Montana Woman Found Dead After Calling Family From Trunk Of Car: ‘I Told Her That I Loved Her’

A Montana woman was able to contact her family on the phone before she was found dead inside the trunk of her car after midnight Wednesday.

Rita Maze, 47, was driving home to Great Falls after visiting her mother in Helena, Montana on Tuesday morning when an unidentified man hit her on the head at a rest stop near Wolf Creek, which is south of Craig, according to the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

At around 10 pm, Maze was able to talk with the police, her husband, and her daughter on the phone. She told them that she had been put inside the trunk of her car during the conversation.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told the Daily News that Rita was able to talk to her family on the phone multiple times, but the signal faded in and out while she and her kidnapper were on the way to Spokane. The Sheriff’s Office said that they were able to track Maze’s movements via signals from local cell towers around the area. Rita was believed to be in Washington State after 10 pm when the line got cut off for the final time.

Rita’s daughter, Rochelle, told the Great Falls Tribune that her mother was afraid because her kidnapper had the gun she kept inside her car.

“She traveled with a gun, and she knew he had her gun, and she was terrified,” she said. “He kept her in the trunk for 12 hours.”

Rochelle said that her mother sounded hysterical and that she was so difficult to understand it wasn’t made clear to her at the time if there was more than one kidnapper.

Rochelle was able to tell her mother she loved her before the phone went dead.

“I told her that I loved her,” Rochelle said fighting for every word through her tears. “That’s the last thing she heard.”

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office found Rita’s body in the trunk of her car just after midnight at a parking lot in an industrial area in the 7600 block of West Geiger Boulevard, just near the Spokane airport.

“We had received some information that the car may be over here in our area,” said Deputy Mark Gregory of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “So basically one of the agencies started pinging the cell phone, which helped us get an area to search and locate the vehicle.”

No information about the cause of death has been released by the authorities but Dutton said that the case is being treated as a homicide. They also believe that Rita was killed after she and her kidnapper arrived in Spokane.

Dutton said that authorities were looking for a “person of interest” and that they are investigating a surveillance video taken from a convenience store. The FBI is also providing assistance in the investigation due to the interstate travel involved.

He added that “it’s too early to tell” but “we would suspect now” that it was a random attack.

Rita Maze worked as a cook at Morningside Elementary School in Great Falls, as reported by NBC stationKHQ of Spokane. She was known as the “lunch lady” at the school from 2005 to 2009.

“My mom touched every person she made contact with,” said Rochelle. “She considered herself a lifetime member of PTA with Bill Salonen.”

Bill Salonen, the school’s former principal, said that Maze “had such a positive presence” on the students.

“I could really trust that she was really going to take care of kids and build that trust,” he told The Great Falls Tribune.

After leaving Morningside Elementary School, Rita worked at Peres Foot Basket and then at B/E Aerospace. She would later leave B/E so she could spend more time with her family.

“She loved her grandkids so much,” Rochelle said.

Rita’s granddaughters, Addyson and Carly, are living in Germany.

“Growing up, my mom was an amazing mom,” Rochelle added.

A GoFundMe page was set up on Wednesday to assist Rita Maze’s family.

[Image via Rochelle Maze/Facebook]

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