Teen Once Connected to Ariel Castro Kidnappings Still Missing After Vanishing In 2007

Was Ashley Summers murdered, or did she run away to start a brand new life?

January 03, 2019

Ashley Summers [Federal Bureau of Investigation]

Ashley Summers [Federal Bureau of Investigation]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

CLEVELAND, OH — In July 2007, 14-year-old Ashley Summers got into a fight with her mom and stormed out of the house, sparking what has become one of Cleveland’s most puzzling mysteries.

The teen was known to friends and family as outgoing but headstrong, and she had run away before — often to stay with other relatives. This time, Summers went to a great uncle’s place — but from there she seems to have vanished into thin air.

The FBI immediately went on high alert, since Summers was among several young girls to go missing from the same west side working class neighborhood in Cleveland.

Ashley Summers' tattoo [NCMEC]

Ashley Summers' tattoo [NCMEC]

Before her baffling disappearance, Summers had been at odds with her mom, Jennifer, because she had started dating an older boy. She even got a red heart tattoo with his name, Gene, emblazoned on a black banner through its center on her upper right arm.

According to Summers’ step-grandmother, Linda, Gene was quickly eliminated as a suspect since he was out of state at a family reunion when his young girlfriend was last seen.

The case stalled, but Summers’ mother, Jennifer, was shocked when she got a call from who she believed was her daughter. “She took one deep breath, and she was like, ‘It’s me, mom. I’m OK. Don’t worry.’ It was really fast,” she recalled in an NBC News interview.

Despite the development, there was no new movement in the case again until, in May 2013, the news of Ariel Castro’s arrest for the abductions of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight hit the headlines — along with the possibility that Summers, whose disappearance was so long associated with the case, would be among the victims rescued. However, her family’s hopes were quickly dashed.

A possible sighting in early 2015 created more excitement after a woman who strongly resembled Summers was photographed when she tried to steal some money from an ATM. The photo was splashed across billboards up and down the East Coast, but the woman’s parents called the FBI with her identity, eliminating another once-promising lead.

Summers, who had blue eyes and was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 130 pounds when she went missing, would be 25 years old today.

“If I could just see her one time, it would erase all the pain,” her mom has said, noting the years ticking by since her daughter vanished have been “the worst” struggle of her life.

If you have any information about Ashley Summers’ whereabouts or her mysterious disappearance, contact the FBI in Cleveland at (216) 522-1400.

If you are in search of a missing person, make sure to enter their information into the database of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

For more on this case, check out The Disappearance of Ashley Summers episode of the new Investigation Discovery digital series Lake Erie’s Coldest Cases on ID GO!

Read more: CrimeFeed, NBC News

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