Billboards used in statewide search for missing Missoula woman
(KPAX) The search for Eva Masin Prather, a missing woman out of Missoula, continues with billboards going up statewide to get the word out. Masin Prather was last seen on Dec. 30.
Electronic billboards are all over Billings, typically advertising for businesses. But now they’re being utilized for a greater cause—aiding in the search for Masin Prather.
"There’s just so much love inside of her,” said Katie Neskey, a friend of Masin Prather, on Saturday. "She’s a really sweet person."
Kind, compassionate, and full of love—these are just a few ways friends describe Masin Prather.
"You can just see it in the way that she talks about her kids or interacts with her kids or talks to your kids,” Neskey said. “It’s so interesting to hear all of the things she knows and what she’s really passionate about."
But the wife and mother of two recently vanished, prompting friends and family to launch a massive search effort.
"It’s been a little while at this point, and we’re still so hopeful. We’re still looking,” Neskey said. "We are here, we are looking, and we want to find her. She could be anywhere, so I think it’s just really important to keep spreading her picture."
According to the City of Missoula Police Department, on Dec. 30, Masin Prather left her home without her wallet or keys. It is believed she was not dressed appropriately for the weather.
"We have no way of knowing what Eva was thinking. Rational thought is not something that occurs in those scenarios,” Neskey said. “I just hope that folks can be compassionate… Our culture and our society still have a lot of stigma and shame around mental health and I’ve seen a decent amount of ignorance around that. I think there’s been a lot of questioning of like, why someone would do something like this. Or like, 'She loves her kids so much, I can’t believe she would do that.' And like, I just really always want to try and reduce that stigma around mental health."
Three weeks later, as storms have come and gone, family and friends are still looking—expanding their search perimeters across the region.
"The search has gone so far beyond Montana. The things that people have said, they’ve printed their own fliers when they’re driving to Idaho and posting them up in places. There’s so much to be said for all of that,” Neskey said. "The amount of people who have come out who don’t know Eva, who have been in the grid searches, and have just come out to provide meals for the family. There’s so much sadness in all of this, but there has just been this other piece of it that I’ve just been really proud to be a part of. It brings so much faith back into everything."
Neskey has known Eva and her husband Dave for more than a decade. She’s now working tirelessly to find Eva, along with hundreds of others.
“I first met her partner, Dave, in 2011. We did some work together and then I met Eva," Neskey said. "We started doing a kid swap. Every week we’d kind of go between houses, get to spend time with each other’s kids. Give each other breaks and things like that."
A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with financial needs as the search continues. Neskey said she is blown away by the amount of support they have received throughout the search.
"Dave’s father, Paul, his wife was in advertising. They’re in Tennessee. She reached out to Lamar and just kind of explained to them what was happening and they were just like, ‘Of course.’” said Neskey.
Lamar is a national billboard advertisement company. Its Montana team recently donated free advertising space for Eva’s search efforts.
Digital billboards of Eva were displayed across the state, including Billings.
"They’re all over the state and it’s just really hopeful to just see that and to know that all of the communities are being made aware of this,” Neskey said. “We’re so grateful."
They hope that the billboards will remind community members to be on the lookout for Eva, which is something the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) applauded.
"It’s hard to know if somebody’s missing when you pass them on a street corner," said Bryan Lockerby, an administrator for the Montana Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation, on Friday. "So if you can familiarize yourself a little bit with what we’re looking for, that might be of assistance."
The Montana DOJ has an online database for missing persons that anyone can access at any time.
“The public can easily access our missing persons registry and take a look and see if they notice anybody missing. The more that we could make folks aware of it, the more eyes we have out in the field to assist,” Lockerby said. “Currently, there’s 174 (missing persons) as of (Friday morning) that are listed in the registry."
Eva is a 43-year-old white woman who is 5'4" tall and weighs 125 pounds. She has blue eyes and brown hair. If you have any information that could assist in the investigation, please contact the Missoula Police Department at (406) 552-6300 and provide the MPD case reference number 2023-56230.
“Things have been harder in the last week because we haven’t been able to do drone searches and things like that because of the weather. So it’s kind of felt like there’s this standstill," Neskey said. "But again, just keep her front of mind, keep thinking about her, keep looking for her. Just keep thinking positively. Keep praying if that’s what you do. Just show so much compassion for your neighbors. You just never know what anyone else is going through. And I think that’s just such an important piece to all of this, is you just, you never know."