Groomed & Trafficked – The Ashley Higgins Disappearance

ashley_standish_higgins_1Photo courtesy of The Charley Project

It’s the oldest unsolved missing person case in Orange County California. Two girls take a bus from Costa Mesa to Vegas and only one returns. What happened to Ashley Higgins and who was this mysterious older boyfriend she was going to see? Was he the man Ashley’s mother seen in the paper, the man arrested for running a prostitution ring?


Ashley Standish Higgins, 19 had recently graduated from the Newport Harbor High School and gotten an apartment in Costa Mesa, California. She shared the place with an older African American male named Lee Pippin. His name will come up later in this strange tale.

November 5, 1982, Ashley and her friend Melissa took a bus from Costa Mesa California to Las Vegas. Ashley was going out to meet her boyfriend and Melissa went along for the ride. When the two girls arrived at the Tam O Shantar hotel and met the boyfriend, Melissa got a terribly uneasy feeling. The boyfriend was a much older man and he gave Melissa the creeps. Everything about the situation worried her and she tried to convince Ashley to leave with her. Ashley refused. The last time anyone saw her she was heading down to the lobby to see a ring her boyfriend wanted to show her.

Melissa left the hotel and promised to meet up with Ashley at the bus stop on Sunday to head back to Costa Mesa together. Unfortunately, Ashley never arrived at the bus stop. Thinking she just missed her friend, Melissa headed home. Melissa was arrested immediately upon her return. While Ashley was an adult, Melissa was a 17-year-old minor on probation. She wasn’t allowed to leave the state. She would go on to get into drugs and it would be a long time before she even realized her friend was a missing person.

While Ashley was away, her roommate, Lee Pippins made several calls to Vegas. He called hotels, police, and hospitals. Why would he make so many strange calls to Vegas while his roommate was away? Strangely he also called a few select cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico. When law enforcement checked Ashley’s credit card it appeared Pippins had been using it.

What happened to Ashley Higgins? Who was this older African American man she met in Vegas? Why was her roommate making so many strange phone calls? Why was he using her credit card?

At first, law enforcement wondered if the woman wanted to disappear. It wasn’t uncommon for a 19-year-old to run away. The family refused to believe this. Why would she run away when she knew she was to inherit a large sum of money soon? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay, collect the inheritance, and then leave?

Shortly after Ashley’s disappearance, her mother notices a newspaper article about the arrest of a man named Richard Leon Johnson. She immediately recognized him claiming she had seen him at her daughter’s apartment. Johnson was arrested for pimping and pandering. Could Johnson be Ashley’s boyfriend?

In 1978, Richard Johnson had been indicted by the El Paso County Grand Jury on pimping and pandering charges. His house and four vehicles were seized and eventually repossessed, but he somehow remained free and received probation. Disturbingly, Johnson was already on probation for pimping charges, but instead of being incarcerated he received another probation. If that isn’t disturbing to you then read on my friend. The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph reported on April 18, 1978, that the prostitutes that were set to witness against Johnson couldn’t be located. What happened to these witnesses? Did they ever turn up? Were they murdered?

Later investigations revealed Johnson’s prostitution ring closely aligned with the cities Ashley’s roommate, Lee Pippins was calling on the weekend of November 7, 1982. Also, nearly a month after the pretty blond-headed girl went missing, her credit card was used to rent a car in Las Vegas. We all remember who had it that fateful weekend, right?

Were Pippins and Johnson grooming an innocent girl for their human trafficking ring, or were they, innocent bystanders? I hardly think they were innocent, but how could they not be tied to this case?

Everyone hoped Ashley had run away and she would appear when it was time to inherit her money, but she never came.  It was pretty obvious by this point that Ashley Higgins met with some sort of foul play.

Ashley’s brother, Andrew is a retired police officer and he’s spent nearly forty years looking for answers. He truly believes his sister has been found somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and is currently classed as a Jane Doe. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Costa Mesa Police Department at 714-754-5157.

higgins_ashley4

Distinguishing Characteristics:

  • Height: 5’2″
  • Weight: 120lbs
  • Hair: Blond
  • Eyes: Brown
  • A c-shaped scar on one knee
  • A surgical scar on chin
  • previously fractured hip from a childhood car accident
  • Front two top teeth are false

THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.
Further Reading:

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All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


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This week’s Recommending Reading:


Human Trafficking (In the News)

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Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets

51qJyPkFlEL

TrafficKing: Jeffrey Epstein human trafficking case


ashley_standish_higgins_1

Double Amputee Goes Missing -Prosthetics & Wheelchair Left Behind

alsup_rebeccaPhoto courtesy of the Charley Project website

She suffered through heart troubles and received a pacemaker then shortly afterward became a double amputee due to complications. Before she could even learn to use her new prosthetics, Becky Alsup disappears. Her prosthetics and wheelchair were both left behind.


