CUMBERLAND — Nineteen-year-old Donald Lee Izzett Jr. last spoke with his mom, Debra Skelley, by telephone in May 1995.
Izzett has not contacted his mom since then but that doesn’t mean the Cumberland woman has for one second forgotten the only son she ever had.
“Donnie had a big heart. He was a blood donor, an organ donor. He was so intelligent. He could have become anything. I dream and wonder every day what Donald would be like today if he was alive. I wonder if he would have a family, where he would be working,” said Skelley at her Massachusetts Avenue residence.
“Remembering Donnie is easy but missing him is a heartache that never goes away. I don’t believe Donnie is still alive. My heart told me three weeks after he disappeared that he had died,” she said.
Izzett had finished his freshman year at Frostburg State University and visited his mother seven days before calling her from California. He said that he wanted to return home and would call back so that she could wire him some money. She never heard from him again and reported him missing in July.
No longer holding hope that her son is alive, Skelley chooses to honor her son’s memory. She likes to talk about him but understands that some people are not comfortable to speak with her about Donnie, who would now be 38 years old.
“I love keeping Donnie’s memory alive and I really like people asking me about Donnie. It doesn’t upset me. I love to talk about my son,” said Skelley, who constructed a memorial garden in her back yard to honor his memory. The garden includes a flowering cherry tree and a swing, providing a nearby serene area that helps soothe the relentless, piercing pain of a mother who mysteriously lost her son.
“Tomorrow (Nov. 5) is Donnie’s birthday and I want to keep his memory alive,” said Skelley on Monday.
Skelley’s best friend, Karla Harman of Garrett County, has stood by Skelley all the years since Donald was born. She was also his baby-sitter.
Harman has been granted durable power of attorney in the event of Skelley’s death. The legal arrangement in place since July 2012 would make Harman the contact for new information concerning Izzett, his death, his remains, the investigation and any other matters that could arise.
“Karla knew Donnie really well since he was a young boy. And she has been there all along for me, even when my mom died in 1999. We remain very close. We’re best friends,” said Skelley.
Harman said she cherishes her memories of Donnie and is happy to stand at his mother’s side.
“I just want people to remember Donnie and keep his name out there — somebody out there knows something,” said Harman.
“I don’t know that there will ever be closure but at least you would know something and you could bury him and have someplace to go to mourn the great loss of a mother losing her son. Our hope is that one day we can bring Donnie home and find out exactly what happened.”
One of the key people who has not stopped searching for answers to Izzett’s disappearance is Maryland State Police Sgt. Tina Becker, who is assigned to the agency’s Cold Case Homicide Unit.
Skelley said Becker “has been very compassionate and has went through the whole case.”
Anyone wishing to contact Becker may call 410-386-3029. Debra Skelley may be contacted on her Facebook page.
Information concerning missing persons— including Donald Izzett — may be found at the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System website at www.namus.gov.
Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.