On September 19, 2013, twenty-eight-year-old Ashley Morris Mullis purchased $60 worth of piggy banks and brought them to her parents’ house, her newborn baby girl in tow. She planned to resell the piggy banks, a hobby she enjoyed doing along with woodworking and refinishing antiques. She happily visited with her parents, Don and Leandra Morris, and ate dinner with them. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, although Don remembers his daughter looked a little worried.
While there have been mixed reports on the days surrounding Ashley’s disappearance, Don expressed that just a few days later on September 22nd, a family reunion was held that Ashley attended (although her parents did not). This would be the last time the young mother of three would be seen alive by her family again.
“No one in this world can love a girl more than her father.”
– Michael Ratnadeepak
Ashley’s father, Don Morris, has not given up on searching for his daughter.
If you live in Indiana, it’s probable that you’ve seen a tall, somber man with a grey beard standing on corners with large, sturdy cardboard signs depicting photos of a smiling brunette, the word MISSING in bold print across the top. Each weekend he visits towns surrounding Muncie, Indiana, from Royerton to Yorktown to Indianapolis. He staples posters on every telephone pole, begging for information on the disappearance of his only daughter.
He has done this for nearly six years.
“She was a good, loving child,” Don describes. “She was a normal kid. She thrived – she was always smiling.”
Ashley was a mother hen to her two younger brothers growing up, quickly blossoming into a loving mother of two little boys when she married her husband, Justin Mullis. Ashley and Justin were in the midst of finalizing their divorce when she vanished.
“She missed her divorce hearing,” Don recalls.
This would be only the beginning of the mystery surrounding Ashley’s disappearance – something that began with an innocent trip to an auto repair shop only months before.
“Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.”
– Alphonsealpon de Lemartine
Sometime in 2012, Ashley Morris Mullis – who was legally separated from her husband, Justin – began having difficulties with her vehicle’s transmission. She was referred to North American Discount Muffler & Brake, a shop owned by Daniel York, Sr. — a married man nearly twice Ashley’s age.
The two got along exceptionally well, and within months York loaned Ashley a vehicle and gave her a rental house to live in. Shortly thereafter, Ashley allegedly became pregnant with York’s child. It is unclear if Mrs. York knew of their relationship at this time, or if she merely thought her husband was benevolently helping out the young lady.
Ashley soon gave birth to a baby girl she named Abagail. According to Don Morris, York refused to let Ashley’s parents visit in the hospital.
The summer of 2013 came and went, with September bringing cooler temperatures that relieved the blustery Indiana heat for a more comfortable reunion for Ashley and her family.
A few days following the reunion, Don noticed that Ashley wasn’t answering her phone. He called Ashley’s brother, who talked with his sister on the phone nearly every day, and asked if he’d heard from her.
He had not.
Don and his wife, Leandra, drove over to the rental house Ashley had been staying in. The doors were locked and the house was silent, so the couple left a note on her door asking her to reach out to them, then left.
The Morris family heard nothing in response.
A few days later, the couple returned to find the note missing. They placed another note on the door, then called York to see if he knew where his girlfriend was.
According to York, Ashley had decided to leave Indiana and move to Virginia with $15,000 York had given her. She’d dropped off her two sons to her soon-to-be ex-husband, and left baby Abagail with Mr. and Mrs. York.
This revelation, of course, was absurd. What would cause a twenty-seven-year-old mother to abandon her three young children? Why wasn’t she answering her phone, or otherwise attempting to reach her family?
Don and Leandra Morris immediately went to police. It had now been two weeks since anyone had heard from or seen Ashley.
Little did they know, the sheriff of the local police station was the the alleged cousin of Mr. Daniel York, Sr. – something that would be detrimental to the case. They would also learn that their daughter’s boyfriend and father of her newborn was allegedly a person of interest in the hotel fire homicide of twenty-two-year-old Heather Musick – a tragedy that occurred only four years before Ashley’s disappearance.
“She was beautiful inside and out,” describes Starr, a close friend of Ashley “We talked all the time. We were really close. She was like a little sister to me.”
Starr had first met her best friend through Ashley’s cousin. Ashley was a teenager at the time and was around the same age as Starr’s children, and the two families quickly became close. She and Ashley would eventually become close friends, talking on the phone constantly and getting together often.
“She was always there for me. She pointed out positive things and brought a positive light into whatever was negative that I was dealing with at the time,” Starr recalls. “She never let me fall – she was always there to listen.”
Their friendship was going on ten years when Starr saw her friend for the last time. Starr had driven over to her friend Jamey’s house, where Don and Leandra were helping Ashley change a flat tire. As with the rest of the family, Starr had no idea her best friend and confidante would turn up missing only weeks later.
Now, Starr assists as much as possible with searches and other community events centered around finding her missing friend.
“Whoever’s got her or wherever she’s at, we need her home, the kids need her home, we miss her, there’s a lot of questions that are unanswered and there’s a lot of broken hearts and a lot of broken spirits.”
“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
– Proverbs 23:18
Years of plastering missing person posters downtown, cadaver dogs and foot searches, and scours of reservoirs and other properties have unfortunately proved fruitless. Don Morris still stands on street corners with signs begging for information about his beloved daughter.
More questions than answers remain in the nearly six years since Ashley vanished. On September 15, 2015 – almost two years to the day after Ashley was last seen – Mr. York passed away in Florida.
Was the secret to Ashley’s whereabouts buried with him?
An even more bizarre twist to the case occurred when, according to the Morris family, Mrs. York somehow manipulated the legal system and adopted Ashley and her late husband’s infant daughter. This extreme miscarriage of justice is yet another painful challenge the Morris family must pursue along with the daunting challenge of locating the whereabouts of their daughter. Despite retaining lawyers in both Indiana and Florida, there has been no progress as of yet for bringing their granddaughter back home.
Yet, a light of hope still remains for the Ashley’s family and friends despite the lack of progress in the case.
“There was no more beautiful person in the world that I’ve ever met. I hope she comes home,” Starr wishes. “She had a kindred soul about her. Don and Leandra raised a good, honest, beautiful person.”
When asked what he would say if Ashley was reading this article, Don responded, “Please contact somebody and let us know you’re okay. We love you with all our hearts and miss you dearly.”
He later added, “It’s heartbreaking that she’s out there and we have no clue what happened. I don’t know what else to say.”
If you have any information pertaining to the disappearance of Ashley Morris Mullis, please contact Detective Kurt Walthour at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office at 765-747-7881. No tip is too small!