Friday, December 4, 2020

Brianna Maitland : Missing Since March 19, 2004

Brianna Alexandra Maitland was seventeen years old when she vanished on March 19th, 2004. She punched out of work at her new job as a dishwasher at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery, Vermont at 11:20 pm. Brianna's coworkers had invited her to join them for dinner after the shift, but she was tired and wanted to get some rest before her first day at her second job at KJ’s Diner, as a waitress. She had a long day. Brianna woke early that Friday morning. Her mother picked her up to go out for breakfast before Brianna took her high school equivalency exam. Earning her GED would be a meaningful accomplishment after withdrawing from high school that previous year. Brianna had also been recently hired for two part-time restaurant jobs. She planned to go to college. By all accounts, Brianna was making sensible choices for her future.

After passing the exam, Brianna’s mother took her clothes shopping. Brianna needed black pants for the dress code at her job at KJ's Diner. While the two waited to check out, Brianna told her mother she would be right back, and left the store out of her mother's sight. Her mother bought the pants, and Brianna met her at her car. Brianna’s mood had changed; she was agitated and guarded toward her mother. The two didn’t acknowledge the change, her mother opting to respect the privacy of her independent daughter. Brianna's mood change has been subject to significant speculation and conjecture- we'll get to that later.

Brianna had been making strides for more autonomy throughout her teenage years. On October 8th, 2003, Brianna turned seventeen and moved out of her family’s farmhouse in Franklin, against the wishes of her parents. She moved in with her friend Katie Manning in Enosburg and enrolled in Enosburg Falls High School. The Maitland family's farm was within the district of Missisoqoui Valley Union High School, where Brianna had trouble fitting in. Brianna was pleased to now be going to school in Enosburg with her friends, including Katie, as well as Megan Jefferson, Keallie LaCross, Sydney Coon, and Hillary Robitaille.

Shortly after Brianna changed schools, by early December, Brianna’s living arrangements with Katie fell through. She then couch surfed, staying with multiple friends (including boyfriends James Robitaille and Mike Gerrow). By February, Brianna was growing apart from her circle of friends and was increasingly isolated. At times she lived out of her car in freezing Northern Vermont temperatures. In late February of 2004, the instability wore thin on Brianna's academic performance. Although she was highly intelligent and a normally a great student, Brianna was forced to drop out of high school. Hoping for greater stability, Brianna moved ten miles away to Sheldon, moving in with her friend from middle school, Jillian Stout and her family. Brianna also joined a high school equivalency (GED) program at a local community college.

After the tense car ride from the clothing store in St. Albans to Jillian’s home in Sheldon, Brianna and her mother hugged and shared I love you’s. Brianna then got ready for work and left a note for Jillian saying she’d be back home later that evening . Brianna planned to return home after her shift. She wasn't sure exactly when that would be, as she didn't have set hours. Brianna was done when the kitchen was clean.

Brianna’s shift at the Black Lantern that night was described as “busy, yet uneventful”. Nothing significant was reported to have taken place, and coworkers didn’t notice anything different about Brianna. Not that they should reasonably have, as Brianna had just started that position two weeks prior and was not close with her coworkers. According to the Vermont State Police, Brianna was observed by one of her coworkers leaving work alone, in her light green clunker, a 1985 Oldsmobile Sedan 88 Royale. She had punched out at 11:20 p.m.

No one saw Brianna Maitland after that. Her car, however, was spotted soon thereafter, abandoned. Brianna had apparently begun the eighteen mile drive to Jillian’s in Sheldon, but made it only one mile down Vermont Route 118. Approximately ten to seventy minutes after Brianna left work, between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am, a man driving on Route 118 saw her green sedan backed into an abandoned farmhouse, known as the Dutchburn house, at an odd angle. He remembered that the vehicles headlights may have been on. In between 12:00 am and 12:30 am, another man observed the car in the same position, and recalled there may have been a turn signal flashing. Later in the early morning hours of March 20th, Brianna’s ex-boyfriend, James Robitaille, drove by the site and recognized the vehicle to be that of Brianna’s. His stories have been inconsistent regarding the time he was there as well as why he was driving in that area. His current account, which is believed to be the truth, is that he drove past the Dutchburn house at about 2:30 am, and pulled over upon recognizing the car. He said no one was around, however the headlights were on and both the driver and passenger side doors were open. James turned off the lights and closed the doors and moved on. He had been drinking that night and was afraid of getting in trouble.

