Sometimes, television can help shake loose pieces of a puzzle that have remained hidden from investigators for years. At least, that's the hope this week of Vermont police, as well as family and friends of Brianna Maitland, the Montgomery girl who went missing at 17 on March 19, 2004 and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
On Monday night, the cable channel Investigation Discovery airs a new episode of its hit show "Disappeared," which recounts Maitland's mysterious vanishing more than seven years ago. As the promotional material describes it:
"Seventeen-year-old Brianna Maitland found life on her parents’ remote farm boring, so in the fall of 2004, she transferred high schools to be with her friends. But after a short while, Maitland dropped out and couch-surfed with help from friends and boyfriends. With no consistent place [to] sleep each night, it took four days for her family to realize she had gone missing. After numerous searches and an extensive investigation, the Maitlands are left to wonder what really happened to their daughter. Police think it all points to foul play, while others speculate that the teen was taken. But by whom?"The episode explores the events leading up to Maitland's disappearance with the show's signature melodramatic flair. Beginning with the requisite Vermont covered bridge and American-flag-lined Main Street, the story traces the difficulties Maitland faced trying to find a place for herself in her rural northern Vermont high school and her "growing need for freedom," as her mother, Kellie, describes it.
Yet, despite the Hollywood treatment, the show offers Vermonters a fresh look at a heartbreaking case that has stymied local police for years. And, if it happens to unearth new leads, all the better.
Maitland's case was featured in a Nov. 16, 2011 Seven Days cover story,"Missing!" about the more than 40 Vermonters who have disappeared since 1971. At the time of her disappearance, Vermont police were criticized for how they handled the investigation. Ever since, the Vermont State Police, which now coordinates all missing-persons cases, has made dramatic improvements to the process, including assigning a detective to the families of each missing person, to ensure they're kept fully apprised of the case's progress.
The VSP and the Maitland family urge anyone with new information to come forward. The Maitlands have offered a $20,000 reward for information. It includes $10,000 for anyone who can identify the exact location of Brianna and $10,000 for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance. The VSP is also offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the resolution of this case and/or information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. The Vermont State Police offers rewards on specific major cases with an emphasis on unsolved homicides and missing persons in which foul play is suspected.
Anyone with information related to Brianna Maitland's disappearance is urged to call the Vermont State Police at the St. Albans Barracks at 802-524-5993 or the State Police Crime Information Tip Line at 802-241-5355.
"Disappeared" airs Monday, Dec. 5, at 9 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.
Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police.