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Kidnapped Montana woman calls family before her death

Rita Maze (L) with her daughter Rochelle Image copyright Courtesy Rochelle Maze
Image caption Rita Maze (L) also spoke to her daughter Rochelle (R) on the phone

A woman who was abducted in Montana spoke to her family by telephone several times before she was fatally shot.

Rita Maze, 47, called her husband from the boot of her stolen car after being kidnapped from a highway rest stop.

She spoke with her family and police for about 10 minutes, but did not know where she was, the local sheriff said.

Her body was found 325 miles (523km) away near Spokane airport on the Washington state border.

The local medical examiner's office said Mrs Maze was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said Mrs Maze had called her husband using a mobile phone on Tuesday.

She said she had been hit on the head near Wolf Creek, north of Helena.

Her husband reported her as missing, and remained in contact with his wife.

Rochelle Maze, the victim's daughter, told the Great Falls Tribune that her mother was hysterical and difficult to understand when they spoke.

"I told her that I loved her," Rochelle Maze said. "That's the last thing she heard."

The daughter said her mother was terrified because she knew her abductor - whom she described as a large man in a black hoodie - had access to the gun she kept in her purse for protection.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Local media said police had searched two rest stops along Interstate 15 for clues

The intermittent phone signal was cut off after about 10 minutes.

Sheriff Dutton said a police officer had spoken to Mrs Maze before her death.

Her body was discovered early on Wednesday, after police used her phone's signal to help track the vehicle.

Her licence plate was also captured on camera near Post Falls in the state of Idaho.

Police said a "person of interest" had been indentified in the investigation, and surveillance video was also being looked at.

The FBI is also involved in the investigation, because the death involved travel across a number of US states.

Mrs Maze had worked as a traffic attendant and head cook for the Great Falls Public Schools.

Bill Salonen, a former school principal, described her as having "a positive presence" and being great with kids.

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