A bizarre and tragic kidnapping that started at a Montana rest stop ended in murder in Spokane.
Spokane County Sheriff's deputies say 47-year-old Rita Maze was hit in the head and then locked in the trunk of her black Pontiac Grand Prix.
Deputies located Maze's car near the airport at at the corner of Geiger Blvd and Spotted Rd.
Maze used her cell phone to tell police she was abducted at a rest stop along the interstate between Helena and Great Falls, Mont.
Maze did everything she could to save herself, including using her cell phone to call her husband and report that she had been abducted and locked in her trunk. Unfortunately, by the time deputies were able to find her car in a trucking company parking lot, Maze had been murdered.
Authorities were on a desperate search for a woman in desperate need of help. Rita Maze had pulled over at a remote, Central Montana rest stop and was ambushed by somebody lying in wait.
“She was at a rest stop and a suspect approached her and hit her in the head and put her in the trunk,” said Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.
Montana sheriff's deputies didn't know which direction the kidnapper was taking Maze from the rest stop, but her car was spotted by a license plate reader as the victim's Pontiac passed through Post Falls.
“Those agencies started getting cell phone locations on the possible missing person,” said Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Gregory.
Using nearby cell phone towers, Spokane County Sheriff's deputies were able to narrow down Maze's location. They found her car in a trucking company parking lot.
The supervisor didn't want to contaminate their crime scene with a lot of people until a patrol dog had a chance to track the suspect, last detected heading north on foot. Deputies then opened the trunk and found Maze's body inside.
“There were phone conversations with her from this office, from the Helena Police Department just prior to her death,” said Sheriff Dutton, “so we're relatively certain of the time when she became deceased.”
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's detectives say they do have a person of interest in this case. That person was spotted at a gas station between Spokane and Montana gassing up Maze's car. The suspect's face was caught on video camera.
Authorities believe the suspect could be in Spokane and may also be armed. That's because dispatchers told our deputies Maze carried a pistol in her car for her protection.
The nearest business that would be open at the time of the shooting is the Flying J Truck Stop, less than a mile from the scene of the crime. Investigators are taking a look at surveillance video from the truck stop as well.