Family and friends from both coasts of the United States and many points in between plan to gather in Newport next weekend to bid farewell to Danielle Bertolini, a Maine woman believed to have been murdered in California three years ago.
“I know me, myself, I miss my daughter, but in order for my son, and for my husband and for the rest of my family to heal, I think that moving forward with this final process, the [memorial] service, will help all of us try to move on as a family, as a close, tight unit, like it once was, instead of us all falling apart at different times,” her mother, Billie-Jo Dick of Plymouth, said Friday evening.
“I think it’s just time for all of us to come together and say, ‘OK, you know, we need to all heal,’” Dick said of the memorial service set for 1 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at Crosby & Neal Funeral Home in Newport.
Danielle Bertolini was 23 when her family last heard from her on Jan. 29, 2014.
After days went by without word of Bertolini, her family grew increasingly worried. Dick said at the time that this was unusual behavior for Bertolini, a former Nokomis High School student who usually maintained daily contact with her sister Mariah Bertolini, who lived in the Seattle area.
Family members reported Bertolini missing to Fortuna, California, police on Feb. 19, 2014.
Police initially told Dick they considered her daughter a “voluntary” missing person because of her age, and as such, their ability to assist was limited.
But in early July 2014, police confirmed that they considered Bertolini’s disappearance suspicious because Bertolini disappeared at about the same time as another area woman, 37-year-old Sheila Franks of Rio Dell and Loleta, California, who was last seen Jan. 11, 2014, according to a missing person flier posted on the internet by her sister Melisa Walstrom of Alaska.
Both women had blonde hair and blue eyes, were similar in appearance and build, and traveled in the same social circle.
Family members of both women, who joined forces in the search effort, said earlier that police told them that they believe the two missing person cases are linked because Bertolini and Franks are believed to have last been seen with the same Fortuna man before they vanished.
In May of the following year, Dick received news that no parent wants to hear — that a partial skull found near a California river on March 9 of that year was identified as Bertolin after DNA testing.
No trace of Franks has surfaced to date, Dick said.
Although the investigation into Bertolini’s death continues, the person of interest in the case has yet to be charged, leaving the families in limbo.
“Well, the way that I looked at it is I was hoping by now that [the person of interest in the case] would be incarcerated and it didn’t happen the way I was hoping it would happen but you know maybe soon. I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Dick said.
She said, however, that she remains hopeful that her daughter will get the justice she deserves because authorities in California have told her that they believe the person of interest was involved in Bertolini’s death, but they still need to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.