Rebecca Alsup’s story is a tragic tale from the beginning. After living through her mother’s horrific murder as a child, Becky would suffer greatly and eventually find herself bound by drug addiction. This would lead to serious heart problems. Although she was only in her early thirties, Becky had to undergo surgery to receive a pacemaker for her condition. As if this weren’t enough to deal with, the woman suffered more complications that would lead to becoming a double amputee. She would require prosthetics or a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, no one realized the trouble lurking around the corner for the poor woman.

On February 15, 2017, Becky spoke with a friend and hadn’t been heard from since. It is believed that Becky was in the Poplar Bluff area at the time of her phone call. At the time of her disappearance, Becky lived with Craig A.Wood in the Williamsville area. He claims Becky got into a white truck and drove away with someone he didn’t recognize. This has not been verified, however. Considering his drug use and criminal record, Wood’s statement cannot be taken at face value.

After all the surgeries, Becky had gone to live with her sister for a while and tried to battle her addiction problems. Unfortunately, bad influences convinced her to return to her old stomping grounds a short time before her disappearance.

Years earlier, Becky was in a relationship with another man named Cody. With him, she had two boys. They now live with their grandmother and wonder why their mother doesn’t come by anymore. How do you explain that to a child? What has happened to this poor woman? Have you seen Rebecca Alsup? Do you know anything about the mysterious white pickup? If you have any information about this case, please contact the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department at (573) 224-3219.


The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all inclusive source listing.

Crime Watchers

NameUs

Websleuths


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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A Lie, An Alias, & the Other Woman: The Sandra Bertolas Story

bertolas

On April 24, 1988, Sandra Bertolas left her family’s home in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin to confront her ex-boyfriend. Not only did he give her an alias, but he was hiding the fact he was in a long-term relationship with another woman. Frustrated, she told family members that she was going to meet him in West Allis. The 20-year-old was never seen again. Her car was found a few days later abandoned in a bowling alley parking lot.

Sandra Bertolas was pretty, spunky, and smart. She loved makeup, fashion, and was studying cosmetology at the Waukesha County Technical College. Sandra was the youngest of eight children and seemed to have everything going her way until April 1988. She attended the wedding shower of a friend earlier in the day. There, she confided to friends that her boyfriend was cheating on her. To make matters worse he had also given her a fake name.

Family members say she left home around 7 pm. Her boyfriend had called and begged her to meet with him. She finally agreed and told her family that she was going to meet him before she left. When she hadn’t returned by midnight, her father became worried and started calling the local hospitals. Perhaps she had been in an accident. Sandra always called home.

The following June, a tip came in that lead the authorities to Mount Olivet Cemetery. Search dogs were brought in and focused on a 12-foot area around a grave that had been open at the time of Sandra’s disappearance. after getting permission the authorities opened the grave and searched in hopes of finding the missing woman. She was not there.

While many families keep hoping that their missing relatives will be found alive, the Bertolas family firmly believes that their beloved Sandra is deceased. They have a grave plot reserved for her in Saint Anthony’s Cemetery right next to her father’s grave. Her father died in 2010 never knowing what happened to his sweet Sandra.

The family hopes after 30 years someone will come forward with some information that will lead to the remains of their loved one. If you have any information please contact:
Menomonee Falls Police Department
Lt. D. Mueller
262-532-8700

Agency Case Number: I88-1528

More information on this case:

Missing Thirty Years

Charley Project

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.

