GAITHERSBURG, Md. - A former teacher, who is serving more than 100 years in prison for the rape and abuse of the daughter of a woman who vanished nearly two decades ago, has now been named a person of interest in the woman's disappearance.
Montgomery County police announced Thursday afternoon that Fernando Asturizaga had been named a person of interest in the 18-year-old cold case of Alison Thresher. Asturizaga, who taught at Thresher’s daughter’s school, began working as a babysitter for both parents following their separation in 1997. Thresher, who lived in Bethesda and was set to begin a job at the Washington Post, was reported missing on May 25, 2000.
At Thursday’s press conference, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said that prior to her disappearance, Thresher told Asturizaga, her estranged husband, and her daughter’s school that she did not want Asturizaga to have contact with her daughter any longer.
"Soon after she made her suspicion known, my mother disappeared," Hannah Thresher said on Thursday. "A few months later, when I expressed my frustrations with his lack of sympathy over the grief of the loss of my mother, Mr. Asturizaga said to me, 'I thought things would be easier for us now that she's gone.' At the time I didn't think anything of it but after nine of 10 years of reflection I started to question if his words meant something more."
In 2010, nearly a decade after Thresher disappeared, her daughter came forward to police with allegations of abuse against Asturizaga. Thresher’s daughter told police that Asturizaga had raped her repeatedly over a three-year period beginning in 1999 when she was 10 years old. In 2012, Asturizaga was sentenced to more than 128 years in prison.
At the press conference on Thursday, Manger said investigators believe Thresher was killed in her apartment and her body taken to an unknown location. Following Asturizaga’s sentence in 2012, Thresher’s case was reopened.
"Based on forensic analysis, we now believe the suspect attempted to destroy evidence at the time that the crime was committed inside her apartment," Manger explained.
Law enforcement sources told FOX 5 that no one has been eliminated as a suspect in Thresher's case. FOX 5 attempted to talk to Thresher's ex-husband James about the announcement made on Thursday, but he declined to comment.