Later that morning, a group of hikers driving on Route 118 observed the abandoned Oldsmobile and found it odd enough to stop. They pulled over, exited their vehicle, and gawked at the eerie scene before them. They took photographs, which are now the only photographs of the crash site accessible to the public. One of the photographers observed loose change, a water bottle, and a broken necklace (later confirmed to be Brianna's) on the ground next to the vehicle's driver's side.

At 1:22 pm on March 20th, a Vermont State Trooper was dispatched to the Dutchburn house. The Trooper observed some personal effects in the Oldsmobile, including two paychecks from the Black Lantern Inn addressed to Brianna Maitland, but the Trooper saw nothing he considered to be suspicious. The officer determined the car was likely abandoned by a drunk driver, a rather common and not necessarily alarming circumstance. He collected the scattered belongings on the ground and threw them into the vehicle. The Trooper then drove up to the Black Lantern, hoping to interview staff regarding the abandoned vehicle, but the restaurant was closed, and the officer proceeded with this day. He took down the tag number of the vehicle. The car was later towed to a local automotive shop. The officer never ran the plates. It's rumored he left for a short vacation the following day.

Jillian Stout spent that weekend away at her grandparent's house and was unaware Brianna had not returned until she arrived home that Monday to see Brianna's note left untouched. On Tuesday, March 23rd Jillian called Brianna’s mother Kellie, and after sharing notes the two quickly realized Brianna was unaccounted for. Kellie made calls to everyone she could think of to try to reach Brianna, but no one had seen or heard from her. She called Brianna’s father, Bruce, who was away in New York on business. The two became desperately worried for their daughter's safety, and Bruce drove through the night to return to Vermont. Kellie called the police to report a missing juvenile.

Kellie and Bruce drove to the State Police Barracks in St. Albans to discuss their daughter’s disappearance. Upon giving the officers information about Brianna’s vehicle, one of them showed the couple a photograph of the abandoned Oldsmobile. Her parents were alarmed and concerned when they saw the picture. The rear end of Brianna's vehicle was lodged into the farmhouse, with one of the boarded windows resting on the car's trunk. They knew Brianna would not have left her vehicle this way. The discovery of the abandoned car made it obvious to her parents that Brianna did not, and most likely could not, have been a runaway without her means for transportation.

The couple was dismayed that they were not notified of the vehicle's discovery. Kellie and Bruce met their son, Waylon, at the auto shop where the Oldsmobile was towed. The Maitland's were informed that the Oldsmobile keys were missing. Bruce learned that the car had not been inspected, so he pried the trunk open with a crowbar. He feared that Brianna may have been inside. She wasn’t. However, in the vehicle he found a number of personal items that they believed Brianna would not have left behind, including her migraine medication, contact lenses, drivers license, ATM card and of course, her paychecks.

Her parents jumped into action. Bruce went to the Black Lantern to interview her coworkers, arriving before the police. The police deployed K9 units to search the open field surrounding the accident site, however nothing was found. The vehicle was processed in the State Police Barracks. Early in the investigation, investigators were open in their belief Brianna Maitland was a runaway. However, in 2012, the police announced that Brianna was most likely a victim of foul play and that there was no evidence to indicate that Brianna left voluntarily.

If you have any information that may help this investigation, please contact the Vermont State Police.

