Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dos and Don'ts

The Brianna Maitland case is fortunate to have a growing community of followers and citizen sleuths who are passionate in seeking answers. With help from Maitland Private Investigator Lou Barry, I've compiled a list of "Dos and Don'ts" of being a responsible and productive follower of this case.


Do pass on any information that you feel may be relevant to the appropriate authorities. Leave it to the experts to follow through on leads. If you know something or have heard something, say something. The Vermont State Police can be contacted at 802-524-5993 and also have an anonymous text-a-tip line, accessible by texting VTIPS to CRIMES (274637). Private investigators pass their information along to law enforcement, but understandably this is a one-way street. Don't be afraid to pass your information along to more than one entity. The PI's can be reached by sending a private message to the MISSING: Brianna Maitland Facebook Group or via email.

Do encourage media attention and publicity. Bruce Maitland has stated that he has found media pressure to be one of the most productive forces in moving this investigation along. If you have connections, use them!

Do contribute monetarily to worthy causes like Private Investigations for the Missing. When I have opened Q&A's in the past, many have specifically asked how they can help. An extremely tangible way you can help is to contribute.

Do support and lobby for legislation that may benefit cold case investigations, victims, and families in your constituency. For instance, back in January, legislation was proposed in New Hampshire to increase the staffing of their Cold Case Unit. As a constituent, reach out to your representatives to show your support for beneficial legislation.

Do reflect on your own skills and training and think about ways you could productively contribute as a volunteer for Investigations for the Missing.


Don't contact witnesses. Leave this to the professionals- private investigators and law enforcement. Their training and experience are better suited for this task. People without this experience and training can (and historically, will) cause a witness to clam up and altogether resent being contacted about the case. The goal should be to help the investigation, and contacting witnesses can (and has) hurt the investigation. 

Don't contact the family. If you find yourself considering contacting the family, stop and think about why. Does it simply function to satisfy your own curiosity or emotional impulses? How would doing so help the investigation?

Don't visit the crime scene. This is another tendency that functions more to satisfy personal curiosity  or emotional impulses than to help the investigation. In this case, the crash site is on private property.

Don't accuse people of criminal acts. As a citizen sleuth or just a concerned citizen, a certain individual may come off to you as obviously suspicious. It is counterproductive to publicly accuse someone of involvement. Leave that to the appropriate authorities. 

Don't pass along unverified rumors and speculation. The rumors surrounding this case have undoubtedly muddied the waters. Speculation and rumors hurt an investigation and serve as a distraction. Presenting them as fact makes matters even worse. If you take a pillow to a park on a windy day and cut it open, what happens? The feathers fly everywhere. Come back to the park the following day, and collect each feather. It's impossible. See where I'm going with this? See the parking lot story as an example. 

Don't fall into logical fallacies. For instance, subscribing to fallacious conspiracy theories. It is a rampant tendency to try to make connections for the sake of connections, however erroneous. Take the commonly traveled police conspiracy route, for instance. While these are not impossible nor are they absolutely unheard of, jumping to this conclusion is usually rooted in logical fallacy. When a case is convoluted, it is not logical to assume that it is that way because police are intentionally muddying the waters. When the police are limited to what they can share, it is not logical to assume that they must be hiding their own malfeasance. Before you make an assumption that could be rooted in bias, always consider alternative explanations and that correlation does not mean causation. In other words, because two factors exist together, it does not automatically mean one causes the other. An increase in ice cream sales is associated with an increase in drownings. Does ice cream cause people to lose their ability to swim? No. The alternative explanation here is the summer season, associated with an increase in ice cream consumption as well as in swimming (and as a result, drownings). 

Don't dwell on past investigative failures. Hindsight is 20/20. It is easy to pretend we would know exactly what to do in someone else's shoes, and what would have been obvious. It is more productive to look forward on how we can be helpful and make a difference now than to dwell on the past. Also, if you have partaken in any of these "don'ts", try not to dwell on that either. We've all made mistakes. The best thing we can do is be united in productively and responsibly following this case. Onward!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Dutchburn House

The Dutchburn House
Sometime after 11:30 p.m. on March 19th, 2004 in Montgomery, Vermont, the awful sound of a car crash resounded into the silent night.

An old weathered farmhouse stood on a curve on Vermont Route 118, abandoned since the 1990’s. The small home faced the roadway and stood before a large cornfield bordering the Trout River. The white paint which once covered the wooden exterior was blistered and faded. Plywood covered its windows and doors. On display on one of the boarded windows was a ‘No Trespassing’ sign.

