Details of Disappearance
Ashley last seen in Cleveland, Ohio on July 9, 2007. She and her great-uncle, Kevin Donathan, got into an argument that day and he broke her cellular phone. She was last seen leaving a pool party at another great-uncle's house in the 2100 block of west 96th Street, near Madison Avenue, later in the day. She said she was going to walk to her aunt's home, less than ten minutes away, but never arrived.
She took all her clothes with her when she left. Two days passed before her family realized she was missing, because her mother thought she was with her grandmother, her grandmother thought she was with Donathan, and Donathan thought she was with her grandmother.
About a month after Ashley's disappearance, someone called her mother at work from a blocked number. The caller said, "It’s me, mom. I’m okay. Don’t worry," and then hung up. Ashley's mother thought the caller sounded like Ashley, but she couldn't be sure. In November of that year, Ashley's step-grandmother believes she saw Ashley from her car on west 44th Street. Ashley had her hair cut short and dyed blonde. She disappeared before her step-grandmother could turn the car around.
Authorities believe Ashley left of her own accord, but she hasn't been seen or heard from since 2007 and it's possible she's being held against her will. There was a theory that her case was connected to the disappearance of two other Cleveland teenagers: Amanda Berry
, age 16, who disappeared in April 2003, and Georgina DeJesus
, age 14, who disappeared in April 2004.
In May 2013, Amanda and Georgina were located safe after Amanda escaped from the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro and called 911. She, Georgina and another woman, Michelle Knight, who disappeared in 2002 at the age of twenty, had been held captive inside the house for the entire time they were missing. Amanda gave birth to Castro's daughter, who was six years old when they were all rescued.
A photo of Castro is posted with this case summary. In July 2013, he pleaded guilty to 937 charges, including multiple counts of kidnapping and rape and five counts of murder: he'd beaten Knight on multiple occasions to intentionally force her to miscarry after she became pregnant. He was sentenced to life in prison plus one thousand years; authorities stated he would never be released. In September, one month into his sentence, Castro hanged himself in his cell. Authorities looked into the possibility that he was involved in Ashley's disappearance, but couldn't find anything that tied him to her or any other missing individuals.
Donathan, the great-uncle Ashley argued with on the day of her disappearance, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2020 after pleading guilty to numerous counts of rape, attempted rape, and gross sexual imposition against multiple minors, crimes which happened over a 25-year period. He hasn't been named as a suspect in his grand-niece's case, although in 2019 the police did search his home in relation to her disappearance.
According to Ashley's family, she started rebelling shortly before her fourteenth birthday. She was secretly dating a sixteen-year-old boy and her mother forbade her from seeing the boy, as she thought Ashley was too young to date. After this, Ashley got a tattoo of her boyfriend's name and repeatedly stole money from her mother, once taking an entire paycheck from her mother's dresser.
Her mother sent her to live with her grandmother in the summer of 2007, and Ashley started spending a lot of time at Donathan's home with her cousins and other relatives. She still spoke to her mother at least every other day. Her mother had given her permission to move in with an aunt, but Ashley disappeared before that happened. In spite of her rebellious behavior, her family stated it was uncharacteristic of her to run away. None of her friends, including her boyfriend, heard from her after went missing.
Her case remains unsolved and is still classified as a runaway.