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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Authorities questioning abduction story in Montana woman’s death

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 8, 2016, 3:29 p.m.

Rita Maze, 47, told Montana police that a man abducted her Sept. 6, 2016, at a rest stop near Wolf Creek, Mont., and was found dead the next day in the trunk of her car early near the Spokane International Airport. The FBI announced Thursday that Maze died as a result of suicide. (Courtesy photo)
Rita Maze, 47, told Montana police that a man abducted her Sept. 6, 2016, at a rest stop near Wolf Creek, Mont., and was found dead the next day in the trunk of her car early near the Spokane International Airport. The FBI announced Thursday that Maze died as a result of suicide. (Courtesy photo)

Investigators are piecing together a road trip that spanned three states and more than 300 miles, leaving a 47-year-old mother dead in a car trunk in Spokane.

Rita Maze’s family believes she was abducted Tuesday morning from a rest stop near Wolf Creek, Montana. But authorities have not ruled her death a homicide, and new details add a layer of intrigue to the case.

Maze called her husband and daughter on the way to Spokane, saying “a large man in a black hoodie” had hit her on the head and put her into the trunk of her black Pontiac Grand Prix. Sheriff’s deputies found her at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday in an industrial area near Geiger Boulevard and Spotted Road.

Court documents say she was in the trunk with a single gunshot wound to the torso. A handgun and two spent casings lay next to her.

Asked if news outlets should question Maze’s kidnapping narrative, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich replied Thursday, “Yes, you should.”

“We know where the body was located; we know where she started out,” he said. “What happened in between? Don’t know.”

Death not yet ruled a homicide

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded Maze died of the single gunshot wound, but said further investigation was needed to determine whether the death was a homicide.

The FBI said Wednesday it had identified a potential suspect, and some news reports indicated a person had been pursued near the industrial area where Maze’s body was found. But on Thursday, a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those reports were inaccurate. The official would not elaborate.

Another law enforcement official said someone used Maze’s credit card at two convenience stores in the hours before her death. According to her daughter, Rochelle Maze, the first purchase was made Tuesday in Kingston, Idaho, and the second was made in Ritzville.

Maze’s car also passed through Post Falls on Tuesday, according to court documents. A roadside license-plate scanner maintained by the Post Falls Police Department logged the vehicle on a highway crossing Ramsey Road, court documents say. Post Falls is about 39 miles west of Kingston.

Daughter: ‘I believe she was abducted’

Rita Maze was supposed to return to Great Falls on Tuesday. She had spent all Monday in Helena visiting her ailing mother. At the rest stop along Interstate 15, she was less than 60 miles from home.

“I believe she was abducted,” Rochelle Maze said Thursday. “She did not hit herself, stuff herself in the trunk and drive all the way to Spokane and shoot herself.”

Rita Maze was hysterical during the ordeal, her daughter said. She kept a gun in the car, which the alleged kidnapper had access to, she said.

Deputies reported no one else was in the car when they found it. The keys were in the ignition and a purse was in the front seat. There was blood on the ground, and a $20 bill lay nearby.

“I believe they shot her and left the gun and keys in there to make it look like she killed herself,” Rochelle Maze said. “I know she did not.”

Knezovich declined to discuss details, but said the case won’t be easy to solve. He said people should hesitate to call Maze’s death a homicide “until we actually find out what is going on.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not account for a three-hour difference in time zones. Court documents traced events using Eastern Daylight Time, not Pacific Daylight Time or Mountain Daylight Time.

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