A light green 1985 Oldsmobile Royale was traveling on Route 118 along the curve. For reasons one can only speculate, the driver went off the roadway in reverse and at an odd angle. After driving over some tall grass, the vehicle’s back bumper slammed into the side of the abandoned farmhouse. The car became lodged into the home’s foundation and was brought to a halt. A piece of plywood covering a boarded window was dislodged by the impact and landed on the vehicle’s trunk, revealing a white drawn curtain in the home’s interior. With the vehicle’s headlights still on and both the driver’s and passenger’s side doors left wide open, the driver disappeared into the freezing night.

It was the vehicle of local teenager Brianna Maitland, who had left behind all of her personal belongings. At first labeled a potential runaway without means for transportation or access to money, the girl has now been missing for 15 years. The police now believe Brianna fell into harm’s way that night. Brianna’s father thinks she was abducted out of her car after crashing into the abandoned farmhouse. The car was 1.4 miles from the Black Lantern Inn, Brianna’s place of employment. She was last seen pulling out of the Black Lantern parking lot at approximately 11:20 p.m. The abandoned farmhouse was along Brianna’s travel route home, and her personal belongings were strewn about the ground on the driver’s side of the car, including a broken necklace.

They say lightning never strikes twice, but the suspicious disappearance of Brianna Maitland was not the first time the old farmhouse saw an act of irrevocable violence.

In 1986, Montgomery farmers Myron (known as Mike, aged 75) and his brother Harry (aged 76) Dutchburn called this farmhouse home. They lived a simple, predictable life, waking at 4 a.m. each day to tend to cattle at their barn across the street. It was rare for them to travel further than St. Albans. They were humble men of habit. Many drivers had difficulty navigating the curve along 118 and would spin out and get stuck in the mud or snow. The brothers had lost count of how many drivers they’d rescued on their property.
January 31st was the last time they would try to help a stranded motorist.

At 2:00 a.m. a voice outside their residence woke them. “Harry, Harry,” a stranger called out. The stranger said he had run out of gas. The brothers yelled out that they had none. The stranger began pounding on the door.

Mike Dutchburn wearily crawled out of bed and headed downstairs toward the kitchen. As he approached, his front door was already being kicked in. A home invasion had begun.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Mike told the stranger. The intruder brandished what Mike thought were brass knuckles and punched the elderly man in the face. Mike put the intruder in a headlock, but was quickly overpowered when a second robber entered the home. Harry came downstairs and was bludgeoned with his thick maple cane he had used to herd cows. In the midst of the savagery, one of the intruders told the brothers, “I’m going to kill you”.

The intruders were apparently aware of the Dutchburn’s habit of carrying large sums of cash. The brothers put up a fight but were brutally wounded in the home invasion, which was over in minutes. The kitchen was turned over in the struggle and pooled with blood from the old mens’ head wounds. The robbers made off with about $6,000.00 from Harry’s shirt pocket. The men lay on the kitchen floor for over 3 hours, Harry unconscious and Mike frozen with fear. At dawn, Mike staggered out of the home and drove to a neighbors for help. Their facial injuries made them unrecognizable. Harry’s head required 10 stitches to close.

The men never recovered from their violent victimization. The old men were now plagued with insomnia and mistrust of others. They became easy to startle and withdrawn. Within a month they had plans to sell their 70 head of livestock and retire from dairy farming. Their outings were rare. Their home and Harry’s permanently damaged right eye were constant reminders of the beating. “They could have taken the money,” Mike later told a journalist. “There’s no sense in beating a person up”.

Vermont authorities caught the robbers, two men from Richford, after one made a purchase at Champlain Chevrolet in Enosburg with hundred-dollar bills with a strong barn odor. The Dutchburn brothers’ belongings, including their cash, carried the odor from their 20-hour workdays in the barn. Judge Frank Mahady rejected a proposed plea agreement of two years and eight months in jail for the robbers and sentenced Darrell L. Clark, aged 37, to five to 10 years in jail in July of 1987. His accomplice, Louis R. Gilbeau, aged 31, was sentenced to eight to 10 years in jail, with all but five suspended. Gilbeau died at age 56 in 2011.

The brothers stayed in their home for a few years, but eventually moved to medical and nursing facilities and are now both deceased. Mike and Harry passed away in 1991 and 1999, respectively. In 2016, a group of teenagers burned the Dutchburn house to the ground.

I imagine an alternate universe where Mike and Harry were never harmed, where their earnest habit of helping deserted motorists was not destroyed with their sense of trust for others. I imagine the old men in their warm beds, woken by the sound of a car crashing through their home, feeling their bedrooms shake from the impact. I see them peer out their bedroom windows and witness what no one else did. I see them wanting to help Brianna.

Special thanks to Lou Barry for providing newspaper archives on the Dutchburn case.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Brianna as a Friend

Brianna as a Friend
Image result for brianna maitland

Katie Manning remembers her first day at a new high school. She remembers what it felt like to be the new kid in town. She stepped onto the yellow school bus and uncomfortably walked down the aisle. She felt unfriendly stares from her new classmates as she passed. Toward the back of the bus, she saw a ray of sunshine. 

