Raffaella Stroik, a ballet dancer from St. Louis, Missouri, has been found dead two days after she vanished, authorities say. Stroik’s body was discovered Wednesday morning in a lake near a boat ramp in Mark Twain State Park in Florida, Missouri, authorities said in a news conference.
The 23-year-old had been missing since Monday, November 12. Police have not yet said what led to the dancer’s death. However, Sgt. Eric Brown with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a news conference that authorities have not seen any evidence of “foul play.” Authorities are awaiting an autopsy before determining a cause of death, though.
The state park is located in rural Monroe County, Missouri, about 130 miles from St. Louis, where Stroik, an Indiana native, lived.
According to authorities in the press conference, a pilot of a private plane spotted Stroik’s body in the lake and called police. Troopers from the highway patrol’s water division responded about 9:40 a.m. and pulled her body from the lake.
Before she was found, the Missouri State Highway Patrol released photos of the dancer and of Raffaella Stroik’s car to the public, writing on Twitter, “The attached photographs are of the vehicle missing person Raffaella Stroik was driving. The car is a black 2012 VW Jetta. The car has Indiana plates. If you have any information that may help in locating her please call the Missouri State Highway Patrol at 660-385-2132.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Stroik Was a Ballet Dancer in St. Louis
On Facebook, Stroik wrote that she was a “Company Dancer at Saint Louis Ballet.” Her last post was about a production of Romeo and Juliet by that ballet company.
“She was a wonderful dancer and a beautiful person,” the ballet’s executive and artistic director Gen Horiuchi said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We extend our condolences to her family. We are so very sad.”
According to The South Bend Tribune, Raffaella Stroik was “a dancer with the St. Louis Ballet Company” who graduated in 2013 from South Bend Saint Joseph High School and “danced with Southold Dance Theater of South Bend and Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington.”
She played the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, the newspaper reported. She was currently living in St. Louis.
A friend wrote on Facebook, “Raffaella Stroik I’m so glad I was able to see you dance the sugar plum fairy Saturday night!! You are absolutely flawless! You have such a beautiful & captivating presence on stage, it’s like it was made for you!!! ❤️❤️”
Raffaella Stroik’s Car Had Earlier Been Found in the Same State Park
In the news conference, authorities released the following update:
They said that Stroik’s vehicle, when it was found Monday afternoon in the state park, was unattended and was locked. An officer checked the license plate, but there was no indication of a missing person’s report and “nothing suspicious at that time” draw authorities’ concern.
The following morning, Tuesday, November 13, 2018, authorities saw the car was still there and considered that “more abnormal.” They contacted Stroik’s family and determined she was “indeed missing” and launched an investigation that included a ground search, air search, watercraft, and sonar.
Nothing was found, so another search commenced on Wednesday. A private plane was involved in the search; authorities said the pilot had volunteered his time to help, and they started a grid search. At that time, the pilot noticed a body in the water that authorities say was that of Stroik.
Her body was recovered. “No foul play has been discovered at this point of time,” Brown said in the news conference, but they labeled the investigation an open one and said they continue to speak with people to determine what led up to Stroik’s death. “We aren’t seeing any signs of foul play,” he repeated.
Captain James E. Wilt, commanding officer of Troop B, Macon, had earlier requested the public’s assistance with “locating a missing person.”
The Highway Patrol released this sequence of events before Stroik’s body was discovered. On November 12, 2018, a state park ranger “located Raffaella Maria Stroik’s vehicle unattended in rural Monroe County at the Mark Twain Lake State Park Highway 107 boat ramp parking lot.”
According to authorities, a “computer check revealed no missing person report had been filed for Stroik. At approximately 8:50 a.m. on November 13, 2018, a Missouri state trooper checked the area and found the vehicle remained in the parking lot unattended.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources park rangers “began investigating the incident further and determined Stroik was missing. A missing person report was filed. A search of the surrounding area is being completed,” the Highway Patrol wrote.
Stroik Was Last Seen at a Whole Foods Market
The Highway Patrol also released a physical description of Raffaella Stroik, describing her as “a 23-year-old white female from St. Louis, Missouri. She was described as 5’7” tall, weighs approximately 115 pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes. She normally wears her hair in a ponytail or a braid.”
Stroik was last seen at “approximately 10:30 a.m. on November 12, 2018, at Whole Foods Market, 1160 Town and Country Crossing Drive, Town and Country, Missouri. She was wearing her hair in a ponytail and she was wearing an olive-green jacket, long pink scarf, navy colored pants with white zippers on the sides, and white tennis shoes,” said authorities.
Anyone with information about Stroik is asked to call the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control investigators are being assisted by representatives of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe City Fire Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Monroe City Ambulance District,” the Highway Patrol release stated.
Stroik Was in a Catholic Young Person’s Group
A friend of Stroik’s wrote on Facebook, “A member of my STL hometown Catholic Young Adult group has been reported missing. Please pray and if you know anything, please report. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy!”
The St. Louis Young Adults Facebook page wrote, “Hi all. A member of our community, Raffaella Stroik has been reported missing. Raffaella is a member of the Cathedral parish and active in Anima Christi. Her car has been found abandoned overnight at Mark Twain Lake and the police are currently searching for her. We ask you all to please pray for Raffaella’s safe return and to please privately share any information you may have about where she may be.”
Stroik’s father, Duncan Stroik, is a prominent architect who teaches at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in Roman Catholic architecture and his projects have included several churches in the midwest and elsewhere in the U.S.
“This is a sad time for the Saint Joe family,” John Kennedy, the principal of Saint Joseph High School, said in a statement released to CBS News. “We pray earnestly for the repose of Raffaella’s soul, for the healing of the Stroik family, and for all those who knew and loved Raffaella.