BETHESDA, MD (WUSA9) — The same day a man was named a “person of interest” in a Montgomery County cold case, he was found dead in his jail cell, police confirmed.
On Thursday, Montgomery County Police held a news conference formally announcing Fernando Asturizaga as possibly being connected to Alison Thresher’s disappearance and murder in 2000.
Within nine hours of the police announcement, a correctional officer at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md. Found Asturizaga dead in his jail cell. A death investigation is underway.
Asturizaga had been serving an over 100-year sentence for the sexual abuse of Thresher’s young daughter.
Alison Thresher, 45, was last seen by her parents on May 23, 2000. Her sister reported that she was missing and didn't show up to work on May 25, 2000.
Police said Thresher was living in an apartment in Bethesda at the time and left her 12-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son behind.
Over the past 18 years, Montgomery County police found evidence that Thresher's disappearance may have been a murder.
Nearly 18 years after her mother’s murder, Hannah Thresher thinks she knows who killed her: Fernando Asturizaga — the same teacher at the Friends Community School in College Park who sexually molested her for three years.
Hannah now remembers Asturizaga telling her, “I thought things would be easier for us if she were gone.”
Hannah was 13. He was her coach, teacher and babysitter.
Detectives believe Asturizaga murdered Alison Thresher after she became suspicious about his relationship with her daughter and went to the authorities.
After years of digging by cold case detectives, police named him a person of interest Thursday in Alison Thresher’s murder. They’ve never found her body.
TIMELINE OF ALISON THRESHER’S DISAPPEARANCE DEVELOPED BY DETECTIVES:
April 28, 1999: Alison writes a letter to ASTURIZAGA imploring him to not have contact with daughter. (Read contents of letter below)
June 9, 1999: Alison writes a letter to Friends Community School voicing her concerns about ASTURIZAGA having an “inappropriate relationship” with her daughter. (Read contents of letter below)
July 1, 1999: Alison writes a letter to her attorney advising she has heard from other parents who are concerned about ASTURIZAGA’s relationship with their daughters.
January 2000: Alison calls ASTURIZAGA and again voices concerns about his relationship with her daughter Hannah. ASTURIZAGA continues to babysit Hannah while she is in the custody of her father.
February 2000: Alison and ASTURIZAGA become involved in an altercation outside of Alison’s ex-husband’s (Hannah’s father’s) home about ASTURIZAGA continuing to babysit Hannah.
March 18, 2000: From an entry in Alison’s journal; “Mad about my thoughts about F (Fernando). Stress that lines of demarc-he is a teacher. Many people have concerns about male babysitters-teenagers. Sometimes too stimulating for them.” (see journal entry below)
May 23, 2000:
8 p.m. Alison leaves her parents’ home after having dinner there.
10 p.m. Alison speaks with a friend on the phone.
11:51 p.m. Alison sends an email to a friend.
12:17 a.m. Alison sends an email to a friend.
May 24, 2000:
Sometime between 4:00-5:00 a.m. A neighbor of Alison’s hears cries coming from Alison’s apartment.
6:00 a.m. A suspicious male is seen running through the Brookmont neighborhood away from the area where Alison’s car would later be located. The physical description of the subject matches that of ASTURIZAGA.
7:00 a.m. Alison fails to report to work at the Washington Post. It is to be her first day at the job.
10:00 a.m. A resident of the Brookmont neighborhood observes a red Volvo station wagon – Alison’s vehicle – parked on Broad Street. (The resident does not realize the importance of this observation until Alison’s missing person case is made public).
May 25, 2000: Alison is reported missing to the Montgomery County Police Department by her sister. Her vehicle is recovered by officers on Broad Street in Bethesda.