"You can sit with me," Brianna Maitland, her new friend, said with a smile. She eagerly tapped the vinyl fabric of the seat, signaling Katie to join her. Katie sat down, immediately feeling at ease. "You have such pretty hair," Brianna said, gently touching a strand for herself. 

Kira Trombley remembers fondly a bubbly, beaming stranger approach her on the first day of school.

"I love your leather jacket," Brianna, her new friend, said earnestly.

Kira remembers the girl who never forgot her birthday. After months of not keeping in touch, Brianna unexpectedly appeared at her home on her birthday to wish her well and gift her a candle. She remembers Brianna as selfless and generous: "if she had a chocolate bar, she'd give you the whole thing, if you wanted it". 

Megan Jefferson also remembers the day she met Brianna. Megan was hanging out with Jillian Stout, Brianna's future roommate. The girls approached the window of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu studio, where Megan observed Brianna kicking some ass. "I want you to meet my friend, Bri," Jillian said.

"My first thought was to never mess with her," Megan laughed, reminiscing on that day years later. Megan remembers Brianna as someone she could turn to for support. She remembers running into a very recent ex-boyfriend at a party. The wound was fresh. Megan called Brianna, crying, "freaking out". Brianna came to Megan's rescue, pulling up in her Oldsmobile. The two drove off. Brianna had a plan that didn't involve commiserating over silly boys.

"We're going snowboarding!" Brianna declared to a puzzled Megan. The two went all out, riding down a small hill several times and making snow angels. Megan was effectively distracted from the drama by the wholesome activity. 

"It was perfect," Megan recalled.

Brianna's Dad Bruce Maitland remembers his daughter's strong sense of justice. Brianna hated seeing people get bullied, and would step up and defend someone being targeted regardless of the consequences. Bruce remembers Brianna as a great kid, "full of life- a joy to be around". He remembers Brianna as someone "who would have made a positive difference in the world, if given a chance".

Most of us who care about Brianna's case have never had the pleasure of knowing her. My heart breaks for her family and friends who have now suffered for 15 years without Brianna- 5,475 days without Brianna. My thoughts are with her loved ones on this very difficult day. Brianna will never be forgotten and the people who love and care for her will never stop seeking justice and resolution for her case. There's just too much that time cannot erase. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Logical Fallacies by Special Guest, Greg Overacker!

  Hi all! I am very excited to post Brianna Maitland Private Investigator Greg Overacker’s first guest post on Chloe from Crawlspace. I have learned a lot about logical, critical thinking from him and am thrilled he chose my forum to share some of his thoughts. Enjoy! -Chloe

