GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — (Grand Haven Tribune) - Kristine Young clutches a box containing her daughter’s ashes and cries a little as her longtime partner, Dana Carlson, comforts her.
Young, a Grand Haven resident, rubs her aching head and admits the stress is building again as the trial of her daughter’s accused murderer quickly approaches.
Ashley Young was a resident of Kalamazoo, but she was born and raised in Grand Haven. The 31-year-old died Nov. 28, 2018, in Grand Rapids.
The friend she was out with that night, 30-year-old Jared Chance, remains in the Kent County Jail and is scheduled to go to trial Monday on charges related to Ashley’s death. Chance is charged with open murder, tampering with evidence and habitual offender.
His parents, James and Barbara Chance of Holland, also face trial (scheduled for October) on charges of perjury and accessory after the fact in the case.
Ashley hadn’t communicated with Jared for several years after he had broken into her apartment and stole some items, according to her mother. Last fall, a friend convinced Ashley to reconnect with Jared on Facebook, Kristine said. The two started communicating and eventually made plans to get together.
The Monday before she disappeared, Ashley told her mother that she was talking to Jared again, but she didn’t tell her mom that she had planned to see Jared.
“That’s when we had the ‘come to Jesus talk,’” Kristine said. “Ashley knew I didn’t like him. Ashley knew I didn’t want her to be with him. Some people are just bad.”
But Ashley didn’t want to believe her mother, Kristine said. “She just didn’t believe that anything would ever happen. She wore rose-colored glasses. Now, because she trusted him, she’s dead.”
Kristine paced the living room in her home on the east side of Grand Haven. She looked at pictures of her daughter as Nelson described who was in the photos – most of them were photos of Ashley with Nelson’s two sons, Andrew and Adrian.
“Ashley was full of life,” Kristine said, as she looked at the recent picture of the three children in clowning poses. “She was kind to people. She didn’t like people being bullied. She was ‘laughter and smiles’ most of the time. She was headstrong at times. You were lucky to have her as a friend.”
Kristine also described her daughter as a bit gullible.
“The boys would tell her that she needed to get blinker fluid and she would drive all around town trying to find some,” she said. “She didn’t realize there was no such thing as blinker fluid.”
Kristine said her daughter got a lot smarter as she got older.
Kristine and Dana watched a selfie-video of Ashley on a cold winter day as the young woman described an evening when she ran out of gas, then locked herself out of the car when it was running, eventually got gas and ran an errand, but ran out of gas again because she had left the car running for so long.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Ashley says on the video.
Kristine smiles and wipes away some tears. Dana chuckles as they watch the video – something they have done over and over again.
Ashley graduated from Grand Haven High School in 2005 and worked in a group home for mentally disabled adults until three or four years ago.
“Her last job was at the call center for PNC (Bank), which she absolutely loved,” Kristine said. “She loved all of her co-workers.”
After moving to Kalamazoo, she took classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College with plans to graduate in May, and then go to Western Michigan University to study language and culture, her mother said.
“She was fascinated with other cultures and religions,” Kristine said.
Ashley picked the brains of a friend from India and was studying to convert to Islam due to her long-time boyfriend being Muslim.
Kristine said Ashley and her boyfriend were “taking a break” at the time of the murder.
On the morning of the day she died, Ashley was supposed to visit a friend who had just had surgery, and then meet with her mother to sign a lease on an apartment. When Kristine couldn’t get in touch with her daughter, she kept texting her and threatened to call the police if she didn’t respond.
Thinking back, Kristine said her entire body went cold at 5:45 a.m. that day.
“My legs were numb, my arms were numb,” she said.
In retrospect, Kristine says she’s fairly certain that’s the time her daughter died.
Kristine said she knew for sure her daughter was missing when she didn’t show up for work on Friday. Repeated attempts to contact her through friends were fruitless, and Kristine said her attempts to get Jared’s address or phone number were denied.
Kristine reported her daughter missing Friday morning, Nov. 30, but it wasn’t until the next morning that police knocked on the door of Jared’s apartment. Nobody answered.
The next day, police responded to the same building after the other tenant investigated a bad smell and found Ashley’s torso in the basement.
The young woman’s head, hands and feet have still not been found.
Kristine said the entire time she was talking to her daughter’s friends, and finally started communicating with Jared, who told her that Ashley had gone to his friend’s house. That friend told Kristine he didn’t know anything about her daughter’s whereabouts. He went to Jared’s apartment with her and that’s when they came upon the scene after the discovery of Ashley’s body.
“I was getting a run-around from so many people,” Kristine said. “I was in panic mode. This isn’t Ashley.”
Kristine said that she knew something was terribly wrong.
“Sometimes I feel like she was just protecting me,” she said. “She didn’t want me to find her.”
As she prepares to be possibly the first witness at the trial, Kristine’s face goes hard when she is asked what she hopes will happen.
“I want the death penalty for him,” she says as tears roll down her cheeks.
She also said she wants the same for his parents, saying they should have spoken up when they knew what their son had done.
She plans to sit through the entire trial.
“It’s my daughter, our daughter,” she explains.
“We want justice and we want them to tell us where she is,” Dana added.
Dana asks for prayers to find the rest of Ashley’s body.
“If you know anything or hear anything, call Silent Observer,” Kristine said.
Editor's note: The Kent County Prosecutor's Office said Friday that Jared Chance was offered a plea deal. He will be allowed to plead guilty on Monday, Sept. 9—the day the trial is supposed to start.
“We made him an offer after consulting with the victim's family,’’ Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said. “The plea agreement calls for a full confession on what happened.’’
T-shirts, fundraisers, donations
A poker run benefit to raise reward money for the return of the rest of Ashley’s body is set for Saturday, Sept. 21, with registration in the back parking lot of The Lakes Mall, behind the former Sears store. Registration begins at 10 a.m. Requested donations are $15 per driver and $10 per passenger.
Dinner following the poker run will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Pat’s Roadhouse in Muskegon. Dinner is included for all paid riders. A $5 donation is requested for all others.
Donations are also being accepted to cover the costs of a memorial for Ashley, planned for the anniversary of her next birthday – Jan. 14, 2020. The Ashley Young Memorial Fund is at Lake Michigan Credit Union.
Anyone wanting to purchase a “Justice For Ashley” T-shirt can get the pink, sparkly shirt at #JusticeForAshley for $15.
“We wear them on Fridays,” Dana said, noting that all employees at the Rendezvous Restaurant do the same. “(Ashley) loved glitter and sparkles and rainbows and sunshine.”
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