The Missouri Highway Patrol investigation continues in the death of a 23-year-old St. Louis woman, Raffaella Stroik.
On Monday, November 12 at approximately 3 p.m., a Missouri State Park Ranger noted a 2012 black Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot with Indiana plates.
On Tuesday morning November 13, the Missouri Highway Patrol deemed the vehicle suspicious. The vehicle checked back to Stroik. There had not been a missing person’s report filed yet. The Missouri Highway Patrol further investigated, reaching Stroik’s parents, who then confirmed and filed a missing person’s report.
At approximately 9:15 a.m. a missing person search began with Monroe County Sheriff’s office responding, along with the Monroe City Fire Department. The search continued throughout the day on land, in the water using sonar and in the air. At sunset, the Missouri Highway Patrol called off the search because they were unable to continue the search in the dark.
On Wednesday, November 13, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department along with the Monroe City Fire Department and Moberly Area Community College Cadets began the search again. More than 100 volunteers showed up to help, including Stroik’s friends and family. Stroik’s parents had stopped at the Hunting Corner to pick up warm gear in hopes to find their daughter who had at this point been missing for 48 hours. The volunteers were seen in the parking lot of 107 boat ramp wearing orange vests in hopes to find their friend and loved one.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Butch Pennewell, a private local pilot, contacted the Missouri Highway Patrol to see what time their helicopter would be flying over to search.
Pennewell stated, “I wanted to fly over the area to see if I could see anything to help with the search,” adding, “At 8:53 a.m. I spotted what looked like a body about 300 yards south east of the bridge, in a cove. I called Del Buckman to help relay the message to the Highway Patrol and help lead them to the area.” He said, “I kept circling in the air until they found her.” At approximately 9:40 a.m. the search was called off and Stroik’s body was identified as deceased, being found on the opposite side of the lake than her car.
Stroik was last seen at a Whole Foods Grocery Store in Town and Country, MO at 10:30 a.m. on November 12. Whole Foods Manager Yibby McCloskey stated, “We have not talked to our employees directly to find out if they remember seeing or talking to Raffaela that day.” McCloskey also denied knowing if the parking lot had camera’s or not explaining the store rents the building and parking lot from Ramco Gershenson Inc. As of press time the owner of the building and parking lot had not returned an e-mail or phone call concerning the matter.
Upon finding Stroik’s vehicle locked and abandoned at the 107 boat ramp, 115 miles away from where she was last spotted, the authorities released, the vehicles keys had been placed outside the vehicle in the wheel well. Her cellphone and personal belongings, including her groceries and packages from Whole Foods, were still remaining in the car.
Stroik was a professional dancer for the St. Louis Ballet Company and taught dancing lessons at a Dance Academy in Illinois, who appeared to be increasing in her career of dancing. The company wrote in a statement, “As we process this heartbreaking tragedy, we want to take this time to celebrate this beautiful dancer, spirit, and human being,” adding, “Her warm and bright smile will be so very missed in the hallways and in rehearsals.”
A video of Stroik records her stating, “I just want everyone to feel the joy and love that is expressed through ballet and dance. Ballet is a language.”
Her father, Duncan Stroik, a professor at Notre Dame college told KMOV Channel 4 his daughter loved St. Louis and everything seemed normal when he spoke to her over the weekend.
Stroik’s obituary defines her death an accident while on a private retreat. The obituary described Stroik as fearless and adventurous. She liked to swim in the ocean, surf, and hike the lakes at Notre Dame. She took pleasure in travelling to New York and Rome and other great cities where she could experience great art and interact with people. Raffaella also loved to go into nature to hike and to pray and to make spiritual retreats.
The Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown reported an autopsy was done on Thursday, November 15 to determine cause of death. At press time, the results of the autopsy are still pending.