Without a Trace

John Lee Hamilton

This week’s blog post is a guest post from fellow blogger Shurlock Holmes. More of his work can be found on the Crimeblogger1983.blogspot.com website.
By the “Consulting Detective” for the Hamilton Family:
Before I start with the entry, I want to thank Johnathan’s mom Angie for talking with me regarding her son’s case. I want to say ahead of time that I personally do not agree with many of her theories regarding her son’s disappearance. And that is ok. We both can agree to disagree. One thing I’d like to make clear is that even if we don’t agree I understand she is a mother who is in pain searching for her son. Law Enforcement should be more sympathetic to her plight. The persons named in this entry are not guilty of anything. I am simply naming the people involved to the best of my knowledge. I did try and contact Justin Edward Earls in advance. But was unable to get a hold of him. Also, I want to thank Marissa from The Vanished for making this entry a little easier. I’ll probably continue with updates to this entry whenever I have new information. So keep checking this entry if you are interested in this case.
In a recent development, Bastrop PD is checking for any connection between Jonathan’s disappearance and Centerville Texas which is located in Leon County and along Interstate 45.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Bastrop Police Department at (512) 332-8600 or (512) 332-8603

NOTE: The entire timeline of this case is open to interpretation. It’s like a puzzle. We know he left his home in Houston on the 2nd, and his car was found on the 4th in Bastrop. Bastrop Police make contact with him on the 4th. The rest is open to interpretation. I urge the readers to listen to the 2nd part of the Vanished episode. Marissa did a great job obtaining info regarding this case.

Bastrop Police Department Case Number: 2015-0560
NAMUS Case Number: 33350
Doe Network Case Number: 5173DMTX
Charley Project
The Vanished Ep-Part 1
The Vanished Ep-Part 2

JOHNATHAN LEE HAMILTON

DATE OF BIRTH: 5/28/1988
HEIGHT & WEIGHT: 6’2 210 LBS
EYE AND HAIR COLOR: BROWN
LAST SEEN: 5/4/2015 Best Buy Parking lot in BASTROP, TEXAS
WEARING: LSW denim shorts, T-Shirt “EZEKIAL” written on the front, tennis shoes (BROWN SUEDE, COLEMAN LIKE-BRAND SIZE 12.5 TO 13)
MEDICAL CONDITIONS: TYPE 1 DIABETIC, suffered from BIPOLAR DISORDER. Recently hospitalized before disappearance INSULIN DEPENDANT.
PARENTS: ANGIE SIMS-HAMILTON & MICHAEL WAYNE HAMILTON
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: After an accident in 2012, Johnathan has a scar on his right eye after facial reconstruction surgery. He also has a plate and screws in his hip.
HABITS: was known to drink alcohol, smoke Marlboro American Spirits

  • Jonathan lived with his parents in Houston, TX
  • was disabled on a fixed income
  • Completed his welding classes a few days before his disappearance
  • On the 27th & 28th of April, he was rushed by ambulance to two different hospitals suffering from complications of Diabetes. (EVENTUALLY DISCHARGED)
  • May 2, 2015: He left his home driving his father’s vehicle (2008 GMC ENVOY) His parents haven’t seen him since.
  • 2 days later the 2008 GMC Envoy was found in Bastrop. It was parked in a handicapped parking spot. (PARKING WAS DESCRIBED AS HAPHAZARDLY)
Bastrop is approximately a 2-hour drive from Houston

The white spot is where the car was parked. Second spot second row. However, it could have been the 1st spot of the second row as well. Either way, it was one of those two parking spaces.

