Exclusive: Mom addresses questions after possible Macin Smith sightings in California

Macin Smith's Mom
Tracey-Bratt Smith and her son, Macin Smith. Photo Courtesy: GoFundMe

ST. GEORGE, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — The mother of missing St. George teen Macin Smith is addressing key questions about her son’s disappearance as a flurry of sightings are reported in Northern California.

Tracey Bratt-Smith and husband Darrin Smith’s son Macin was 17 when he vanished, and he has been gone for 17 months as of Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Macin, the last of the Smith’s six children living at home, walked away from home in the early morning hours when his parents thought he was on his way to school, leaving behind his cellphone, wallet, laptop, even his school binder. Macin did leave a note, which his parents discovered a week later folded inside his wallet. They have not released the contents, preferring to say the note contained an “intent,” which led them to believe he may have planned to harm himself.

There have been multiple possible sightings of Macin, and interest in the case has ramped up again after possible sightings of Macin in the northern California city of Modesto. Late Thursday night, Jan. 26, there was a multi-person sighting reported by volunteers at the homeless count in Modesto. The police have been notified and searches are being carried out in that area.

Speaking exclusively to Gephardt Daily, Bratt-Smith said: “My senses are in hyperactive mode for sure. I’m praying something comes from this. So far, it has been multiple kids that ‘look’ like Macin but we are hoping one of the sightings will be valid. A lady who did an intake with a boy during the homeless count… her description seems pretty accurate. She is following up on the area and the information she got from that interview.”

Earlier this month, a handful of possible sightings were reported in the Sacramento area, which police are also investigating. Modesto and Sacramento are 75 miles apart.

Bratt-Smith and other family members have posted Facebook updates almost every day to the Help Find Macin Smith page, whose members have swelled in number to 27,360, in the hope of bringing him home. There is a $10,000 reward in place for information leading to Macin’s location.

On Monday, Bratt-Smith wrote about a live Q and A Sunday night on Facebook held to discuss Macin’s case. Her post covers some of the topics people are asking the most questions about. Some of the subjects she covers are below (her answers shown in italics):

When exactly Macin left, and where he grew up:  Macin did have hours of a head start when he left on Sept 1. 2015. It would have been from 7:40 a.m. (we assumed he was at school), and Darrin contacted me between 3:30 and 4 p.m. I believe. We could not have predicted he was missing, truly missing, until later that evening.

Macin lived in Canada from ninth-11th grades in Okotoks, Alberta. Prior to that he was raised in Saratoga Springs, Utah. He started kindergarten and attended school through eighth grade in the Saratoga Springs area which is right by Lehi, for those of you unfamiliar with where that is located in Utah County.

Are there searches continuing in St. George? Darrin goes out on his own on his ATV in the desert. He prefers to search alone. I think it’s almost like a reprieve for him. Darrin says “Every time I don’t find something, I get more hopeful that he might still be out there alive.” He was out yesterday simultaneously with the Modesto crew but looking around some jagged rocky areas just north of us. The desert is vast and multiple searches have been done but he continues to hope to rule out areas. Our last official search with the community was in Nov. 2016 but we will certainly hold more, especially if there is an interest. I’m the opposite of Darrin, I do NOT like to go out alone. 

Has anyone questioned the shuttle or bus systems of St. George? Yes. It was done the week of the disappearance if I recall correctly. Fliers were brought to both Greyhound and St. George Shuttle but I don’t think St. George Express ever got one. We were not familiar with all the modes of transport at the time.

Was Macin handy? The type that could build shelters and fend for himself? I would say “no.” He HATED camping. Sending him to scouts or any of those early boyhood father and son events were not his favorite. Mace would make reasons for why he shouldn’t go to scouts. It actually became quite humorous at times.

Have Macin’s friend’s provided information? The few friends Macin had in the St. George area have been interviewed multiple times, even as recently as Oct./Nov. 2016 as the show “Disappeared” was gathering data. They were quite thorough. What a great group of staff they were. Extremely considerate too.

