Ashley Brown was used to being one step ahead.
The 27-year-old surgical technician was in charge of anticipating needs in high-pressure medical situations-- assisting surgeons by setting up the operating room, passing instruments during procedures and ensuring everything was sterile.
"She really loved her job," her father, Trever Brown told Dateline. "She was good at talking people through things to make them feel comfortable."
In July of 2016, Ashley moved to Nashville after working as a traveling surgical technician in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and California. She had been living in "Music City" for about six months when a co-worker invited her to go out with some friends to look at Christmas lights and get drinks afterwards.
December 16, 2016 unfolded like a typical Friday.
Ashley's mother, Julie Brown, told Dateline that her daughter went out with the group and then came back to hang out with friends at an apartment. The friend told Julie that around 3:30 the next morning, Ashley went outside -- leaving her purse, keys and wallet behind. It would be one of those moments you would give anything to redo.
She, apparently, never came back to the apartment and didn't call anyone the rest of the weekend.
Julie said this silence was highly uncharacteristic of her daughter, who would check in with her daily.
"We'd talk about nothing and everything," said Julie, who also works in the medical field as a nurse. "I'd be on my way home from working the night shift and she would just be starting her day. It was my favorite part of the day."
Hours of concern turned into days.
Ashley's friends and family posted her photo all over social media and created a Help find Ashley Brown Facebook page. Her face was on local and national news sites along with pleas for anyone with information to call the police.
Four days after Ashley's disappearance -- one day before her 28th birthday -- the dreaded call came, confirming the worst.
Ashley was found dead at a trash disposal site in Nashville -- about 5 miles from where she was last seen alive. Police said they believe her body had been thrown in a dumpster elsewhere and was then transported to the facility, according to Nashville affiliate WSMV.
"It's every parent's worst nightmare," said Julie. "She was tossed like an afterthought. And she was anything but an afterthought."
In March of 2017, Ashley's death was ruled a homicide. The autopsy report revealed the cause of death: multiple blunt force injuries and strangulation.
"I want the 'why' and the 'how'. I may never get the 'why,'' said Julie.
Ashley worked at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, the same hospital where Tiffany Ferguson was completing her residency when she was killed in her apartment in February of 2017. WSMV reported that police do not believe the murders are related.
"We can't get our daughter back, but we just want a dangerous person off the streets," said Trever, Ashley's father.
Her family described Ashley as an intelligent bookworm with a caring heart and wry sense of humor. She would quote Edgar Allan Poe, tell sarcastic jokes and looked at life with a "you only live once" philosophy.
Ashley's mother said working at a hospital is what instilled Ashley's perspective about tomorrows. "She understood, more than others, that every day could be your last day."
Anyone with any information about Ashley Brown is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or submit an anonymous message to www.nashvillecrimestoppers.com.