Every Sunday, Rebecca would take coffee to her mom, Janet Barra, at work.
“I was her best friend,” Rebecca Barra told Dateline. “We talked every day, all the time.”
Sunday June 4, 2017 was no exception. Rebecca bought the coffee. She drove to where Janet, a U.S. Navy veteran, was working. Just like normal.
But this time, Janet wasn’t there.
“They told me she was a no-show,” Rebecca said. “So I went to her apartment. Her car wasn’t there, but her blinds were up and her lights were on.”
It was raining hard that day, Rebecca recalled to Dateline, but she walked to the open window and looked inside.
“I’m immediately mortified, because everything is gone besides her furniture,” Rebecca said. “Pictures of me, little vases, things on top of her dressers – gone.”
Rebecca said she began driving around town and searched for the rest of the day. Janet’s phone was going straight to voicemail. But later that day, Rebecca’s phone finally buzzed. It was a text from Janet.
“She said she forgot to charge her phone but she was going to rent a room from a lady she met at church,” Rebecca told Dateline. “Then she said she couldn’t talk right now, but she’d call later.”
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The hours passed. Janet never called. Rebecca tried her cell; once again, it was dead and went straight to voicemail.
As Rebecca’s worries grew, her own investigative efforts kicked into high gear. She posted on Facebook asking people to look out for her mom and her mom’s car.
Ten days later, her efforts paid off when a friend called and said she was parked next to Janet’s car in a nearby parking lot in Medford, New York.
“I immediately went to find her car. It was unlocked, but her purse, wallet, cell phone, debit card and everything else was still in it,” Rebecca told Dateline. “So I went down the road, store by store, and asked to look at their security footage.”
The footage shows Janet, 58, walking away from her parked car at 9:04 a.m. on June 5, 2017. Rebecca told Dateline multiple stores along that road had security cameras, so she was able to follow her mom’s movements on tape for about 15 minutes.
“On the store security footage, I saw her at the end of the road at 9:17 a.m.,” Rebecca said. “Then I lose her because there are no more businesses after that.”
Past that point, Rebecca says there are woods, abandoned houses and communities of homeless people.
“My worst fear is that she went and hurt herself in the woods and she’s just sitting there,” Rebecca said. “I used to think it was worse not knowing what happened to her, but now I’m scared of knowing the truth.”
On June 19, two weeks after Janet was last seen, the Suffolk County Police Department issued a Silver Alert for information on her whereabouts. According to the release, a Silver Alert is a memo shared with media outlets “about [adult] individuals with special needs who have been reported missing.”
Suffolk County Director of Public Information Debbie Epple told Dateline Janet qualified for a Silver Alert due to her PTSD.
“She’s a veteran. She has PTSD and manic depression,” Janet’s daughter Rebecca told Dateline. “[But] she was OK once she got on anti-depressants.”
A conversation Rebecca had with her mom shortly before her disappearance, though, now haunts her.
“She told me she stopped taking her medication a year ago,” Rebecca said. “So has she slowly deteriorated and hid it for me? Did she completely lose her mind? Does she not know who she is? I don’t know.”
Rebecca has organized searches with her friends and local veterans groups, and she’s getting help from a retired detective. But, she says, the search is exhausting and can feel hopeless.
“There’s a big part of me that feels like she’s not here,” Rebecca said. “I love her so much. She’s such a gentle woman. If you see her, call the police, take a picture if you can.”
Suffolk County police were unable to comment on the case, but Director Epple confirmed to Dateline that “the investigation is still ongoing.”
Janet Barra is described as having olive skin, brown eyes and black hair. She is 5’6” tall and weighs 210 pounds. Rebecca is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to her mom’s whereabouts. Anyone with information is asked to call the Suffolk County Police Department at 631-854-8552.
Bianca Hillier covers missing person and homicide cases for NBC News.