By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
Police say they believe they have recovered the remains of a Weathersfield woman who had been missing since July.
The Weathersfield Police Dept. had been leading the investigation into the disappearance of 50-year-old Tonia Bushway.
As part of the investigation, Weathersfield police on Wednesday, Oct. 6 sought help from the State Police Search and Rescue Team and New England K9 to search properties in the area of Bushway’s home on Little Ascutney Road, state police said in a press release.
New England K9 located human remains around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday on a parcel of land next to Bushway’s property, according to state police.
The Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Crime Scene Search Team went to the location and spent the day collecting information.
“Investigation at the scene indicates that the remains are those of Bushway,” police said in the statement Wednesday night.
The remains were brought to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death and confirm the decedent’s identity.
Those autopsy results were still pending on Thursday, according to Vermont State Police Capt. Scott Dunlap, head of the state police Major Crime Unit.
“We have to rule out any foul play, and that’s what we’re trying to rule out now,” Dunlap said. “The autopsy will tell us more.”
Dunlap described the location of the remains as being in a wooded area and behind a large rock, about 50 to 75 yards from Bushway’s residence.
According to the release, Weathersfield police received a report July 13 that Bushway was missing, with her family telling authorities that a friend of hers told them she was last seen at her residence on July 2.
“Tonia has not been seen or heard from since,” Weathersfield police said in a press release this summer. “Tonia was believed to be walking to Springfield when she was unable to get a ride.”
Dunlap and state police spokesperson Adam Silverman on Thursday referred questions about why the search teams and dogs hadn’t been called in earlier in the investigation to the Weathersfield police.
Weathersfield Police Chief William Daniels did not respond to an email asking the same question. Through a dispatcher, he referred questions about the case back to Vermont State Police, who are now heading the probe into Bushway’s death.
Silverman said state police “cannot speak to what [Weathersfield police] did — their investigative efforts, their investigative steps prior to VSP taking the case.” State police would not object to Weathersfield police commenting on those efforts, he said.
A GoFundMe page set up this summer attempted to raise $2,500 “to offer a reward to help get her home.”
“When family realized she was missing they went to her home and there were squatters living there,” the authors of the GoFundMe page wrote at the time. “Her home was ransacked and the property was trashed. After the family & police showed up at the house, they all scattered leaving a mess that needs to be cleaned up.”
Toshia Emery, Bushway’s daughter, told WCAX-TV in a story that ran earlier this week that she didn’t believe police were doing enough to try to find her mother.
“The police did not put an official missing person post online for people to see and be aware of until July 23rd,” Emery told WCAX. “People were not immediately questioned and not seized and searched.”
Emery could not be reached Thursday for comment.