"A small lie needs a bodyguard of bigger lies to protect it."
It was the 19th of March 2004. A Friday. Brianna Maitland planned to spend the day with her mother Kellie. The 17 year old had dropped out of high school but that morning she took her GED certificate test and was looking at different college options. She was trying to figure out what to do with her life.
Brianna was fiercely independent and even though she was just 17 years old, she lived with a friend Jillian Stout and worked two jobs.
Brianna had moved out of her family home in Franklin, Vermont as she wanted to be closer to friends but she still had a good relationship with her parents, Bruce and Kellie, and spent time with them. Their house was in rural Vermont and was around 15 miles from where her friends lived so Brianna moved to the neighbouring city of Sheldon. She worked at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery bussing tables and had a second job at a diner in St Albans.
On that day, the 19th of March, Brianna took the GED test as planned and met up with her mother for some breakfast and shopping. Brianna was a little anxious during the shopping trip but did not tell Kellie why. After the shopping trip, Brianna was due to work at the Black Lantern Inn. She left a note for her roommate Jillian to let her know she would be home after work .
Brianna arrived at the Black Lantern Inn for work and her shift was normal. It was around 11.20pm when Brianna left work that night. Some of her coworkers asked her to join them for dinner but she refused as she told them she had work the next day in her second job at St Albans. They described her as normal and that she was in good form.
Black Lantern Inn
Some of her coworkers saw her leave and get into her car and they all believed that she was alone as nobody saw anyone with her or in the car. But whether Brianna was alone or not that night leaving work, the fact remains the same. Brianna never made it home. And nobody even knew Brianna was missing for the entire weekend.It was some four days before she was reported missing.
As Brianna had not been reported missing, when police discovered her car along Route 118 the next day, they had no idea that the area they found it in was a crime scene. Due to that, no official photographs were taken of the car, no thorough searches had been carried out and the car was towed. Brianna's car, which was registered to her mother Kellie, was a green 1988 Oldsmobile. The manner in which the car was found was unusual. So unusual in fact that it prompted people passing by to take photos of it. The car was backed up onto the outside wall of a barn at an abandoned farm.
There were a number of items in the car such as Brianna's migraine medicine, contact lenses and two of her pay checks. Aside from the way the car was parked up against the barn, there was nothing to indicate that a struggle had taken place. Due to that, police did not follow up with the owner of the car, Brianna's mother.
It was only on the Monday morning that Jillian became concerned. She had presumed that Brianna had changed her mind and went home to spend the weekend with her parents. When she still had not heard from her after the weekend, she contacted Brianna's parents. Brianna's parent told Jillian that Brianna was not with them and the last time Kellie saw Brianna was on the Friday. If Brianna was not at home or with her parents, where was she?
Bruce, Kellie and Jillian called Brianna's friends to see if anyone had heard from her or knew where she was. Nobody knew anything. They reported Brianna missing. When Brianna was reported missing, police asked Bruce and Kellie about the car. It was at that moment that it was clear the situation was serious. Brianna's car had been found abandoned and nobody had been looking for their daughter for days. Time was very much of the essence.
Police appealed for information. A number of witnesses came forward. One man said that he drove past the barn on the Friday night where Brianna's car was found sometime around 11.30 pm to 12.30 am and recalled seeing the car headlights on but he did not see anybody at the car. A second man also drove past after midnight and before 12.30 am and saw signal lights on but did not see anybody at the car. The third person to see the car was Brianna's ex boyfriend. He had spent the night partying across the border in Canada and drove past it at 4am. He thought the car looked familiar but there was nobody at the car.
Route 118 Vermont
Despite those sightings of the car, nobody had actually seen Brianna and the police had to follow up different lines of enquiries. One of the initial ones was that perhaps Brianna had decided to leave and start a new life somewhere. If that was the case , why was there such urgency? She left her belongings and pay checks in the car and had left a note for Jillian informing her she would be home after work. The car was abandoned just a mile from work. If she was leaving , surely she would have driven somewhere a little further? That was just one line of enquiry and there were several others. As we see in all missing person cases, such as Maura Murray, rumours and theories surround the case.
Police believe that foul play was involved in Brianna's disappearance and some people believe that Brianna was taken. There was a tip off to police that Brianna was being held in a house by two local drug dealers and when police searched the house, they found drug paraphernalia but no sign of Brianna. Some believe that her disappearance is linked to some local drug dealers.
There was certainly more going on in Brianna's life than most people knew. Just a few weeks before Brianna disappeared, she was assaulted by Kaellie Lacross and she did not try to defend herself even though she is trained in self defense. Kaellie was cleared of any involvement in Brianna's disappearance.
On the day she went missing, Brianna was anxious about something. It seemed like she was worried but did not confide in anybody about what was on her mind.
Whether Brianna disappeared due to a dispute with drug dealers or whether she owed a debt remains unclear but police found DNA in her car so maybe one day, somebody who may know something may be forced to talk. What makes this case more difficult is the wall of silence that surrounds Brianna's disappearance. There are people who know what happened to Brianna and will not talk.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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