‘Nowhere closer to answers’: Phoenix mother Michelle Bernstein-Schultz still missing one year later

June 29, 2023, marks one year since the mysterious disappearance of Phoenix woman Michelle Bernstein-Schultz.

Leads have been scarce in this case, but the reward to locate her is now $10,000 as loved ones plead for help.

For Patricia Yaloz, time seemingly stood still, yet the clock kept ticking, and the calendar kept turning.

"I believed that in a few days, the nightmare was gonna be over. There was going to be an explanation. As time went by, your mind begins to play a lot of tricks on you," Patricia said, Michelle’s mother.

"And we’re nowhere closer to answers. There’s no information at all, not one sighting, not one clue of anything, just nothing," Daniella Smith, Michelle’s sister, said.

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Daniella Smith, Michelle’s sister and their mother, Patricia Yaloz

‘Weakened to my bones’

Where is 37-year-old Michelle Bernstein-Schultz?

That simple question haunts her mother.

"I have never been so depressed, so sad. I feel I have been weakened to my bones," Yaloz said.

Michelle is known as "Elle" to loved ones and close friends.

She has been divorced twice and is a mother of two with a son from each marriage. She's an avid hiker and dog owner.

Michelle lived with her boyfriend in north Phoenix at The Tides in Paradise Valley near 40th Street and Greenway Road.

On June 29, 2022, it’s like she just vanished.

"I felt like my world had stopped. I felt like I took a deep breath in, and I was not able to let it out," her mother says.

Smith says her sister was texting back and forth with a friend that June afternoon up until 4:03 p.m. Then, Michelle left her apartment and her personal belongings.

"I don’t know if she left behind but, in her apartment, as far as we know, were her identification, her passport, her keys, her everything, her phone. I’ve never seen Michelle leave the house without her phone and her identification," Daniella said. 

Did her family see any indication that she wanted to leave?

"No, there was no indication that she wanted to leave. She’s never done this before. She knew she was going to be getting a settlement from a car accident the very next day," her sister said.

Michelle clearly never picked up that $2,500 check.

Her boyfriend reported her missing the next day. Patricia found out through a text from him.

Patricia says when she spoke to the boyfriend later, he told her Michelle had not been feeling good and didn’t want to be bothered the day prior, so he slept on the couch when he came home that night only to find the bedroom empty the next morning.

Michelle’s family has never spoken to the man again.

FOX 10 called Michelle's then-boyfriend to get his side of the story, but once Investigator Justin Lum identified himself, he hung up. He also didn't reply to a text.

When Phoenix Police was asked if there's a suspect or a person of interest in the case, a spokesperson said "there is not believed to be a threat to the community" and "everyone involved has been cooperative in the investigation."

Still, no signs

When Investigator Justin Lum went to a shopping center across from Michelle's apartment nearly a year later, he showed employees a picture of her and asked if they've seen her.

"Oh, they’re still looking for her? We have a picture in the hallway," an employee said.

Another said, "We could tack it in our front window if you want, if you have extras."

‘Life is not as I knew it’

As time feels like it’s at a standstill, life is moving quickly as Michelle’s two boys are growing up, missing their mom.

"It’s not like she’s on a vacation somewhere and we can call her and tell her and send her pictures. There have been milestones over the last year that she has missed and we don’t know how many more she will miss," her sister Daniella said.

How hard is it to keep that hope alive?

Her mother answers, "As a mother, I have to hope that I will see her again because life is not the same. Life is not as I knew it. Holidays, I don’t feel like I have things to celebrate because she’s not here. I don’t know if she’s suffering. I don’t know if she’s alive. I don’t know anything."

If you have a tip, contact Phoenix Police at 602-262-6151 or visit their website.

The family is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Michelle’s location or resulting in an arrest and conviction of who may be responsible for her disappearance.