"We know that Brianna Maitland left her place of employment on Friday night, March 19, 2004, at approximately 11:30 p.m.," Vt. State Police Capt. Glenn Hall said. "She left alone and driving her vehicle.
But, the 17-year-old didn't get far. Just a mile and a half from her work, her car was found parked strangely against an abandoned building.
"It doesn't appear that this was a motor vehicle accident where she went off the road or she crashed into the house. It's possible the car was backed into the house, that's what it appears," Hall said.
Police took the car into their custody after passers-by phoned it in, but they had no initial thoughts of foul play.
"There wasn't any obvious signs of a crime or a struggle at the time that the car was discovered," Hall said.
But police did find pay stubs, take out containers and other items with Maitland's name on them. She had been staying at a friend's house and wasn't in constant communication with her parents. It was a few days later that they reported her missing. An extensive search ensued.
Reporter Deanna LeBlanc: Has anything definitive turned up?
Capt. Glenn Hall: No, not outside of the vehicle.
But police don't think Maitland chose to disappear.
"We suspect foul play and we don't believe she was fine when she left work that night and she hasn't been seen since," Hall said.
Police have interviewed hundreds of people and have conducted dozens of searches, including what someone thought was a sighting of Maitland at a casino in Atlantic City, but they've had no luck.
Deanna LeBlanc: Do you think she's still alive?
Capt. Glenn Hall: No. I think that at this point there's no indication that she's alive.
But they're not giving up. Police are hoping a young woman's skull found in Danby could bring closure to the case and to the Maitland family. They have since moved out of state, but are still offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
While police suspect foul play in Brianna Maitland's disappearance, even more mystery surrounds the case of Heide Wilbur. Her cousin Rick believes he was the last person to ever see her. It was at Mill River Union High School 21 years ago.
"I got about right here and Heide was walking right there," Wilbur said.
Wilbur was a sheriff on detail at a high school basketball game. He says Heide was there. He had no idea Heide's foster home had reported her missing just days before.
Rick Wilbur: That close.
Deanna LeBlanc: That close. I mean you could have reached out and touched her?
Wilbur: Matter of fact, I might have even given her a hug. I don't know.
No one has seen or heard from her since. And in 21 years, no evidence has ever turned up.
"No, nothing definitive," Vt. State Police Lt. Tim Oliver said. "Nothing that's concrete. No smoking gun. There's just... She vanished."
That was until recently when the skull was found in Danby, just 15 miles from Heide Wilbur's hometown of Middletown Springs.
Rick Wilbur says he has always clung to the hope that Heide chose to disappear. It was, after all, an era before cellphones or GPS, and it was much easier to run away.
"Up until the finding of the evidence in Danby, then it kind of made you think that well, maybe she didn't. Maybe she isn't out there," Rick Wilbur said.
"The best thing I can have is an ID on this skull to guide me one way or another. Specifically with the two cases that we've mentioned," Oliver said. "If it isn't one of those two people, then we're right back to square one with Brianna Maitland and Heide Wilbur."
Two teens whose disappearances have brought on far more questions than answers.
And though police say those two teens are the best matches to the skull here in Vermont, there have been half a dozen missing young women from surrounding states like New Hampshire and New York. Police in those states are also eagerly awaiting the DNA results from Texas so they can confirm an identification and open up a murder investigation.
Friday, March 7 2014 10:44 AM EST2014-03-07 15:44:43 GMT
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