James Chambers II, a 28-year-old civilian construction worker at Fort Bragg, was last seen in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on August 15, 2014, and his family reported him missing several days later. According to the Fayetteville Observer, Chambers’ former girlfriend last saw him at home on the evening of August 15, and she told authorities that one of Chambers’ coworkers, Howard Adrian Ashleman, was also there and was supposed to drive Chambers to a weekend job out of town. The Fayetteville Police Department’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office finally arrested Ashleman in Randolph County after a three-year investigation. According to CBS17, Ashleman was charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
A few days after his arrest, Ashleman pleaded guilty to the crime and provided authorities with additional details, including where he disposed of Chambers’ body, though his remains have yet to be discovered. Many details about what happened on August 15, 2014, were unknown until Ashleman’s sentencing hearing, when prosecutors shared what he’d revealed as part of his guilty plea, according to the Fayetteville Observer. According to Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West, tensions between Ashleman and Chambers, who worked together, had previously turned violent.
Later that evening, Ashleman was driving Chambers, and the tensions escalated until Ashleman said he pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed his gun from the truck bed, and fired it into the cab. According to prosecutors, Ashleman stated that his goal was only to scare Chambers, but that he killed him by accident with that shot.
Later that night, according to the outlet, Ashleman went to a marijuana dealer and told him he had money from a dead man. According to prosecutors, Ashleman admitted to burning and burying Chambers’ body in Cumberland County, but was concerned that it would be discovered as the missing person’s case progressed. Prosecutors told the court that Ashleman confessed to digging up the body, dismembering it, and placing it in plastic garbage bags, which he then dumped over the side of a “remote bridge over a waterway.” According to the outlet, Ashleman then had his truck crushed at a salvage yard out of fear that authorities would find evidence inside.
Prosecutors Discuss Chambers’ Remains Following Ashleman’s Arrest
In a statement to the Fayetteville Observer, West said, “We sympathize with all of our victim’s families, but particularly this one because this family, to this day, is just very desperate to find the remains of their son that they love very much.” “It’s just tragic,” Assistant District Attorney Robby Hicks said, “and my heart broke for the family.” I felt so sorry for them all, especially the mother and father, who were unable to locate their child, and it still bothers me to this day. ”
West told the Observer that while it’s unusual to see someone convicted of murder without a body, it does happen. “It’s just hard to prove the case if you can’t prove the person is actually dead, and the best way to do that is to have a body and a medical examiner and all that,” he said. “I’m glad that we were able to provide some measure of justice,” West told Dateline NBC prior to the episode covering the case. But I’m disappointed that we haven’t been able to provide Mr. Chambers’ family with closure by finding his body.
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