Why Authorities Are Reportedly Questioning the Story of a Montana Mom Who Died After Calling Family During Her Alleged Kidnapping
Despite questions, Rita Maze's Great Falls, Montana, family believes she was kidnapped and killed
Local authorities still aren’t sure what happened to a Montana woman who said she was abducted earlier this week, and allegedly frantically communicated with her family on her cell phone as she was apparently driven across state lines before being found dead in the trunk of her car, according to multiple reports.
Rita Maze, 47, was found dead around midnight Wednesday, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton has said. Although her death has not yet been ruled a homicide, per the Spokesman-Review and KHQ, her family believes she was kidnapped and killed – and that they were on the phone with her during her final hours alive.
While authorities have said there was a person of interest in the case, a law enforcement source tells PEOPLE that those earlier reports were not accurate. Sheriff Dutton said that an earlier suspect in the case, identified on convenience store video, has been ruled out, according to the Associated Press.
Maze died of a single gunshot wound to her torso. A handgun and two shell casings were found next to her body in the trunk of the car found in a parking lot near Spokane, Washington, according to court documents obtained by the Spokesman-Review.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said more investigation would be needed and has not ruled Maze’s case a homicide, according to the paper.
According to court documents, an officer called Maze’s cell phone about 10 p.m. Tuesday, after her family reported her missing.
“Someone answered and the officer said there were gunshots, then silence,” KHQ reports.
“We know where the body was located, we know where she started out,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Thursday, according to the paper. “What happened in between? Don’t know.”
He said people should question the kidnapping, according to the paper, and that nothing in the case – including suicide – has been ruled out, according to KHQ.
The FBI has taken the lead in investigating the case, as it involved multiple states, a spokeswoman tells PEOPLE. In a statement, the agency said, “This remains an active investigation and no further comment will be made at this time.”
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According to the Great Falls Tribune, Maze told her family that on Tuesday a “large man in a black hoodie” hit her on the head and put her in the trunk of her car, at what authorities said was likely a rest stop near Wolf Creek, Montana.
Maze was then apparently driven into Idaho and, finally, Washington.
She was traveling from Helena back to her home in Great Falls after visiting relatives, according to the Tribune. Her husband last spoke to her before noon Tuesday and the family reported her missing about 8:20 p.m., according to the paper.
She made contact with them again – apparently from the trunk of her car during the abduction – later that night, according to the paper. She also spoke to Helena police from the trunk, Sheriff Dutton said Wednesday.
PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach the Maze family or local authorities in Montana or Washington for comment.
But Maze’s daughter, Rochelle, believes her mom was kidnapped, she told the Spokesman-Review.
“She did not hit herself, stuff herself in the truck and drive all the way to Spokane and shoot herself,” Rochelle said.
“I believe they shot her and left the gun and keys in there to make it look like she killed herself,” she said. “I know she did not.”