Ashley Marie Pond was a preteen from a broken family when she began spending time at the home of a school friend in Oregon City, Oregon. She became close enough to the family that she accompanied her friend, the friend's father Ward Weaver, and Weaver's girlfriend on a two-week summer vacation to California in 2001.
Six months after the trip, Ashley disappeared after leaving her mother's home for the school bus. Her body was found the following August in a barrel behind the home Weaver was renting. Two years later, Weaver pleaded guilty to her murder, among other charges.
Ashley was born on March 1, 1989. Her mother Lori Davis was barely 16 at the time, almost a child herself. For the first few years of Ashley's life, she lived with her mother and her mother's high school sweetheart David Pond. Eventually, the two married and Ashley viewed David as her father.
Ashley was described as a well-behaved, easy child who could entertain herself and adored being hugged. She seemed to live a fairly normal life for a child of parents so young. But when Ashley was 9 or 10, her mother divorced David Pond, and Ashley's world changed forever.
During the divorce, the couple fought about child-support payments, and a paternity test was administered to determine if David Pond was Ashley's biological father. To Ashley's devastation, the test found that he wasn't; a man named Wesley Roettger was her biological father.
She began to stay with Roettger on weekends. During this time, friends and family noticed she was growing sullen and confrontational. She began to resist visiting her father, eventually telling her mother that Roettger had been sexually abusing her.
In January 2001, Roettger was indicted on 40 counts of raping and sexually abusing Ashley, but eight months later most counts were dropped. He pleaded no contest to one charge and was released on probation.
During the following months, police were called to Lori Pond's apartment for various reasons, including an allegation that Pond was drunk and neglecting the children. By April 2001, Ashley was spending a lot of time at the house of a friend, the daughter of Ward Weaver. In early spring, Linda Virden, Ashley's reading teacher, reported to Gaffney Lane Elementary principal Chris Mills that she saw Weaver kiss Ashley on the lips.
According to the Portland Tribune, Ashley spent most of the first half of 2001 with the Weaver family, even joining Weaver, his girlfriend, and Weaver's daughter that summer on a two-week vacation to California. Calls to the police about disturbances at Pond's home continued over the next few months.
In early August, Ashley confided to Virden that Weaver was molesting her and threatened to testify against her in her father's rape trial. In April she had accused two other men of molesting her but recanted her statements. Possibly fear that no one would believe her kept her from pursuing charges against Weaver.
Once the accusations were made, she stopped going to Weaver's house and felt ostracized by Weaver, Weaver's daughter, and the daughter's friends. Due to the sloppy handling of paperwork by county officials regarding Ashley's accusation, Weaver wasn't investigated or charged with sexually abusing Ashley at that time.
Throughout the following fall, Ashley's life seemed to settle down. Her grades were improving and she was fighting less with her mother. Some of her bubbly personality seemed to return. As Christmas approached, it appeared that Ashley and the Weavers had partially renewed their friendship.
According to the Portland Tribune, on Jan. 9, 2002, Lori Pond heard Ashley say goodbye around 8:15 a.m. as she headed out to catch her school bus at a stop near Weaver's home. What happened to Ashley after that time is unknown. What is known is that at some point before she died, the 12-year-old had consumed as much as five shots of whiskey.
On the weekend of Aug. 24-25, Ashley's body was found inside a barrel buried in the backyard of Weaver's rental home. A concrete slab had been poured over the hole. According to Weaver's son, Francis Weaver, his father confessed to him that he had killed Ashley, although the details of the confession changed from time to time.
On Oct. 4, 2002, Weaver was indicted for the murder of Ashley and on 16 other counts including sex abuse, attempted rape, aggravated murder, and abuse of a corpse. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Sept. 22, 2004, Weaver pleaded guilty to killing two of his daughter's friends and hiding their bodies on his property. He received two life sentences for the deaths of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis. As of September 2019, Weaver was serving at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, Oregon.