Details of Disappearance
Blackburn-Wiles was last seen in Belleview, Florida at 1:00 a.m. on April 21, 2007. She and her sister went to some bars that day. Billy Joe Ashton Sr., Blackburn-Wiles's boyfriend, followed them. Blackburn-Wiles asked her sister to pull over, and got into the 1995 Chrysler New Yorker Ashton was driving. Photographs of the vehicle are posted with this case summary.
Ashton later claimed they had an argument and he dropped her off around the corner from where her estranged husband lived. Her husband denied having seen her, however. Blackburn-Wiles has never been heard from again.
Her family initially thought she had gone to Texas. She was reported missing in early May, after she failed to get in touch with her daughter on the girl's sixteenth birthday. Blackburn-Wiles has a drinking problem, but it's uncharacteristic of her not to contact her child.
On July 24, the vehicle Blackburn-Wiles was last seen in was found at Wildcat Lake in Lake County, Florida, near the home of one of Ashton's relatives. Her blood was in the trunk. A witness told police that Ashton burned some items from the trunk of the Chrysler. Investigators went to the spot of the fire and dug it up, and found some fragments of clothing, including buttons from a pair of Faded Glory jeans. Blackburn-Wiles often wore that brand.
Ashton was incarcerated shortly after Blackburn-Wiles's disappearance. Some of her missing persons posters were displayed in the jail and he tore them down. He reportedly told an informant at the jail that he had elbowed Blackburn-Wiles in the face and knocked her out, and he wiped up her blood with a towel which he put in the trunk, and this was how the blood had gotten there. He also stated he had "gotten rid" of her.
A photo of Ashton is posted with this case summary. He has a history of violent behavior and served six years in prison for kidnapping and assaulting another girlfriend in 1998. In June 2010, he was sentenced to thirty years in prison for possession of a firearm by a habitual offender. Less than 24 hours later, he was charged with second-degree murder in Blackburn-Wiles's case.
Authorities stated the evidence against him was largely circumstantial and included tips from informants, DNA analysis and witness statements. However, in February 2013, the case against him was dropped due to insufficient proof. Charges may be refiled against Ashton if more evidence surfaces. He is still incarcerated for the weapons offense.
Foul play is suspected in Blackburn-Wiles's case due to the circumstances involved.