  • The Bastrop PD was alerted to the car as well as a man who was “acting strangely” in the Best Buy parking lot
  • Officer Jason Pierson and Officer James Altgelt made contact with Johnathan. (THERE IS AN ISSUE ON HOW THEY VERIFIED HIS IDENTITY. ONE OF THE OFFICERS STATES HE DID SO VIA DRIVER’S LICENSE. WHICH COULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED. HE LEFT IT AT HOME. I BELIEVE THE OFFICER LIKELY FORGOT AND ASSUMED THAT HE VERIFIED WITH THE DL SINCE THAT IS PROB WHAT HE DOES THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME.)
  • The officers discovered the Missing Persons’ report filed by his parents and notified them by phone. The Hamiltons made the 2-hr drive to the Bastrop Police Dept.
  • While on the drive, Johnathan called his dad stating that he didn’t need to be picked up. He was going to leave the keys in the car which was out of gas.
  • The call was made from a cell phone from a good Samaritan. The good Samaritan’s name is JUSTIN EDWARD EARLS.
  • He apparently also called his ex-girlfriend. He told her that he had been robbed. Justin denies the robbery ever happened or was even mentioned.
  • Angie asked the Bastrop P.D. to detain Johnathan until they arrived, but they told him they couldn’t since he hadn’t broken any laws.
  • The Hamiltons even called a family member that lived nearby to ask him to pick up Johnathan since the police couldn’t hold him.
  • When the Hamiltons arrived they found the car parked where it was reported. One of the windows was rolled down and the car was ransacked. Papers from the glove box were scattered all over the floor. A bottle of perfume had been dumped in the passenger seat and the keys were missing. Johnathan’s insulin was in the car, but his meter was not.
  • THEY THEN PROCEEDED TO LEAVE TO GET GAS AND GET SOMETHING TO EAT. WHEREUPON THEY MEET JOHNATHAN’S DAD’S COUSIN. A KENNETH ERIC HAMILTON. ACCORDING TO THE ANGIE AND HER HUSBAND. KENNETH ADVISED THEM TO SEARCH THE WOODS TO FIND JOHNATHAN. AND IF HE WAS HIS KID HE WOULD “TAKE HIM INTO THE WOODS, TIE HIM TO A TREE, AND BEAT HIM.” (YEAH WOW, BUT PUT THAT IN CONTEXT OF HIM SAYING THAT IN REGARDS TO JOHNATHAN TAKING THE CAR FOR 2 DAYS AND SHOWING UP IN BASTROP AND NOT LEAVING THE KEYS TO THE CAR. THIS IS BEFORE HE HAD BEEN MISSING FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD.)
  • Kenneth E. Hamilton apparently took a call from the Bastrop P.D. on the 4th.
  • Kenneth Eric Hamilton (the family member that lived nearby) said he never made contact with Johnathan.
  • Later, he told the family that Johnathan wanted to purchase a new car for his dad and wanted Kenneth to take him to the dealership. (HE DIDNT HAVE THE MONEY FOR GAS LET ALONE A NEW VEHICLE) Besides this, the dealership was only across the street from Best Buy. Why would he need a ride?
  • There was a theft reported around the time of Johnathan’s visit. Nothing of value was taken, but some of these items were later found in the car Johnathan abandoned
COVERT CHEVROLET DEALERSHIP
  • The Hamiltons have had no contact with the cousin since 2015
  • Later that day the Hamiltons made contact with a few officers from Bastrop P.D. According to the Hamiltons, they felt intimidated by the officers. The officer began running checks on the Hamiltons and searched both cars. ONE OFFICER STATED “IF I WASN’T ON DUTY. I’D TELL YOU A STORY.” (?)
  • apparently sometime that day a police officer gave Johnathan a courtesy ride to Walmart to get money.

One of the routes he could’ve taken to get to the address. I know this is showing the driving route. Google’s walking route is the same, it just takes more time. (36 minutes)

  • Johnathan appeared at a residence located at 313 FARM TO MARKET 969 at around 11 pm.
  • He came upon the residents of the house and told them he came out of the Colorado River while canoeing but lost the oars. (SOME OF THE WITNESSES SAID HE WAS WET. OTHERS STATE HE WAS DRY. EVERYONE AGREES THAT JOHNATHAN WAS NOT IN HIS RIGHT STATE OF MIND)

313 FARM TO MARKET 969 AERIAL VIEW

  • After making contact with the residents he left the area with Justin Edward Earls who according to him to Walmart where he purchased a gift card, a bushel of bananas, and coffee. (IN ANOTHER VARIATION OF THE STORY HE BOUGHT HIM A BUSHEL OF BANANAS, A $25 GIFT CARD, AND A PACK OF WINSTON CIGARETTES. NOTE THAT THIS ISN’T THE BRAND HE USUALLY SMOKED.)
  • After that, Justin took him to Taco Bell where he ordered plain chicken tacos. Then after he had eaten he started acting normal again.
  • Justin and Johnathan then parted way and agreed to meet back up at a Taco Cabana. While at the taco place he called his grandma and told her he was sick and ended the call by throwing up.
  • In one variation of the story, Justin drops him back off at the Best Buy parking lot. The other has them parting ways at the Taco Cabana and agreeing to meet back up there.
  • Justin claims when he showed back up he couldn’t find Johnathan. Justin claimed he slept in his car all night hoping Johnathan would return, but he never saw Johnathan again.