Chloe Canter - http://chloefromcrawlspace.blogspot.com/

The Clothes on Her Back

On a missing persons poster, there is often a description of what the person was last seen wearing. Brandon Lawson was last seen in a yellow shirt, camouflage shorts, and white Nikes. Maura Murray wore a dark coat, blue jeans, running shoes, and carried a black backpack when she stepped out of her crashed car on New Hampshire Route 112. There is no mention of what clothing Brianna was last seen wearing on her missing posters or on her NAMUS profile. Prior to Brianna's evening shift on March 19th, 2004, her mother took her shopping to buy black pants for her waitress job at KJ's Diner. Her first day was to be the following morning. She didn’t show up. Brianna’s brand new black pants were found still in the shopping bag at Jillian's house. Since those were her only pair, Brianna’s mother Kellie and aunt Tammy have speculated that Brianna was wearing blue jeans the night she went missing. On October 25th, 2007 a pair of blue jeans was located in the woods approximately seven miles from the Dutchburn house where Brianna’s vehicle was abandoned. The Vermont State Police collected and analyzed the weathered pants for DNA and ultimately determined the jeans did not belong to Brianna Maitland. It has been reported that Brianna wore an apron to work in her position as dishwasher at the Black Lantern Inn. It is unclear if Brianna still wore her apron after she punched out and left work. Some have speculated that the loose coins on the ground by her abandoned car, as well as the lime wedge found on her trunk, could have fallen from her apron pockets during a struggle. Brianna’s aunt Tammy also speculated that Brianna wore hiking sneakers when she disappeared. A pair she was known to wear was missing from her belongings. There is no description of the shirt she was last seen wearing. And I have seen no speculation of anything else she may have been wearing that evening. Brianna's glasses, contact lens case, migraine medication, ATM card, paychecks, and driver's license were all left behind in her abandoned vehicle. She did not have a cellphone. The only thing missing from the scene, besides Brianna, was her car keys. In the newest episode of Crawlspace, Brianna Maitland- Fact or Speculation, Private Investigator Lou Barry addressed the possibility that Brianna didn't have car keys. Old cars may not need a key. It is possible that the only belongings with Brianna when she disappeared were the clothes on her back.

Chloe Canter - http://chloefromcrawlspace.blogspot.com/

In Keallie's Words:


If you've looked into the Maitland case, you know Brianna was injured in a fight three weeks before she disappeared. She had a falling out with her friend Keallie LaCross because of a love triangle (or rectangle). Because of the timing of this fight, some have speculated that Keallie may be involved in Brianna's disappearance. Keallie was kind enough to grant me an interview back in March, and we spoke on the phone for nearly two hours. I know people are waiting for a podcast episode with Keallie as a guest. We are working on it! In the meantime, I thought I could shed some light on her side of the story.
Keallie has been described by the media as a "female acquaintance" of Brianna's, but it was clear from our conversation that the two were actually close friends. Keallie described Brianna as "super friendly, happy, easy to get along with, and wicked nice". They met when Brianna approached Keallie in the Enosburg Falls High School gym and joined her on the bleachers. She introduced herself and the two began chatting. They became very close, and the group of friends (including Katie, Megan, Sydney, and Hillary) would "pile up into her green car and go my boyfriend's house at night. That's where we hung out. Brianna would drive me home every night". 

Brianna and Keallie were interested in the same men. The two were both on-and-off with the same two guys, one of whom was James Robitaille. Keallie felt betrayed by Brianna when at one point, Brianna had gone behind her back with one of the men, who was officially Keallie's boyfriend of two years. Keallie went to Massachusetts for a week to visit her mother. When Keallie's returned, her friends informed her that Brianna had been staying with Keallie's boyfriend while she was away. When Keallie confronted her boyfriend, he admitted it.

By then, Brianna had already been growing apart from her Enosburg friends and was no longer going to school with them. Keallie hadn't seen Brianna in a few weeks. Not long after Keallie returned to Vermont, she spotted Brianna in the passenger's seat of James's car. For Keallie, this added insult to injury.

"That really pissed me off," Keallie recalled. She began to shout at Brianna and call her names. Brianna kept her head down and James shouted back at Keallie to stop. They drove off. A couple of days later, James showed up at a party at the Pallet Factory with Brianna. 

"The Pallet Factory party, everyone was there. James showed up with Bri. I intimidated her all night. I was fucking mad. I was trying to get a reaction out of her, but she wouldn't say anything. At one point I realize she's missing from the party. James said, 'she's out in the truck'. I walked out to the truck by myself, no one was with me. I knocked on the window, and she rolled it down.

