A two-day mystery came to a tragic end when the body of a missing St. Louis-area ballet dancer was found submerged in Mark Twain Lake. The grim discovery was made one day after the 23-year-old was reported missing.
Raffaella Maria Stroik, 23, who lived in St. Louis and performed with the St. Louis Ballet Company, was last seen on Monday morning at a local supermarket, but her vehicle was found two hours away in rural Monroe County. No one knows why she might have gone there.
According to Fox2 News, “The ranger who discovered the vehicle did not think it was suspicious because there was no missing persons report at that time.” Then, on Tuesday, things began to look suspicious.
“A Missouri State Trooper saw that Stroik's car was still in the parking lot, Tuesday. The car was locked, and her personal belongings, including a cell phone, were found inside the vehicle.
"Her keys were found lying outside the vehicle," said MSHP Sgt. Eric Brown. "They appeared to have been intentionally placed in a certain spot on the vehicle.“
A search was conducted all day Tuesday but was suspended when it became too dark. The next day, a private plane was employed for an aerial search, when the pilot saw what he thought was a human form at the bottom of the lake.
Divers were dispatched to the scene, where they found the dancer's remains on the opposite side of the lake from where Miss Stroik’s car was found.
Although authorities say there is no evidence yet of foul play an autopsy has been ordered. A complete investigation is underway to explain certain inconsistencies and to discover just how the 23-year-old dancer ended up in Mark Twain Lake.
According to Fox News, Stroik, who is originally from South Bend, Indiana, joined the St. Louis Ballet in 2017 and performed in 'Giselle,' ‘The Nutcracker' and 'Swan Lake.'
On their Facebook page, the St. Louis Ballet posted a moving tribute to the young dancer who was taken much too soon.
“As we process this heartbreaking tragedy, we want to take this time to celebrate this beautiful dancer, spirit, and human being. Her warm and bright smile will be so very missed in the hallways and in rehearsals.
“Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with her family, those who knew her, and all the dancers and staff who are grieving. Please join us in this tribute if you knew her by saying something you remember about her.