Police: Remains of Weathersfield woman, missing since July, found near her home

  • Tonia Bushway's home at 513 Little Ascutney Road in Weathersfield, Vt., on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Valley News - John P. Gregg) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tonia Bushway (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/7/2021 8:29:35 AM
Modified: 10/7/2021 6:19:37 PM

WEATHERSFIELD — Vermont State Police are investigating after finding what are believed to be the remains of a 50-year-old Weathersfield woman who has been missing since early July.

The human remains were found Wednesday morning by a K-9 search team on a neighbor’s property near Tonia Bushway’s rural home at 513 Little Ascutney Road, Vermont State Police said in a news release.

State police spokesman Adam Silverman said the remains were found “not on her property, but it was within a literal stone’s throw from her own property, even her own house.”

“Investigation at the scene indicates that the remains are those of Bushway,” the news release said. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington will conduct an autopsy, but the condition of the remains may complicate efforts to confirm her identity and determine the cause of death, Silverman indicated.

“There may be some DNA testing. It’s a more complicated process because of the nature of the remains,” he said.

Weathersfield police began investigating Bushway’s disappearance after being told in mid-July that she had last been seen at her home on July 2.

Weathersfield Police Chief William Daniels said Thursday that the search on Wednesday was the first near Bushway’s home with canines. The Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team and New England K9 Search and Rescue, which helps law enforcement agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont search for missing people, took part in the search and started there since that was where she was last seen.

“It was a starting point to see if we could find anything in or around her home,” Daniels said.

After the remains were found, the state police crime scene investigators were called in and were at the scene investigating into Wednesday night. Asked if the death was considered suspicious, Silverman said, “It’s too early to tell right now, but we have to start out treating it like it is, in case it is.”

Toshia Emery, one of Bushway’s two daughters, told WCAX-TV earlier this week that her mother had a substance use disorder and that several people had been living at the home when her mother was last seen, and expressed frustration that more wasn’t being done in the search for her mother.

Daniels confirmed that “there are people who were living there that were not their family,” but referred other questions about the case to Vermont State Police.

Bushway and her two daughters dealt with a disaster in November 2008 when a fire heavily damaged what was then her two-story home at the site, where she had lived at the time for 10 years. She said she did not have insurance and was a single mother who had been taking care of a bedridden parent in Ascutney for the previous three years, according to a Valley News story on the fire.

One neighbor who lives on Little Ascutney Road declined to comment on Thursday and another said he knew little about her. Bushway’s house, now a mobile home, had a boarded-up front door, and signs reading “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” had been posted recently.

Family members could not be reached on Thursday, but Bushway’s two sisters both posted photos of her on their Facebook pages. And one of them, Wanda Nickerson, encouraged friends to attend a candlelight vigil Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Springfield, Vt., Shopping Plaza for her sister, writing, “Please join us during this time. We need to bring awareness to how missing person cases in Vt are handled.”

Weathersfield resident Will Hunter, a former state senator who has helped several people in need in the Upper Valley, said he got to know Bushway after the fire 13 years ago.

“She was very appreciative of the help she was getting from friends and neighbors. She was a nice person to work with. She wasn’t full of resentment about this obviously bad thing that had happened in her life,” Hunter said.

Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact Detective Trooper Zachary Gauthier at the Westminster Barracks at 802-722-4600, or submit a tip via http://vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit.

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.

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