Friends, family and others assembled at a Lake Ronkonkoma strip mall to continue a search Saturday for a Navy veteran who went missing early last month.
Janet Barra, of Patchogue, vanished the morning of June 5 when she parked her car at a strip mall in Medford and was last seen on video heading north on Route 112.
The search effort, organized by Barra’s daughter, Rebecca Barra, gave each group maps with places that Barra had been known to frequent. The searchers canvassed Lake Ronkonkoma with flyers that had Barra’s picture, physical description and a contact phone number.
Barra, 58, had struggled with depression since her days in the Navy but had always stayed in touch with her daughter, Rebecca.
Barra left her purse, identification and bank card behind when she went missing.
“It’s just scary,” said Rebecca Barra of Farmingville. “I don’t know if someone is hiding her.”
Meaghan Doran and Danielle Santilli both of Farmingville who assisted in the search Saturday, said they had been friends with Rebecca Barra since high school and had often visited her house. Santilli described Janet Barra as “very happy, always smiling, but also kept to herself, very private. She was a very sweet woman.”
Doran and Santilli said they were worried about their friend’s mother, saying her sudden disappearance was uncharacteristic of her.
“This is not normal. This isn’t something she would do. This is scary,” Santilli said.
Rebecca Barra said her mother’s last text, in early June, said only that she had met a woman at a church she did not identify and was contemplating moving in with her.
Suffolk police issued a June 21 Silver Alert appeal for information about Janet Barra, who is 5-foot-6 and about 210 pounds.
“I don’t know if she left and didn’t want to be found, but we’re looking into everything,” police Sgt. Raymond Alvarez said Friday. “It doesn’t look like she was under duress — we have her on video. We’re scratching our heads on this one.”
Advocates say self-isolation can be a problem among veterans, who often have difficulty reintegrating into civilian life, and can be vulnerable to depression. Troubled veterans frequently isolate themselves from family and friends, living on the streets or in secluded woodlands.
Barra joined the Navy in 1993, and emerged with post-traumatic stress disorder, her daughter said. She left the Navy in 1996, and has since kept almost entirely to herself — with no social life other than her daughter, Rebecca Barra said.
She has since held a series of jobs — most of them as a security guard. But she quit two jobs on short notice right before she disappeared, Rebecca Barra said.
She said her mother’s depression may have gotten the better of her.
“If I could, I’d tell her ‘I love you so much, and that I didn’t know you wanted to hide,’ ” Rebecca Barra said. “I’d tell her ‘You can come hide over at my house.’ ”