Ashley Summers was just 14 years old when she went missing from a Cleveland suburb in 2007. After attending a birthday and Fourth of July celebration pool party at a family member’s house, Ashley decided to walk over to her aunt’s house, which was just down the street. She never made it there and she was allegedly never seen again.
It seemed as if Ashley had just disappeared—without a trace. But something had to have happened to her. Someone has to know something. Over the years, a number of possible breaks have been made in this case, breathing new life into it and restoring hope that Ashley Summers would be found.
|About Ashley Summers|
|Siblings||Victoria Summers, Jenna, Julia, Tina|
|Missing Since||July 6, 2007|
In fact, the FBI has recently shown renewed interest in the case, as new information has come to light.
Our Ashley Summers wiki tells you everything you need to know about the missing girl and the new developments in the case.
Who Is Ashley Summers?
Ashley Summers was born on June 16, 1993 in Cleveland, Ohio. She came from a very large family, complete with more than 10 aunts and uncles.
Her father abandoned the family after Ashley was born and her mother’s side of the family picked up the slack.
They enjoyed spending lots of quality time together, celebrating birthdays and going on family trips. By all accounts, Ashley is a very family-oriented person.
Ashley and her mother, Jennifer Summers, loved indulging in their shared guilty pleasure of watching cheesy horror movies together late at night.
“Our family was her life, you know,” Jennifer said. “I mean, aunts were her best friends like sisters. I mean, she had lots of love, lots of support.”
As Ashley got older, Jennifer started dating a new man. She ended up having five more children with him, including Victoria, Jenna, Julia, and Tina. Ashley absolutely adored her half-siblings and loved spending time with them, babysitting them, and taking them to the park.
All of Ashley’s family members describe her as being very loving, caring, family-oriented, and helpful around the house.
Family Tensions Rise
Things began to change drastically, though, around the time Ashley Summers turned 14. Like most teenagers, she began distancing herself from family, particularly her mom, and preferred to spend more and more time with her friends.
By this point, tension also accumulated between Ashley and Jennifer’s live-in boyfriend. She began to develop a combative attitude toward him and they’d constantly argue.
Coincidentally, it was also around this time when Ashley started to show an interest in boys and dating—a concept her mother was clearly uncomfortable with.
The teen started dating a boy from her neighborhood named Gene Gill, who was two years older than her. Worried about what her mother and the rest of her family would think of her dating and the person she was dating, Ashley kept the relationship a secret.
Gill would come over to the house during the day when Jennifer was at work, but Ashley’s younger siblings inadvertently told Jennifer about the new man in her eldest daughter’s life.
Jennifer said she “did not approve of [Ashley] dating him” and that Ashley “was too young to date in the first place.” So, she forbade Ashley from seeing Gill.
Shortly after Ashley and Jennifer had a huge argument regarding her dating life, Ashley did something completely out of character. She started stealing money from her mother. It started off with small amounts here and there. Afraid of pushing her daughter further away, Jennifer let the thievery slide for a while.
Until one night, when Ashley stole an entire paycheck from Jennifer’s dresser drawer in her bedroom. A fight ensued. A few days later, Ashley came home sporting a tattoo on her right arm with a red heart and Gene’s name sprawled in black ink in the middle. Jennifer quickly surmised that Ashley used the stolen money to pay for the tattoo.
Fed up with her daughter’s rebellious behavior, Jennifer sent Ashley to live with her grandmother for a while. Since it was summer, Ashley wouldn’t be missing school.
While living with her grandmother, Ashley also spent a lot of time at her great uncle Kevin Donathan’s house with her cousins and other family members.
Jennifer would call Ashley to check in on her every other day.
About one week after Ashley turned 14, she asked to move in with her aunt Debra—Jennifer’s sister—who had just moved into a new apartment in Cleveland. Debra conceded, but the move never ended up happening.
Ashley Summers Goes Missing
On July 4, 2007, Ashley went to a birthday pool party at her great uncle Keith’s house. She showed up alone and everyone assumed that she’d walked there from Kevin’s house, which was two miles away. Neither Jennifer nor Ashley’s younger half-siblings were at this party.
After spending a few hours with her family and swimming in the pool, Ashley reportedly decided to visit her aunt Christina, who lived just a 10-minute walk away from Keith’s. That was around 6:00 p.m., and it was apparently the last time anyone at that party heard from or saw Ashley. She never made it to her aunt Christina’s house.
Because it was so common for Ashley to stay with various relatives, Jennifer assumed that Ashley was either with her grandmother or great uncle Kevin. Only after two days of not having any contact with her daughter did she begin to suspect that something was wrong. She called Kevin to check on Ashley, but he told her that he hadn’t seen Ashley in two days and that he thought Ashley was with her grandmother.
