UPDATE: Person of interest announced in 18-year-old Bethesda cold case found dead in jail

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Fernando Asturizaga in a 2010 photo.

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GAITHERSBURG, MD. — Thursday night, the Department was notified that Fernando Asturizaga, who was serving an over 100-year sentence at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland for the sexual abuse of Alison Thresher’s daughter, Hannah Thresher, had been located unresponsive in his jail cell by a correctional officer at approximately 8:45 p.m. and was pronounced deceased.

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

Alison Thresher, 45, was last seen alive the night of May 23, 2000 and police said they believe she was killed early the next morning at her apartment in Bethesda. They added they believe her body was dumped in a still unknown location by the suspect, who also moved her car about a mile away from Thresher’s apartment.

Police Chief Thomas Manger said new analysis of forensic evidence has led detectives to name Fernando Asturizaga as person of interest in the case, but they are still asking the public to come forward with more information.

“Clearly we don’t have enough to make charges on anybody,” added Manger.

Thresher’s two children said they already suspected Asturizaga because of his past relationship with the family.

“He erased our mother so that he could ensure his own freedom and continue to abuse me both sexually and emotionally,” said Alison Thresher’s daughter Hannah Thresher, 30.

Asturizaga is already serving over 100 years in prison after being convicted of having an illegal sexual relationship with Hannah, around the same time as Thresher’s disappearance. He was her Spanish teacher at the Friends Community School in College Park, Md. and babysat her when she stayed with her father. Police said that between approximately 1999 and 2001, starting when Hannah Thresher was 10, Asturizaga had a sexual relationship with her.

“I strongly denied it when questioned as this man had carefully groomed me to do,” said Hannah Thresher.

Police said Alison Thresher kept a journal about her concerns about the relationship and confronted Asturizaga several times to stop seeing her daughter.

“Soon after she made her suspicions known, my mother disappeared,” said Hannah Thresher. She added that a few months after her mother disappeared, Asturizaga said something she did not think much of at the time, but looking back, thinks it might have been a confession. “He said that, ‘I thought things would be easier now that she’s gone,’ as I was upset about her disappearance and expressing that to him.”

Hannah Thresher would eventually come forward about the abuse in 2010, leading to Asturizaga’s conviction, but police said he has refused to discuss the disappearance of Alison Thresher.

Manger said police want anyone with information about Asturizaga’s activities around the time of the murder, any additional instances of inappropriate behavior by him, his time at Friends Community School, or places he may have frequented to contact detectives.

Anyone with information is asked to call Montgomery County Major Crimes Detectives at 240-773-5070. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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