SUPERIOR - People leaving Missoula on US Highway 93 may notice a new billboard for missing woman Rebekah Barsotti.
She hasn’t been seen in seven months and law enforcement thinks they know why -- but with no body, Barsotti’s case remains unsolved. Rebekah’s parents -- who’ve uprooted their lives from Virginia to Montana – are determined to find an answer before they pack up and go home.
"Rebekah went missing July 20th. February 20th is seven months, and it's been a grueling seven months," Barsotti’s mother Angela Mastrovito told MTN News.
“We want to find her just as bad as the family does. We want to give closure to the mother and the father. We're trying our best, but there's, you know, there's only so much we can do to a point, and then that's it,” noted Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth.
Seven months ago, a cell phone, a driver's license, and a hat were left on the bank of the Clark Fork River. The items merely a trace of the person they belonged to – 33-year-old Rebekah Barsotti – who hasn’t been seen since that day.
“We hope to find the truth, we hope that when we find Rebekah, we’ll still be able to find the truth,” Mastrovito said.
Barsotti’s missing person’s case has been transferred from Mineral County to Missoula County and back to Mineral County due to each county’s available resources.
While neither the departments nor the search parties have found any concrete answers, seven months of searching leads to the river.
“We think that that's where she went missing. She's somewhere in the river, you know, we're 99.9% positive,” Sheriff Toth said.
“But with extensive efforts last summer they didn’t find her,” Mastrovito pointed out.
Despite law enforcement’s confidence that Barsotti drowned, Sheriff Toth says his department still pursues every credible lead they receive, but he noted it’s a big county, and finding Rebekah is merely one of their responsibilities.
"We have a county that stretches 77 miles on the interstate all the way to the state line. I have six road deputies and then myself and the Undersheriff to handle calls, and you know, we're stretched thin.” - Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth
Their focus on Barsotti's case is waning while the family's desperation is growing more urgent. So Barsotti’s family has hired their own search and rescue team, which includes an out-of-state, private investigator.
“He works with missing persons, that’s his specialty, it’s not part of what he does, it’s his specialty. And so, the more we talked to him, the more we felt like okay, this is where we need to go. Somebody who can devote 24/7 which is what James Terry said he could do,” Mastrovito explained.
A swarm of experts will search for answers in the river while Terry searches for answers on land. In the coming months, Wings of Hope, Northstar Canine Search and Rescue, Bruce’s Legacy, and a specialized scuba diver will brave the cold Clark Fork River.
The divers, sonars, and drones offer more than thorough searches, they offer assurance – something Barsotti’s family hasn’t felt in a long time.
“They're pulling out the stops,” Mastrovito said. “They’re going to do everything they can to find Rebekah.”
With an experienced search and rescue team heading our way, Barsotti’s family doesn't need volunteers at this time, but they are asking for donations to fund the search efforts.
You can donate at https://findrebekahbarsotti.com/ while anyone with details that could be helpful in Rebekah’s case can contact private investigator James Terry at 813-993-2242.
A vigil for Rebekah will be held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25 at the Missoula County Courthouse.