  Lance, Tim, Chloe and I have discussed critical thinking and topics that are closely related to the subject on a few occasions and of course my conversations with Lou Barry are always laden with common sense, critical thinking and brutal honesty. After reading Chloe’s blog and her discussion about confirmation bias I thought I’d like to throw in my two cents at the risk of sounding like a blathering opinionated madman. I also would like to commingle some discussion of common sense with the topic of critical thinking . First I’d like to say that after contacting Tim and Lance while trying to get into contact with John Smith , which they helped me out with, and after some discussion on the topics of Maura and Brianna, they cordially asked me to come on the show and I believe both cases have benefited from their involvement . It didn’t take long to realize that they knew exactly what they were doing . I speak to people in the legal community, law enforcement and people on the other end of legal problems day in and day out and it’s become very natural to realize who can rationally evaluate problems, ask the correct questions and properly evaluate the information they have or are given. I’m guessing it’s their journalistic point of view and natural curiosity that’s cultivated their skills. On more than one occasion they’ve brought interesting points pertaining to Brianna’s case to my attention. So there’s the point. I was taught to surround myself with people who think properly. Every relationship comes with a cost. Cost not necessarily being bad, but nevertheless a cost. Pick and choose wisely who you share your time with and it will pay off in the long term.
   When the guys introduced those of us in Brianna’s camp to Chloe it was easy to see why the guys would have her involved in their work. I’m guessing her insight and ability to think clearly stems from her education and line of work. There’s a lot to be said for someone who works in the healthcare or mental healthcare field. You are unable to put a price tag on that experience. Experience like that carries over into your everyday life. There are instances when I hear someone say a key word or phrase that rings a bell in my mind. There was an instance during one of the podcasts that I was on where Chloe mentioned an interviewee’s “ limitations” and described his attributes succinctly. The importance of being able to properly evaluate information is invaluable. An example of this is an author who wrote a book about Maura Murray’s disappearance. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion . I read the book and realized he’d gained an enormous amount of information . That is what a good journalist and a good private investigator does. We are really just gatherers of information to be applied in some way by others. His evaluation of that information seemed poor at best. I don’t agree with it whatsoever .
    Lou Barry came into Brianna’s camp out of nowhere and thankfully so. It’s a bit hard to explain what talking to a 35 year veteran cop can be like. I’ve remarked to my friends before that I’m glad my father wasn’t a lawyer or a cop . When asked why I always laugh and say “ I can’t imagine being a kid and trying to bullshit a parent who deals with liars all day long “ The skills are there and they don’t even realize it . Lou makes deciphering situations seem easy because it is for him. It’s become innate. Becoming that good of a critical thinker takes time and effort. If I had to guess I’d say the time has passed and the effort is no longer needed for him.
    That having been said ( and don’t let your heads swell guys ) there are some things I’d like to point out and this may get a little disjointed and rambling.
    I’ve seen comments made that Tim, Lance and possibly Chloe are making money off of Maura and Brianna’s cases. Common sense 101 , here we go. What do these commenters have to back this up ?  Do you know how much money they make ? Have you seen their paychecks? Have you asked them or their clients ? I know how much they make for their time and effort being on Brianna’s nonprofit as board members . Zero. Maybe someday guys. Do you know how much they were paid to partake in Maura’s mini series on the Oxygen channel ? Not much . What is a  commenters motive for making this statement ? You don’t believe that someone should be paid for their time, effort and expenses ? Find better ways to express yourself or more constructive things to do with your time. The same commenter stated that they were just looking for fame. Well here are people who’ve put countless hours into researching a subject and sharing that information on a public platform. Being asked to be on a television show or any type of show is their business , that’s literally what they do. Are you actually suggesting that they should say no when asked to participate in an event that will be the largest effort to bring Maura’s case into the public’s awareness ? That show by the way would never be possible without the involvement of people who have incredible funding and professional technicians . The cost was enormous . Everyone should be thankful for the opportunity to have Maura’s case treated in such a way whether you were in front of the camera or a viewer.
Podcasts may make money but theirs isn’t reaping the big bucks. That aside , making money is not a bad thing . You can trade money for food and clothing and businesses and opportunities go away without money . Now that I know these people I can assure you their motives are altruistic. It’s always good to question motives but don’t assume the worst, in fact don’t assume anything , just resist making a poor comment and do your homework.
    Changing direction a bit let’s get back to Chloe’s critical thinking lesson and take it a little further. I had told the guys that I’d listened to podcasts where the topic was missing persons. One in particular pertained to an ex cop who investigates people who have gone missing in national parks, I’m sure some of you are familiar with David Paulides and his books called missing 411. I know nothing of David other than what is publicly written and discussed . ( yes that’s a disclaimer) . That having been said I do know that he’s an ex cop so my questions are initially ….a cop in what capacity ? For how long ? Did he work for two years and go on disability ? Did he simply direct traffic? Those questions aren’t in any way supposed to discredit David at all . I know nothing about him. But it’s an example of how I start to evaluate what I intend to listen to. (APPEAL TO AUTHORITY - We often mistake and assume that someone is an authority on a subject primarily based on their title or how they are presented to us, but are they really ? Would you ask Albert Einstein for information about religion ?  Better to ask him about physics) David and his interviewer begin this podcast and each case is told in about 8 to 10 minutes and there are many that are discussed . A brief synopsis is given for each case and at first seem incredibly intriguing. They’re each ended with comments of how absolutely bizarre the disappearances are and a lot of innuendo to them having been super natural in cause.( INNUENDO gives an advantage to the maker of the statement , they can try to give plausible denial if called on it ). The comments are ablaze with references of Dogmen, Bigfoot , Fairies and alternate dimensions and various nonsense. ( If you believe in this nonsense please seek a mental health professional ) Of the many hundreds of comments only one expressed that these ideas are ridiculous. My point is that the vast majority of people when confronted with the unexplained simply revert to a default position. There’s a word for that ...lazy. Do your homework. Just because you don’t have the answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean you’re stupid . You may be stupid but that’s another issue . After listening for about an hour I went back to the beginning and started over. As each case was reviewed I googled them and low and behold the first 6 had been solved with reasonable explanations. After the sixth I stopped looking them up. Case one ( and I’m doing this by memory so I may screw a few details up but that isn’t what’s important here) was about a woman in her mid to late sixties that went missing while hiking Mt. Mckinley. She was an avid hiker of that mountain, hiking it’s trails 2 to 4 times a week for years. Did you get that ? That’s a lot of hiking by anyone’s standards. One of the things that was said was that she was the last person who would go missing because of her experience  . Excuse me ? Did a cop just say that ? Who would you expect to go missing on that or any mountain ? Someone who hikes it 4 times in their life or 100 to 200 times a year? She is far more likely to get lost, injured or have a medical emergency than the novice. In fact it would be odd if she never had an incident at the rate she hiked. ( THE LAW OF TRULY LARGE NUMBERS - With a large enough sample many odd coincidences or events are likely to happen . A good quote-That a particular specific event or coincidence will occur is very unlikely, that some astonishing unspecified events will occur is certain. That is why remarkable coincidences are noted in hindsight, not predicted with foresight ) Remember also that this is a mountain, not her back yard. It’s vast and rugged terrain. Her body was found over a difficult to traverse hilltop and in an odd location on the other side . They seemed to find this insane. Have you ever witnessed someone’s actions who has low sodium or in a diabetic stupor ? There’s always a reasonable explanation.
