Ward Weaver: Like Father, Like Son
Wednesday, January 9, 2002, started off as a typically cold and rainy Pacific Northwest winter morning, as 12-year-old Ashley Marie Pond prepared for school. Shortly after 8 a.m., and running a little late to catch her school bus, Ashley kissed her mother goodbye and walked out of their South Beavercreek Road apartment in Oregon City, Oregon, and began the 8-10 minute walk to the stop where the bus carrying her friends and classmates would pick up the seventh-grader near the apartment complex's entrance and take them to Gardiner Middle School. The temperature was forty-three degrees;Ashley could see her breath as she walked uphill along the path through a stand of hemlock trees towards the school bus stop. She likely shivered a time or two from the morning chill, oblivious to the fact that she would never return home again.
Newell Creek Village Apartments, where Ashley and her relatives resided, is a medium-sized apartment community comprised of 125 units, fashioned to suit the needs of lower middle-class tenants, single mothers, and those who were designated as mentally challenged. Constructed in the late 1990s, the complex was relatively new. An attractively designed community, it is cozily situated in the hills above the Portland-area suburb. Even though there was a relatively high turnover rate, the vacancies did not last long and there was often a waiting list of potential tenants waiting to move in. Like all apartment communities, Newell Creek Village had its share of problems over the years. The police were called on a somewhat regular basis to quell domestic disputes and investigate burglaries, most of the incidents of which were not particularly memorable. None of the 300 or so residents would have ever imagined that the place they called home would become the center of national media attention soon after Ashley disappeared and, later, the focal point of a murder investigation that no one would ever forget.
Ashley was a popular girl at school, and was a member of her school's dance team, the Fallen Angels. She was also a member of the swimming team. On the last day that her mother saw her alive, Ashley had been eager to attend dance practice after school. That was the reason that her mother hadn't expected her to return home immediately after classes that day. However, when Ashley hadn't shown up at home and had not called by 6 p.m., her mother became worried. It just wasn't like her to not check in.
According to news articles in the Portland Tribune, Ashley's mother soon learned that her daughter hadn't shown up for school at all that day. She called the school, but most of the teachers and administrators had already gone home by that time, and she had been unable to connect with anyone who had seen Ashley that day. She also called several of Ashley's classmates, those with whom she knew Ashley to have been close — but no one had seen her. She also instinctively checked Ashley's room to see if any of her clothes were missing. Even though it was unlikely that Ashley had run away from home, she had to be sure. Nothing was missing. Having covered all of the bases and frantic with worry, the next telephone call she made was to the Oregon City Police Department. She described Ashley as a well-behaved daughter, Caucasian, 5 feet 3 inches tall, 110 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She also told the police that Ashley had a birthmark on her right hip.