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Person of interest named in nearly 20 year old murder investigation

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Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-12 15:23:41-04

Alison Thresher, 45, was last seen on the night of May 23, 2000. Nearly 18 years later, Montgomery County Police have announced a person of interest in her disappearance.

Thresher lived in Bethesda and was reported missing after she didn't show up to work for two days. She was scheduled to start her first day of work at the Washington Post on May 24, 2000.

Detectives investigated her disappearance as suspicious and eight months after she was last seen they started investigating the case as a homicide.

For 18 years, detectives have been working on the case.

They now believe Thresher was killed inside her apartment and her body was moved to an unknown location. Her body has still not been found. 

Detectives also believe her car was moved and abandoned by the suspect on Broad Street in Bethesda about a mile from Thresher's home. It also appeared evidence was destroyed at Thresher's apartment by whoever killed her.

Police have named Fernando Asturizaga, 51, as a person of interest in Thresher's murder.

At the time of Thresher's disappearance Asturizaga was a Spanish teacher, soccer coach, after-school care provider, and summer camp employee at the Friends Community School in College Park.

Both of Thresher's children, Hannah and Sam, attended the Friends Community School and Asturizaga was Hannah's Spanish teacher.

In 2010, Hannah Thresher told police that Asturizaga had sexually abused her from 1999 to 2001 when he was a teacher and she was a student. When the abuse began, he was 32 and Hannah was ten years old.

Asturizaga was charged with rape, sexual offenses, and child abuse. In 2012, he was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

At the time of the abuse, Alison Thresher was suspicious her daughter was being abused by Asturizaga and notified the school, her ex-husband, and Asturizaga of her concerns. She wanted there to be no contact between her daughter and the teacher.

At the time of his arrest, Asturizaga refused to speak to investigators about Thresher's disappearance. 

At a press conference Thursday, Hannah Thresher made the following statement:

“I speak to you today in hopes that someone, somewhere, will see this story and remember something, anything, that will help us in the search to find justice for our mother, whose life was taken from her nearly 18 years ago, and whose body has never been located.

In a January New York Times article, Bindu Bansinath wrote that ‘to groom girls, you must erase mothers.’ This is what FA did – he erased our mother so that he could ensure his own freedom, and continued to abuse me, both sexually and emotionally, for yet another year, in addition to the two years that had already passed since the abuse began. She had grown suspicious of him, and knew that our relationship was far from appropriate, which she made known to both him and others. I denied it vehemently, as I had been groomed to do by FA.

Soon after she made her suspicions known, she disappeared. A few months later, when I expressed frustration at his lack of empathy towards my grief over the loss of my mother, FA 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. After 9 or 10 years of reflection I started to question if his words meant something more.

FA took nearly everything from me – 3 years of my life, my youth, my innocence, my happiness and optimism for the future- but like others who have suffered, I am resilient. For my mom, I need the whole truth to come out. Despite the trial that ensued when I came forward about his abuse, and the resulting 100-some years that he was sentenced to spend in prison, there are still questions to be answered.

So, if you have any information that may help in the search for justice for Alison Thresher, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, please contact the police. Just as I did, you may not have noticed it at the time. But now, looking back, it might be more meaningful.

Thank you.”

Detectives urge anyone with information in the murder of Alison Thresher to call 240-773-5070.