    Case 2 was a 66 year old female named Geraldine Largay from Tennessee who went missing in western Maine while hiking the Appalachian trail which runs from Georgia to Maine and is approximately 2,200 miles long. Her husband would meet her periodically at public points and they would eat, replenish her supplies and generally make sure she was ok. Between meetings she disappeared. An extensive search ensued and she was not found. Remember it’s in all likelihood that she will be somewhere between the 2 meeting points. David and the interviewer discuss how absolutely baffling it is. Commenters swoon about the madness of her vanishing into thin air. First of all the area she disappeared in is rugged. She was found in an area owned by the US Navy and they practice their Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program there. Sounds like a good time to apply Occam’s Razor. ( OCCAM’S RAZOR is a problem solving principle which states that simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than more complex solutions. When presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, you should select the one with the least assumptions.) She was found deceased and it’s believed she survived for nearly 4 weeks . It was the largest search in Maine history and searchers came within 100 yards of her without finding her themselves. Commenters came up with some pretty wild explanations most of which were blamed on the supernatural . How did she perish ? Lack of food and environmental exposure. She wasn’t far from the trail and had set up a camp and kept a journal. She’d removed a page from the journal and wrote “ When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry, It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me~no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them. “ How did she get to where she was found? She simply left the path to relieve herself, got confused and could’t find her way back to the trail. It’s that simple.
    I live near the Adirondack National Park . The unique thing about the Adirondacks as opposed to other national parks is that people live within its boundaries. Nothing major, but towns and camps and tourist areas are common. It’s also large . All other national parks in this country combined could fit inside the Adirondacks . I’ve camped out a few times within the park and it’s an experience . If you walk off into the woods 30 feet even from a roadway where the woods are dense and turn around you can’t see where you’ve come from. The canopy is incredible in some areas and the ground stays moist or wet because of that . Wood is everywhere but often too wet to burn . These are not the woods between your house and the farm near you . They are thick , contain years of accumulated ground cover and wildlife is everywhere . It’s not uncommon to see deer , bear or moose walking down the road ways. Ravines, waterways , cliffs , swamps and mountains are at every turn . And the weather is unforgiving . I told you that to tell you this . 99% of the people I know believe they are capable of much more than they actually are. We are accustomed to having a bathroom nearby , food at our disposal , a couch to rest on , heat , water , light etc. Try to live one day with none of that. No toilet paper, no stores to buy food or a refrigerator , no place to comfortably rest , no temperature control , no clean water and the lights go out when mother nature says so. Now try walking all day in that terrain , literally all day ( which you shouldn’t do , stay put ). Try walking your neighborhood all daylight hours for 1 day with no food and whatever water you can find and crapping behind your neighbors garage. That alone would be absolutely exhausting. So why don’t people find it understandable that a  66 year old woman could go missing under reasonable circumstances in deep woods ? When thinking of Maura Murray and the exhaustive searches and effort that has gone into attempting to locate her I can’t help wondering if she was overlooked during those searches. Personally I don’t believe she left her car and entered the woods on her own but if she did or if she was placed there later then it’s entirely possible. Searching or being lost in the woods isn’t a walk in your mind . Poor choices can cost you dearly and the objects you’re looking for aren’t neon flashing signs . They blend in , especially with the passage of time. When looking for a fugitive you have the advantage of their social interactions that leave a trail . People need people in one way or another to survive and travel . It would seem that any searches for Maura now would need to be in semi specific areas and hopefully conducted by well trained professionals.
   Being involved with a missing persons case lIke that of Brianna Maitland can be overwhelming at times for many reasons and I’ve quietly watched the struggle that Maura’s family has gone through. One interesting aspect of the case is the involvement of social media and the public in general . Maura’s case has come to be known as one of the first to become popularized by social media . We’ve had many people get involved in Brianna’s case in many different ways, most come and go . Some seem odd to the point that we keep an eye on them . Most we appreciate greatly. Via computer some get angry or make outlandish claims or simply have the facts confused. It’s interesting that when someone has false information and is corrected and given the factual information they’ll often disregard it . Most even stick to their false information even stronger than ever. Studies have shown that people tend to do exactly that, even in the face of irrefutable evidence contrary to their beliefs ( THE BACKFIRE EFFECT is the tendency of some people to resist accepting evidence that conflicts with their beliefs ). The Backfire effect is one manifestation of confirmation bias. It’s human nature to not want to be wrong but being proven wrong with facts and sticking to your incorrect beliefs is just being obstinate . Better to be a humble and stand corrected than an obstinate preacher of misinformation. You can stand by misinformation until your death and it still won’t make it correct. I’ve seen far more of this while observing Maura’s case than Brianna’s.
    I’ve noticed that some of the people involved in the study of Maura’s case have made statements and given theories and won’t budge on them.  Some of which are explainable by human error and lack of available information .( THE TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER FALLACY-  A cluster of events that lead one to believe there is a causal connection when there is none. In layman’s terms as an example….shooting holes in a barn then drawing bulls-eyes around them to signify significance). Theories are fine as a model to work from but don’t confuse theory with fact . The Texas sharpshooter fallacy can lead someone to believe there is something awry when there simply is no causation.  In Brianna’a case the fight she was in and a few other events combined may have caused this effect. Theories are used in round table discussions to purposely attempt to poke holes in them so they can be discounted, not to try to make information necessarily fit into them. We all have a tendency to have selective hearing at times.( SELECTION BIAS-One of the reasons so many people believe in psychics and other charlatans of that type. We are motivated to hear and believe what endorses our beliefs) The theories tend to give way to large amounts of CONJECTURE. Remember that conjecture is an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information. Of course in the cases of Maura and Brianna you’ll hear a lot of theories and conjecture because of the huge unknown portions of the events leading up to and after their disappearances. Very frustrating. Hearing someone stick behind their conjecture when that conjecture is proven untrue or even highly unlikely is extremely frustrating.
    One question I was asked recently and hadn’t heard in a long time was whether we had suspected the police had had any involvement in Brianna’s disappearance. I know this had become a hot topic among the discussions about Maura. We don’t have those suspicions. I guess if there was any comment for me to make pertaining to that subject in Maura’s case it would be this. Making accusations of that nature is a slippery slope. If you’re going to point a finger at police pertaining to such a serious crime even by innuendo you’d better have something very clear and convincing to back it up. It’s not ok to point fingers at anyone and especially not at someone who takes an oath to protect us every day. If I were to do that I’d make sure I had enough information to approach a district attorney with enough confidence that I’d be taken seriously. If you present this information to the public as a serious argument in support of Maura’s disappearance don’t be surprised if there’s backlash . You should absolutely expect to have other opinions and criticism thrown your way. I’ve heard at least 4 people personally support this conjecture. 3 of those people when confronted with the absurdity of their conclusion retaliated with name calling and personal attacks . ( AD HOMINEM- a response to a person’s argument by attacking the person’s character rather than the logic or content of the argument ).
    Every one of us is guilty of thinking in error and our minds wander as we search for answers. We in Brianna’s camp would like everyone to know that we appreciate all the time and thought that you’ve given to our cause and that it’s not only our cause but yours too. We listen to you in hopes that someone can help. Hopefully my ramblings will help you in some way. Keep the comments coming.
    Thanks again and please take the time to look at Bruce’s page for Private Investigations for the Missing.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Community Q&A With Bri's Dad

