A Montana woman, 47 year old Rita Maze, who was kidnapped by “a large man in a black hoodie” who had hit her on the head and put her into a trunk of a car at a rest stop near Wolf Creek on Tuesday morning was able to phone her husband and even talk to police from the trunk of the car in which she was trapped in, but was dead by the time investigators found her more than 250 miles away in Spokane,Washington state, authorities said Wednesday.
Maze was driving home to Great Falls after having visited relatives in Helena, Mont., when she was accosted at a rest stop on Interstate 10 on Tuesday morning, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo C. Dutton said at a news conference.
Maze called her husband Tuesday night from the trunk of the car, telling him she’d been struck on the head, Dutton said. “She’s saying she’s kidnapped,” Dutton said.
Maze stayed on the phone, talking to her husband and to a Helena police officer as the signal faded in and out on the way to Spokane, Dutton said. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said it was able to track her movements through signals from local cell towers.
Her husband Bob Maze and daughter Rochelle Maze called Helena police about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday, saying that Maze was missing and that they suspected foul play. Bob had spoken to his wife at 11:25 a.m., and the family believes she was abducted a short time later.
She wasn’t even sure if she was in her car or not. Husband, Bob Maze, and daughter, Rochelle Maze, had police on the other line as they spoke to Maze in what would be her final hours. They relayed what she told them to police, but the information came too late.
Her body was found inside the car shortly after midnight Wednesday in a parking lot outside Spokane, Wash., International Airport, Montana and Washington authorities said.
“My mom touched every person she made contact with,” said Rochelle. “She considered herself a lifetime member of PTA with Bill Salonen.”
No cause of death was released, but Dutton said that Maze’s death was believed to have been a homicide and that she was believed to have been killed after the car arrived in Spokane. Dutton said authorities were seeking a “person of interest,” but he provided no further details.
It’s too early to tell,” he said, but “we would suspect now” that it was an random attack.
Maze was a cook at Morningside Elementary School in Great Falls, NBC station KHQ of Spokane reported. Bill Salonen, the school’s former principal, said she “had such a positive presence” on pupils.
“She, one, had such a positive presence,” said Bill Salonen, former principal at Morningside.