The Ramsey County Medical Examiner confirmed Sunday that the human remains found in a shallow grave near Sartell, Minn., are those of Mandy Matula, ending the search for the missing Eden Prairie woman.
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office informed Eden Prairie police of the discovery on Saturday. At 7 p.m. on Sunday, Eden Prairie police announced that autopsy results indicate she died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
"We believe the homicide occurred in Eden Prairie, and right now, David Roe is our only suspect in this case," Eden Prairie Police Chief Rob Reynolds explained.
After the announcement, Mandy Matula's brother, Steven, and her father, Wayne, met Fox 9 news outside their Eden Prairie home to say police confirmed what his family had suspected all along, bringing them much-needed closure.
"We're at peace," Steven Matula said. "All summer long, we've been waiting for this moment to come."
It's a bittersweet milestone, but the Matulas say they are simply thankful this painful chapter in their family's life is over.
"All that weight is off our shoulders and we can relax and just know that Mandy is home now," Steven Matula said. "We can have a proper funeral."
Wayne Matula told Fox 9 News the family believed the body was Mandy because a University of Minnesota-Duluth pullover bearing the number 14 was also discovered at the site, and that was the number she wore on the UMD softball team before graduating in 2011. Mandy Matula's Eden Prairie High School class ring was also recovered from the discovery site.
The 24-year-old had been missing since May 1. Roe, her estranged boyfriend, fatally shot himself in the parking lot of the Eden Prairie City Center after agreeing to speak with police about her disappearance.
Even after hearing police name Roe the prime suspect, Mandy Matula's brother said the family will forgive him for taking the life of their loved one.
"The deed is done," Steven Matula said. "We can't go back, look for revenge."
The grave was located by a Boy Scout leader hiking the area just after 1 p.m. in Mississippi River Park. According to police, Matula's remains were wrapped in a blanket, along with several personal items.
The Matulas plan to travel to the park sometime this week to see where the discovery was made, but they are looking toward remembering her with a memorial service and proper burial.
"No need to be angry or sad, or have negative emotions," Steven Matula said. "Just look at the happy moments in life and cherish the ones that we had."
Funeral services for Mandy Matula are being planned at Grace Church in Eden Prairie and will take place on Nov. 9.
POLICE EXTEND CONDOLENCES, THANK SEARCHERS
In part of a release following the announcement, the Eden Prairie Police Department wrote directly to those who spent six months searching for Matula, as well as her loved ones.
"The Eden Prairie Police Department extends its deepest condolences to Mandy Matula's family and friends, and thanks the many community members and volunteers who dedicated themselves to finding her and bringing her home."
Police are not closing the investigation, and investigators are still considering the possibility of submitting the case to the county attorney's office.
SEARCHING FOR MONTHS
Searchers initially scaled Matula's hometown of Eden Prairie and the St. Cloud area, where Roe had been a student at St. Cloud State University. Dozens of efforts and 2 months later, a 30-mile search along the Mississippi from Rice to Clearwater yielded no results.
Matula was last seen with Roe late on May 1, without her cell phone or purse. Before fatally shooting himself, he had left a Post-it note on his car leading to a goodbye video on his phone.
Community members rallied to calls from friends and family to comb nearby parks and waterways for Matula. Missing persons fliers could be found across the metro.
"I think everyone in the Twin Cities kinda had that pull for her and just wanted the best for her family," Jonathan Kerslaker said.
The following agencies and organizations were involved in search efforts:
• Stearns County Sheriff's Office
• St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Water Patrol
• Stearns County Sheriff's Office
• Benton County Sheriff's Office
• Ramsey County Sheriff's Office
• Carver County Sheriff's Office
• Wright County Sheriff's Office
• Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, including Water Patrol, Crime Lab and K-9 units
• Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
• Minnesota State Patrol
• Northstar Search and Rescue
• Central Lakes Search and Rescue
• Minnetonka Police Department
• Edina Police Department
• Hopkins Police Department
• St. Louis Park Police Department
• Hennepin County Medical Examiner
• Ramsey County Medical Examiner
• Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
• Minnetonka Fire Department
• Victoria Fire Department
• Chanhassen Fire Department
• Victory Lutheran Church
• Three Rivers Park District
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• University of Minnesota Department of Agriculture
• Eden Prairie Fire Department
• Eden Prairie Police Reserves
• Eden Prairie Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)