Details of Disappearance Alison had dinner with her parents during the evening of May 23, 2000 in her hometown of Bethesda, Maryland. She returned to her residence in Sumner Highlands Apartments in the 4500 block of Sangamore Road later that night. Thresher spoke to an acquaintance on the telephone at approximately 10:00 p.m. and e-mailed her employer at 12:00 a.m. on May 24. She has never been heard from again.
Alison was scheduled to begin a new position as a copyeditor for the Washington Post's website on the day she disappeared. Her family has stated that she was excited about the job and it is very uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning.
Her copper-colored 1997 Volvo station wagon was discovered abandoned on May 25, one day after her disappearance. A photo of the car is posted with this case summary. It was parked on the corner of Ridge Drive and Broad Street near the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) in the Glen Echo area, which is several miles from her apartment.
There was no sign of her at the scene and an extensive search of the surrounding areas produced no clues as to Alison's whereabouts. Her wallet and keys were not discovered inside her car and investigators believe she had the items in her possession when she disappeared.
Alison's case was initially viewed as a missing person investigation, but it was reclassified as a presumed homicide in February 2001. Authorities stated that evidence related to her disappearance had been recovered and pointed towards foul play.
In the early hours of May 24, at approximately 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., Alison's downstairs neighbor was awakened by the found of a woman sobbing. The sounds came from Alison's apartment, and the crying was so loud and so intense that the neighbor considered calling the police. She heard footsteps, also, going between the bedroom and the bathroom.
Investigators released a composite image of an unidentified man spotted near Thresher's apartment complex during March and April 2000. The image is posted with this case summary. He has not been named a suspect, but authorities would like to identify him and question him about Alison's case.
The man is described as possibly being of Hispanic descent and 48 - 50 years old in 2000. He was about 5'4 with black hair. He had a round face and was clean-shaven. The individual may have been driving a white four-door 1990 sedan. Neighbors in Alison's apartment complex saw Alison walking with the man, holding hands and kissing him.
Alison's family had her declared legally deceased in February 2001. Her sister took control of her retirement funds and established a trust for her children's educations. Alison's former husband, James M. Thresher, was granted custody of their two children.
In April 2018, Fernando Asturizaga was named as a person of interest in Alison's disappearance. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. He taught Spanish at Alison's daughter's school, Friends Community School, and worked as a babysitter for both Alison and her former husband after the couple separated in 1997.
Asturizaga had had an inappropriate relationship with Alison's daughter, Hannah, which began when Hannah was just ten years old and in the fourth grade. In June 1999, Alison wrote Asturizaga a letter telling him to stop spending time alone with Hannah, saying:
"Several times over the last several months I have expressed my concern to you that my daughter, Hannah, has formed an excessive emotional bond with you. When I made it clear that I did not want the two of you to be alone together, you assured me that you would, in fact, no longer babysit for Hannah and Sam. That was not true. And this led me to wonder whether this unnatural attachment is a mutual one."
Against Alison's wishes, Asturizaga continued to look after them when they were in the care of James. Alison and James were fighting over guardianship of the children, and Asturizaga's contact with Hannah was a factor in the custody battle. In June 1999, Alison also notified Friends Community School about her suspicions, and she withdrew her daughter from the school. She disappeared less than a year later.
Asturizaga's relationship with Hannah continued until 2001. He was charged with sexual abuse in 2003, but found not guilty later that year. In 2010, Asturizaga was charged with two-counts of second-degree rape, six counts of second-degree sex offense and two counts of child abuse; Hannah was the victim. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 168 years in prison.
Hannah stated that after her mother disappeared, Asturizaga didn't seem upset about it and couldn't understand her own grief. Instead, he told her, "I thought things would be easier for us now that she is gone." Hannah didn't think anything of this at the time and didn't begin to suspect his possible involvement for years. She stated Asturizaga had "groomed" her and told her not to tell her mother that he was abusing her.
Investigators believe Alison was murdered at her apartment and then her body was disposed of at an unknown location. They stated the killer tried to clean up blood evidence at the scene.
A man matching Asturizaga's description was seen running through Alison's neighborhood, near where her car was found, at about 6:00 a.m. on May 24. Police are investigating Asturizaga's possible involvement in the case, but there is not enough evidence to officially name him as a suspect.
Alison was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. Her case remains unsolved.
- Montgomery County Police Department
Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 22, 2018; picture added, details of disappearance updated.