"'Bri are you gonna come out and fight?' I punched her. 'Come on, let's go, let's fight!' I punched her again. Her head was down, she was crying. I said, 'you're not worth it'. James came out and yelled, 'Keallie, what the fuck did you do? What the fuck did you do?' I said she had it coming.

"She wouldn't speak, probably because there was more she knew that I didn't. She was ashamed of herself, she'd fucked up everything. She was living with and relying on friends, and I fucked it all up for her".

I could hear in Keallie's voice how angry and hurt she was by the memory of the betrayal, even fourteen years later. However, at one point she tried to see it from Brianna's perspective: "She just wanted someone to love her, and wanted to be in, a part of us".

I asked her how she feels about the public reaction toward her.

"Have you ever Googled me?", she asked.

"Yes," I responded. 

"My mom told me to, and it's bad. I don't let it bother me, because if I did, it would be too much. That's one of the reasons why I want to be on the podcast, because anyone doing their homework will come by and hear it from me.

"I know her family hates me, but I'd love to talk to them, and give them closure from my side. I pray her family finds her and puts her to rest. I can't believe it's drawn out this far. How have they not found her in Vermont? I hope it gets put to rest". 

I asked her why it was stated on Disappeared that she was cleared by law enforcement. What was her alibi?

"I have no idea. There wasn't a formal alibi. But I was always very cooperative, always talked to them (the Vermont State Police), so maybe that was why. When I got hit with Federal charges, they said 'tell us what happened to Bri and we'll clear you, we're giving you 100 years'. But I didn't know".

I asked her how she found out Brianna was missing.

"I found out in school. The police came to question me, Katie, Syd, the girls. I wasn't devastated, I didn't think it was real. When Shauna told me I was being charged, I said something fucked up like, 'how's she going to do that? Good luck, she's missing'. I was mean. It's not like I didn't care. I didn't think it was real.

"I watched the video on the ID Channel. Her mom said, 'why didn't you fight back?' and Bri said, 'I didn't want people to not like me'. Vermont's not like that, everyone loves everyone, we're all on the same team. It wasn't 'Team Bri' and 'Team Keallie'. I didn't hang out with her anymore. I saw her one time after I hit her, her face was fucked up. We didn't talk, no words were exchanged. She might have been with Jillian. That was the last time I saw her".

In addition to sharing her side of the story regarding her fight with Brianna, Keallie shed a lot of light on the aftermath of Brianna's disappearance. If you've been following the Brianna Maitland episodes on Crawlspace Podcast, you may be familiar with a popular theory among locals, in which Brianna died in an accident which was covered up by male acquaintances. This theory, while incredibly widespread, is based entirely on third party accounts, and to this day has not been verified by tangible evidence. The men involved in this theory have not been identified as persons of interest or suspects by the Vermont State Police. So I won't name them. For context, one of those men was Keallie's then-boyfriend. 

"When she came up missing, I came home from school to my boyfriend's house and he's crying. He knew Bri was missing, he was in tears. I said, 'what are you crying for, you fucking bitch? I'm not even crying'. I don't know how he found out". At that point, Keallie didn't think the disappearance was "real" or cause for immediate concern. His concern for Brianna aggravated Keallie. Just three weeks before, he had confessed to Keallie that he had cheated on her with Brianna. 

"I can't remember how long after, but sometime after she went missing, a search team came to his house suited up. They asked if they could search the shit pit. I don't know why they asked me, it wasn't my property. I said, 'suit up, motherfuckers!' and slammed the door. They did search it. I wondered, 'why is he a suspect?'" 

I asked Keallie if they found anything. She told me no, adding that the family owns thousands of acres of land in the area. I asked her if she thought he could be guilty.

"I don't think he did it. I don't think he could live with it". 

