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A decade later, Vermont police hope new leads solve disappearance of Brianna Maitland

  • BriannaMaitland1.jpg

    Brianna Maitland is pictured here the day before she disappeared.

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    Maitland is pictured here in this undated photo provided by police.

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It was 10 years ago when Brianna Maitland spent the day shopping with her mother in their quiet Vermont town, hours after the 17-year-old had completed her high school equivalency test. Less than 24 hours later, the girl was gone -- her car found rammed into an abandoned farmhouse not far from the Canadian border, with her wallet, paycheck and other belongings left inside the vehicle.

A decade after the March 19, 2004, disappearance, investigators hope recent leads might crack the case -- and that physical evidence removed from Maitland's car will prove critical in solving one of the state's greatest mysteries.

"We suspect Brianna was the victim of foul play," Maj. Glenn Hall of the Vermont State Police told FoxNews.com. "This is not a dormant case and we are actively working it."

"Was someone hiding inside her car and waiting for her? It's possible. We don't know."

- Maj. Glenn Hall, Vermont State Police

"This was a girl who was trying to make something of herself," Hall said. 

Brianna was last seen at 11:20 p.m. leaving the Black Lantern Inn and Brewpub in Montgomery, Vt., where she worked washing dishes. Coworkers later told police the teen's job forced her to stay later than usual and that she left alone in her car, eager to get home and sleep before starting work at another restaurant the next morning. It was Briana's second weekend working at the inn, frequented mainly by tourists in a remote ski town.  

The teenager's green 1985 Oldsmobile was found hours later, rear-ended into a deserted farmhouse a mile and a half from the inn where she worked. The vehicle was found along Route 118 in Montgomery -- the road Brianna normally traveled from work to the home she shared with her friend, Jillian Stout. Her personal belongings were found inside the unlocked car, including her wallet, work paycheck and some food.

The ground was frozen at the time, Hall recalled, and no footprints or clear signs of a struggle were found. But the detective, who has been working the case since 2006, said physical evidence taken from the car could lead police to a suspect, though he declined to elaborate on the nature of the evidence. Hall also said authorities have "persons of interest" whom they cannot discount. 

Several theories have emerged over the years and none can be ruled out, Hall said -- including the possibility Brianna was taken across the border. 

"Was someone hiding inside her car and waiting for her? It's possible. We don't know," Hall said.

"It wasn’t a long period of time before her car ended up where it did. She could have met someone she knew. She could have stopped for someone she didn’t know. This is a rare case, especially for Vermont," he said. 

Brianna's father, Bruce Maitland, believes his daughter likely knew the person responsible.

"I don't think this was a random act of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Maitland told FoxNews.com. "There was something going on in Brianna’s life that we don’t know about. She had obviously made a connection with someone that may have resulted in what happened to her."

Maitland said the condition of the car -- rammed into the side of a barn -- suggests some kind of struggle ensued. 

"She probably was trying to get out of whatever situation was occurring there at the farm and might have backed it in," he said, also noting that "various objects" were found on the ground outside the car. He said he believes Brianna was taken from that location and placed into another vehicle. 

Hall acknowledged that certain items, including loose change, were discovered near the car, but said, "there was nothing we found that we could definitively link to the car."

Maitland described Brianna as a "wonderful daughter" who was "strong-willed," yet also at a vulnerable age. 

"She was very open and friendly, and saw everyone in a good light," he said. "There’s always a part of me that hopes she’s still alive, but I've come to terms with the fact that I don’t believe she is." 

A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to Brianna's location. There is an additional $10,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible.

Anyone with knowledge of the case is urged to contact the Vermont State Police at (802) 524-5993 or the State Police Crime Information Tip Line at (802) 241-5355. Anonymous tips can also be submitted though text messages. Those messages should be sent to "CRIMES" (274637) with the keyword VTIPS in the body of the text message, followed by the information to be reported. 

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