they can investigate further, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said Wednesday.
As police continue to search for clues as to how Smith ended up in the storage unit, her devastated family, friends and students are grappling with the loss of the fun-loving woman with a big personality.
Mystery Surrounds Her Disappearance
A busy mom who juggled work as a speech pathologist and as a part-time spin instructor, Smith was last seen at her home on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 25.
According to a Missing and Endangered Advisory issued by the Montana Department of Justice on Sept. 29, Smith “may have traveled to the Malta area” about 168 miles northeast of Great Falls.
Police have not said why she might have been driving toward Malta, or if that was even the case.
On Sunday, 17 days after she went missing, Smith’s body was found in a storage unit at 3033 Malmstrom Road, a desolate dead-end street close to Malmstrom Air Force Base (MAFB).
Authorities have released few details.
“As the investigation into Smith’s disappearance and death continues, we will provide further updates as necessary,” Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said in a release.
Videos of Smith that her daughter posted on the Help Find Sally Smith Facebook page show a loving mom cuddling on the couch with her children as they watch TV, taking a selfie with the family cat and joking around.
When Smith vanished, her distraught husband, Troy Smith, said, “I want her back,” the Great Falls Tribune reports.
“She is our rock, she is our foundation in our family, and everything evolves or revolves around her,” Troy Smith said, MontanaRightNow.com reports.
“To me, she’s like a warm blanket straight out of the dryer. When she hugs you, you just melt. And I’m missing it.”
Since Smith vanished, her husband said he drove more than 3,000 miles looking for her, the Tribune reports.
“Just sitting idle looking at Facebook posts just drives me nuts,” he said.
Beloved Figure in the Community
Fond remembrances have been pouring into the Help Find Sally Smith Facebook page since Smith’s remains were found.
According to the more than 5,000 members of the group, Smith was someone who embraced life to the fullest — a “sunny-side-up” kind of person, one of her friends said.
Her friend Shannon Gross has been making “Sally bars” in her friend’s memory. “They are made with a little more goo and yum, because Sally was a little more of everything,” she wrote.
Smith also had a great sense of humor, her friends say. One of her fellow spin instructors recalls finding a surprise on his phone when he left it behind where they taught.
“She found it and placed it in a safe place for me,” PaulBeachBum wrote. “Wonderful……except about a week later I found she used it first to take selfies of her and others before she put it away for me. So I put these pictures of her up here to remember her fun and pranksterness (sic) abilities. Miss her and remember the good times.”
Not only did Smith work in the Great Falls area, but she and her husband were also very active in the community.
Smith and husband Troy served in the United States Air Force, according to Renee Vincent, a longtime friend of Smith and her family, who set up a Meal Train account for Smith’s husband and children.
Smith and Troy “have both been volunteers for MAFB youth sports, coupled with coaching/fitness instructor to AF members and dependents,” she wrote.
Vincent, along with Smith’s family and friends, are “praying and searching for answers to this tragic loss of a beautiful life,” she wrote.