Montana woman found dead contacted her family one last time

Family remembers woman killed randomly

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -- The daughter of a woman found dead in a car near the Spokane Airport spoke out Wednesday about her mother.

The Lewis and Clark Sheriff's Office in Helena, Montana, confirmed to KREM 2 News on Wednesday that Rita Maze, 47, was found dead in the car and she was abducted at a rest stop. Officials said Maze, of Great Falls, Montana, was abducted near Wolf Creek as she was driving from Helena to Great Falls.

Officials said Maze had been in Helena to visit family and was on her way home to Great Falls when she stopped at the rest area.

"She went to see her mom. She’s elderly and failing, so she was in Helena to see her," said Rita's cousin, Leann Kaufam. 

Kaufam said the drive from Helena to Great Falls is one Maze had done hundreds of times. 

"He grew up in Helena, she's been there her whole life. Helena and Great Falls are the only places she's lived, so if anybody knew the road, she did and she'd made that trip all the time ," she explained. 

Authorities said Maze contacted her husband with a cell phone but was unable to give specifics on her location or abduction. Officials said Maze told them she had been hit over the head at a rest stop on Interstate 15 and taken late Tuesday morning. Maze’s daughter, Rochelle, said she was there when her father took that phone call.

“She was talking to my Dad and had told him help me, help me, she was in the trunk of her car, she thinks she was hit with something or by someone, she didn’t really see,” Rochelle explained.

Rochelle said her mother described the man as being large, of maybe African American or Native American descent, was about 6’5” tall and was wearing a black hoodie.

“I told her that I loved her and my Dad told her that he loved her and she said that she loved us and then the phone shut off,” she said. 

This was the last time Rita would ever speak to her family. Maze's family said the phone call from her came in around 10:25 p.m. and her credit card statement shows the card was used in Ritzville at 9:55 p.m. but Maze was found near the Spokane Airport after midnight. Law enforcement said they are working to make sense of the timeline of events. 

Rochelle said police are working hard to find the person who did this to her mother. Authorities told KREM 2 they plan to release a photo of a "person of interest" later Wednesday. They believe this was a random attack. 

“They’re interviewing family members in Helena, I know they’re exhausting every potential lead that they can,” Rochelle said. “I feel that this is a random, evil act upon my mother for whatever reason and that I just hope that they find whoever did this to her.”

Rochelle said her mother was a happy person and was smiling all of the time. She said she would do anything to help another person.

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“If anyone ever, doesn’t matter if she knew you, or if you were someone close to her. If anyone ever asked her for anything at all from money to anything she would give them the shirt off of her back,” Rochelle explained.

Rochelle is getting married in May and the two were going to go dress shopping together on October 1.

“She was an amazing wife, an amazing mom, to myself and my brother, Michael, and just an amazing grandma. She loved her grandkids a lot,” she explained.

Rita’s birthday was coming up on September 11 and she had been married to her husband for more than 20 years.

“My mom is loved by her family and all of our friends, all of her friends, that this is a tragedy for the Great Falls community and every single one that has ever met her. She has touched everyone’s lives in some way or another,” Rochelle said.

Family members are heart broken from the loss of Rita and hope police find the person responsible for her death. 

"I just hope they find him, I don’t know, there’s not a punishment that’s going to give her back to us, there’s not a punishment that’s going to bring her back," said Kaufam. 

KREM


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