In 2000, Alison Thresher disappeared from her apartment, never to be seen alive again. Now, new evidence led to Fernando Asturizaga, the man convicted of raping Thresher’s daughter, being named as a person of interest in her murder. Unfortunately, he may never be brought to justice.
This is the breaking story of Thresher’s disappearance, and why Asturizaga is now being considered a person of interest, as well as details into Asturizaga’s death.
The Beginnings of a Tragedy
The heart of the story actually begins a year before Thresher disappeared in Montgomery County, Maryland. She and her husband, James, were in the midst of a divorce. They began to live separately, and shared custody of their son, Sam and daughter, Hannah.
Enter 32-year-old Fernando Asturizaga. He was a teacher at the Friends Community School in College Park where both of the Thresher children attended. James Thresher soon hired Asurizaga as an occasional babysitter.
Very quickly, Alison felt there was something not right about how Asturizaga treated her daughter. She wrote to Asturizaga on April 28, 1999. The letter asked him to break off all contact with her daughter. When he did not comply, Alison followed it with a letter to Friends Community School in June, expressing her concerns in regards to Asturizaga.
She also wrote to her lawyer in July, also concerning Asturizaga. This time, she also included a note about how other parents were also concerned with his behavior towards their daughters.
Arguments and a Disappearance
Despite the various letters sent and discussions had, by 2000, Asturizaga was still very much in the picture as a babysitter. Allison escalated her grievances quickly. Sometime in January 2000, she called Asturizaga to tell him to leave her daughter alone. This was followed by an altercation between the two outside of James Thresher’s home in February.
On May 23, 2000. Alison had dinner with her parents, and headed back to her apartment. At 10:00 p.m., she called a friend. A little while later, at approximately 11:51 p.m., she emailed a friend, and then another at 12:17 a.m. After that, she was never heard from again.
The next day, on May 24, 2000, Alison did not show up for her job at The Washington Post. The day after that, her sister reported her missing. Police began to search for her and quickly found her car abandoned on Broad Street in Bethesda, Maryland. The case quickly went cold. In February 2001, Alison’s case changed from that of a missing person case to a homicide.
Hannah Thresher Stands up for Herself
Alison was right about Fernando Asturizaga. Beginning in 1999, he began grooming and sexually assaulting then 10-year-old Hannah Thresher. He continued the abuse until 2001, a year after Hannah’s mother disappeared. If anyone asked, she would deny that anything happened. It was a secret Hannah kept to herself until 2010.
In 2010, she came forward to police with her story of how Asturizaga sexually and emotionally abused her over a three-year period. Her story led to the arrest of Asturizaga. He was eventually charged with four counts of sex offenses and child abuse offenses.
For Asturizaga, this was enough to finally put him away. He was previously arrested for an unrelated crime in Prince George’s County in 2003, but a jury found him not guilty. This time, Asturizaga was going to prison. He was sentenced to 128 years behind bars. In the meantime, something Asturizaga said to Hannah, along with advancements in science, re-opened the case of her mother.
An Odd Turn of Phrase
While Asturizaga was thought of as a potential suspect, it took Hannah Thresher’s memory, new clues, and science to officially name him as such.
Police revealed that they are certain Alison Thresher was murdered. Since the time of her disappearance, neighbors of Alison’s came forward saying that they heard a woman’s screams at approximately 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. from the area of Alison’s apartment.
Witnesses claim to have seen a man that matched Asturizaga’s description running from the general location of where Alison’s car was discovered. This person was seen at 6:00 a.m. on May 24, 2000.
New police forensics discovered that not only was there blood found in Alison’s apartment, but someone tried to dispose of the evidence, and cleaned up the scene.
Finally, Hannah remembered something about the period after her mother disappeared. Asturizaga was non-emotional about Alison going missing, and wasn’t very comforting to the young girl about it.
However, Hannah remembered something Asturizaga told her. In a press conference, she alleged that Asturizaga said: “I thought things would be easier for us now that she’s gone.”
Cold Case Update: Detectives Investigating the 2000 Disappearance of Alison Thresher as Homicide; Name Person of In… https://t.co/yDmoCQ2oz5
— Montgomery Co Police (@mcpnews) April 12, 2018
Asturizaga Is Dead, But There Is Still Hope to Find Answers
Unfortunately, we may never truly know what happened to Allison Thresher. Hours after the police press conference announcing Fernando Asturizaga as a suspect, he was found dead in his cell.
Very few details have been released. But at approximately 8:45 p.m. on April 12, a Western Correctional Institution guard discovered Asturizaga unresponsive in his cell. Officials were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. There is now an ongoing investigation into his death.
While the death of Asturizaga may hamper the reinvigorated investigation into Alison Thresher’s disappearance, her children and police still hope someone may come forward with any knowledge that can help close this case once and for all.
If you have any information about the murder of Alison Thresher, you are asked to call the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Unit at 240-773-5070. Anonymous tips may be called into Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).