Details of Disappearance
Brianna was last seen at her dishwashing job at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery, Vermont, between 11:20 p.m. and midnight on March 19, 2004. Her coworkers asked her to have dinner with them, but she declined because she was tired and had to get up early to go her second job as a waitress in St. Albans, Vermont. She left work and was supposed to go home to where she lived with a friend in Sheldon, Vermont.
She never arrived and her friend assumed she had moved back in with her parents and brother in East Franklin, Vermont. The friend called Brianna's parents on March 23 and found out Brianna wasn't there, and reported her missing.
Brianna's vehicle, a pale green four-door 1985 Oldsmobile sedan, was found abandoned on March 20, off East Berkshire Road and Route 118, across Dutchburn Farm Road, about a mile outside of Montgomery. It was parked partially inside an abandoned barn.
Two of Brianna's uncashed paychecks were on the front seat of the car. She also left behind all her clothing, her medicine, driver's license, her makeup, and her contact lenses. Some of her belongings were strewn on the ground in front of the car. A woman's fleece jacket was found in a field near Brianna's car, but it apparently did not belong to her.
The Oldsmobile had sustained minor damage; it had apparently backed into the building and punctured a hole in the wall. Investigators later came to believe the accident may have been staged. A photograph of the vehicle as it was found is posted with this case summary.
Police did not initially report the abandoned car to Brianna's mother, who is the registered owner. They noticed Brianna's paychecks inside the vehicle and guessed that she was the primary driver, so they went to her place of work to try to find her and tell her about the car. The abandoned Oldsmobile and Brianna's disappearance were not connected until her disappearance was reported three days later.
There has been some speculation that Brianna's disappearance is related to the disappearance of Maura Murray, a nursing student from Massachusetts who vanished February 9, 2004 in Haverhill, New Hampshire after getting into a car accident. She has not been found. Haverhill is only about 90 miles from Montgomery.
The FBI met with local authorities to discuss possible links between the cases. Both Murray and Brianna are attractive brown-haired young women, and both disappeared after car accidents in which their cars were left behind with personal items inside.
However, the FBI and local law enforcement concluded that, despite the apparent similarities, Murray and Brianna's cases were probably not connected to each other. The theory is not being entirely ruled out, but investigators believe it is an unlikely one.
About three weeks before Brianna disappeared, she was reportedly attacked by a female acquaintance in front of several witnesses. The reasons for the assault are unclear. Brianna did not try to defend herself, although she has had several years of martial arts training.
After the attack she went to the hospital and received treatment for facial cuts, two black eyes and a concussion. She filed a criminal complaint against her alleged attacker. The case was still pending when Brianna disappeared. After she vanished, the district attorney dropped the complaint, against the objections of Brianna's parents.
There is a possibility that Brianna left of her own accord; she mentioned to friends her plans for possibly making a short trip out of the area. She is described as an independent, restless young woman who was unhappy in her rural surroundings, and she has run away before.
Brianna passed her GED examination on the day of her disappearance; she planned to attend college part-time. Authorities believe she was a victim of foul play and her disappearance is possibly drug-related; drugs are very common in the Montgomery area.
Brianna's parents also think she came to harm, but they maintain their daughter was not seriously involved with drugs and drugs were not a factor in her disappearance. Her parents separated after her disappearance and her mother now lives in New York.
Some agencies report that Brianna vanished from East Franklin or Sheldon, Vermont.