SPOKANE, Wash. – As her kidnapper drove toward Washington state, Montana resident Rita Maze called her husband from the trunk of her car, where she was locked by her captor, authorities say.
During the phone call Tuesday night, Maze said her abductor ambushed her at a rest stop that afternoon on her way home to Great Falls, CNN affiliate KXLY reported.
She talked to her husband and a police officer briefly as authorities tracked her phone using signals from cell towers.
Shortly after midnight early Wednesday, about two hours after her call, police found her body in her black Pontiac Grand Prix in Spokane, Washington — about 350 miles away from her hometown.
Maze, 47, was driving home after a visit to Helena, Montana, on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
Her family reported her missing later that night. She called her husband about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities told KXLY.
“She was at a rest stop and a suspect approached her and hit her in the head and put her in the trunk,” Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told KXLY.
Since Maze did not know her whereabouts, authorities from Montana and Washington state tracked her phone and alerted police departments nationwide.
“There were phone conversations with her, from this office, from the Helena Police Department, just prior to her death,” Dutton said. “So we’re relatively certain of the time when she became deceased. It’s a terrible thing to have happen, but we will work to find out what did happen. We’ll cooperate with Spokane County , that’s where we believe that the death occurred. But that’s got to be confirmed by cell phone records.”
Maze’s daughter, Rochelle Maze, spoke with local media about the final conversation she had with her mother.
“She was talking to my dad and had told him ‘help me, help me,’ she was in the trunk of her car,” Rochelle told KRTV. “She thinks she was hit with something or by someone, she didn’t really see.”
According to KRTV, Rochelle said her mother described the man as being large, of maybe African-American or Native American descent, was about 6’5” tall, and was wearing a black hoodie.
“She traveled with a gun, and she knew he had her gun, and she was terrified,” Rochelle told the Great Falls Tribune. “He kept her in the trunk for 12 hours.”
During their 10 minute phone conversation, Rochelle said she was able to tell her mother she loved her before the phone cut out.
“I told her that I loved her,” Rochelle told the Great Falls Tribune fighting through her tears. “That’s the last thing she heard.”
Person of interest
An Idaho license plate reader notified authorities that the car had crossed into the city of Post Falls, the affiliate reported. Authorities used cell phone records to determine the car was heading toward Spokane.
Police narrowed the search area, but by the time they got to her, it was too late. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputies said they found the car, along with her body, at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday near the Spokane International Airport.
Authorities did not release a cause of death, but said it is believed to be a homicide, according to the affiliate.
A GoFundMe page created after her death says Maze was on her way back from visiting her mother when she was abducted.
“We as a community will come together in this horrific time for the Maze family,” the page says. “We need to do whatever it takes to make things easier for the family to grieve. Proceeds will go to helping to defray service expenses for this genuinely beautiful soul.”
Authorities said they have a person of interest, but did not provide additional information.