Ward Weaver: Like Father, Like Son
According to autopsy reports from the Oregon State medical examiner's office, both girls died as a result of "homicidal violence of unspecified etiology." In other words, the medical examiner had been unable to pin a precise cause of death for both victims. According to the reports, death by strangulation, poisoning, beating, shooting or stabbing had been ruled out.
Ashley's remains were mummified, which is consistent with having been frozen, and were fully clothed. A white rope had been wrapped around her neck and was connected to her wrists and hands, and had been used to pull her body into an unyielding fetal position. The remains had also been wrapped in four transparent plastic bags, and had been covered by a silver tarp.
Similarly, Miranda's remains were partially clothed and had also been secured by cords. The box had been taped shut, and had been covered in clear plastic. It was speculated that one or both of the girl's bodies had been kept frozen inside a chest-style freezer inside Weaver's house before being moved to the locations where they were found. At least one of Weaver's fingerprints was found on the tape that had been used to seal the box.
Strangely, Ashley's autopsy report showed that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.17 percent, which is more than double the legal limit for drivers in Oregon. According to an analysis of the report by an independent forensic scientist, that level of alcohol would be the equivalent of roughly five shots of whiskey or other hard liquor within a fairly short timeframe before she died.
"It's extremely difficult to say how much alcohol she actually had," said the scientist, because as a body decomposes it produces alcohol. Miranda's body, for example, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent which could be attributed to having been produced during decomposition. If Ashley had consumed five shots of alcohol before she died, it would have had a serious effect on the 110 pound girl.
"That's high enough to kill such a young girl," he said. "I would be surprised if she hadn't passed out," continued the forensic scientist. "If she hadn't passed out, there would be no question in anyone's mind that she would have been plastered. She'd be falling-down drunk, inhibitions totally absent, probably some vomiting depending on how quickly the alcohol had been taken in. At that age and size, you would have the potential for acute alcohol poisoning...she'd obviously be drunk to anyone looking at her."
Although the investigators couldn't say where Ashley had gotten the alcohol or with whom she had drunk it, police reports indicated that information had surfaced during the investigation that had indicated that Weaver, in July 2002, had provided alcohol to his own young daughter and another teenage girl that he allegedly sexually abused after getting her drunk. They also had no way of knowing whether Ashley had been forced to drink the alcohol, if she had drunk it willingly, or if it had been administered to her in some other way. There were also statements from a doctor who told police that Weaver's daughter had told her that Weaver had provided alcohol to her and Ashley.
Although a precise cause of death couldn't be confirmed by the autopsies, several theories were being tossed around by the task force and others. Among the ideas being considered were alcohol poisoning, suffocation with a pillow, a hand being held over the face and mouth, a chokehold to cut off blood circulation to the brain, or asphyxiation due to being placed inside an airtight container. An uncommon drug or rare poison could also be difficult to identify.
Officials also believed that Miranda's body had been in the shed only a short time when the police recovered it, perhaps only a few weeks. And because, at least in part, of the presence of cigarette butts, Styrofoam pieces, and a Q-tip found in Ashley's clothing, it appeared that Ashley's body may have been kept elsewhere before it had been buried beneath the concrete in March 2002.