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Abducted woman calls family from trunk of her own car before she dies

Abducted woman calls family from trunk of her own car before she dies
Rita Maze, left, with her daughter, Rochelle Maze, in July 2016. (Lanni Klasner)

From the trunk of her Pontiac, Rita Maze frantically dialed her cellphone.

She had been carjacked around noon Tuesday at a Montana highway rest stop between Great Falls and Helena, and now her abductor was driving her west.

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She made several 911 calls and managed a roughly 10-minute conversation that night with her husband, Bob, and daughter Rochelle.

"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," Rochelle Maze recounted to reporters.

It was the last contact they would have with her.

Sheriff's deputies in Spokane County, Wash., found 47-year-old Rita Maze's body at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday in the trunk of her car, abandoned in an industrial area near Spokane International Airport. She had traveled up to 500 miles, mostly along Interstate 90, and spent as many as 12 hours in the trunk.

An autopsy showed she was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest.

During her phone call, Maze told her husband she was worried the abductor might find the gun, a 9-millimeter Ruger, that she kept in her purse.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Maze's daughter said she sounded dizzy and had no idea of her location, where she was headed or even that she was in her own car. She told her daughter her abductor had hit her in the head.

Her cell signal faded in and out. Still, she managed to reach at least two law enforcement agencies in Helena.

The Spokane County medical examiner said she may have died shortly after making the phone calls.

Authorities also said her credit card was used for two $25 purchases after the abduction — first at 4:15 p.m. at a convenience store in Kingston, Idaho, and then in Ritzville, Wash., about 60 miles southwest of Spokane on I-90, at 9:55 p.m.

A camera at a convenience store captured a photograph of a possible suspect, which officials said they planned to release. Maze had told her family that her abductor was 6-foot-5, maybe black or Native American, and that he was wearing a black hoodie, but she didn't get a good enough look at him to say much more.

By crossing state lines, the carjacker has also drawn the FBI into the investigation.

Rochelle Maze told Spokane's KREM 2 News that her mother was loved and admired in Great Falls, where the family lives and she worked as a cook at an elementary school.

"If anyone ever asked her for anything at all, from money to anything, she would give them the shirt off of her back," Rochelle Maze said.

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The daughter said that she was getting married in May and that she and her mother were planning to shop for a wedding dress Oct. 1.

Anderson is a special correspondent.

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