TULSA -- A Glenpool wife and mother of two children vanished 25 years ago without a word to her family or friends.
“She had this big hair, and this big laugh and she giggled about everything," said daughter of Tracy Samuels, Kristina Ritzhaupt.
24-year-old Tracy Samuels smiled the biggest on holidays or her childrens' birthdays.
The little girl with the dark brown hair in their home videos can't shake that smile from her mind.
“She gave everything she could give to us.”
It's her mother's smile that tells her what could never be true.
“The mom that I know and the mom that I remember would never have just walked out on her children. There’s no way.”
Her mother would never leave the 25 years of memories behind on purpose.
“I had gotten on the school bus that morning, typical morning. She kissed me good bye, said 'Hey, I’ll see you after school,'" Kristina remembered.
She last saw her mother in a bathrobe waving good bye from their doorstep.
She made the promise every day, but for some reason on February 17, 1993, she didn't keep that promise.
“She just never showed up after school to come and get me.”
Every hour that passed the family ran out of scenarios.
“She told some family members she was going to look for a job, or had a job interview," said Tulsa Police Department Detective Eddie Majors, who's now working the case.
Police, nor the family can confirm if she had an interview, but someone in Tulsa did see her that day.
The last reports of her alive, she was in the parking lot of the then Cherry Hill apartments.
“She got out of her truck, got into that truck and has not been seen since," he said.
A witness told police she pulled up and waited for a white pickup truck, then got inside.
“We’re still trying to understand why that location that she went to and the manner in which she parked.”
What investigators found odd was when Tracy parked in the lot she parked perpendicular to the spaces, taking up multiple spots before getting into the man's car.
Witnesses told police the driver of the truck was a white man with dark brown hair.
“Even now at 33 years old, there’s still that 8-year-old that’s frozen in time," said Kristina.
She knew it was bad when her mother didn't show up for her birthday two days later.
She never would've missed it.
“It was horrible," she recalled.
She always made the cakes and helped Kristina and Charlie open their gifts.
But why not this time?
Police have ideas.
“There’s a motive in there somewhere, something went bad," said Detective Majors.
Investigators suspected Samuels was carrying a large sum of money.
“I think something happened that may’ve been over her head, something she knew.”
“The 50,000 things that you think could be terrible, that’s what goes through your mind," Kristina said.
She tries not think about what's possible, just what's next.
“For me justice is finding her remains so that someday as a family on Mother’s day and on birthdays we have a place to honor her.”
Until they have a place, she holds remembrance ceremonies.
“I have to make her life matter, that is what is important to me," she cried.
She hopes they'll spark new leads.
“I just have a feeling people are going to start talking, and I’ll leave it at that.”
While Detective Majors is tight-lipped, he said it's working.
“I feel like what she instilled in me even if I can’t remember it is just to fight to always do what’s right even if it’s really hard.”
So, every morning Kristina makes a promise to her mother just as her mother did to her 25 years ago.
"And I'm just like, 'today's the day.'"
Whether today is the day to find answers or to find peace, she's already found it in her heart to forgive whoever took her mother.
“If they’re able to be honest and free themselves of that I can forgive you, I can.”
And she knows today will always be the day to wear the smile her mother once did, with the strength to fight for as long as she can.
If you have any information on the disappearance of Tracy Samuels, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596- COPS.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.