1. News

Abducted Montana woman able to talk to family before death

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — In the hours before her death, a Montana woman was able to tell her family that she had been abducted by a large man in a black hoodie, that she was in the trunk of a moving vehicle and that she loved them, family members said.

Rita Maze of Great Falls spoke with her husband Bob and daughter Rochelle by cellphone Tuesday evening, and they relayed to law enforcement that she said she'd been hit on the head and put in the trunk of her car at a small rest stop north of Helena around noon.

"She was really scared and my dad and I both talked to her on the phone and I had told her that I loved her," Rochelle Maze told KFBB-TV on Wednesday. "She told me she loved me too. And that was pretty much the extent of that. That was the last time I spoke with my mom."

Rochelle told the Great Falls Tribune that her mom "traveled with a gun, and she knew he had her gun, and she was terrified. He kept her in the trunk for 12 hours."

Maze said her mom was hysterical and hard to understand during the 10-minute conversation, which ended when the phone went dead or cell coverage was lost. They were unable to reach her again, Rochelle said.

"She didn't even know if there was more than one kidnapper," Rochelle said

Rita Maze, 47, also reportedly spoke with Montana law enforcement officers. But by the time they used cellphone tower information and Spokane County officers found her car near Spokane International Airport early Wednesday, Maze was dead. Her cause of death has not been released. The FBI is investigating.

Rita Maze had been visiting family in Helena and talked to her husband late Tuesday morning.

Bob Maze reported his wife missing at 8:20 p.m. He was able to talk with her about two hours later, Rochelle said.

Rita Maze was an aide, a crosswalk attendant and a cook at schools in Great Falls. She was the "lunch lady" at Morningside Elementary from 2005 to 2009. She is survived by her husband, her daughter, her son Michael and his two daughters.