After more than five years of waiting and searching, a tragic ending for a local family means Ashley Simpson is finally coming home to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Her mother Cindy Simpson says it’s the best Christmas present the family could have wished for. While it’s not an outcome any parent would have wanted, and they are deeply saddened by the news, Cindy says it’s what she and her husband John have been expecting from the moment Ashley went missing on April 27, 2016.
“We have the feeling now that Christmas has come early,” says Cindy. “It’s extremely sad that this is how she’s coming home, but she’s coming home.”
“We knew what Ashley was like,” Cindy continues. “We knew she would have contacted us. So we were prepared for the news.”
Finding Ashley and bringing her home “has always been our main concern, first and foremost, and worrying about justice could come later.”
Two RCMP officers from B.C. visited the couple’s Lakeshore Road home, where they have lived for the last 12 years, last Friday, telling them Ashley’s remains had been found Nov. 26, and a suspect was being charged. One of the officers who had been investigating the case called ahead to say she would be in town on business, and could she stop by, Cindy says.
Other than that, they weren’t given much information.
“I still have some questions,” she says.
Ashley had disappeared without a trace from Salmon Arm B.C., after having an argument with her boyfriend. Her family and friends, Ashley’s Army, never stopped trying to find her and bring her home.
During the time the RCMP was searching for Ashley, Cindy says she had questions that couldn’t be answered, and had to wait, knowing the information would come out eventually. She would ask, and she would be told, ‘you will know, but you can’t know at this time.’”
“That’s how the last five years have been. I’d know they were working on the investigation and couldn’t talk about it, and I understood that. It was a big puzzle and they were trying to put the pieces together.”
Derek Lee Matthew Favell is facing a charge of second-degree murder dating to April 27, 2016, and has a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday. “We may or may not know more then,” she says.
Ashley will be cremated when that is allowed, and John and Ashley’s sister Amanda will go to B.C. to be there and bring her home.
“They were the two who spent so much time looking for her,” says Cindy, while she was working as a cook on the boats. “They should be the ones to bring her home.”
Before heading out to B.C., Ashley was working with her dad, also a cook, at a summer resort in Huntsville. In the winter, she worked at an Avondale Food Store on Carlton Street in St. Catharines.
When John was offered a job out west, at a camp in Pink Mountain in northern B.C., Ashley was excited to go along.
While there, she met Favell.
“Ashley loved the outdoors. She was excited to see the mountains, and talked about panning for gold. The last time I talked to her, the morning of April 27, she told me she had found a real garnet, and was going to give it to me when she came home. She loved adventure. She had the word ‘gypsy’ tattooed on her forearm. She loved to explore, to do new things. But this was home for her, and she loved to come home.”
With three sisters, Amanda, Amy and Tara, and seven nieces and nephews, Ashley loved to play with the kids, and they loved her.
One of the activities she looked forward to the most was going to the NOTL Christmas Parade with them. “The kids are going to be devastated to know
now they will never see her again.”
Derek also had young children, and Ashley was always talking about the fun things she was enjoying doing with them, says Cindy.
“I feel so bad for his kids. They loved Ashley.”
She was a kid magnet — fun, outgoing, and if she saw a glimmer of good in someone, she wanted to help them.
If she saw someone with their hand out for money, she had to stop to get them something to eat, and was always buying food for a homeless man that used to sit near the Avondale where she worked, even taking blankets from home to protect him from the cold. “That was Ashley. It didn’t matter who you were, she treated everybody the same.”
A woman Cindy met in NOTL recognized the shirt she was wearing with Ashley’s picture on it — she knew her as the girl who worked in the Avondale. “She said Ashley was the type of person you’d never forget — so bubbly, so warm and caring.”
Over the last five years, as John was going back and forth to B.C., Cindy says money was tight, and there were fundraisers to help out, including garage sales and golf tournaments.
The people of NOTL have been very generous, including supporting the annual golf tournaments held at Heritage Woods, organized by Shane Michaels, who founded Wings of Mercy to help the Simpson family
As soon as the news was released that she had been found, another friend started a GoFundMe page called Bringing Ashley Simpson Home, to help “lay her to rest with dignity and respect.” It will also help with costs as the Simpson family travels from Ontario to B.C. for the court cases to come.
Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/bringing-ashley-simpson-home?qid=1fcd9fbd401df0ac62c552bf5e5afafa