SALEM, Mass. -- Police Friday sought a Salem sailor for murder after the weighted-down body of a woman believed killed on his sailboat was snagged by a lobsterman in waters off Marblehead, officials said.
The lobsterman found the body of Martha Brailsford tangled in his fishing lines about 11 a.m. Thursday, police said. Within hours, police obtained a warrant charging Thomas Maimoni, 46, of Salem, with her murder.
'We are actively seeking Mr. Maimoni,' said Steve O'Connell, spokesman for Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke.
Police were tight-lipped about the evidence against the boat owner, who had claimed initially the death was an accident, but the lobsterman, Hooper Goodwin, said the body was weighted down by a scuba weight belt and an anchor-like weight.
'There was a rope, a line around a part of the body, next to a heavy object, an anchor-type object,' Goodwin said.
That changed the case from an accident to a murder investigation, police said.
Brailsford, 37, an interior designer from Salem, was last seen Friday afternoon, boarding the sailboat Counterpoint at the Salem Willows pier. Her husband, Brian Brailsford, called police about 1 a.m. Saturday and reported her missing.
Maimoni acknowledged during initial questioning by police that Brailsford had been on his 28-foot boat. But it was not until a second interview that he told investigators the woman had died while the vessel was sailing off Gloucester, about 20 miles northeast from where the body was found.
Maimoni told police Brailsford had been killed in an accident, but detectives said they could not understand why he failed to radio authorities after the woman supposedly fell overboard, and why he did not contact police immediately after returning to shore.
Police described Maimoni as a 'casual friend' or 'acquaintance' of the dead woman.
A neighbor and friend of Maimoni, Jim Brown, told The Boston Globe Brailsford had gone on board the Counterpoint to help Maimoni prepare his resume. Maimoni worked as an engineer for Parker Bros., the board game company, in Salem, but was recently notified that he would be laid off, Brown said.
Brown said Brailsford hit her head on the boom and fell overboard. Maimoni did not contact authorities because he 'panicked,' his friend said.
The body was positively identified Thursday night.
An autopsy was to be conducted Friday at Tewksbury Hospital.