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FBI rules Montana woman found shot dead in trunk in Spokane was an elaborate suicide

Aug. 31, 2017 Updated Thu., Aug. 31, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

The FBI announced Thursday that the shooting of a Montana woman, who was found dead in the trunk of a car in Spokane last year, was a suicide.

Rita Maze, 47, of Great Falls, was found dead from a gunshot wound Sept. 6, 2016. She was found in the trunk of her black Pontiac Grand Prix, which was discovered in an industrial area near Spokane International Airport. Next to her body lay two spent shell casings and a handgun.

Before her body was discovered, Maze called police and family members claiming that a large man had struck her in the head and put her in her trunk. Her credit card also was used at least twice during the trip, in Kingston, Idaho, and Ritzville.

However, the FBI appeared to have cast doubt on the story from the mother and elementary-school cook, saying last September that they were not seeking any suspects.

Then on Thursday, the FBI released a statement saying that they had ruled Maze’s death a suicide.

“Based on the evidence gathered, analyzed and processed, we have determined Maze’s death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We will not be releasing any more details,” wrote FBI spokeswoman Sandra Yi Barker of the FBI’s Salt Lake City division.

The suicide determination follows a bizarre series of calls in which Maze kept telling her husband and daughter details of her alleged abduction.

According to the Great Falls Tribune, Maze spoke with her family for 10 minutes before the phone went dead.

“I told her that I loved her,” Maze’s daughter, Rochelle, told the Great Falls Tribune last year. “That’s the last thing she heard.”

An officer called Rita Maze’s cellphone during the search. The officer reported that someone answered the phone followed by gunshots then silence.

Montana law enforcement put out a nationwide bulletin to find Maze’s car, which was discovered by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy.

While two empty casings were found with Maze in her trunk, she suffered only one gunshot wound to the “chest and abdomen,” according to previous reports. The cause of death was the gunshot, but the manner of death as suicide was delayed by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Asked why Maze would take such elaborate steps to stage her own death, Barker, the FBI spokeswoman, said she had no idea.

“That’s the big mystery,” Barker said.

However, the family believes Maze was murdered. A day after her mother’s body was found, Rochelle Maze told The Spokesman-Review that her mother was hysterical during the time she spoke to the family over the phone.

When the Spokane County deputy found Rita Maze’s car, the keys were in the ignition and a purse was in the front seat. When the deputy saw blood on the ground, and a $20 bill nearby, he called for paramedics.

“She did not hit herself, stuff herself in the trunk and drive all the way to Spokane and shoot herself,” Rochelle Maze said last year. “I believe they shot her and left the gun and keys in there to make it look like she killed herself.”

Efforts to reach Rochelle Maze on Thursday were unsuccessful.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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