Mary Anderson, the 23-year-old from Harvard, Massachusetts, who was found dead in Vermont on Tuesday, was described by her "tight-knit" family as a resilient, beautiful young woman who went through a tough break-up and was still mourning the loss of her own brother over the last year.
Sheila Anderson told NBC10 Boston Tuesday night that her daughter was last seen leaving a friend's house in Hudson, New Hampshire, around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. When the Anderson family realized Sunday morning that she had never made it home, they started to worry. They would later learn that Anderson's body was found inside her truck in Brattleboro, Vermont, several days after her disappearance.
"Mary was very strong-headed, athletic, loving, beautiful. She was just a beautiful daughter," Sheila told reporters through tears before an emotional candlelight vigil Tuesday night at a church in Harvard, where Anderson's family was surrounded by dozens of loved ones.
Matthew Davis, Mary Anderson's ex-boyfriend who was wanted for questioning in her disappearance and death, was shot and killed by police Tuesday night in Vermont. Authorities said they wanted to talk to Davis after Vermont State Police found Anderson's body inside her navy blue Toyota Tacoma on Elliot Street in Brattleboro just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
The 34-year-old from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was considered armed and dangerous and a person of interest.
Police said they found Davis just before 8 p.m. walking in West Brattleboro, Vermont. Police said Davis was armed with a knife when he was shot during a confrontation with Vermont State Police and the Brattleboro Police Department. Two Massachusetts State Police detectives were also in the area.
Police performed life-saving measures on Davis following the shooting, but he died from his injuries on scene. An autopsy is expected to be performed Wednesday morning.
Detectives showed up to the Andersons' Harvard home around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Sheila Anderson said the expression on their faces told her it wasn't going to be good news. The detectives told her a body had been found in Vermont matching the description of her daughter. Police spent about five hours searching the home, she said, saying they wouldn't tell her the whole story until they got the whole story, and she had to be patient with that.
Mary Anderson's family had told police they had not had any contact with her, which was unusual. Sheila Anderson told NBC10 Boston that she doesn't know what happened to her daughter, but believes Davis was outside their Harvard home waiting for her to get back on Saturday night.
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"We're a very tight-knit family. Mary would never leave us as a family hanging. We're very respectful of each other," Sheila Anderson said. “My daughter said, 'You know, Mary hasn’t come home, mom,' and Mary always comes home. She sleeps at home, and that was kind of like the first flag. And then we found a backpack behind that Christmas tree.”
"I believe Mary came home from visiting friends in Hudson, New Hampshire, and I believe that Matt was waiting behind the tree when she got home, and the next thing we know, we wake up, I mean this is probably 11:30 at night, we're all sleeping. Mary works night shift. Mary visits friends. It's not unlike her to come home like 11, 11:30. We hear the dogs barking, 'Oh that's Mary coming home.' But nobody suspected that she got here, and I don't know if Mary got here, but she was coming from Hudson visiting friends to return home, and when she got home she was supposed to text the friends, to say... 'I'm home.' Nobody got that text," Sheila Anderson said. "And then 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."
Matthew Davis and Mary Anderson
Sheila Anderson said she didn't know much about Matt Davis, but that he was always welcome in their home until the couple split late last year. She said her daughter told her that Davis had trouble managing his 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 said. "I just know that Matt had anger issues and I knew that through Mary.”
What Sheila Anderson knew about the former couple's relationship was somewhat limited, as her daughter kept a lot of that to herself.
"Mary was again very private. Mary kind of took a lot on shoulders. 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," Sheila Anderson said. "And that's the sad part for me as a mom, to know that whatever she experienced these last four days, just heart wrenching because she was alone. She wasn't with her mom and her... siblings. I mean that's the devastating part, knowing what she was going through the last four days."
Mother mourns loss of a second child
Dozens of community members came together at Saint Benedict Abbey to honor the life of Mary Anderson on the same day she was found dead in Vermont. Her mother was seen hugging attendees after tearfully standing in front of their Harvard home, mourning the loss of her daughter. The horrible news compounds on another tragedy the family experienced just last August.
“Devastating news. Eleven months ago, I lost my son to another tragedy," Sheila Anderson said. "And my two children and I are trying to cope with this.”
Prior to news of Davis's death Tuesday night, Sheila Anderson said her focus was never on Davis as a possible suspect; it was only on her daughter. And now it is on her two surviving children, who have lost their brother and sister in separate tragic incidents within the past year.
"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 Anderson said through tears. "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."
A date and time for a memorial service for Mary Anderson had not been determined as of Tuesday night. Funeral arrangements have also not been planned yet.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the case of Mary Anderson's death as well as the fatal shooting of Davis, which is being conducted by Vermont State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Harvard police, Brattleboro police and prosecutors in Vermont and Massachusetts.
Vermont State Police initially said Davis' name was being withheld pending notification of family, however, Massachusetts State Police and Harvard police both confirmed Davis was the person fatally shot Tuesday night during the confrontation with Vermont State Police and the Brattleboro Police Department. Massachusetts State Police detectives also responded to the Vermont crime scene Tuesday and said they have been in communication with police officers from Harvard.
Davis's body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Burlington for an autopsy to confirm the cause and manner of his death. Investigators remained at the shooting scene early Wednesday morning.
In accordance with standard protocol, the identifies of the officers who fired their weapons will be released a day after the shooting, and the state troopers will be placed on paid administrative leave for a minimum of five days. Once state police complete their investigation, the case will be given to the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the relevant state's attorney's office for them to independently review the police use of deadly force.
Anyone who saw anything suspicious Monday night, particularly in the Elliot Street area in Brattleboro, is asked to call police. Additionally, if anyone has surveillance cameras in the area, they are asked to call Vermont State Police at 802-722-4600, or the Brattleboro Police Department at 802-257-7946.
Additionally, Massachusetts State Police detectives conducted a search in Anderson's hometown of Harvard on Tuesday, which they said was related to her disappearance.
Harvard police said only that the search was taking place on Still River Road and was part of an "ongoing investigation." They referred all further questions to the Worcester District Attorney's Office, which confirmed the search was related to Anderson's disappearance but released no additional information.