The Caledonian-Record

May 25, 2004

Petition Drive Demands Action In Maitland Case - Seeks Action From Governor Douglas

By Gary E. Lindsley

The fear in her grandson's voice was the final straw for Lou Byam of Franklin.

Byam has mounted a petition drive to demand Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, and Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper take definitive action in the disappearance of 17-year-old Brianna Maitland of Sheldon.

"My grandson, who is 14, said, 'I don't want to come up here,'" Byam said. Her grandson did not want to visit her in northern Vermont because of the disappearance of Maitland and his concern for his own safety.

"He's scared," Byam said. "Parents are scared. Everyone's scared. We want answers and we aren't getting them."

The petitions, which are being circulated around sections of northern Vermont, read, "We, the undersigned concerned citizens of the state of Vermont, summer residents and tourists of the state of Vermont, do hereby petition the governor, lieutenant governor and the Vermont State Police Commissioner to figure out a way to find Brianna Maitland, no matter what it takes to get her home!

"We, as parents, friends, family, community, state, caring humans and taxpayers say enough is enough! It it time to do whatever it takes to get Brianna and others like her home."

The petition also notes because Maitland has not been found, it is time to bring in help, more resources.

"We live in fear for our children's health, safety, welfare and their lives," it reads. "Our children no longer have the freedom as an American citizen to walk, ride their bicycles, go shopping or drive their vehicles safely in our state!

"The government's first duty is to make sure its citizens are safe from crime. We are angry and want the wheels of motivation kicked into high gear. Bring Bri home now!"

Maitland has not been seen since she clocked out of work at the Black Lantern Inn late the night of March 19. Her vehicle was found partially ensconced in an abandoned building about a mile from the inn early March 20.

She disappeared more than a month after 21-year-old University of Massachusetts at Amherst nursing student Maura Murray was involved in a one-car accident on rural Route 112 in the town of Haverhill, N.H.

Murray has not been seen since walking away from the accident scene the night of Feb. 9.

"Our children are our most valuable resources," Byam said. "The way the state police handled this since day one has been unacceptable. It kills me. Every day we see Bruce and Kellie (Brianna's parents). We want our state back. We want Brianna back."

"I hope it works," Kellie Maitland said, referring to the petitions. "I am starting to get desperate."

Bettina Desrochers, who is from St. Johnsbury, also is upset about the two missing young women. "It seems as if not enough is being done," she said. "We need more help. There isn't anything wrong with asking for more help."

As a parent of daughters whom she said are all beautiful, young and outgoing, her heart goes out to the Maitlands, as well as to Fred Murray, Maura's father.

With summer nearing, she is concerned about students getting out of school and their safety. "Wouldn't you want to know (the disappearances) are being handled properly?" Desrochers said.

Carolyn Gendron, who lives in Richford, also believes the investigation into Brianna's disappearance was botched from the start. She said common sense says if Brianna left behind her paychecks and driver's license, she didn't disappear willingly.

"They should know a kid wouldn't leave money behind," she said, referring to the state police. "As a parent, if it was my daughter, I don't think I could be as calm as Mr. and Mrs. Maitland."

Gendron believes the best investigators the state police have should be involved in the investigation. She also believes the FBI should be asked to be a major part of the search for Brianna.

Gendron said she almost lost her own daughter a few years ago. "Our daughter was coming home from a study group when she noticed a car kept driving by her," she said.

When there was an open area, the car pulled in front of Gendron's then 16-year-old daughter and the occupants screamed for her to get in the car. "She froze," Gendron said. "Luckily, a friend came forward and saw her and took her away."

So, she said, she got a little bit of a taste of what the Maitlands must be going through. "I can't imagine going to bed every night not knowing where this child is," Gendron said.

She truly believes there is a connection between Brianna's and Maura's disappearances. "They are too much alike," Gendron said. "They need to do a lot more to bring these girls home."

Bruce Maitland has put out his own plea to Vermont officials. "Brianna is not a runaway no matter how much the Vermont State Police ... try to play down her abduction," he wrote in a letter to the editor to area newspapers. "We desperately need you to step up for what is right and demand a large investigation involving many plainclothes/additional federal people on the ground to find Brianna and Maura before the trail goes any colder."

Today is Missing Children's Day. Carol Knowlton of the Mt. Angel, Ore.-based Child Seek Network will be reading Brianna's and Maura's names at a Missing Children's Day rally in Salem, Ore.