Water Priorities: Money To Promote Play, Not Investigations

by Travis Mateer

Before we get to the idea of serial killers using bodies of water for their victims, let’s take a look at a local stretch of water and the plans that are being called AMBITIOUS! From the link (emphasis mine):

The city and a team of state and local partners will turn their focus to a stretch of the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula in a bid to protect infrastructure from channel migration, restore habitat and possibly add a new recreational feature to the waterway.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency has agreed to contribute $300,000 in tax increment to hire a consultant capable of pulling the project together, though city officials admit it may be a challenge given the number of goals.

That nice chunk of change MRA is throwing at ANOTHER consultant to pull off this massive scheme of a dozen or so little projects along this stretch of river is getting attention because the Urban Renewal District this public-money-siphoning scheme depends on will be sunsetting soon. So there’s urgency to do things NOW, like enable a POSSIBLE recreational feature. Won’t that be fun for the tourists?

Here’s more about the AMBITION to spend public money to get some specialized consultation on ways to spend MORE money (emphasis mine):

With a number of goals in mind, the city has spent the past two years building a coalition of partners that include Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Trout Unlimited and various city departments.

With the partnership now in place, Valliant said the city is ready to hire a consultant to develop a comprehensive plan, including the engineering and design work.

“Having that nonprofit partnership is really critical to help us gain capacity and bring in that funding,” said Valliant. “I do believe this will be the biggest river project our city has tried to take on since building the levy system downtown to expand downtown. It’s one that could have national significance.”

Wow, doesn’t this sound exciting? Also, ambitious, but we’ve clearly established that. I’m excited to see how a local government that struggles with updating forms, using meeting rules, and navigating technology, is going to “take on” such an ambitious set of goals. Believe me, with all the committee meetings and advisory board meetings I’ve been attending recently, it seems more than laughable.

Laughter is usually not closely associated with my public comments at these meetings (unless I’m referencing Dick Florida), more like heavy silence or a sense of impending dread, like what I imagine would happen if I mentioned dead people showing up in, or around, water.

This death happened in the same area being discussed for improvements in May of 2021, improvements that will protect INVESTMENTS, not people. I wonder, how many investigators would $300,000 pay for?

East of Missoula, in Bozeman, the need to address a backlog of cases has just been discovered by the County Attorney’s Office. From the link:

The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office is forming a task force to deal with more than 100 unprosecuted sex crime and domestic assault cases going back more than a decade after boxes of the files were discovered in the office.

Gallatin County Attorney Audrey Cromwell announced in a news release Tuesday that her office found 113 unreviewed cases that included violent rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, incest and sexual abuse against children cases.

It’s great a task force is being convened, but who is going to pay for it? Is there any help coming from the legislators arguing over a BILLION+ surplus?

While Missoula water priorities focus on protecting investments and recreation, the team of Kevin Gannon and D. Lee Gilbertson put their time and energy into understanding strange deaths that end up in water. Their book, titled Case Studies in Drowning Forensics, is a good place to start for anyone interested in this pattern of deaths associated with a phenomenon called the Smiley Face Killings.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I finally opened this book and the conversation that begins the first chapter immediately brought to mind the case of Rebekah Barsotti. From the book:

Gannon: Doc, now that you’re read the autopsy report and looked at the photos, what do you think?

Gilbertson: I’ve got problems with it right from the get-go.

Gannon: Let me guess, the body condition.

Gilbertson: Yup, you too I take it. He’s in rigor, no putrefaction, no maceration…

Gannon: That’s right professor, there’s no way this kid could be in the water that long and look this good.

Gilbertson: I know. Once again, the length of time he was missing is not the same as the length of time he was actually dead in the water.

Gannon: Exactly! He’s probably only been dead for 48 hours and in the water for no more than 24 to 36 at the most – so, where was he the rest of the time?

This conversation makes me recall a very strange comment from Judge Marks in an ongoing civil case regarding Rebekah Barsotti’s estate.

Before Rebekah’s body was found on May 17th, 2022, Judge Marks claimed he unfortunately had previous experience with dead bodies in water, speculating that cremation would probably be the only option for the remains. Huh?

Rebekah Barsotti’s death, like so many of these young men turning up dead in bodies of water around the country, involves too many red flags and unexplained factors to simply accept “river accident” as a plausible explanation for what happened.

Here’s something for the promoters of recreation and protectors of investments in Western Montana to consider: murderous people and tourist fun don’t mix. So, if there’s evidence pointing to the existence of murderous people getting away with murder, how about we put as much energy into investigating WTF is going on with these suspicious deaths as we do with fun-time investments in our rivers. Just a thought.

If you appreciate my thoughts, please consider making a financial donation at my about page. Also, there’s a new kind of TIF in development, and tomorrow I hope to have more to share about that.

So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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