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After serving over a year in Iraq as an Army police officer, Ashley Meiss came back home to Ogden, Kansas in June 2010. She had been honorably discharged after becoming pregnant with her first-born child, a son.
Six years and a second child later, Ashley was in college and working a part time job while living with her husband Chris Meiss in Ogden, Ashley’s father Tom Lewis told Dateline. Everything seemed normal, Tom said. He lives in North Carolina, but spoke frequently to his daughter on the phone. In November 2016, Tom and his wife began to sense a shift in their daughter’s personality.
“We started to see signs of stress, depression and anxiety,” Tom said. “[Ashley’s mother and I] were talking to Ashley every other day to see how she was doing. Ashley thought it may be signs of PTSD.”
Just one month later, the signs became more apparent when Ashley called her mother, panicked, saying she thought someone was in the backyard stalking her.
“The police responded and said they thought she was having a nervous breakdown,” Ashley’s father Tom told Dateline about the December 2016 incident. Ashley was admitted to a hospital in Manhattan, Kansas for observation while her parents drove from North Carolina to pick up her and her kids.
“As we are driving back to North Carolina, Ashley was in the car behind me. We are going through Topeka, Kansas, and we stop at a stoplight and Ashley gets out of her car and starts banging on my SUV saying, ‘There is a bomb in there,’” Tom told Dateline. “She was admitted to the VA hospital in Topeka for about two weeks. Then in January, I picked her up from there and drove her to North Carolina where her kids had been staying with us.”
Tom says that during her stay in North Carolina, Ashley, 31, had shown signs of improvement. She had been seeing a therapist, her father said, and was regularly taking her medications. She seemed to be on the mend.
Tom says his daughter and the children stayed in North Carolina until July 2017, when they returned to Ogden to be reunited with Ashley’s husband Chris. Chris, a recently retired Master Sergeant in the Army, was returning from his own deployment in Iraq.
“But in February of 2018, Chris and Ashley had a bit of a falling out,” Tom told Dateline. “Ashley pushed Chris, and he called the police and he put a protection order in place and filed for divorce. She didn’t fight it, and she allowed Chris to have full custody of the two kids.”
Tom told Dateline that Ashley was admitted to the hospital once again for observation, but was released on February 24 to stay with friends. The following day, the family later learned, Ashley believed she heard gun shots and sirens coming from her former home, and she went over and went into the house to make sure her children were OK.
“Chris, who had an order of protection against her, called the police and Ashley was arrested for violating the protection order,” Tom told Dateline, adding that he drove to Ogden to get her out of jail. She stayed with some friends in town for a few weeks before getting her own apartment on April 1, 2018, only a few blocks away from the house where Chris and the children still lived.
“She started to recover and got some visitation rights with the kids,” Tom said. “Her husband was being supportive and I was talking to her every other day.”
It was on May 16, 2018, during one of their frequent phone calls, that Tom says Ashley told him “she was upset with Chris, because he was planning on leaving the state to go see his parents with the kids,” and “she didn’t like that idea.”
Tom says Ashley also went to see her therapist that day, and witnesses have since told him they saw her in town, alone, around 6:00 p.m. that evening.
The next day, Thursday May 17, around 6:00 p.m., witnesses would later tell police they saw Ashley leave her apartment in running gear. This would have been normal, Tom told Dateline. What wasn’t normal, however, was that Ashley didn’t take her bulldog, Flicker, on the run with her.
“Flicker is basically her service dog. It’s very, very odd that she didn’t take her dog,” Tom said.
Ashley left her cell phone, I.D., and car at her apartment. She never came back to get them.
Authorities and family members tell Dateline it’s unclear where Ashley stayed the night of Thursday, May 17. The next morning around 9:30 a.m., surveillance footage shows her walking into a nearby post office and picking up her mail.
“The lady hands her the mail -- one letter. Ashley opens it, and all of a sudden her demeanor changes,” Tom told Dateline. “She becomes depressed. She is normally upbeat and social.”
Riley County Police Department Detective Steve Tucker told Dateline that later that day, Ashley was also seen at a nearby community center, and then again at night at a local bar. Det. Tucker said police have spoken with two men who Ashley spoke with at the bar, but they told authorities Ashley didn’t say where she was going when she left the bar.
“Nobody know who she came with or who she left with,” Tom told Dateline.
Ashley has not been seen since leaving the bar, but police tell Dateline she did make a brief call to a friend the next day.
“Ashley calls an old Army friend of hers -- a female friend of hers -- and says she is feeling depressed and that it’s hard going through the divorce and not being with her kids all the time,” Tom said, adding that Ashley did not say where she was or who she was with during that phone call.
Detective Tucker told Dateline police began their investigation that day, May 19, after receiving calls from family and friends that Ashley was missing.
Through their investigation, police tried to trace the call Ashley made to her friend on the morning of the 19th. Detective Tucker said when they attempted to do so through Verizon, they found out the call had been coming from an application that blocks the caller’s location.
“We’ve interviewed anybody and everybody who has information to go along with this case. At this time, we don’t have anything to put her in a critical missing persons case,” Det. Tucker told Dateline, a classification he explained would require evidence that Ashley was putting either herself or someone else in danger.
“I’ve looked through some letters that she has left and I’ve looked through her phone. While she seems desperate and frustrated, it does not seem that she would harm herself or anyone else,” he told Dateline. “She clearly had some mental health issues that could be consistent with going off somewhere. We don’t have anything to say she was taken against her will.”
Detective Tucker added that authorities are “definitely still concerned about her and about her safety.” Ashley’s case is currently listed as a missing persons case at the Riley County Police Department.
“Initially we thought maybe she took off for a couple of weeks. Now it’s looking like that may not be the case,” Ashley’s father Tom told Dateline, adding that she would never leave her children. “Ashley’s world revolved around her children. More than anything, she wanted to be the best mother for them.”
“Ashley is the kind of person who has a huge heart. Quite literally, she would do anything for anyone,” Tom said of his daughter.
Ashley’s older brother, Chris Lewis, who was on the call with Dateline and his father, echoed his father’s sentiments about his “outgoing” little sister. He added that the family is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to Ashely’s safe return.
For more information on Ashley Meiss’s disappearance, visit the Bring Ash Home Facebook page run by the family. Ashley was last seen in Ogden, Kansas on May 18. She is about 5'4" tall and weighs about 140 lbs. Ashley has short brown hair that is shaved on the sides. If you have any information on Ashley's whereabouts, please contact the Riley County Police Department at (785) 537-2112 or Crime Stoppers at (785) 539-7777.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the Veterans section of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.