Brianna Alexandra Maitland was born October 8th, 1986 in Burlington Vermont to loving parents Kellie and Bruce. She was raised with an older brother in the small town of East Franklin near the Canadian border where her parents owned and operated a farm. She grew up doing farm chores and longed for a life beyond that.
On her 17th birthday, her parents hesitantly agreed to let her move about 15 miles away and transfer to the Enosburg Falls high school. Brianna hated the country life, she had no desire to be a farmer like her family, and she wanted to go where her friends were, her boyfriend at the time, and a town where there were more opportunities for her future.
It would seem though that things weren’t as easy on her own as she had expected. For nearly 6 months, Brianna seemed to bounce from friends house to friends house, until ultimately in February of 2004 she dropped out of her new high school and moved in with her childhood friend Jillian Stout. Brianna’s parents insist this period of restlessness was just their daughter trying to assert her independence and learn who she is and what she wanted. They are adamant that there were no problems at home, or dramatic issues going on in her life causing instability.
Brianna wasn’t entirely restless though, and her friends and family describe her as having big goals. When she dropped out of highschool she very quickly enrolled in a program to get her GED so she could head to college as soon as possible. At the rate she was pushing herself, she was on track to be there before her friends even graduated.
The day of March 19th 2004 started out as a really wonderful day. Brianna completed her GED exam in the morning, and her mom Kellie took her out to lunch and to do some shopping to celebrate. Over lunch they discussed Brianna’s college plans and the two chatted excitedly about her future. After lunch they shopped together, and at one point Brianna told her mom “I’ll be right back” and stepped outside. Kellie completed her purchase and met Brianna at the car a few moments later. She said her mood had palpably shifted- she seemed agitated. Kellie tried to ask a little, but Brianna was short with her, saying she needed to get home to get ready for her shift that evening. In retrospect, her father doesn’t feel that was abnormal for her given that she had a lot to do that afternoon, since she wouldn’t want to be late to a job that was relatively new.
Kellie dropped Brianna off at Jillian Stout’s house sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 that afternoon. It was the last time her mother ever saw her. Brianna got ready for work and left a note for her roommate saying she’d be home after her shift, and she headed to work as a dishwasher at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery Vermont in her green 1985 oldsmobile. When her shift ended, her coworkers invited her to hang out but she was starting a new second job in the morning, so she was going home to get some rest. She left the Black Lantern alone at 11:20pm when she clocked out and her manager saw her leave.
The next morning, March 20th 2004, a Vermont State Trooper was dispatched to an old abandoned house off route 118 outside of Montgomery only about a mile from the Black Lantern Inn. The state police had gotten reports of a car crashed into the side of the house in a very peculiar way- reversed, trunk end first, with one of its hind wheels up on the foundation in such a way that it was unable to drive back out. The car had a piece of plywood from a window covering on the house laid over the trunk. Outside of the car the trooper found loose change, a water bottle, and an unsmoked cigarette. Inside of the car the trooper found two uncashed paychecks. He assumed the car had been abandoned by a drunk driver who’d crashed, and had it towed to a local garage.
When Brianna’s roommate Jillian returned home from a weekend away and found the note still in the same place she’d seen it on Friday, she was a little confused and concerned. She calmed herself down and convinced herself as best she could that everything was fine- Brianna had just gone elsewhere for the weekend. But overnight that nagging feeling of worry weighed on her, so sleepless and scared, she called Kellie on Monday to tell her she could not reach Brianna.
Frantic with worry about this abnormal behavior, Kellie called absolutely everyone she could think of who might know where Brianna could be. When no one had seen or heard from her since Friday, she called the police and filed a missing person’s report. It took two more days for the officers to connect the abandoned car to the missing girl.
After news of Brianna’s disappearance broke publicly, several people came forward to say that they saw the car at the old Dutchburn house as well. The first was reported as approximately 12:15 am by a man who saw the car with headlights on, and didn’t see anyone in or around the car. The next report was 12:30am who thought they saw the turn signal flashing but didn’t see anyone in or around the car. Brianna’s own ex boyfriend, James Robatialle, was the next who reported the scene at 2:30am. He says he stopped, shut off the lights and shut the doors. This wasn’t unusual for him to pass by, as it was on his road home. Unfortunately, her has since passed in a motor vehicle accident himself and is unable to provide any new information. Investigators have not listed any reason to believe he was involved.
The next morning, March 20th, tourists on a ski vacation happened by and found the scene so odd that they pulled out their disposable cameras and took photos. Since Brianna’s car had already been impounded, this was an incredibly valuable piece of evidence! The photo corroborates the responding officers report of the condition of the car, and the items surrounding the car. The tourists also reported seeing a broken bracelet or necklace on the ground next to the car.
At first police were skeptical of any foul play- They really thought she must have just run away given her living situation. But still, the area was combed on foot by police and dogs to no avail. If she had run away, there was no indication she’d done so on foot.
On March 30th, the car was collected from impound and was processed as a crime scene. Investigators took their reports and then returned it to the family. Brianna’s dad Bruce noted other items of significance that Brianna had left behind: contacts and a contact lens case, plus her glasses, her prescription migraine meds, and her atm card were all left behind. Based on whatever the investigators recovered from the car, and Bruce’s insistence that these were not items she could go without, the Vermont State Police acknowledged publicly that this was a probable case of foul play.
