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Ashley was last seen at her family's residence in Memphis, Tennessee on September 16, 1996. Her aunt, Joyce Wade Lindsey, arrived at her home the previous day for a visit. Lindsey was having personal problems at the time and her sister, Vicky Lee Morris (who is also Ashley's mother) allowed Lindsey to stay with her family. Lindsey and Ashley met for the first time during this visit and seemed to get along well. Lindsey received permission from Vicky to watch Ashley during the day on September 16. Vicky called Ashley's babysitter and told her that Ashley would not be arriving that day as scheduled. Vicky also agreed to allow Lindsey to take Ashley and her older half-sister, Erica Nicole Manning, shopping after Manning returned home from school.
Vicky called Lindsey at approximately 9:15 a.m. on September 16 and was told everything was fine. Vicky told investigators later that she thought she heard Ashley playing in the background during the conversation. This is the last time anyone has heard from Ashley.
Manning arrived home at approximately 3:15 p.m. She noticed that Lindsey was drinking alcohol and was intoxicated. Manning inquired as to Ashley's whereabouts; Lindsey told Manning that her sister had been picked up by someone, she assumed the child's regular babysitter earlier in the day. Lindsey escorted Manning out of the home and began driving while intoxicated. She told Manning to call her parents' home and tell them that they were shopping and staying overnight at a motel. Lindsey continued driving and refused to allow Manning to phone her parents later in the evening after they checked into a motel. The following day, September 17, Manning and Lindsey visited a laundromat and washed bags of clothes placed in Lindsey's trunk. Manning later told authorities that her aunt left her at the laundromat while Lindsey took her vehicle to a local car wash. Manning noted that the car was still dirty when Lindsey returned, but a strong odor of bleach was present in the trunk. Lindsey claimed that the car wash was crowded and she spilled a bottle of bleach inside the vehicle.
Lindsey was arrested for kidnapping Manning and her vehicle was thoroughly examined. Blood stains were present in the trunk of the car. DNA analysis proved that the blood belonged to Ashley. Second-degree murder charges were filed against Lindsey in the case of Ashley's presumed death. Lindsey was also charged with theft and forgery when authorities located Vicky's checkbook, checks and a ring in the car. Lindsey was convicted on all counts in 1999.
Lindsey has maintained that she never murdered Ashley. She stated that Ashley cut her hand on a piece of broken glass inside Lindsey's vehicle on September 16, the day she was last seen. Lindsey claimed that Ashley was waving her arms around while she attempted to administer first aid to the child, thereby causing the blood stains to appear in her car. Authorities did not believe her story.
Vicky testified at Lindsey's trial and her comments may have proven a possible motive for Lindsey's crimes. Vicky stated that she accepted custody of Lindsey's daughter in 1989, but was unable to afford to keep her for an extended period of time. Vicky released the child back into the custody of the state. The child's father was then awarded custody of the girl. Lindsey, who was not able to care for her daughter herself, was reportedly furious with Vicky's decision. She allegedly told Vicky that she "ruined" her life. Vicky also maintained that Lindsey believed Ashley resembled her daughter.
Ashley has never been located. Lindsey's appeal was denied in 1999 and she continues to serve her prison sentence.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office