Steven Matula never hoped this day would come, but now that it has, he can’t help but feel relieved. “When we first found out the news, it was devastating, but it brought joy to our hearts,” Matula said. “All summer long, we have kind of been praying for this moment, that moment of her maybe being found. We are just glad it happened when it did and before winter.”
On Sunday authorities confirmed that remains found in a park in Sartell, Minn., were that of Mandy Matula, former UMD softball player, a 2011 graduate, and Steven’s older sister.
Police confirmed that she died from a gunshot wound to the head.
“It struck us at first, but we are in the healing process of knowing that Mandy is gone, and all we can do now is look at the happy moments we had and what she gave back to us and the community,” Steven said. “We knew the day would come, but we didn’t know when. I knew one way or the other that she was going to be found, but it was just a matter of when.”
Mandy, 24, from Eden Prairie, Minn., disappeared on May 1.
On Saturday, a hiker found Mandy’s body in a shallow grave in Mississippi River County Park.
Among her remains, police also found Mandy’s ring and a jacket embroidered with the UMD logo, the fast-pitch emblem and her number, 14.
Mandy is remembered by her brother as “very spontaneous.”
“She has a great heart, spirit and was loyal to her friends,” Steven said. “If she said something, she kept it. She just had a great spirit to her. We always played sports and were competitive with each other. Whether we were bowling, golfing or some other sport.”
Softball coach Jen Banford recruited Mandy and coached her for four years at UMD.
“She was always upbeat and positive,” Banford said. “She was extremely unselfish as a teammate and always put everybody else first. She is very caring and was always willing to give back in the Duluth community and in her own community in Eden Prairie; she was just an amazing woman.”
Banford went down to the Twin Cities over weekend to mourn with Mandy’s friends from the softball team, along with the Matula family.
“It is closure, but it’s more of a mixture of emotions,” Banford said. “There is not one word to describe how everyone is feeling and dealing with it.”
Banford explained that the UMD softball team, both present and past members, are like a family; once they graduate, they keep in touch.
“Once these guys graduate, they are like sisters,” Banford said. “When all of us, the Bulldog softball family, get together we literally do just laugh and cry and tell stories about Mandy, and that is really how we have been coping with it these last six months.”
Although the end result isn’t necessarily a happy one, Banford said she is relieved that Mandy was brought home and is now at peace.
“You’re torn,” Banford said. “You want to find her, but you don’t want to be the one to find her. It’s kind of bittersweet. The results of this never really give you the answers that you want. It’s mixed emotions; you’re mad, angry, frustrated, confused. It’s everything.”
Steven also has mixed feelings of receiving the news.
“It’s good, but it’s kind of bad knowing that,” Steven said. “In a way you want to know how she died, but in a way you don’t want to know how she died. Nobody wants that to happen. It hurts, but it’s the truth.”
Mandy’s father, Wayne Matula, said he last saw his daughter leave the house with her ex-boyfriend, David Roe, 24.
The next day, May 2, Roe fatally shot himself in the head in the police department’s parking lot after after being called in for questioning. Roe was the police’s only lead.
Mandy’s memorial service will be at 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minn.
BY SHANNON KINLEY