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DNA twist to woman's desert disappearance

  • Story Highlights
  • Maureen Fields of southern Nevada was 41 when she went missing in 2006
  • Her abandoned car, with keys, purse and pill bottles, was found off a desert highway
  • Presumed dead, there's been no sign of her body and no evidence pointing to a killer
  • Unknown male's DNA, however, was recently discovered and may hold new clues
By Philip Rosenbaum
Nancy Grace Producer
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Off a desert highway, about 15 miles from her home in the southern tip of Nevada, the mystery of Maureen Fields' disappearance began with the discovery of her abandoned car.

Fields' abandoned car was found off a desert highway in California on February 16, 2006.

The body of Maureen Fields, seen here in June 2005, hasn't been found since she went missing in 2006.

Investigators found the 41-year-old woman's 2004 green Hyundai just across the California border on February 16, 2006. It was one day after her husband, Paul Fields, said he last saw her.

Investigators say they discovered Fields' purse and wallet, the keys in the ignition and a fully reclined driver's seat.

There were slippers and eyeglasses beneath the gas pedal, religious pamphlets, a knotted pair of pantyhose as well as three bottles of prescription tranquilizers and pain killers. Video Watch an update on the case »

A small spot of her blood and vomit stained a blanket strewn across the ground beside the car. But Fields, who'd been working as a Wells Fargo bank teller in the small town of Pahrump, Nevada, has never been found.

"Just looking at the circumstances, it could appear staged" by whoever was responsible for her disappearance, said Detective Dave Boruchowitz, an investigator with the Nye County, Nevada, Sheriff's Office.

Reported inconsistencies in her 60-year-old husband's story, police said, paired with the fact that the couple was described as having a stormy relationship, made Paul Fields the initial suspect.

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A lack of physical evidence, however, has made the case unprosecutable, said Detective Joe Close, also with the Nye County Sheriff's Office.

Paul Fields, who runs an auto business out of the double-wide trailer he and his wife shared, maintains his innocence. He's speculated that she faked her death before running off with another man. A message left at his home was not returned.

But his attorney, Harold Kuehn, said, "His contention is and my belief is that if she's truly dead, and the court says she is for civil purposes, then he didn't do it. ... What he told police is what he told me. Basically she left one day, never to be seen again."

In a new twist, Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett says an unknown male's DNA was found on key items at the scene of the abandoned car.

"What we have to explore is the possibility of another suspect," Beckett said. "We have to find out who this male was and whose DNA was found at the scene. It's a lot more complicated than one may think it is."

The prosecutor said he's sure a jury would have reasonable doubt if presented a case with this question mark looming.

"We have a duty to make sure we're doing the right thing," he said. "There are too many unanswered questions at this time."

Maureen Fields has been declared dead, and the search for her body, and her killer, continues.

Her father, Jim Fitzgerald, has been doing some investigating of his own. The former detective with the Newark, New Jersey, Police Department -- and now a national director with the conservative John Birch Society -- has made repeated trips from his Randolph Township, New Jersey, home to speak with his daughter's former friends and co-workers. He's also consulted with a psychic in his search for clues.

No matter when her body is found, a serial numbered metal jaw implant -- which served to combat Fields' teeth grinding habit -- will stand as proof of her identity, Fitzgerald said.

Since murder carries no statute of limitations, time is on the law's side.


"The case isn't dead to us," said Boruchowitz, one of the detectives still on the investigation. "We're going to continue to work it until we prove who did it."

Anyone with information about this case should call the Nye County Sheriff's Office at 775-751-7000.

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