Cape teen found dead in Tennessee

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Ashli Ayers, 19, of Cape Girardeau was found dead Sunday in the basement of a Johnson City, Tenn., residence. The cause and exact time of death remains unknown, pending an autopsy.

Matt Howell with the Johnson City Police Department said his station received a phone call around 6:20 p.m. Sunday from two males who had moved into the previously-vacant residence just three days earlier. They said that they smelled a strong odor emanating from the basement. Upon investigation, they discovered Ayer's body, which was identified from fingerprints.

Howell said there were no obvious wounds on her body such as stab or bullet marks that would indicate foul play, but the case is being treated as a suspicious death because she was found in a residence that was not her own.

In fact, Howell said officials don't know where Ayers was staying in Johnson City. Confirmation of her sighting at the city's Haven of Mercy homeless shelter timed her arrival in Johnson City around June 11. Howell said that she stopped to eat and didn't stay there. Prior to that, Howell said she had been living with a family in nearby Kingsfork, Tenn., for two months, before spending time in Weber City, Va., Gate City, Va., and finally, Johnson City.

He said he estimates that she left Cape Girardeau two months ago, although he doesn't know why.

Ayer's uncle, Kevin Upchurch of Scott City, said that Ayers was not very involved with her family in the area. He did say that Ayers left Cape Girardeau with a group of friends about two months ago for reasons he does not know.

Upchurch said specific funeral arrangements are awaiting the completion of the autopsy being performed at the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. But he said whatever the arrangements, they will probably be conducted in Cape Girardeau.

Ayers is the daughter of Robin Drum, formerly of Cape Girardeau, and currently residing in northwestern Missouri.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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