Community Q&A With Bri's Dad

Last week, I asked the online community if they had any questions for Bruce Maitland, Brianna's Dad. Bruce was kind enough to offer his input to the followers of his daughter's case. The following is a compilation of your questions with his answers in bold. Thank you, Bruce, for your time and thought in your responses. I think they will prove to be productive in clarifying common questions for people following this case.

Did the Black Lantern Inn have surveillance footage?  No.

Can you confirm Brianna did not have a cellphone? She did not have a cell phone.

Did the police look into the phone records at the Black Lantern Inn? Yes and so did I. Nothing was found in them to point to anyone.

Did the Black Lantern Inn have live music when Brianna worked there?  No.

Did Brianna tell anyone what time she would be leaving work, or make plans with anyone that night?  She left the note for Jillian, But according to the Black Lantern owners there was no set quitting time, and no plans with anyone that anyone knows.

Were any windows open in Brianna’s vehicle?  No but the front doors were opened.

How exactly was her ex-boyfriend ruled out? Are you suspicious of him? Numerous interviews and alibis.   I am not suspicious of him.

Do you have top suspects or persons of interest in mind?  Yes there are three people who are persons of interest, but not enough evidence to even justify listing as suspects right now.

What do you believe happened to Brianna? I think she was abducted at the Dutchburn house out of her car.

Do you believe it is more likely whomever was responsible was known to Brianna or a stranger?  I believe it was someone she at least met before that night.

Was there any foreign DNA or fingerprints pulled from Brianna’s vehicle? Yes there was DNA and fingerprints taken from the car.  To my knowledge they have not found a match to anyone yet.

