It's been a year since a young woman from Eden Prairie disappeared virtually without a trace, only to be found dead five months later -- most likely the victim of a troubled boyfriend. Family and friends of Mandy Matula, who was 24 when she left home for the last time on May 1, 2013, say they are still trying to cope with their loss, and learn from her life and death.
Matula was last seen that day with a former boyfriend, who shot and killed himself before police could question him after she disappeared. She was the subject of multiple volunteer searches in the western Twin Cities and central Minnesota. Matula's remains were found in a park near Sartell in Stearns County in October; tests showed she died of a gunshot wound to the head.
The Matula family home has a memorial of sorts to Mandy, with photos and mementos of her years in school and as an athlete, according to FOX 9. Her parents are still grieving, each in their own way, every day, according to the Star Tribune.
On this first anniversary of Mandy's disappearance, the Matula family drove to that park to mark the somber occasion, KSTP reports.
Mandy Matula was one of three young women who went missing at about that same time last year. The other two, Kira Steger and Danielle Jelinek, were also found dead months after they disappeared, and the families of the three women helped support each other through their ordeals.
Steven Matula, Mandy's younger brother, created a Facebook page called Minnesota United, to draw attention to other Minnesotans who have gone missing. He maintains the site, posting information about people who are reported missing and the outcome of the search for them. He wants to be a resource for others going through similar situations, the Star Tribune reports.
Steven told KSTP he's honored to be Mandy's brother, and does his best to keep her spirit alive by helping other people.
Mandy Matula is also remembered by others in the area, including the University of Minnesota Duluth softball team, of which Mandy was a member. All the members of the softball team wore Matula's number, 14, on their jerseys for their home opener last month. And they plan to retire her number in the near future.