Montgomery County

Babysitter Named Person of Interest in Woman's 2000 Death

Police say the man convicted of sexually abusing Alison Thresher's daughter has been named a person of interest in the woman's death

A man convicted of sexually abusing a young girl nearly 20 years ago has been named a person of interest in her mother's disappearance and death. 

Montgomery County police identified Fernando Asturizaga, now 51, as a person of interest in the death of Alison Thresher Thursday.

Thresher, 45, disappeared from her Bethesda apartment in the 4500 block of Sangamore Lane in May 2000. The Washington Post copy editor's car was found the next day, about a mile away near the C & O Canal trail. 

Her body was never found. 

In 1999, Thresher was in the middle of a contentious divorce and was concerned about grooming behavior Asturizaga was exhibiting toward her daughter, Hannah Thresher, police said Thursday. Asturizaga was her daughter's Spanish teacher, and Alison Thresher's ex-husband employed him as a babysitter for their children. 

Alison Thresher wrote letters to Asturizaga, her daughter's school and her attorney voicing her concern about the "inappropriate relationship" between Asturizaga and her daughter, police say.

Despite her concerns, Asturizaga was still allowed to babysit her children when they were in her ex-husband's custody. 

In February 2000, Alison Thresher got into an altercation with Asturizaga outside her ex-husband's home about his continued contact with Hannah Thresher, police say. 

Alison Thresher was last seen May 23, 2000, after having dinner with her parents.

She was scheduled to start a new job with The Washington Post the next day, but early that morning, a neighbor reported hearing cries coming from her apartment.

A short time later, a man was seen running through the neighborhood where her car would later be found.

"A few months later, when I expressed frustration at his lack of empathy towards my grief over the loss of my mother, FA [Fernando Asturizaga] said to me: 'I thought things would be easier for us now that she’s gone,'" Hannah Thresher said during a news conference Thursday.

In 2010, Hannah Thresher told police about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of Asturizaga from 1999 until 2001. When the abuse began, Asturizaga was 32 years old; Hannah Thresher was 10.

Asturizaga was convicted on multiple counts of child abuse and rape and was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison in 2012. 

He refused to talk to police about Alison Thresher's disappearance after his arrest.

"That man was by definition a sociopath. He was almost a professional at infiltrating groups of people, schools, especially anywhere with a child," Alison Thatcher's son Sam Thresher said at the Thursday news conference.

Sam Thresher, now 28, said said he has a service dog because of the trauma he experienced after his mother's death.

The lead detective in Hannah Thresher's case was later transferred to the cold case unit and asked to reopen the investigation into Alison Thresher's death in 2016. 

Based on recent DNA analysis, police now believe Alison Thresher was murdered inside her apartment and that her body was taken to an unknown location. Police say the suspect tried to destroy evidence at the scene. 

Anyone with information about Alison Thresher's death is asked to call police at 240-773-5070. Detectives are also asking that anyone who may have been victimized by Asturizaga call police. 

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