Man named as POI in murder of Alison Thresher found dead in jail cell

Left: Fernando Asturizaga. (Photo, Montgomery County Police). Right: Hannah and Alison Thresher. (Family Photo)

Police said the 51-year-old man named as a person of interest in the murder of Alison Thresher nearly 20 years ago was found dead in his jail cell.

Montgomery County Police said they were informed that Fernando Asturizaga was found unresponsive in his cell by a correctional officer on Thursday night.

Authorities said a death investigation is being conducted by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Internal Investigative Division.

Asturizaga was serving a 100-year sentence at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.

At a news conference Thursday, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger named Fernando Asturizaga, as the person of interest.

At the time of the sexual abuse, Asturizaga was a Spanish teacher, soccer coach, after-school care provider and summer camp employee at the Friends Community School in College Park, police said.

On May 23, 2000, Thresher had dinner with her parents and celebrated the beginning of a new job at the Washington Post the next morning. But she never showed up for work and hasn’t been seen since, police said.

Although Thresher’s body has never been found, detectives now believe that she was murdered inside her apartment on Sangamore Road in Bethesda and her body was taken away. Her car was later discovered about a mile from her home.

Forensic analysis of evidence from Thresher’s apartment indicate that someone attempted to destroy evidence, police said.

RELATED (2012): Alison Thresher disappears: New evidence in child sexual abuse may be break

Before she disappeared, Thresher had become suspicious that Asturizaga had developed an inappropriate relationship with her daughter. For more than a year, she expressed her concerns to the school, her ex-husband, James Thresher, and Asturizaga, asking that there be no more contact between Asturizaga and her daughter, police said.

Asturizaga continued to babysit Alison Thresher’s daughter and son when they were at James Thresher’s home, according to evidence presented by police.

Hannah Thresher and Sam Thresher, Alison's daughter and son, both spoke at the news conference.

Police released some journal entries by Alison Thresher and letters she wrote to Asturizaga and to the Friends Community School, trying to end all contact between Asturizaga and her daughter.

In a letter to the school in June 1999, Thresher wrote, “I find it amazing and reckless that you, Friends Community School Board members and Fernando Asturizaga would side with James Thresher in a court battle in which he seeks to take Hannah and Sam Thresher away from their mother. That you and the school and the school board would forgive Mr. Thresher’s longstanding past debt is evidence that you and the board have taken sides in what is becoming an ever more public battle.”

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