Part VII: Brianna Maitland Missing Person

This is the seventh post in my series on the Brianna Maitland missing person case.

Maitland was last seen around 11:30 pm on March 19, 2004, after she had completed her shift at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery, Vermont. She left the restaurant in a 1985 Oldsmobile, which was later found abandoned on the property of an old vacant farm--about one mile from the restaurant. The vehicle appeared to have been involved in a traffic collision.

This week I want to discuss three facets of the case that appear to be inconsistent with a voluntary disappearance—a theory that investigators initially favored.

First and in general, when a person chooses to run away from his/her present life, usually a trail is left behind. Money is withdrawn to support the decision. Close friends and family members are given obvious or subtle clues. Future plans and employment arrangements are canceled or modified.

I imagine investigators trying to locate Brianna Maitland expected to find clear indications that she wanted to leave. Unfortunately, as the search grew and the more of her friends and family that were interviewed, police found no evidence that she voluntarily left. To the contrary, Brianna had made plans to meet her mom prior to vanishing, was scheduled to work the next day, had evidently not mentioned leaving to anyone, and found inside her abandoned vehicle were uncashed paychecks.

In cases involving voluntary disappearances, the missing person’s vehicle or another mode of transportation is commonly identified as the means for leaving the area. In Brianna’s case, her car was left behind with seemingly no other automobile available for her to simply drive away and start life over again somewhere else.

Second, high publicity cases make it very difficult for missing persons to remain hidden. Brianna’s case was big news in the Northeastern US for several weeks, discussed regularly on multiple sites on the Internet, and covered nationally by Fox News and CNN special programming.

This attention is in addition to the wide publicity that her case received due to Vermont State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation involvement—-as thousands of law enforcement and other agencies received her information.

Though it is not impossible to hide from the public eye as a high-profile missing or wanted person, some will contact police just because they can’t stand the attention anymore. Who can forget the Runaway Bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, in Georgia—the woman who called police in New Mexico with a fake abduction story (that was later retracted) after a media barrage had her picture on every newspaper and television screen in the nation for a time.

In the media blitz involving Brianna’s case, apparently only one possible sighting that was not quickly ruled out was released to the media--and that was two years after her disappearance. *

*Note: the sighting involved a woman who resembles Brianna in a New Jersey casino, but the report remains unsubstantiated (authorities were able to obtain several still photos of the woman). The Maitland family admitted that there is a strong resemblance, but they are convinced that it is not Brianna in the footage.

Finally, investigators talking to people about Brianna’s disappearance began wading through disturbing tips and comments that tried to connect Brianna’s case to several individuals with lengthy criminal activity backgrounds. Two of these discussions even led to talk about how Brianna was murdered--one even describing how her body was disposed at a local farm.

In a detailed article about the Maitland case, investigative reporters H.P. Albarelli Jr. & Jedd Kettler had this to say:

…One of the earliest leads that came in to the State Police, less than a month after Brianna's disappearance, concerned a confidential tip that Brianna was in the basement of a Reservoir Road farmhouse in Berkshire, against her will. Police investigators, accompanied by U.S. Border Patrol and Vermont Fish and Game agents, quickly raided the rented house, about 15 minutes away from the Black Lantern Inn.

When police entered the farmhouse on April 15, 2004 they discovered several people inside, but following a thorough search of the house and property, found no signs of Brianna. During the search, however, police did discover various amounts of marijuana, cocaine, handguns, and drug paraphernalia.

State police arrested the occupants of the house, Ramon L. Ryans, 28, of Queens, N.Y.; Nathaniel Charles Jackson of New York and North Carolina; Timothy Powell of Berkshire; and Stephanie A. Machia, reportedly 17, also of Berkshire.

At the time of the arrest, both Ryans and Jackson were fairly notorious among local residents in Richford and Enosburg for "hanging around public parks and school yards" and allegedly "selling crack cocaine." Some young teens and adults in the towns knew both men by their respective street names, "Street" and "Low." In addition to "Low," Jackson was also on occasion referred to as "Nasty."

All of those arrested at the Berkshire farmhouse admitted to knowing Brianna Maitland, but maintained they did not know where she was or what had happened to her.

After being arraigned and, pending trial without bond set, the four were released. Jackson reportedly returned to a Richford apartment that he shared with several other individuals, and Ryans left for Burlington, some 50 miles away, where he lived in an apartment he shared on occasion with a 25-year old single mother of two, Ligia Rae Collins…”
This was not the end of the story for Ryans and Collins as their names would reappear later as the Maitland investigation continued.

In sum, at the beginning of the investigation, detectives apparently expected to find evidence that Brianna had willingly left her life and started new somewhere else.

This prediction quickly seemed to lose its appeal when: 1) investigators found no trail of leaving—money, people, vehicle, etc.; 2) the immediate and national media attention brought no substantiated sightings of her; and 3) authorities heard more from others (especially those considered the criminal element about) how Brianna was a crime victim as opposed to someone who had left the area willingly.

In next week’s discussion, I’ll talk more about some of the names introduced in this post like Ryans and Collins, and discuss someone who allegedly had boasted about his role in a violent crime featuring Brianna as the victim.

Previous posts on this case are here: Post I, Post II, Post III, Post IV, Post V, and Post VI


outandaboutagain said...

I wonder how bad the accident was to the other vehicle and if she was taken away so no report would be made and then she had to be "quieted" - drugs seem a likely choice.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comment.

There are lots of theories as to what happened at the collision scene, but a few things can be reasonably ascertained from the photo of Brianna's car: 1) the damage to her vehicle after it hit the farmhouse was minimal--not the kind that one would see resulting in life-threating injuries; 2) her vehicle was drivable; and, 3)it is certainly possible that no other vehicle was damaged during the incident (I am not eliminating the participation of another vehicle though in the crash).

The photos and additional commentary on Brianna's car can be found here.

Anonymous said...

I am from enosburg, near where brianna disapeared. At a party one night, my friend over heard 2 people talking about brianna never being found, that she was in a manure pit. i honestly believe that is where she is.

Megan Jefferson said...

Do you know who those 2 people were? Men, women? Anything??