Was Brianna acting differently in the days leading up to her disappearance? NO.

Do you believe she spoke to someone in the parking lot of the shopping center she patronized before leaving for work on 3/19? The person that said she was "warned" has no real credibility based on other things he said that were proven falsehoods. Just someone spreading rumors I believe. The only thing we really know about the shopping center was she separated from her mom and appeared a bit nervous and in a hurry to get back to Jillian's. 

Do you believe she spoke to someone in the parking lot of the Black Lantern Inn after she left work on 3/19? No, as a witness saw her drive off.  It's possible she could have met or talked to someone in that mile between there and Dutchburn house.

What is your opinion on psychics and their role in an investigation? Psychics never can tell you any truly helpful details, only cause pain and are basically frauds.

Is there anything new to report? My investigators are working  on what I think is a lead that has viability,  and I am hoping something real turns up.

Do you still keep in touch with Brianna’s close friends? Not much, its painful for all.  Bri’s friend Katie still runs a web page for Brianna.  I run the family page.

Do you lend credence to Debbie Gorton’s Affidavit? I have not ruled it out, but no one has been able to confirm anything she says.

What was Brianna like as a child? Brianna was a great kid.  Full of life- joy to be around.

How would you like Brianna to be remembered? As a wonderful person who would have been a success at about everything she set her mind to.  She would have made a positive difference in the world as an adult given the chance.

How can we help? Be the kind of person who cares about missing people and seeks justice.  They are so easily forgotten by mainstream people.  Live every day caring about those family, friends and people you haven’t met. They may not be here forever.  Look at your skills and help find these missing.  We need people now who can help raise funds for Private Investigations for the Missing foundation so other out there can be found.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Parking Lot Story

The Parking Lot Story

In my undergraduate and graduate coursework on criminal justice, a recurring theme is the dangers of confirmation bias. It is human nature to attempt to make connections to make sense of something that is senseless or mysterious. I know that is a reason I am interested in cold cases. What’s dangerous about this aspect of human nature is that it can lead to confirmation bias, in which we develop a theory and work backwards to confirm it, placing significance on leads (and worse, speculation) that support our theory, and disregard the rest. As this is in our nature, it is crucial for investigators, professional and amateur alike, to be aware of it every step of the way in efforts to avoid such thinking. After all, it is a gross logical fallacy that stagnates an investigation. Speculation and confirmation bias are the antithesis of objective, fact-focused, critical thinking. It gives us tunnel vision when seeing clearly is what we, and whomever we are trying to help, need most.

The unexplained disappearance of 17-year-old Brianna Maitland is upsetting and unsettling, so much so that it invokes passion in many people, myself included. Brianna was a young woman that many relate to, one with seemingly endless promise. She was beloved by her family, and it is unthinkably unfair that that they are without her. Kellie Maitland, Brianna’s mother, was once quoted as saying, “inside, I am always screaming in pain at not knowing where Brianna is”. Bruce Maitland, Brianna’s father, recently said that he would either see his daughter’s case solved or he would “die trying”. 

We amateur sleuths want to help. We want to connect dots that no one else has done in hopes of making that crucial connection. Some do it because they want to be the smart one, the hero. Those in the online communities and discussion boards have likely come across the type. But I have to believe that most aren’t looking for the glory, and that most sincerely want to see these cases solved, even if their names are never attached to it. Even if they never get the key to the city. In the end, if Brianna gets justice, I am convinced that no one will care who figured it out. All that will matter is that she got justice, for which she and her loved ones are so deserving.

Wanting to connect these dots can lead to premature formulation of a theory based on rumor and speculation rather than fact, and subsequent confirmation bias.

A lead that has surprisingly become a point of contention is the third party story in which Brianna Maitland was reportedly warned not to go to work the day she went missing. When I first heard this story from Private Investigator Greg Overacker, who was very clear that it was just a story, I was amazed with how well it seemed to fit what with what we’ve also heard about that day. Brianna was shopping with her mother, and as they waited in line to check out, Brianna told her mother, “I’ll be right back”, and walked outside. Later, Kellie Maitland saw Brianna waiting for her by the car after Kellie checked out and exited the store. Brianna’s mood had noticeably changed- she was irritable and seemed “shaken”. I felt dots connecting. Could that be “what happened”? If someone threatened her, someone out there had knowledge of a premeditated plan to harm Brianna Maitland during or after work. Evidence suggests that Brianna was harmed shortly after leaving work that night. 

The information fit so well, it almost became fact in my head. I could see others were experiencing the same thing. On Facebook and Websleuths I saw (and still see) comments about her being warned that night, worded as fact. 

