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Frantic Search Underway, Officials Looking to Recover a Body

Union Leader Correspondents

October 13. 2012 12:37AM
Flyers like this one are being posted as the search continues for University of New Hampshire sophomore Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, last seen Tuesday night. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

Late Friday night, investigators involved in the search for a missing University of New Hampshire student were part of a swarm of law enforcement officers on Portsmouth's Peirce Island.

As midnight approached, Petty Officer John Matthews of the U.S. Coast Guard station in Portsmouth said the Coast Guard was involved in the search for a body near the island. A police source confirmed the search was linked to the disappearance of 19-year-old Elizabeth 'Lizzi' Marriott.

Earlier in the day, investigators from the state Attorney General's Office, FBI, and Fish and Game joined state and local police in the hunt for Marriott, a sophomore living with family in Chester who planned to visit a friend in Dover after classes at the Durham campus Tuesday, but never showed up.

'We are marshaling all the resources possible to locate this girl,' Associate Attorney General Jane Young said.

Marriott's family has offered a $10,000 reward for information.

'You think of all the nice outcomes and none of them wash to me. She would always come home,' her father, Bob Marriott of Westborough, Mass., said Friday afternoon at the Chester police station.

At 5:30 p.m., Young held a news conference outside the station, saying: 'We haven't ruled anything in or anything out. Our one goal has been to find her and to bring her home to her parents and her brother.'

Marriott's family said the last time anyone had contact with her was Tuesday just before 9 p.m. when she was in class at UNH and sent a text message to a friend in Massachusetts. In the message, Marriott wrote that she was planning to visit a female friend who lives in an apartment on Mill Street in Dover.

She never arrived and did not show up for work Wednesday at the Target store in Greenland.

The friend sent a few text messages and never got a response, prompting her to call Marriott's father late Wednesday night.

He said he wasn't overly worried at first and waited until Thursday morning to call the Chester home where his daughter lived with her aunt and uncle, Tony and Becky Hanna. Marriott commutes to UNH, where she studies marine biology.

Investigators pinged Marriott's cell phone, which indicated a signal around 9:30 p.m. in the Dover area. Another ping indicated that she was somewhere between Dover and Durham around 10:10 p.m., possibly in the area of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, according to another aunt, Becky Tyning of Beverly, Mass.

Tyning arrived at Peirce Island late Friday night as the search for a body went on, but said she had no information.

Holding out hope

Marriott's family and friends said it's unlike her not to come home or keep in contact. She even left handwritten notes of her daily plans at the Chester home.

Her father said he is holding out hope that his daughter ran off for some unknown reason and will return.

'I would be so happy if that was the case. I'd hug her, I'd kiss her, and then tomorrow I'd say, 'What were you doing?' and she would be fine. What's left are things I don't want to think about. I may have to come face to face with them, but I don't want to think about them,' he said.

Investigators are analyzing Marriott's cell phone and other phones that she had communication with before she vanished. They're also trying to obtain surveillance video from a 'number of areas' that may help with the investigation, Young said.

Searchers have not found her compact SUV, a 2001 tan-colored Mazda Tribute with New Hampshire license plate 304-5397.

Marriott is described as 5-foot-5, about 130 pounds, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes.

Street-by-street search

Marriott has been living in Chester for about the last year and a half, her family said. After graduating from high school in Westborough, Mass., in 2011, she attended Manchester Community College and transferred to UNH this school year.

About a dozen friends of the Marriott family were in the area Friday, walking the route Marriott might have taken from Durham to Dover. Along the way they put up flyers with her description and two photos.

Bob Hoitt said he has known the Marriott family for 20 years and is helping lead the search effort.

'She is a level-headed kid,' he said of Marriott.

Hoitt said a meeting was planned in Westborough, Mass., Friday night to organize over 50 volunteers to conduct a street-by-street search for Marriott's vehicle Saturday.

Volunteer Tim Foley of Westborough carried a large, yellow sign asking drivers to honk if they would search for Marriott.

He said the strangest part about her disappearance is that no one has seen her vehicle.

'That is the confusing part for us, that the car has not been found,' Foley said.

Both Foley and Hoitt said the situation is a parent's worst nightmare, and they just want to do whatever they can to help.

Volunteers have started a website and a Facebook page dedicated to the search.

'I think everybody's doing everything they can. What we need is something to break, for the car to show up or something,' Hoitt said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Chester Police Department at 887-2080 or State Police at 271-3636.


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