This is the second in a series of guest blogs. Whitney Dumas is one of Ashley's best friends.
I met Amanda Simpson (Ashley's youngest sister) in Grade 2 or 3 when I transferred to St. Nicholas Elementary School in the middle of the school year. Amanda was one of the first people to come up to me. She told me she was new, too. We were instant friends and were surprised to find out we lived close to each other.
Amanda and Ashley's parents invited me into their family with open arms and I spent just about every day with them. My parents own their own business, Subs Plus. Like any owners of an independent business, they were always working. So I spent a lot of time over at the Simpson house.
Ashley and Amanda had one of the most amazing bonds I have ever seen. No matter how mad they were at each other, at the end of the day, they always had each other's backs.
Ashley would help us with all our problems. She was our go-to-person for everything.
She was extremely intelligent and has always had a way with her words. She was someone you wanted in your corner; she just had profound knowledge whether it was about the political environment or about the law or animals. She was just incredibly smart.
We loved going to YMCA dances with Ashley who would always lie about her age just so she could come in and watch after us. She said lol!! She was the greatest big sister anyone could ask for!
The night we found out she was missing, her cousin Bobbie Lynn called me. I was half asleep on the couch, and the phone woke me up. Bobbie Lynn said Ashley's boyfriend Derek had messaged her that he and Ashley had got into a fight, and she took off.
"What do I do?" Bobbie Lynn asked me.
I told her to call Ashley's mother, Cindy. Sit tight and just wait to hear.
The very next day, Bobbie Lynn called me extremely upset saying she had a bad feeling. This wasn't like Ashley. She didn't know what to do. I said, honestly, rent a car. She was the closest. I told her I would meet here out in Salmon Arm. I wasn't NOT coming.
I was on my cell phone, calling from work on a break.
I just remember crying the whole day, working, absolutely just sick to my stomach. Right after work, I got in my car and noticed Amanda had called me. She's was gonna meet me at John and Cindy's (whom I referred to as Mom and Dad). I drove right out to their place in Niagara-on-the Lake. I remember going into the house, and it was so quiet that my stomach dropped. The Simpson house was silent which is not like the Simpson's house. It's usually so loud and full of joy; there was never just dead silence.
I went up the stairs to the computer room and found Cindy who was with Red (Amanda Havaman), Billy Joe (Bob) and Amanda.
I was absolutely in tears. I am a spiritual medium and knew what had become of Ashley.
After seeing how distraught I was, Mom asked me what I had seen. I told her that Ashley was gone and told her exactly what my vision was. This is not something you want to tell the person who you knew as mom for more than 24 years.
Amanda told me she was going to B.C. and that nothing was going to stop her. She was going to raise funds and drive. Ok, I said, get your shit packed and we'll leave tomorrow.
I went to my work and told them that my sister was missing, that I had to go to B.C. and look for her. I needed to take off time from work. At that point, they were extremely compassionate and told me to go, and gave me ten days off work, on an emergency leave. I contacted my other job, and they were also extremely understanding and compassionate. We'll work around you, they said.
I called my friends and family, and arranged rides for my children to school, and I told my boyfriend I was leaving. It seemed like only an instant that an GoFundMe page went up to start raising funds from family and friends. The funds came pouring in. People I didn't even know gave us support; it was tremendous.
The next day, I gassed up my van, picked up Amanda, and we plastered missing posters on our van. We didn't even know what direction we were headed. It's such a weird feeling, to be in such a rush to get somewhere but not wanting to face the reality of what we would find when we got there.
Every place we stopped, everywhere we went along the way, we tacked up posters and spread the word about Ashley, hoping someone would have seen her. Most of the ride, we listened to music. We were very quiet at times. We would talk about Ashley, or about our plan once we got there. Mostly, we rode in silence. Occasionally, Bobbie Lynn and others would message us with news, or hearsay from people at the scene.
We had no idea what to expect.