WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. — The Vermont State Police is investigating the discovery of human remains that are believed to be those of Weathersfield resident Tonia Bushway, 50, who has been reported missing since July.
A K-9 search team found the remains Wednesday around 9:45 a.m. on a parcel of land adjacent to Bushway’s property on Little Ascutney Road. The Weathersfield Police Department, which was leading the search for Bushway, had requested the assistance of the Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team and New England Canine, a police-services company based in New Hampshire, to search the properties in the area of Bushway’s home.
According to a state news release, the investigation, led by the Vermont State Police, “indicates that the remains are those of Bushway.” The remains were sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy to confirm the identity and determine the cause and manner of death.
Bushway was reported as last seen on July 2. A missing persons report was filed with the Weathersfield Police Department on Tuesday, July 13.
Many residents in the region of Windsor County, Vermont, learned of Bushway’s disappearance through social media posts on Facebook. Lou Morse, a friend of Bushway, launched a Facebook page called ”#Where is Tonia Bushway” on Friday, July 30, to raise community awareness pertaining to Bushway’s disappearance and possible whereabouts.
“She had no car, no phone, and little finances to travel or afford to be away from home,” according to a statement posted on the page. “It is unusual for her to be away from home and to not contact family. She is known to walk to town if she can’t get a ride.”
Family members concerned about Bushway’s whereabouts reportedly found strangers in the house, including one person living in a camper in Bushway’s yard, which raised additional concerns about Bushway’s wellbeing and safety, the statement also said.
The Facebook page had 267 members and postings were frequently shared on area Facebook pages such as “Happenings In and Around Springfield Vermont,” a community page with more than 5,300 members.
Morse’s page also held two fundraisers, raising a total of $550. One fundraiser sought to raise up to $2,500 to offer as a reward for information leading to the finding of Bushay. A second fundraiser sought to help Bushway’s family cover the expenses to the cleanup and repair damages to Bushway’s property.
A candlelight vigil for Bushway remains scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10.
The vigil was originally scheduled prior to Wednesday’s press release. But Morse said on Thursday that she wishes to proceed with the vigil to raise a broader awareness about the seeming disparity of media and investigative attention between different missing persons cases.
A recent example of this disparity is the media and investigative response to the disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, who went missing between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30 during a trip with her boyfriend, Christopher Laundrie. Petitio’s disappearance became a nationwide news story well before the discovery of her body on Sept. 13.
Bushway, in contrast, was reported missing nearly three months ago and received relatively little news coverage locally during that time.
For updated information about the candlelight vigil, visit the Facebook page, “#Where Is Tonia Bushway?”
The Vermont State Police is also asking anyone with information pertaining to Bushway to contact Detective Trooper Zachary Gauthier at the Westminster Barracks at 802-722-4600. Tips also may be submitted online anonymously at vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit.