The Caledonian-Record

June 16, 2004

State Police Discard Runaway Theory - Drugs May Be Connection To Disappearance

By Gary E. Lindsley

The passing of seven days has resulted in a huge turnaround in the way Vermont State Police are treating the disappearance of Brianna Maitland.

Maitland, 17, was last seen at about 11:20 p.m. March 19 when she clocked out of work at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery.

VSP had originally said Maitland was a runaway and had run away in the past. During a press conference June 8, they said they were tired of wasting time tracking down worthless leads.

They said Maitland had made some bad life choices which may have led to her disappearance.

The next day, June 9, Bruce and Kellie Maitland, Brianna's parents, met with Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper at the Williston state police barracks.

The Maitlands came away from that meeting with guarded optimism. They said Dubie said he was treating Brianna's disappearance as a serious case and would do what he could to help.

Tuesday, another press conference was held.

This time, the state police said they and the Maitlands were united in their request for factual information which will lead to finding Brianna.

They also acknowledged that it is not a case of a teenager running away.

"With each day that passes without a solid trace of information on her whereabouts, it becomes more apparent that she may have been the victim of a violent crime," the VSP said in a press release.

"Brianna had been living away from home and was socializing with community members involved in the use of illegal drugs," the press release continues. "Investigators with the Vermont State Police are interested in solid fruitful information that may assist in furthering this investigation."

While the Maitlands have said all along they believed their daughter was the victim of a crime, they do not necessarily agree with the VSP position Brianna had been socializing with drug-related people.

They have said she had been turning her life around. She was working two jobs and was living with a friend in Sheldon.

Brianna was driving home to Sheldon after leaving the Black Lantern when something went wrong.

Her green 1985 four-door Oldsmobile 88 was found early the morning of March 20 partially embedded in an abandoned barn off of Route 118 at the Dutchburn Farm. The car was about a mile from the Black Lantern.

"It is just kind of strange," said Bruce Maitland, who attended Tuesday's press conference, referring to the VSP's change regarding Brianna's disappearance. "I feel, in some ways, this is a major step. They have admitted she may have been a victim of a serious crime and was not a runaway."

Regarding VSP's position Brianna had had recent contacts with people connected to drugs prior to her disappearance, he said state police told him two people had said Brianna had had a drug debt.

However, that doesn't mesh with what Brianna's friends have been telling the Maitlands.

"I am a little discouraged they are bringing up the drug stuff," he said. "Everything I have gotten from her friends doesn't indicate that. No one has seen her high."

The state police, according to Bruce Maitland, are offering to make deals, even with people connected to drugs.

"They are desperate for really good information because I don't think they have any," he said.

Unlike the case of 22-year-old Maura Murray, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst nursing student who has been missing since she was involved in a minor one-car accident the night of Feb. 9 on Route 112 in Haverhill, N.H., state police in Vermont have enlisted the help of the FBI.

They have received help from the FBI's Burlington office as well as the agency's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Va. They also have been in contact with the U.S. Marshal's Office.

New Hampshire State Police have not asked the FBI to become fully involved in the Murray disappearance. They have said they have all the resources they need to work the case.

People with information about Brianna's disappearance should contact VSP at 802-524-5993 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-427-8477.

People with information about Maura Murray should call New Hampshire State Police at 603-845-3333 or 603-271-3636.