A grim search in the sleet ended in frustration Friday night for volunteers hoping to find Mandy Matula.
Some of the 200 or so searchers who trudged through Eden Prairie parks and open spaces clung to fading hopes that the 24-year-old woman lay injured somewhere, but her younger brother, Steven Matula, conceded that police had told them they were looking for a body.
He pledged they would be back again Saturday morning. “She wouldn’t be giving up on me,” he said.
David M. Roe, who shot himself in the head outside the Eden Prairie police station Thursday before police could question him about Matula’s disappearance, remained at Hennepin County Medical Center Friday night. No information was being released on his condition, other than that he was unable to talk with investigators.
Steven Matula said his sister and Roe, both 24, had been dating off and on for several months. Their first breakup came in August, but Roe kept trying to get back together, Steven Matula said.
Wednesday night, Mandy Matula had been at her family’s home in Eden Prairie. Her father, Wayne, was downstairs watching television about 11, when he heard Mandy call good night, her brother said.
“I’m going to bed, Dad,” she told him. “I love you.”
But soon family members heard her arguing with Roe on the phone, and she went outside to Roe’s Ford Escape when he pulled up, Steven Matula said.
“They took off, with us assuming they would go resolve it, and that’s all we knew,” he said.
His sister left behind her cellphone, keys and purse. She was last seen with Roe, police said, at Miller Park in Eden Prairie. She never showed up for the job she loved as a seasonal maintenance worker for the city of Eden Prairie Thursday morning. Her parents called police at 8:30 a.m.
Authorities searched for much of the day Thursday without success, including sending Hennepin County sheriff’s divers into Mitchell and Round Lakes.
On Friday, Steven Matula, 21, put out a call on Facebook. Friends, relatives and strangers turned out at 5 p.m. to search nearby parks and open spaces,
“Two hundred people — I didn’t expect this,” Steven Matula said at Miller Park. “I’m just blown away by all the support she had. It puts a little more faith in humanity in this day and age.”
Among those who came to help was Kris Terp, 47, who recruited searchers from his Eden Prairie Bible study group. He didn’t know the Matula family but wanted to come help, Terp said. He brought his 15-year-old son, Dalton, to help search Birch Island before they told Steven Matula that they were heading over to Carver Park Reserve, near Roe’s home in Victoria, to search there.
“That’s the least anyone could do,” Terp said. “You wouldn’t want your kid lying out there.”
As darkness brought the organized search to a close Friday, Steven Matula issued a plea to everyone in the community to check dumpsters, under tarps, “anywhere where a body might be hidden.”
He also said police have told him that cellphone records indicate Roe was driving on I-94 in the St. Cloud area early Thursday morning and that some volunteers will head to that area Saturday. Most searchers, however, will be asked to continue to search the Eden Prairie neighborhood where his sister disappeared, Steven Matula said. Mandy Matula and Roe graduated in 2007 from Eden Prairie High School, where they were both outstanding athletes. Friends said that they do not believe the two were in a relationship during high school.
Steven Matula said that Roe had “never laid a finger” on Mandy during their entire relationship. He described her as a strong woman who wouldn’t put up with anyone “giving her lip.”
In 2007, Roe had a restraining order filed against him by another young woman, a former girlfriend who said he had punched her in the stomach at a party where he was also reportedly very drunk.
The 6-foot-2 star football player “expects to be allowed to intimidate people and it works,” the former girlfriend wrote in the restraining order, adding that he was a binge drinker who stalked her after their three-year relationship ended, following her to her parents’ homes, her jobs and volleyball games.
The restraining order was dismissed, but the two weren’t allowed to contact each other.
“I’ve never seen anything that would make me think this could happen,” the woman’s mother said in an interview with the Star Tribune, adding that although Roe had anger and jealousy issues, he didn’t seem capable of serious violence. “It’s all very shocking.”
As the search continued for Matula continued, friends praised Matula as an outgoing young woman heavily involved in the softball community, both as a talented pitcher and youth coach.
“She was extremely nice and a people person,” said Gracie Ovsak, 14, of Hopkins, who was coached by Matula in an Eden Prairie club team. “I’m shocked. I went to school today, and it was extremely hard to focus.”
After high school, Matula went to the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she studied management and was a standout fast-pitch softball pitcher.
She graduated in 2011 and was working as a seasonal maintenance worker for the city of Eden Prairie and at a family recreation center in Eden Prairie. The city had grief counselors and chaplains available Friday.
Roe was all-conference in football and played basketball in high school before attending the University of St. Thomas.
In the past week, Matula had told a college friend that she was breaking off her relationship with Roe for good.
On Thursday afternoon, Roe had agreed to speak to an investigator about Matula’s disappearance. Police vehicles followed Roe, who was alone in his SUV, to the police station parking lot about 1:30 p.m. Officers stayed back, shutting down the parking lot when they realized that he had a handgun. A few minutes later, Roe shot himself under the chin while seated in his SUV, according to scanner reports.
“We had no idea that he was suicidal,” Eden Prairie police Lt. Bill Wyffels said Friday.
Wyffels said that a note was found on Roe’s dashboard with limited writing, but said he didn’t know the details of the note or whom it was addressed to.
Steven Matula said that Roe had soda pop but not alcohol with him when he shot himself.
Matula is the third woman to disappear under suspicious circumstances in the metro area since December.
Danielle Jelinek, 28, of Oakdale, was reported missing on Dec. 9. She was last seen at the home of a man in Chisago County with whom she had a sporadic relationship. Kira Trevino, 30, of St. Paul, was last seen on Feb. 21. Her husband, Jeffery Trevino, is charged with second-degree murder.
On Friday, authorities announced that the St. Paul Police Foundation will contribute $5,000 for information leading to the location of Kira Trevino. At a news conference, her family implored the public to keep looking for Kira.
Her mother, Marcie Steger, said her thoughts were with Matula’s family. She has met with Jelinek’s family and said she hoped that, when Matula’s family is ready, they can meet as well.
“I would not wish this on anyone,” Steger said. “I feel terrible for Mandy’s family right now, because it does get a lot worse before it gets better. And we pray it gets better. That Kira is brought home to us. That all the girls are brought home.”
Anyone with information about Mandy Matula’s disappearance is asked to call Eden Prairie police at 952-949-6200.
Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org 651-925-5038 email@example.com 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib