RCMP find remains of Shuswap woman missing for five years, former boyfriend charged

Ashley Simpson giving a peace sign to a photographer. (Contributed)Ashley Simpson giving a peace sign to a photographer. (Contributed)
Ashley Simpson, who was missing since April 2016 before her remains were found in 2021, dressed up for Christmas in this photo. (Photo contributed)Ashley Simpson, who was missing since April 2016 before her remains were found in 2021, dressed up for Christmas in this photo. (Photo contributed)
This photo of Cindy Simpson FaceTiming with her daughter Ashley on April 27, 2016 at 11:37 a.m. is the last photo Cindy has of them together. Ashley went missing from her home on Yankee Flats Road near Silver Creek on that day. (Photo contributed)This photo of Cindy Simpson FaceTiming with her daughter Ashley on April 27, 2016 at 11:37 a.m. is the last photo Cindy has of them together. Ashley went missing from her home on Yankee Flats Road near Silver Creek on that day. (Photo contributed)
John Simpson and his daughter Ashley are pictured here during one of the many times they worked together.(Facebook photo)John Simpson and his daughter Ashley are pictured here during one of the many times they worked together.(Facebook photo)
John Simpson was in the Shuswap to try to find a trace of his daughter, Ashley, who went missing in April of 2016. (File photo)John Simpson was in the Shuswap to try to find a trace of his daughter, Ashley, who went missing in April of 2016. (File photo)
This photo was taken at Margaret Falls where Ashley Simpson was said to be on the last day, April 27, 2016, before she went missing. (Facebook photo)This photo was taken at Margaret Falls where Ashley Simpson was said to be on the last day, April 27, 2016, before she went missing. (Facebook photo)
Ashley Simpson. (Facebook photo)Ashley Simpson. (Facebook photo)
Ashley Simpson loved to entertain children so she often dressed up as Miss Sweets, the clown. Here she clowns around for her dad John’s 60th birthday party. (Photo contributed)Ashley Simpson loved to entertain children so she often dressed up as Miss Sweets, the clown. Here she clowns around for her dad John’s 60th birthday party. (Photo contributed)
Ashley Simpson, whose remains were discovered more than five years after she went missing in April 2016. (Contributed)Ashley Simpson, whose remains were discovered more than five years after she went missing in April 2016. (Contributed)

A beam of light brought comfort to the parents of a missing woman as they received the news they had been both praying for, and dreading.

On Friday, Dec. 3, five years and eight months after their daughter Ashley Simpson disappeared, Cindy and John Simpson learned from police her remains had been found.

An officer told them that when she found Ashley, she followed a single beam of light that shone through the clouds and directed the way to Ashley’s grave, explained John.

“I cannot tell you what a comfort that was to us.”

Two B.C. police officers working on the case travelled to Ontario so they could tell the Simpsons in person that Ashley’s remains had been found.

“We always had hope that, against all odds, Ashley would return to us,” said John following the news. “Last Friday, Dec. 3, our prayers were answered. Unfortunately, there was no storybook ending.”

The detectives told them that as well as finding Ashley’s remains, a suspect had been arrested.

Derek Lee Matthew Favell, Ashley’s former boyfriend, is charged with second-degree murder for an offence which occurred on April 27, 2016 at near Salmon Arm. He will appear remotely in Kamloops court on Dec. 9.

RCMP reported that Ashley’s remains were found on Nov. 26, 2021 in “a wilderness area outside of Salmon Arm.”

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John said, as a father, no one can be prepared for this news.

“But we are grateful that she will be returning to us so she can finally be laid to rest in a place where her family and friends can visit her.”

Anyone is welcome to come to the service when it’s announced on social media and in the local papers.

John added that the Simpson and Mcgean families would like to thank the many RCMP officers who were involved in the case. In particular, he said, they would like to thank Kim and Karla who worked tirelessly to find Ashley and bring her justice.

“Their support, sensitivity and encouragement has been a lifeline to my wife Cindy.”

One officer brought with her Ashley’s rings which were found at the scene, he said. Understandably, it was a very emotional meeting, both for the Simpsons and the two detectives who had been working on the case for years.