The investigation has pressed on slowly but steadily over the last 18 years. Whenever anyone disappears there are multiple options. In Brianna’s case, pretty much everyone agrees right off the bat that there’s no reason for anyone to think she took her own life. Though police initially suspected she may have run away, the things she left behind, and the lack of preparation for such a big adventure made them think otherwise. Furthermore, she’d had to have had some major help with that, and absolutely no one they’ve interviewed seems to have any knowledge of that plan.
If foul play, who? And why?
Investigators have thoroughly followed through on any leads from the people she had relationships with in life. When researching this case, there are several names that pop up in connection to Brianna, but no person has ever been substantiated as a suspect. Investigators warn the public to be careful with any rumors they spread, because over the years those speculative theories have had a way of transforming into the media to be presented as fact.
Brianna’s disappearance has been investigated in connection with other murders as well. Just 5 weeks before Brianna went missing, UMass student Maura Murray went missing under similar circumstances, with police finding her car abandoned just 90 miles away from where Brianna’s car was found. In later years, Brianna was investigated after the suicide of serial killer Israel Keys who had victims in Vermont. All connections to both cases have been ruled out by the FBI.
In 2006 casino footage from Atlantic City revealed video of a guest who looked remarkably similar to Brianna. Investigators have never identified the woman, but Brianna’s mom doesn’t believe it was her. Human trafficking though is a very real possibility, and many have looked to that over the years as a potential motive. Brianna was very beautiful, and her family believes this is a very real possibility for what happened to their daughter. Detective Baker says its a problematic area to investigate because there’s so much shame and guilt surrounding sex work and addiction that many victims don’t come forward. She does say that Vermont to New York was a route for drug trafficking and its a theory that’s always been at the forefront of their minds.
In 2007 a flier provided by the FBI to reinvigorate the investigation said that the car crash scene may have been staged to appear as an accident, officially validating something many people already believed. The eerie manner in which the car was backed into the abandoned building left many people who saw it completely shaken. A lot of the armchair detectives of the world agree- is it possible that she was trying to get away from someone, in her panic used reverse instead of drive, crashed the car and then had to run on foot? We asked Chief Louis Barry, a private investigator involved in her case, and it’s his personal opinion that the scene was not staged, so this may just be one of those speculative rumors that have spread unfoundedly.
In 2016 the old abandoned Dutchburn House burned down due to arson, a crime that has been prosecuted and has no connection with Brianna’s case.
Also in 2016 investigators revealed that one week after her disappearance, they had collected an item from the ground near where Brianna’s car had been found. This item could not be connected with certainty to Brianna, but this new announcement revealed that DNA had been collected from this item and it had led to no matches.
March 18th 2022, almost 18 years to the day of her disappearance, Othram announced that they had partnered with the Vermont State Police a while back, funded by Paul Holes of the Murder Squad.
Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a DNA profile and conducted genealogical research to develop investigative leads so the Vermont State Police could continue their work. After months of follow-up investigation, police were able to locate, interview, and obtain DNA samples from candidate donors. These DNA samples were sent to the Vermont Forensic Laboratory for comparison testing. The lab confirmed that DNA from one of the individuals matched the DNA on the item found on the ground near Brianna’s vehicle.-dnasolves.com
It’s really important to note that this does not mean a suspect has been identified. Remember, the DNA was collected on an item at the scene where Brianna’s car was found, but there was no way to know when that item was placed there or what the connection was. We need to be clear that this person is NOT one of the 11 or 12 people from Brianna’s life who were looked at in connection with this case. Thus far, there’s no reason to connect this person to Brianna’s disappearance, but we eagerly await any new announcements.
Call to Action:
Join us this week by listening to the Lost Souls of America Podcast to hear an interview with Chief Louis Barry who helps us clear any rumors or misunderstandings in the case.
Chief Louis Barry is a retired law enforcement officer with over 35 years of experience, 24 as Chief of Police. He’s been teaching college as an adjunct professor since 1990 at several colleges and universities, and he’s also a certified police instructor in a variety of fields for Massachusetts police academies.
He’s been working as a private investigator since his retirement, and he works primarily on cold cases for an organization called Private Investigations for the Missing, which is a non profit organization founded by Bruce Maitland, Brianna’s father.
You can help support Brianna and other missing people by following https://investigationsforthemissing.org/
Brianna Maitland was last seen March 19th 2004 at the Black Lantern Tavern and Inn in Montgomery Vermont. Her Pale green four-door 1985 Oldsmobile sedan was located on March 20, 2004 off East Berkshire Road and Route 118, across Dutchburn Farm Road, about a mile outside of Montgomery. At the time of her disappearance Brianna was described as a caucasian female with brown hair and hazel eyes 5’3 – 5’5, 105 – 118 pounds. Brianna has a faint scar extending from her left eyebrow to her forehead. Her left nostril is pierced; she wore a small ring or stud in it at the time of her disappearance. She wears contact lenses and takes prescription medication for migraines, but all were left behind when she vanished. Brianna’s nicknames are Bri and B. She was 17 at the time of her disappearance. She is turning 36 this year. If you have any information about the disappearance of Brianna Maitland please call Vermont State Police 802-524-5993
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