The past two months have been a nightmare for the parents of Rebekah Barsotti, a 33-year-old Montana woman who disappeared in July while hiking with her dog, Cerberus.
Some of Rebekah’s belongings, including her phone and identification, were found next to the Clark Fork River prompting a massive search of the area. A week later, the body of Rebekah’s beloved dog was found downriver about 10 miles.
But there was still no sign of Rebekah.
“She’s been gone almost two months now,” her mother, Angela Mastrovito, told Dateline. “Two months and we still don’t have answers… we still don’t know where she is.”
A candlelight vigil will be held for Rebekah on Monday, September 20, at McCormack Park in Missoula, to mark the two months since her disappearance.
Rebekah’s parents traveled from their home in Virginia to Missoula as soon as they found out their daughter was missing. Her mother told Dateline Rebekah had been living in Montana since 2007 and had recently left her marriage. She moved from Mineral County to her own place in Missoula and was working as a server at Plonk, a local wine bar and restaurant.
“Rebekah was starting over and I was so proud of her,” Angela said. “She is tenacious. And she was well on her way of establishing herself. When she gets a thought in her mind to complete something, she runs it to completion.”
She last spoke to her daughter at the end of July when she was sending off a care package of fuzzy socks, Christmas ornaments, and dog toys for Cerberus. Angela told Dateline the package arrived at the post office in Missoula on July 20 - the day Rebekah went missing.
Angela told Dateline she found out her daughter was missing from Rebekah’s estranged husband. Deputies from the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office had contacted him after her belongings were found on the shore of the Clark Fork River.
When Rebekah’s parents arrived in Missoula a few days later, they got straight to work hanging fliers, making phone calls, talking with locals, and organizing searches. And two months later, they are still there, doing everything they can to find their daughter.
“As her mom, I needed to be here,” Angela told Dateline. “I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there would not have been all these searches if we had not come out here.”
Rebekah’s disappearance was initially being investigated by the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office which stated in a social media post that it was believed that both Rebekah and her dog went into the river.
According to the post by Sheriff Mike Toth, Rebekah was last seen at the Town Pump gas station in Superior around 2:15 p.m. on July 20. Her vehicle was found at the I-90 rest area/truck stop, and some of her personal belongings were found on the beach along the Clark Fork River on the east side of Alberton Rock. Among the items found were her driver’s license, credit card, cell phone, car keys, a dog leash and the remote to her dog’s e-collar.
On July 26, Sheriff Toth announced on social media that Rebekah’s dog, Cerberus, had been found dead in the Clark Fork River by the Mineral County Search and Rescue team, about 10 miles downriver from where authorities believe Rebekah and the dog went into the water.
After the dog’s remains were found in Missoula County, the sheriff requested that the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office take over the investigation.
A search was launched along what Missoula County Sheriff’s Captain Bill Burt calls a “chaotic stretch of river with deep areas, and some 90 degree bends,” where the current will pull you under.
Captain Burt tallies about 2,000 volunteer hours from Missoula and Mineral, and surrounding counties. He added that about 30 percent of Missoula’s Search and Rescue’s fuel budget for this fiscal year, which began on July 1, has been used solely on the search for Rebekah.
Although resources have dwindled, Captain Burt told Dateline they won’t give up their search for Rebekah and are keeping their minds open to any possibilities.
“We won't give up hope and we will continue as long as we have the resources available,” he told Dateline. “And as long as we have places to search, we will continue.”
Rebekah’s parents tell Dateline they are grateful for the overwhelming help from law enforcement and the community, but add they fear all resources went into a search of the water early on when they actually believe their daughter is on land.
“We know she was at that location where her stuff was found, because there’s video on her phone of that area,” Angela said. “But we don't believe that she's in the water.”
Angela told Dateline that authorities believe Rebekah jumped in the river to save her dog, but some details don’t add up for her, like that her belongings were neatly piled on the beach. She said if it was an emergency situation, Rebekah wouldn’t have paused to take things out of her pockets.
“We need to conduct more searches on land,” Angela said. “But we need help. We need resources.”
Rebekah’s family created a Facebook page “Find Rebekah Barsotti” to post updates and request help from the community. Angela says they have received an outpouring of support and love.
“You see these stories about missing people and think how can this happen,” Angela said. “And now we’re living it. But the people of Montana are the most kind, compassionate people who have been there for us.”
Angela added that there have been many families in Missoula County going through the same thing who have reached out to them with offers to help and with messages of support, both of which they are extremely grateful for.
As the two-month anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance approaches, Angela hopes there will be more resources available or that someone with information from that day in July will come forward.
“Where were you that day? There were people in that area and I just know somebody saw something, heard something,” Angela said. “All I ask is that you come forward. It could be information shrugged off at the time, but now could help us find Rebekah.”
Anyone who is willing and able to organize a search or has resources for a search is asked to contact Angela Mastrovito via her Facebook page.
“Why are we still here, I ask myself all the time,” Angela said. “But I haven’t left because I know Rebekah is here somewhere and I believe we will find her. And I’m not leaving until we do.”
Rebekah is described as being 5’5” tall, weighing about 135 lbs. She has sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. She has a tattoo of a snow drift on her right foot and ankle and a tattoo of a hummingbird and flowers on her left rib cage.
Anyone with information about Rebekah’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office at (406)-258-4810, CASE# 2101-12676.