“Sometimes we forget that police officers are people, too. Though they never met Ashley, the officers have spent years doggedly running down every clue, even the smallest ones,” John said.

Ashley, then 32, vanished on April 27, 2016 from an area where she lived near Salmon Arm with her boyfriend in a travel trailer on Yankee Flats Road.

Read more: Ashley Simpson’s mom pleads for help on third anniversary of her disappearance

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John recounted the pain of learning she had vanished.

“It wasn’t like Ashley. She took to FaceTime every day to speak to my wife Cindy and her friends…We knew something was terribly wrong, and so a contingent of her family and friends hit the road in hopes of finding her. When we arrived, it was clear that no one was looking for her. She had only recently moved to the Silver Creek community, and local residents were distressed to find a small but vocal group of strangers converging on them, bringing the police to their doors.”

He said they encountered many roadblocks.

“Our team was inconsolable at the thought of returning to our home in Niagara-on-the-Lake without finding a trace of Ashley. But we never gave up, and returned to the area many times.”

During the past five years, he said his family has raised money to help others in similar situations, and he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered women in this country. He said Cindy has always been available to the media to answer questions in hopes someone would come forward to give them answers. She was also in regular contact with the RCMP and gratefully accepted their support.

John expressed deep gratitude.

“We want to thank the dozens of people who dedicated their time and energy to find our Ashley. We thank the media for always checking in on us to keep Ashley’s case alive.

“In particular, we want to thank the hundreds of people who are part of Ashley’s Army, an online community that has provided great support to us over the years, and to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s group who continue to call for justice for the many Indigenous women who remain missing.

“As well, we thank the volunteer members of the Wings of Mercy who continued to search for Ashley using ATVs and drones,” he said.

Ashley Simpson was one of five women who disappeared in the Okanagan-Shuswap region about five years ago. 2021 also brought the five-year anniversary of the disappearance of Caitlin Potts and Deanna Wertz, and four years for Nicole Bell.

Vernon’s Traci Genereaux, 18, was also missing but her remains were found in October 2017 on a farm in Silver Creek where Curtis Sagmoen was residing. He is currently facing charges of assaulting a police officer. No charges have been laid in connection with her death.

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From top left, clockwise, Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz and Nicole Bell. With the remains of Ashley Simpson found in 2021, three women from the Shuswap and North Okanagan who disappeared around that time are still missing – Caitlin and Deanna for five years, Nicole for four. (Photos contributed)

From top left, clockwise, Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz and Nicole Bell. With the remains of Ashley Simpson found in 2021, three women from the Shuswap and North Okanagan who disappeared around that time are still missing – Caitlin and Deanna for five years, Nicole for four. (Photos contributed)

“We sincerely hope, by finding Ashley, that this gives other families hope that their loved ones will be found and returned to them,” John remarked.

“There are hundreds of unsolved cases of murdered and missing women and children in Canada, and we must remain mindful that every missing person is someone’s child. No one deserves our ending and families deserve our respect, love and dignity.”

The coming months will be difficult for his family, but they are strong, he said.

“We will attend every trial and push for the truth to be revealed. And we will never stop in our quest to fight for more and better resources to support the families and victims of these senseless crimes.

“We want to change things, and to be the voice for the missing.

“Our goal is to reunite more families, and support those who are left behind.”

John pointed out that since the beginning, their motto has been ‘Never Give Up.’

”And we never will,” he said.

“We will continue to build Ashley’s Army, in the name of my daughter.

“It’s what she would have wanted. This is not the end.

“This is the beginning. We will not remain silent. Hear us roar.”

But, for right now, the family will be taking time to let this all sink in.

“When we found out about the development, we were very ecstatic,” read a statement from the family.

“A wave of relief and easiness came over us knowing that finally she is coming home. It was the most important thing for us that we could bring her home.

“The circumstances matter, but it matters most that she is brought home.

“This is the best Christmas present we could have ever got. Relief, something we’ve wished for, for almost six years.

“Thank you, Christmas came early.”

Read more: Five years pass with no peace for families of North Okanagan-Shuswap missing women

Read more: Time to stem the tide of missing women


martha.wickett@saobserver.net
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