(May 10) — Investigators in Vermont launched a ground search today in a renewed effort to locate Brianna Maitland, whose baffling disappearance six years ago sparked national media attention.
The new sweep, which focuses on an area not previously searched, was prompted by information that authorities received “as part of the ongoing investigation,” Sgt. Tara Thomas, public information officer for the Vermont State Police, told AOL News.
Police have said there is a strong possibility that Maitland, who was 17 when she vanished, was the victim of foul play.
Dozens of searchers, including crime scene technicians and search and rescue personnel, are concentrating today on an area along Prive Hill Road in Richford. The location is a few miles from where Maitland is believed to have gone missing, Thomas said.
Maitland was last seen at approximately 11:20 p.m. on March 19, 2004, as she was finishing her shift as a dishwasher at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery.
The following day, Maitland’s car, a green 1985 Oldsmobile 88, was found backed into a barn at an abandoned farmhouse on Route 118, roughly one mile from the Black Lantern Inn. The keys were missing, but two uncashed paychecks were on the front seat, and other miscellaneous belongings were found strewn on the ground around the car.
During a search of the area, investigators found a gun and drug paraphernalia inside the farmhouse, which had stood vacant for roughly six years.
According to the Cue Center for Missing Persons, it was not the first time investigators been to the farmhouse. In 1986, Myron and Harry Dutchburn, two brothers who lived at the home, were brutally beaten and robbed. The brothers were later placed in a nursing home due to their injuries. The crime remains unsolved.
More than 500 police officers and volunteers searched the woods around the farmhouse, but found no further signs of the missing teen.
Vermont State Police Capt. Glenn Hall said there is “no evidence” to indicate that Maitland had vanished on her own accord. On the day of her disappearance, she had passed her General Equivalency Diploma exam and was making plans to enroll in college.
Authorities thought they got a break in the case in October 2007, when a weathered pair of blue jeans was found in a wooded area not far from where Maitland went missing. Her parents told police they were the same brand and style their daughter would have worn. But state police technicians were unable to collect enough DNA from the jeans to determine if they were hers.
Maitland’s parents, Bruce and Kellie Maitland, were unavailable for comment today. Both have been critical of the investigation in the past, especially when police decided to block a potential search by Texas EquuSearch, a missing-persons search and recovery group that has been involved with several high-profile cases, including that of Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
Investigators did not comment publicly on that decision, other than to say they were still following up on leads.
“I wish that no other parents would have to suffer what my husband and I have been through,” Kellie Maitland said in a 2008 statement to the media. “I wish that somehow this whole thing could have been prevented.”
According to Thomas, Maitland’s parents, who now reside in New York, are believed to be en route to Vermont today. It is not yet known if they will be making a statement to the media.
As of late afternoon today, Thomas said it is too soon to determine how long the search will continue. “It all depends on whether we find anything,” she said.
According to a state police press release issued today, the Maitland family is offering a $20,000 reward for information, which includes $10,000 for anyone who can identify where Brianna is and $10,000 for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for her disappearance. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police at 802-524-5993.