HARVARD — When Mary Anderson broke off her engagement with Matthew A. Davis in November, he refused to accept it, a close friend of the young woman recalled.
But those who knew the former couple said they never imagined the breakup could have led to such a tragic end, with Anderson, 23, found dead in her truck on Tuesday and Davis fatally shot in an encounter with police in Brattleboro, Vt., later the same day. Davis, 34, was wanted for questioning in Anderson’s death, which is considered suspicious.
“He clearly didn’t agree with that decision (to end the relationship). All of us sensed something wasn’t right,” Ali Giannino, a friend who considered Anderson a member of her family, said Wednesday. “None of us saw this coming. There were no signs that he would do anything like this.”
Anderson, who lived in Harvard, was last seen alive Saturday in Hudson, N.H., and her family reported her missing on Sunday evening. Her body was found inside her pickup truck, parked on a street in Brattleboro, Vt.
“She was a beautiful soul, inside and out,” said Giannino, 27, who lives in Pepperell. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Davis confronted police with a knife in a wooded area in Brattleboro, police said.
“A detective with the Vermont State Police was conducting a neighborhood canvass when he recognized a person who fit Davis’s description walking on Western Avenue,” Vermont State Police said in a news release. “Two troopers and a Brattleboro police officer fired their weapons in the course of the encounter with Davis, who was armed with a knife.”
Police provided medical attention to Davis but he was pronounced dead. The knife was located near his body, police said.
Vermont State Police are investigating the use of deadly force and the findings will be reviewed by the state’s attorney general and the local county prosecutor, according to state officials. Officials planned to identify the troopers who used deadly force, the first time troopers shot at someone since 2020, according to police records, on Wednesday.
The chief medical examiner’s office will conduct autopsies on the bodies of Anderson and Davis to determine how they died.
Authorities said Wednesday evening that investigators would like to speak with anyone who may have seen Anderson, Davis, or Anderson’s 2017 Toyota Tacoma between Saturday night and Tuesday morning. Anyone with information can call Vermont State Police at 802-722-4600 or provide an anonymous tip at http://vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit.
Davis had a criminal history, records show. In 2009, he snuck into a former girlfriend’s apartment, hid in the closet, and waited until she and her new boyfriend were in bed together, according to court records and reports in The Berkshire Eagle newspaper. He jumped out of the closet and stabbed the new boyfriend with a large kitchen knife in the chest, arms, and legs, records said. The new boyfriend survived the attack.
Davis pleaded guilty in 2010 to assault with intent to kill and breaking and entering, according to court records. He was sentenced to four to nine years in state prison. Davis was paroled in 2015, according to the state Department of Correction, and completed his parole two years later.
More recently, Davis was prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery while living in Leominster in 2019, but the charge was eventually dropped, possibly because law enforcement could not find his alleged victim, records show.
On Facebook, the mother of Davis’s children extended her condolences to Anderson’s family.
“She was a beautiful girl and was always kind to my children,” she wrote. “Despite what anyone might be thinking or have heard, my children are suffering the traumatic loss of their father who loved them and whom they loved back, and there are many unanswered questions — their hearts are confused and broken. There is really no peace in a tragedy like this.”
Giannino said Anderson’s family and friends want the investigation into the circumstances of her death to continue. “We have so many unanswered questions,” said Giannino, who believes Davis kidnapped Anderson.
Giannino said the Anderson family is still grieving the loss of Mary Anderson’s 24-year-old brother, who died last year from a heart attack. A GoFundMe has been established to help the family financially.
Anderson attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School, a Catholic school across the street from her family’s home on Still River Road in Harvard. After graduating from high school, she briefly attended Rivier University, a private Catholic university in Nashua, N.H., Giannino said.
More recently, Anderson worked as a delivery driver for Lazy Mary’s, a popular deli and pizza shop in Ayer, Giannino said. She was very interested in physical fitness and enjoyed working out, she said.
”She loved everything that she did,” Giannino said.
After Anderson went missing, Giannino posted posters of Anderson and images of Davis on Facebook, encouraging people to spread the word about her disappearance. After learning of her death, Giannino wrote on Facebook that she could not fathom “what has unfolded these last few days.”
“I am so lost and confused and mad. Mary, I love you and I am so broken and lost. Yes Matthew Davis has been shot and killed by police, but for me, honestly, this is not justice,” she wrote. “There are so many unanswered questions I have. I have no words. Mary may you rest in the sweetest of peace, not my blood, but my family.”
Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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