Keallie was in the same social circle as Brianna. She was not only close with the men of the "accident theory", but was also acquainted with Nathaniel Jackson (AKA "Low"), whom many believe to be a viable suspect in Brianna's disappearance. Jackson and his cousin Ramon Ryans (AKA "Street") rented a farmhouse on Reservoir Road in Berkshire and lived between Northern Vermont and the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York. The two were known to hang around Enosburg Falls High and supply teenagers with crack cocaine and other drugs. Not long after Brianna's disappearance, her father Bruce received an anonymous tip that Brianna was being held captive at the Reservoir Road house. Bruce quickly relayed the information to the police, but they did not share his sense of urgency on the matter. He told the officers, "if you won't search, I'll round up some friends and we will go and search ourselves". The house was searched by law enforcement, who found no sign of Brianna Maitland. Keallie recalled an experience she had with Low, soon after Brianna went missing.

"After school one day, the girls and I went to McDonalds in Hilary's Subaru. Low pulled up on us. We told him he was the number one suspect. He followed us around the drive-through loop. 'I'll have you all fucking missing!' he said". I had heard this story before, from Katie and Megan who were both in the car. 

Keallie described Low as "pushy", and shared he once tried to convince her to come to Burlington with him, "I'll buy you whatever you want, take you shopping". Several other women have disclosed to me that as teenagers, Low had tried to persuade them to go to Burlington or New York City under similar pretenses. 

Keallie recalled the local talk at the time, "People say Bri was with him, and that she owed him money". 

http://chloefromcrawlspace.blogspot.com/2018/11/missing-in-vermont-12-in-keallies-words.html?m=1

Background:

Brianna grew up on a rural farm in Vermont, near the Canadian border. In October 2003, Brianna moved out of her family home on her 17th birthday. Her parents, Kellie and Bruce Maitland, reported that there were no serious issues that led to her moving out, rather Brianna wanted more independence and to live closer to her group of friends, who lived 15 miles away and attended a different high school. Brianna enrolled in the new high school, but dropped out due to unstable living arrangements. By February 2004, Brianna had moved in with her childhood friend Jillian Stout in Sheldon, VT (20 miles west of Montgomery) and enrolled in a GED program.

Feb 27, 2004:

Brianna attends a party with her boyfriend and some high school friends. During the party, she flirts with the boyfriend of another friend, Keallie Lacrosse, who became upset. Brianna left the party to wait for her boyfriend in the passenger seat of his car, and is pursued by Keallie, who knocks on the window of the truck. When Brianna rolls the window down, Keallie punches her in the face, breaking her nose and giving her a concussion. Brianna files a police report upon her mother’s insistence, although charges are later dropped due to Brianna’s disappearance. Police have cleared Keallie of any involvement in Brianna’s disappearance.

March 19th:

On the morning of Friday March 19, Brianna had taken and passed her GED exam, and her mother Kellie took her out to lunch to celebrate. Kellie reports that Brianna was happy, and discussed plans of attending college. They spent the afternoon shopping at a local mall, and while waiting in line, Kellie said something outside caught Brianna’s attention, and she told her she would be right back. After checking out, Kellie left the store and met Brianna in the parking lot. Brianna’s demeanor had changed - she appeared “tense, shaken, and agitated,” according to Kellie. Brianna told her she needed to head home to get ready for her shift at the Black Lantern Inn. Kellie didn’t want to pry and did not ask Brianna what was wrong, dropping her off at the home she and Jillian lived at between 3:30-4PM. Brianna left a note for Jillian saying she was at work and would be home right after.

11:20PM:
Brianna has finished her shift at the Black Lantern Inn, and declines an invitation from her co-workers to stay and have dinner, telling them she is tired and has to get home as she is scheduled to work a morning shift at her second job in St. Albans, VT. Her co-workers saw Brianna get into her 1985 Oldsmobile and drive off. She was reportedly alone. This is the last time Brianna was seen.

March 20th:

Afternoon: A Vermont State Police trooper is dispatched to the Dutchburn farmhouse, an abandoned house on Route 118 in Richford, VT, approx a mile from the Black Lantern Inn and on Brianna’s normal route home. Her 1985 Oldsmobile was found with minor damage, backed into the side of the house, with a piece of plywood that had covered a window resting on the trunk of her car. The trooper noticed two of Brianna’s paychecks on the front seat of the car, with loose change, a water bottle, and an unlit cigarette scattered on the ground outside of the car. Initially assuming the car was abandoned by a drunk driver, the trooper had the car towed to a local garage, and went to Brianna’s work to attempt to locate her, but it was closed at the time. They do not report the abandoned vehicle to Kellie Maitland, who is listed as the registered owner.

