Police Answer Concerns About Handling of Missing Woman’s Car
State Police issued a statement on Thursday, explaining why a missing woman's car was towed, and why her family wasn't notified.
The family of Annaliese Heinig has expressed concern over the fact that her vehicle was towed from the side of I-295, and that they were never notified of its removal. The black Mercury SUV is registered in her parents' names, but they never received a phone call about the abandoned vehicle.
State Police say the vehicle was found near mile 8, northbound, in the right-hand breakdown lane of I-295 at around 8:30 Tuesday morning, November 26th. State Police Fern Cloutier originally spotted the vehicle on the side of the road and did a quick check of the vehicle and the surrounding area. Finding nothing of concern, the vehicle was left where it sat, to give the owners time to get it started or make arrangements to have it removed. Cloutier spotted the vehicle a couple more times, as he passed by on his patrol, and saw that it still sat on the side of the road. He felt it wasn't a hazard, due to the low traffic volume, and left it where it there.
It was around 1:30 p.m. when a Maine Department of Transportation employee made a complaint to the Augusta Regional Communications Center about the SUV that had now been sitting on the side of the road for several hours. The concern was that, when traffic picked up during rush hour, the vehicle would pose a hazard. An ARCC dispatcher contacted Cloutier and the decision was made to have the SUV towed. Cloutier wasn't in the area, so he had the ARCC contact a wrecker service. A check was run on the vehicle's registration, which turned up no alerts.
State Police policy on abandoned vehicles does encourage contact with the registered owner, but that doesn't always happen when the volume of abandoned vehicles is high. Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland says State Police deal with over 6,000 'aid to motorist' calls annually. In this case, the owners (Heinig's parents) were not notified and the contents of the SUV were not inventoried. The information about the vehicle gets added to a towing log at the regional communications center, in case the owners call to inquire about what happened to their vehicle.
Since the vehicle was found two days before Heinig was reported missing, there was no immediate concern about the safety of the owner. There's still been no sign of Heinig, who is the mother of a teenager and a 5-year-old. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to contact Richmond Police at (207) 737-8518.