Will we learn more about the letter Macin left? Macin’s letter comes up quite often. I know people are curious creatures. I want you to imagine for a minute if you’ve ever had the experience of someone reading your journal/diary which you have kept hidden and private. You’ve poured out your most intimate deepest thoughts and then a total stranger goes through your things, finds it and copies it. But it doesn’t end there. The stranger proceeds to publish it online for thousands to read. Not cool. As it is, every picture ever taken of Macin is plastered all over the internet and can never really be taken down when all of this is resolved. That was an act by this desperate Momma wanting every facial expression of my boy to be memorized so people can visually recognize him. Most of my family have not seen the contents of his letter. “When” he comes back, he needs to know that some things were kept sacred.

This spring, Macin’s story will be featured on the Investigation Discovery Channel documentary series “Disappeared.”

Macin is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He has light blue eyes and he had short blond hair when he went missing. The Smith family moved to Utah from Canada in spring 2015.

Anyone with information about Macin is asked to call the St. George Police Department at 435-627-4300, or David Cummings at Red Rock Search and Rescue at 702-787-4068.

The Facebook questions and answers, with family friend and spokeswoman TaeLynn Johnson, is shown below:



  1. We are parents of four boys and can’t imagine the horror that you all must be going through. Have you allowed professionals such as police investigators or the FBI to read the letter that your son let you? Maybe they can find clues in his writings?

  2. With no signs of foul play or a crime scene and no body, it appears he left on his own and doesn’t want to be found. If this is the case, leave him alone until he is ready to come home. If he is still alive, he has his own reasons for not wanting to come home even if his reasons are not valid except in his own mind. He is now a legal adult and can live his life anyway he chooses within the law. This includes not wanting to be found and not informing his family that he is safe even though this would be unthinkably cruel to most. Maybe the intense search for him is driving him more underground. Don’t push this guy to hard. Let him come to his own conclusions regarding his life. This would include his religious preference and sexual preference. These 2 items are probably the basis of his wanting to disappear.

  3. Let’s not forget the ridiculous rule by the parents to unplug the internet….doing this to an almost 18 year old young man; taking his laptop away including cellphone…no logic, and what a demeaning act by the parents, especially, if their son is a sensitive young man

    • Oh, please. There’s nothing ‘ridiculous’ about a parent putting time-limits on browsing the net. Phones are mini-laptops, essentially handheld computers. No logic? Howso? He was up on a school night at 1:30 in the morning on the net. If I’d defied my father more than once on an issue like this — he’d probably have just taken the hard drive out of my computer or a part I wouldn’t understand linked to its operation.

      I’m an old fart, but I remember my dad ripping the phone out of my wall and taking it away from me and I was a sensitive kid, too, very, and also. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t stubborn or rebellious at times. I knew my parents loved me & I suspect he knew that, too. UNLESS this is about the whole GAY thing. That’s when the Mormons, in general, get really weird, and THEN you can talk about ‘demeaning’ things, UM K? UM K.

  4. I think he followed thru on his intent to harm himself. Is it possible he could have walked far enough into the desert to have expired from exposure? Far enough that no one would find him before now? It’s the only explanation since he had nothing but the clothes on his back… You can’t move anywhere and get a job with no cash or identification… I think it’s probable that he’s gone and they just haven’t found the body yet…

    • We don’t know he didn’t have money or a fake ID. Or even a fake driver’s license (I know the story is he didn’t want to drive, but a driver’s license is the least suspicious and most quickly accepted form of legitimization in so many ways he’d need if traveling or working, etc. A fake social would likely go along with the driver’s license. I know when I was 17 it would have been easy to steal a ten, a five, an occasional 20 dollar bill & over a short period (this was 30 years ago — today more might not be missed if carefully planned) be able to save a little chunk of money. In fact, the money may have been saved and provided by an older teen or young adult who worked.