Kevin claims the last time he saw or spoke with Ashley was on the morning of the Fourth of July pool party. They’d had a major argument. The argument started because, Kevin says, Ashley was engaged in family gossip on her phone, of which he disapproved. He asked her to stop immediately, but she refused. He ended up grabbing the phone from her hand and smashing it on the floor, effectively breaking off any contact Ashley had with her mother or anyone else in the process.
Jennifer Files a Missing Persons Report
When she didn’t hear from her daughter for a few days, Jennifer filed a missing persons report at the local police department.
Initially, the case was treated as a runaway situation by the police, given Ashley’s recent history with her family. But her family members insisted that it was not in Ashley’s nature to just run away and break off all contact.
She was always extremely active on social media, but after she disappeared, she just stopped communicating with everyone, including her friends, family, and even her boyfriend, Gill. In the days following her disappearance, Ashley became uncharacteristically and eerily silent on social media.
According to Gill, he and Ashley spent pretty much every day together that summer until she went missing. He says he was out of town with his own family around the time she vanished.
The Summers Form Massive Neighborhood-Wide Search Parties
Roughly a week after Ashley disappeared, her family banded together to form search parties to look for the missing teen in their local and surrounding areas. They plastered missing person posters all over the area on mailboxes and cars and they even knocked on people’s doors asking their neighbors for information.
Potential leads came in almost instantaneously, with people claiming they’d seen Ashley or someone who looked like her walking around various neighborhoods.
Although her family never actually confronted Gill about the situation, it’s clear that they suspected he knew something. Jennifer even made a point of posting missing person flyers all around his home. When she returned to check up on them the next day, she says they were all torn down.
Gill was contacted by the Cleveland Police Department multiple times in connection to this case, but because he was only a teenager at the time, police have never revealed what he said to them. It could also mean that he didn’t have any relevant information about his girlfriend’s whereabouts.
Ashley’s friend and aunt, Debra, also contacted Gill to question him, but his answer was always the same: he said he had no idea what happened to Ashley. Gill said the last time he saw Ashley was when he and his father drove her to Kevin’s house a few days before they left for their family trip. His last memory of her is watching her walk into Kevin’s house.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
Out of desperation and possibly immense frustration that the case was going nowhere, Jennifer started following Gill around. “I would just drive around until I seen him,” she admitted. “Some days I would see him, some days I wouldn’t.”
It was during one of these strange episodes that she witnessed Gill walking into an abandoned house late at night. Worried that her daughter was hiding inside the house and fearing for her own safety, Jennifer contacted the police to investigate.
But Ashley wasn’t there and Jennifer never found out what Gill was doing inside that house, nor did she ever confront him about what happened.
Approximately 14 months after Ashley’s disappearance, Gill admitted he started developing major emotional problems and turned to illegal activities to alleviate some of the stress. The emotional stress of constantly being under scrutiny from Ashley’s family and relentless questioning from authorities led the then-16-year-old to a life of crime. He has been in and out of jail several times since then, for drug possession and armed robbery charges.
To this day, he maintains that he has no idea what happened to her.
A Strange and Mysterious Phone Call
Four weeks later, while Jennifer was at work, she got a mysterious phone call from a blocked number. It was Ashley—or at least, she thought it was. All she heard on the other line was, “It’s me, mom. I’m okay. Don’t worry.” Then the person abruptly hung up.
After the initial excitement from the call wore off, Jennifer started to question whether the caller was actually her daughter. It didn’t make any sense for Ashley to call her mother and not want to talk to her or at the very least explain what happened or where she was.
Vicki Anderson, a special agent at the FBI who has been working on Ashley’s case for a number of years, had this to say: “If it was Ashley, then was [the call] so quick because she was being told to get off the phone? Did somebody have her?”
There was never a clear indication of a motive or purpose for the call.
Another question that should be on everyone’s mind is: how exactly did Ashley call her mother when her phone had been smashed by her great uncle Kevin? Was she using a pay phone or someone else’s phone? Had she somehow gotten a new one herself?
November 2007: Still No Leads
On November 17, 2007, Ashley’s grandfather and step-grandmother, Linda Summers, were driving through the west side of Cleveland when they saw a girl who bore a striking resemblance to their granddaughter. The only difference was that this girl’s hair was a lot shorter and it was blond.
Interestingly, the family had received tips from witnesses who claimed they saw Ashley stating that she might have cut and dyed her hair.
Linda claims that the girl stopped and stared directly at their vehicle, but they couldn’t tell whether or not it was Ashley. They drove further up the road and turned back, but the girl was already gone by the time they returned. Was this girl Ashley or was she just someone who looked like her?
May 2008: The FBI Get Involved in the Case
When the FBI started their own investigation into Ashley’s case, they realized that multiple other women had also disappeared from surrounding areas just a few years prior. Their names were Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.
This was when the FBI started thinking that maybe Ashley didn’t run away, but that she might have been kidnapped.
