Crime

Here’s what we know about the disappearance and death of Mary Anderson

“She was a beautiful soul, inside and out... She didn’t deserve this.”

A driveway on South Street in West Brattleboro, Vt., was taped off as officials investigate the police shooting of a person of interest in the death of Mary Anderson, of Harvard, Mass. Kristopher Radder/Brattleboro Reformer

Last weekend, the family of 23-year-old Harvard resident Mary Anderson reported her missing. Anderson’s body was found early Tuesday morning in Brattleboro, Vt. Her ex-boyfriend, 34-year-old Matthew Davis of Fitchburg, was being sought by police for questioning. Law enforcement found Davis in Vermont on Tuesday evening. He was fatally shot in an exchange with police.

Officers are currently looking to speak with anyone that may have seen Anderson, her truck, or Davis from late Saturday night through early Tuesday.  

Here’s what we know so far about the events that led to the deaths of Anderson and Davis. 

Initial disappearance

On Saturday, July 16, Anderson drove to visit a friend in Hudson, N.H. She was last seen alive leaving that residence around 10:30 p.m. that evening. Sheila Anderson, Mary’s mother, told WCVB that their family consistently updates each other on their whereabouts. When friends and family did not hear from Mary that evening, and when Sheila realized her daughter had not returned home Saturday night, she began to worry. 

Sheila told NECN that it wasn’t unusual for Mary to come home late at night, either from working a night shift or from visiting friends. When Sheila heard her dogs barking close to midnight, she would assume it was just Mary coming home. On Sunday morning, another of Sheila’s daughter’s noticed that Mary hadn’t returned the night before. 

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Then, the family found a backpack behind a tree near their house, according to NECN. It appeared to belong to Davis. 

“The next morning is when my daughter Maria said, ‘Mary didn’t come home, mom.’ And then we saw the backpack, Matt’s backpack. We believe it’s Matt’s. My daughter identified it as Matt’s because she had seen it before, and then we went to the police,” Sheila told NECN.

Harvard Police confirmed to WCVB that Davis’ vehicle was found a quarter of a mile away from Anderson’s home after she disappeared. They said he could have parked and walked to the house.

Mary Anderson was reported missing Sunday night. Police sent out requests for help from the public, which included information about the vehicle Anderson was driving, a navy blue Toyota Tacoma truck. 

Her body was found in that same truck on Elliot Street in Brattleboro, just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Vermont State Police said. They said her death appeared suspicious and later posted an update that said officials were looking to speak with Davis, “who may have information relevant to this ongoing investigation.”

A troubled past

Anderson and Davis had been engaged, but she broke off the relationship last November, a friend told The Boston Globe. This didn’t sit well with Davis.

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“He clearly didn’t agree with that decision (to end the relationship). All of us sensed something wasn’t right,” Ali Giannino told the Globe. “None of us saw this coming. There were no signs that he would do anything like this.”

Mary’s mother, Sheila, says Davis had problems with anger. “I know when they broke up it was a rough break up. He didn’t want it and I know that Mary told me that he was texting her to try to get back together,” Sheila Anderson told reporters Tuesday. “I just know that Matt had anger issues and I knew that through Mary.”

But Anderson generally kept information about her relationship with Davis private, her mother added. When Sheila lost another child last year, she hoped Davis would help comfort his fiance. 

“Mary was again very private. Mary kind of took a lot on shoulders,” Sheila Anderson said, according to NECN. “When my son Joseph died in August, she was still with Matt, and I was hoping Matt would have been comforting her, but all along I found out that things were rough. And she kept it all in.”

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Davis had a history of violence. He was arrested in 2009 and served jail time for stabbing the boyfriend of the mother of his two children, according to WCVB. 

He was accused of hiding in that woman’s closet overnight until she arrived with her new boyfriend the following morning, the Berkshire Eagle reported at the time. After the two finished having sex, Davis allegedly leapt from the closet with a large kitchen knife and stabbed the other man numerous times. 

The victim had recently entered into a relationship with Davis’ ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said. He suffered stab wounds to his chest, arms, and legs before being briefly hospitalized. 

“Matt does not like me being with other men,” Davis’ ex-girlfriend said at the time, according to the Eagle

Davis was indicted on charges of armed assault to murder, armed assault and burglary, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and entering at night, according to NECN. He was incarcerated at Northeast Correctional Center in Concord until January 2015, when he was released on parole.

Deadly confrontation

Throughout Tuesday, Vermont and Massachusetts police searched for Davis. They eventually located him in a wooded area between Bonnyvale Road and South Street, southwest of Western Avenue in West Brattleboro, according to Vermont State Police. A VSP detective was canvassing the area when he recognized Davis walking down Western Avenue. Brattleboro Police officers and VSP troopers quickly responded to the area. Massachusetts State Police detectives were also nearby. 

Davis was armed with a knife, according to the VSP release. The exact details of what happened next are not public, but authorities did say that two VSP troopers and a Brattleboro Police officer “fired their weapons in the course of the encounter with Davis.”

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After Davis was shot, police attempted first aid and called for an EMS response. But Davis was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the VSP release. His knife was found near his body. No one else was injured in the exchange. 

Per standard protocol for shootings that involve VSP members, the confrontation and the circumstances surrounding it are under investigation. This is being conducted by members of the VSP Criminal Division, who are assigned from elsewhere in the state to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Officials were still at the scene on Wednesday morning.  

The troopers who fired their weapons will be placed on paid administrative leave for a minimum of five days. This is a standard procedure for incidents where a VSP trooper fires a weapon. After the VSP investigation is complete, the case will be turned over to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and the relevant State’s Attorney’s Office for independent reviews. 

Healing begins

Sheila Anderson said she is glad that officials were able to identify her daughter’s body, and is focused on gaining some sort of closure for herself and her remaining children. 

“My focus is that we found my daughter, and I can be, not at peace, but not on pins and needles everyday, saying, ‘Where is she? Where is she? Where is she?’ Yes it was a very sad outcome, but she’s home,” Sheila told reporters Tuesday. “It’s done for me. It’s not done in the criminal part but for me, as a mom, I don’t have to be wondering anymore. Matt’s not my focus. My two surviving children are my focus right now, to get them past this devastating event.”

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A GoFundMe page was set up for the public to donate to the Anderson family. At the time of publication, it had raised over $12,000 through 150 donations. 

“She was a beautiful soul, inside and out,” Giannino told the Globe. “She didn’t deserve this.”

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