      It was mentioned that he was highly intelligent — and I want to be clear I don’t think he accomplished the license/social on his own. That generally requires help, usually through a liaison. Because of the parents’ reluctance to say much of substance about the note (& it could help those looking to find him) I have a strong hunch he’s been struggling with his sexuality for a while, and may very well have either had a boyfriend back in Canada — or had met someone he fell for quickly in Utah and they planned their joint ‘escape’ to be together during those late-night chats over the laptop or phone. Heck, by this time a passport may have been procured. The young adult could be anywhere in the world.

      Macin would know how to cover his tracks there, too, by not using messaging apps associated with an ISP or Mobile Carrier (they could track his friend’s identity/location) but ones like FB messenger (fake name) or perhaps secret burner phones his folks didn’t know he had. Just something about this case, after reading just a few lines — I had a direct hunch this was related to his sexuality. And full disclosure: I am gay, and finally unabashedly so & at peace. And no, I don’t jump to that conclusion automatically when a teen suddenly disappears. That would be ludicrous since estimates of how many gays there are in America are at the highest 3 to 5 percent.

      But after I watched the interview with his parents — I had little doubt left. I think he left a vague note mentioning his sexuality but not tipping them off to a b/f being involved if there was one. I believe he was tired of the paranoia at home that he was always doing something “gay” on his computer and the hand-wringing over the church’s beliefs (and heated arguing?) may have led to the comment “I’m done.” Or perhaps it led to an additional comment that he’d rather be dead than keep living the life he was living. That kind of dramatic feeling is not uncommon in teens, especially ones stuck unwillingly in a cult or a fundamentalist church upbringing (there’s only a fine line between the two).

      You see, as long as they don’t go public with the “possibly gay” issue, it keeps the search alive — and they want him to “come home” (code for return to Mormonism/religion, be cured by Jesus, and never mention it to anyone so everyone ends up in heaven together, sealed, as it were). The wife at one point said (mentioning her husband’s name) “I think ____ wants closure….” What an odd thing to say. What father would not want closure unless he already knew what was up generally? I think the folks are using the ‘pressure’ of his continually being “looked for” as a tool to keep him alert/aware and thinking about giving up his sinful ways (much as God is always watching over one and judging one’s behavior or hoping for repentance). He probably still feels shame.

      In fact, Macin may be settled somewhere and his parents and the church know that, but not exactly where. They just don’t want his being ‘found out’ to embarrass the church or the family — but especially the cult does not want it to plant the same idea into the minds of other young free thinkers within the fold who don’t “fit in.” And plus, if folks, the thousands involved in helping find him, found out that the parents had left out a key piece of the puzzle out all along, or had hidden that they’d heard from him — they’d be ostracized in a BIG way, and the church would face some tough criticism. And it’s possible that if they kept police misinformed at a certain point there could be legal repercussions for the couple.

      Somewhat of a bottom line: I don’t trust the parents. They’re a member of a cult. I had a number of friends as a kid growing up who were Mormon & now have several who are “ex-Mormon.” No, that does not make me an expert, but I’ve done a lot of reading, as well, and watched documentaries. And I’m capable of clever extrapolation. I do ** know ** some pretty unsavory stuff can happen behind closed doors in homes managed by longtime cult members (or members of very fundamentalist sects of any belief system). Repression and black-and-white thinking make people sick — and sick people behave like sick people.

      • Yes I got this same gay vibe very strongly too but I think he met an older man online that came and picked him up and told him he would take care of him. If you’re gay then you know there are tons of older men looking for boys to take care of online. I think he wiped his computer before he left to protect the man and also keep his secret. He may have locked his door because the man may have been in his room earlier that morning. I hope he is ok.