Witness sightings of Maitland’s car between 3/19-20:

11:30PM-12AM: a man driving by the Dutchburn house reports the car’s headlights may have been on, but he does not see anyone in or around the car

12-1230AM: a second man driving by says he thinks he sees a turn signal flashing on the car

4AM: a former boyfriend of Brianna’s sees her car, which he believes looks familiar, on the way home from a party across the border in Canada. He does not see anyone in or around the car

March 23rd:

Jillian Stout calls Brianna’s parents to find out if they have seen her. Jillian had initially seen Brianna’s note on Friday before leaving to visit her boyfriend out of town for the weekend. When she returned home on Monday March 22nd, she saw the note undisturbed, but assumed Brianna was at her parents. Kellie immediately begins calling Brianna’s friends and checks with her employers, realizing she has not been seen since Friday March 19.

March 25th:

Kellie and Bruce have been unable to locate Brianna, and he returns home from a trip to New York to help locate her. Kellie calls 911 and files a missing persons report, and upon Bruce arriving back in VT, they drive around searching places Brianna frequented. They collect photos of her to hand over to Vermont State Police. When they give the description of Brianna’s car, the connection is finally made between Brianna and the 1985 Oldsmobile towed on 3/20/04. Brianna’s parents are upset that no one contacted Kellie about the car being towed, and by this point it has been nearly a week that Brianna has been missing. Bruce heads over to the garage the car was towed to, realizing Brianna has left behind her ATM card, driver’s license, contact lens case, eyeglasses, makeup, and migraine medication. Authorities had not found Brianna’s keys and had not opened her trunk, so Bruce pried it open with a crowbar. Inside were some more personal items and clothes that she had not unpacked yet from her recent move.

March 30th:

The vehicle is finally processed by the state crime lab for evidence and returned to the Maitland family. The area surrounding the Dutchburn house is searched by police and search dogs, but nothing is found. While authorities state they found no evidence of a struggle or foul play in Brianna’s vehicle, they reportedly did find physical evidence which they will not release due to the ongoing investigation.

April 3-5th:

Extensive searches are done by over 500 volunteers of a five mile radius surrounding the Dutchburn house. Nothing is found, but the increased media attention brings out more eyewitnesses, including two people who drove by the Dutchburn house on the morning of 3/20/04 and took pictures of Brianna’s car backed into the side of the barn. They turn these photos over to police, who had not seen photos of the car as it was found due to it not being investigated as a crime scene. They believe the car was staged, and now suspect foul play in Brianna’s case.

April 15th:

Vermont State Police raid a house in Berkshire, VT (10 miles from Montgomery) based on an anonymous tip that Brianna was being held against her will by two known drug dealers from New York, Ramon Ryans and Nathaniel Charles Jackson. Inside, they find drug paraphernalia and large amounts of cocaine and marijuana, but no sign of Brianna. Brianna was known to hang around Ryans and Jackson, and her close friends told law enforcement that Brianna had begun experimenting with hard drugs recently, including crack cocaine. Jackson admits to knowing Maitland, but says the last time he saw her was over a week prior to disappearing.

Late 2004:

Police receive a statement from an older woman alleging Ryans and Jackson murdered Brianna. A sworn affidavit is leaked to the local press, where the woman claims Ryans murdered Brianna a week after she disappeared, mutilating her body with a table saw and then disposing of her remains on a pig farm. Brianna was reportedly murdered in an argument over several thousand dollars she had fronted him to purchase crack, which he decided to keep and not supply her. Brianna allegedly confronted him over the money, and he abducted and killed her, storing her body in a freezer for over a week before disposing of her remains. Police were never able to find any evidence corroborating these claims.

Police initially investigated claims that Brianna’s disappearance was connected to the disappearance of Maura Murray in February 2004. Maura went missing from Haverhill, NH after a crash in a rural area, around 90 miles from Brianna’s crash. Despite the situations appearing to have some similarities, law enforcement ruled out any connection between Brianna and Maura’s disappearances.



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