MISSOULA - By now, Rebekah Barsotti is a name known throughout the state.
The 33-year-old Missoula woman went missing last July in Mineral County. Her body was found just weeks ago in the Clark Fork River.
The Montana State Crime Lab used dental records to confirm Barsotti’s identity, and Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth recently told MTN News that he still believes Barsotti died from an accidental drowning.
As the family waits for Barsotti's autopsy results, they say they're still searching for answers about the circumstances of her death. Their daughter has been found, but the questions outweigh the closure.
Recalling the day a body was discovered in the river, Angela Mastrovito said, “I think it was at 1:18 that day.”
She knew the time down to the minute. Finding a body in the river could only mean one thing. “You get that notice and it’s this gut punch, but at the same time, you hope and you pray that it’s not.”
Over the last 11 months, Angela Mastrovito uprooted from Virginia to Montana, met with law enforcement, held vigils, and learned that no one would fight for her daughter like she would, but the days and weeks never got easier.
“Each step is like losing her all over again,” said Angela. “I used to think that if I had to stand alone I could stand alone and do it, this has taught me that we’re not supposed to stand alone.”
Standing beside her is Gerry, her husband.
“She has done so much and been through so much in 10 months,” said Gerry, “That makes me so proud of her. Hopefully we’ll find some resolve in all of this. All I can do is just ask the Lord for help, that’s all we can do.”
The two say they feel law enforcement failed them, like when they thought search efforts weren’t met with urgency or concerns for their safety weren’t taken seriously. In these moments, they felt the community step forward.
“Community opened up their houses and their hearts to us, in some cases people lent us cars,” recalled Gerry.
“To be honest with you, without the community’s support we could have never gotten as far as we’ve gotten,” said Angela.
Now, the duo is taking their trauma and turning it into hope for others in their shoes. From making fliers to requesting dental records, handling a missing persons case doesn’t come with a set of instructions, but the Mastrovitos think it should.
“We want to bring awareness so people know what is the process,” said Angela. “Hopefully some task force, whether it be volunteers or within each individual community, can be trained, and they can be equipped to be assigned as a liaison, so that when the next person goes missing in Missoula or Mineral County, both sheriff's offices can say ‘We have a resource.’”
The past year has also unearthed trauma during Rebekah's life. The Mastrovitos now plan to advocate for domestic violence awareness. They hope looking back will keep them moving forward.
“She was full of light, full of love, full of energy,” said Anglea. “She's done a lot of good, she's affected change. Rebekah’s story has affected change in more than one area, and that's all we can ask.”