I don’t see it that way anymore, and I want to explain why. Not long after Tim Pilleri, Lance Reenstierna and I began covering Brianna’s case on Crawlspace, we became acquainted with Private Investigator Lou Barry, who is excellent at catching a speculative train of thought. The four of us met in person for the first time, for breakfast, after emailing back and forth. Among many things, the parking lot story came up. Lou’s perspective in the discussion changed the way I view the alleged incident and Brianna’s mood change. 

  • The “threat” was unwitnessed. The source of this story is a single third party. The story cannot be corroborated. 

  • Kellie Maitland was not immediately concerned about Brianna’s mood change and did not immediately think something was amiss. She did not pry. She only considered the potential significance the incident after Brianna turned up missing, in hindsight. Hindsight can lead one to make subjective attributions they otherwise would not have made in the moment. 

  • There are several alternative explanations to the mood change besides of an unwitnessed and uncorroborated potential threat toward Brianna. A more simple explanation which jumps out is that Brianna was known to smoke cigarettes. Her mother did not approve, and Brianna did not smoke in her presence. Brianna spent the morning taking her GED exam, going out for breakfast with her mother, and then going shopping with her mother, without interruption. It is more likely than not that Brianna was craving a cigarette and wanted to fit in a smoke before the drive from St. Albans to Sheldon with her mother. It is speculation that Brianna saw anything or anyone in the parking lot, inspiring her to step outside. It is also speculation that something specific happened which caused her mood change. Bruce Maitland had told Lou that like most 17 year old girls, Brianna could be impatient and moody with her mother. Her mom recalled Brianna saying, “I need to get to work, I need to get to work”. Perhaps she was concerned about punching in late. 

I’m not saying it’s impossible that Brianna was threatened that day. I am saying the story has been wrongfully perpetuated as fact and it requires more critical thinking. I remain open-minded to the possibility of such an event, in a mindful effort to not fall into the depths of confirmation bias. I have engaged (regrettably, but as I mentioned above, I am passionate) in back-and-forths on Facebook about the factual basis of this story and the harm of creating false “facts” in this case, which is already so rooted in rumor. Two threads I can think of grew contentious, with the other person remaining insistent that this story is indeed fact. When framed as such, these non-facts get re-reported as fact, muddying the waters for an investigation so worthy of truth, focus, and objectivity. 

We all make mistakes and are prone to logical fallacies when exploring cases like these. How have you fallen into confirmation bias in the past?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Atlantic City

Atlantic City
In 2006, the New Year brought in a new lead in the disappearance of Brianna Maitland.
On the evening of January 17th, a Vermont business owner saw a familiar face at a blackjack table at Caesars Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The young woman’s wavy brown hair was parted in the middle. She was slim with a light complexion and high cheekbones. She wore blue jeans and a dark long-sleeved top. She smiled easily. She would drum her fingers against the table and rest her chin in her hand as she waited between hands. The woman appeared at ease and socialized with others at the table, including her companion, a bald middle-aged Caucasian man. He wore a black jacket with upside-down white eagle wings.

The Vermonter recognized the woman at the blackjack table. He thought he might be looking at Brianna Maitland, who had been missing for nearly two years.

The man did not ask the woman if she was Brianna. He later reported the sighting to law enforcement, who then traveled to the casino to retrieve surveillance footage. Images of the woman playing blackjack were released to the press in March of 2006. To this day, this woman has not been definitively identified.

Brianna’s brother Waylon watched the footage, and within five minutes he opined the Atlantic City woman was not his little sister. Brianna’s grandmother disagreed. Her parents Bruce and Kellie struggled when reviewing the footage, understanding that wishful thinking might bias them. In March of 2006, New Jersey State Police investigator John Donegan was quoted as saying “Mom and Dad are telling me they’re pretty certain it’s her”. However, after media later enhanced the footage and Kellie saw the woman at a certain angle, she knew for sure it was not Brianna.
This lead brought Brianna’s loved ones, and the public, newfound hope. Before, or since, there was no sighting with surveillance footage to analyze. In 2009, Vermont State Police Captain Glenn Hall stated that the casino sighting could not be substantiated, adding that alleged sightings of Brianna have been called in as far as California, Texas, and Las Vegas.
The footage is grainy and at an odd angle. Personally, I see several differences between Brianna and the Atlantic City woman. While their complexions, face shapes, hands, hairline and hairstyles, smiles, and (per her mother) mannerisms are quite similar, and both women smoked cigarettes, the Atlantic City woman appears to have a different mouth, nose, chin, and a slightly heavier build than Brianna. The woman did not sport a nose ring, as Brianna did. In my opinion, she also looks older than 19, Brianna’s age in 2006.

I think it would be good for the investigation for this lead to be definitively ruled out. Many people, including some who knew Brianna well, cannot say for sure whether it’s her. Unfortunately, I am doubtful that this woman will ever be formally identified, given that Atlantic City attracts tourists throughout the Eastern seaboard, and that the sighting was nearly 13 years ago.