    • Jennifer,

      Ya know this kid Macin disappearing like he did 1st of all just shows how selfish he was. I really know, his mom loves him soo much. You can tell wAtching the show. I agree with you now. Be for I would say that he was not faking his death he was not trying to commit suicide but now I believe what you’re saying. Your family has to sit there and suffer with that for the rest of their lives I think that’s very selfish of him through walk off of his garage that day or his house or however he left at that house without his wallet without his cell phone without anything and not contacting her it’s awful awful. When I first saw the story and I’ve had some conversations with people about maybe what I thought but now that I read what you had said I really believe that that’s what happened to him now. Terrible.

  5. What about PSYCHICS? Has the family looked into reputable psychics that help law enforcement? I know of one that helps police.

  6. It’s amazing to me that anyone thinks being unplugged from the internet or other devices is cruel. When I was a kid my parents found grounding me from my favorite book was more effective than measures they took with my siblings. Was it pure torture? Yes. That’s the point. He had effective parents not cruel ones. It was not demeaning for them to try to teach their son lessons by requiring him to spend his time doing something not involving technology. Anymore than it was demeaning for my mother to have me sit up straight and practice the piano.

    I cannot imagine suggesting that anyone give up trying to find out if this man is alive and well. It is a wonderful thing to assume that he is. But not knowing whether he lives and breathes or not, you cannot seriously expect people who know and love him to ever give up trying to find out about him. My great-uncle disappeared and his mother would call out for him until her dying day. My father now in his 70s has no idea what happened to him and most people who ever knew him have died. I never knew him. But I’ll be dammed if I don’t very much want to know what became of him. And if it was just a couple of years since his disappearance?

  7. The paining of not knowing is Ultima. If Macin was a sensitive young person, his psych must have been hurt beyond his toleration. I have a strong feeling that the core of this young man was hurt/humiliated; most likely by the father. I do not believe that he said in a tender tone: Macin, it is late
    etc….as he spoke in the interview. Btw, Macin was not 14 or 15, he was close to 18. Leaving everything behind indicates to me, that he drew a line under the life that he had. This young man touched me to the core. He is as a beautiful young man, inside and out

  8. Has anybody thought about maybe someone snatched him. Boys can be sold too. Hope not. Hope he will be found.

    • I thought of that. Hitchhiked and got killed. But the sightings are hopeful. Hundreds of young men go missing every year and disappear into homelessness for a host of reasons, many of those having to do with a mental health issue. I see no reason for them to give up hope.

  9. I agree with a lot of what you said at the beginning. I listened to the Thin Air podcast covering his disappearance. I got the impression from his mother’s interview that there was so much boiling under the surface with him and his parents didn’t know him very well. They knew he was depressed. She even said he “suffered in silence” with it. They didn’t delve into why. He may never have come out to them. He was non-confrontational. I bet they suspected and he already knew where they stood and never opened up to them. I do not believe that they know where he is. When you mentioned he likely was savvy enough to have a burner phone, I think that is likely. When you said he may have a boyfriend in Canada, I think it’s possible– but a chill went through me thinking that a gay kid with no support at home would be *very* vulnerable to a predator. He may have been in communication with an adult who took him. The letter I’m sure contains vitriol toward the parents. It may not even say anything directly about him being gay. I think it was a secret that killed him inside and they may have strongly suspected, resulting in the tension in their household. I tend to think it doesn’t say it directly because I believe the police would have mentioned it if it did give such a huge clue. And that would fit with his personality, also. He was closed off. Quite understandably. It was frustrating listening to her describe her relationship with Macin. She clearly loves him but did not do enough to help him with what was boiling under the surface. Some people are just depressed because of their brain chemistry and others have good reason. I feel like she likely treated him medically but didn’t address the problem.

  10. Regardless of whether he is\was gay, depressed or angry, it isnt about that. The boy is missing. It saddens me that the family has to put up with this type of thing. And as for Macin, I hope he’s all right.
    I’ve never held onto anything as I have held on to this boy, who is a complete stranger to me. My prayers are with the family and Macin.


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