They started investigating all four missing persons cases simultaneously since the girls led very similar lives. Though they weren’t the same age, all of them had attended the same high school at different times and they were all extremely tight-knit with their families.
“When a child goes missing,” Anderson said, “the first thing we look at is family and friends.”
The FBI started canvassing the entire area and interviewed everyone who’d ever come in contact with Ashley. They also attempted to trace the phone call that Jennifer had received from someone she thought was her daughter, but were unable to locate the source of the call.
May 6, 2013: Amanda Berry Escapes Captivity
When the news broke that Amanda Berry had escaped the house of Ariel Castro, where she and two other women had been held captive, the Summers family held out hope that Ashley might be one of the women recovered.
But she wasn’t.
Castro had kidnapped and sexually assaulted three young women from the area: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight…but there was no trace of Ashley Summers.
Although Ashley wasn’t found in Castro’s home, the FBI and local police were desperate for leads in her case and decided to investigate him anyway. Unfortunately, there was no indication that Castro ever came into contact with Ashley, despite living just over a mile away from where she went missing.
2015: Photograph of Potential Sighting Surfaces
In 2015, a new potential lead came up on the FBI’s radar after the Ashley Summers case had gone cold for two years.
A photograph of a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to Ashley was posted to the Rhode Island FBI’s Most Wanted web site. The woman in the picture can be seen looking directly into the camera of an ATM drive-thru machine at a local bank. She had a male companion sitting next to her in the car.
At the time, the Rhode Island division of the FBI reported that there had been a string of identity thefts in the area, which is why those ATM cameras were installed.
Immediately, the FBI started putting up billboards and ad campaigns all over Cleveland and Rhode Island in the hopes that someone would be able to identify the woman in the picture as Ashley Summers. Ashley’s case garnered national attention, and Dr. Phil even did a special about it on his show in March 2015.
Facial recognition experts examined the picture taken by the ATM surveillance camera alongside one that was taken of Ashley when she was 14. They determined that there was approximately an 80% chance that they were the same person based on multiple analyses and match-ups of the facial features.
These are the pictures that were used:
The one on the left is the ATM photo and the other two are the most recent pictures of Ashley that were taken before her disappearance.
The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children also released a video targeted at tattoo artists, asking them to stay on the lookout for a young woman who may have tried to change or remove the Gene tattoo.
In July 2015, the FBI was finally able to identify the woman in the ATM footage. Despite everyone’s best hopes, it wasn’t Ashley. The woman’s parents had seen the billboards set up by the FBI and confirmed that it was their daughter and she was known to commit a few petty crimes.
Ashley Summers Case: New Developments
In the past year or so, investigators have started cracking down harder on the Summers case, attempting to uncover new leads.
Recent information has revealed that it’s possible the last time Ashley was spotted was on July 9, 2007, and not July 7 as was previously reported.
Initially, witnesses reported that Ashley was last seen on West 44th Street in Cleveland, but now it’s believed that she may have also been somewhere around 96th and Madison along with the 1100 block of Holmden Avenue.
In addition to interviewing current and former residents of all of the above-mentioned areas, the FBI has also released a brand-new, age-progressed photo of Ashley, at age 24. She would be 25 years old by now.
Anderson said the FBI has revisited original witnesses, some of whom have recalled additional details they forgot about or neglected to mention during the initial investigation. New questions have been asked and even a few new potential witnesses have come forward.
Charges Filed against Ashley’s Great Uncle
Ashley’s great uncle Kevin Donathan, the one who reportedly destroyed her cellphone after getting into an argument with her, was charged with rape, attempted rape, and gross sexual imposition on December 4, 2018.
As of yet, it’s unclear whether these charges are related to the case of the missing teen. No information regarding the identity of the alleged victim or circumstances of the crime has been revealed.
Donathan pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Coincidentally, these new charges were laid against him around the same time that new information came to light regarding the case of his missing niece.
Although Donathan hasn’t been named a suspect in the Ashley Summers case, it seems suspicious that he had the motive and opportunity to kidnap her. He broke her phone after a heated argument with her and cut off her ability to communicate with her friends and family.
The FBI is paying their due diligence in finding out what happened to Ashley by going over old and new evidence with a fine-toothed comb, in case they missed something important in the past.
Ashley’s family is very hopeful that, with this new information, they might finally get the answers they’ve been looking for all these years.
Anderson assured the media that “somebody knows something that hasn’t been reported.”
The FBI is offering a monetary reward for anyone who provides information that leads to locating Ashley Summers.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Cleveland Division of the FBI (216-522-1400), the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force and Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team (1-800-CALL-FBI), the Cleveland Division of the Police (216-623-5000), and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (855-224-6446).
Ashley’s story was told on season 9 episode 1 of Disappeared on Discovery ID. The episode aired on April 1, 2018 and was called “Edge of Fourteen.”