The father of Ashley Simpson, who has been missing since April 28, confirmed RCMP are now treating her disappearance as a possible homicide.
John Simpson told the Observer police informed family members of the change in the status of the investigation on Monday, May 16.
“Now that the police have gone down that route, it’s tough,” he says from his home in St. Catharines, Ont. “But we are not giving up. There still is a glimmer of hope, even if some of the threads have broken a bit.”
Simpson says members of the South East District Major Crimes Unit have been investigating at the property on Yankee Flats Road where Ashley was living in a camping trailer with her boyfriend.
The addition of the South East District Major Crimes Unit to the case and the property search were confirmed by the RCMP on Thursday.
“SED MCU investigators have completed a search of a property on Yankee Flats Rd in Salmon Arm, B.C. Ashley Marie Simpson remains classified as missing,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk in a press release Thursday.
No arrests have been made and this investigation continues.
Moskaluk said Ashley’s typical communication with friends and family ceased without explanation and investigators suspect her disappearance may very well be the result of foul play.
“This investigation is currently very active and a dedicated team of investigators are working daily on this file,” he said.
Simpson says the family is waiting to hear more from the investigators.
“The police aren’t really telling me much except that, with the shift to homicide, there are a lot more resources they can give to this. We’ve been told there is a 14-person team working on the case.”
Ashley was planning to return to Ontario to work with her father as a cook at a Huntsville longhouse this month, but there has been no word from her, and no sign of her on any video surveillance or any use of bank cards.
Simpson says this is highly unusual, calling his daughter the “selfie queen” and noting she was often posting on social media. She kept in regular contact with her parents and with a wide network of friends nearly every day.
Police in St. Catharines took statements and DNA sample swabs from Simpson and other family members on Tuesday. These could be used to create a DNA profile to assist police in pinpointing Ashley’s whereabouts.
“But all we can do now is sit and wait for communication from the police. They are being very tight-lipped,” said Simpson.
Simpson recently returned from spending nine days in the area searching for his daughter. He says he was not allowed onto the 20-acre property where his daughter was living.
He did, however, participate in search efforts with Shuswap Search and Rescue, handed out flyers and talked to people on his own.
Simpson said they were also able to provide some evidence in texts and social media posts that may have altered the focus of the investigation.
“We know there was a warrant needed to search the property and that took some time, but we know now the major crimes unit has been on that property,” says Simpson.
The family has raised more than $2,000 for a reward for information.
“If anyone knows anything, we figured that a cash reward might help get someone to talk.”
One of Ashley’s cousins has started a GoFundMe account under the name ‘Help find Ashley Marie Simpson’ to help pay for the family’s travels and time off work. So far, it has raised more than $3,500.
Simpson said he and his family have been overwhelmed by the support shown by people in the Shuswap and North Okanagan.
“We want to thank the people who came out, the search and rescue people, everyone involved. People were really willing to help, to put up the posters, to donate, to show they cared. We really, really appreciate that,” he said.
He said the family is buoyed by the messages of support.
“It is gratifying to see how many people cared for Ashley, that she was so well-liked by a lot of people. It’s nice to know.”
Simpson says leaving Salmon Arm to return home was difficult but they felt they had done everything they could do at that point.
Simpson says the ordeal has shown him the depth of the problem with violence against women and the number of missing women in this country.
“I personally feel like I am going have to get involved personally in the cause of missing women and the violence that goes along with it. This has opened my eyes. We can be doing more as Canadians. It needs to be safe for women to go where they want and do what they want without violence following them.”
In the meantime, Simpson says his family is just trying to hold it together.
“I don’t know how people do this. I don’t know how they still go on. I still hope they find her, that she will just walk through the door,” he said well- aware his daughter might be the victim of foul play. “But if it goes the other way, at least we’ll know and we’ll be able to bring her home.”
If anyone has any information that could assist the RCMP in locating Ashley Simpson, they are encouraged to contact the RCMP investigators at 250-545-7171, or, if they wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 250-222-8477.