Late on the night of May 1, 2013, Mandy Matula left the family’s home without her phone or purse to talk with her ex-boyfriend, David Roe, 24, of Victoria. When she didn’t return the next morning, her mother called Roe, who told her that Mandy had left from his car at a nearby park.
But neighbors reported hearing possible gunshots at 1 a.m. near a church, and an unspent bullet was later found in the church lot.
When police called Roe in for questioning, he fatally shot himself in the head in the police parking lot, leaving only a Post-it note about a goodbye video. Mandy’s blood was found on his jacket, but police had few other leads.
The suspected murder-suicide stunned the suburban community, spurring hundreds of Eden Prairie High School alumni, neighbors, University of Minnesota Duluth classmates, even strangers to search for Mandy. They combed wooded areas and searched lakes and rivers from Eden Prairie to Victoria and along the Mississippi River to St. Cloud, where Roe had studied criminal justice.
They posted 20,000 signs with Mandy’s smiling face at boat launches on lakes, sporting goods stores and every license agent in five counties, hoping anglers or hunters would spot something. They sold purple bracelets (her favorite color) and purple shirts with No. 14.
But still, no sign of Mandy.
Until last Oct. 26. A Boy Scout leader hiking through Mississippi River County Park in Rice, 12 miles north of St. Cloud, noticed a scrap of clothing in the dense woods.
Police and searchers, including Mandy’s brother, had scoured the park without a sign. But a shallow grave deep in the woods held Mandy’s remains, her class ring and remnants of a jacket embroidered with the UMD fast-pitch softball logo and No. 14.
Authorities said she died from a single bullet to her head.
Families united in grief
Months later, the Eden Prairie police investigation remains open, awaiting test results.
Wayne Matula is hopeful it could bring more answers. Did his daughter struggle? Did Roe plan to kill her? Why was there no evidence of a crime scene, or any blood? “As a father, I do have questions,” he said. “Whether I’ll find any answers, I’ll never know.”
A year ago, he saw the news reports of two missing women, Kira Steger, 30, of St. Paul and Danielle Jelinek, 28, of Oakdale. And then, the unimaginable: his daughter’s photo added to a trio of missing women.
“Why did you have to do this?” he said. “Why did you have to take my daughter?”
Unlike the other cases, the suspect in this one, Roe, is dead, taking with him any answers of what happened that night.
“To go six months without knowing where your daughter is … it’s hard to talk about,” Lisa Matula added. “In some ways, I wish she wasn’t found because then there would still be hope she’d be alive. I wish she would just walk in that door.”
The three missing women’s families, though, are forever joined in their grief. They helped each other with the searches. And this August, Steven will join the Jelinek family for a 5k race in Danielle’s honor.
For the Matulas, it’s comforting to see how much people were moved by Mandy’s story — from hundreds of searchers to the more than 2,000 people at her memorial service.