Ward Weaver: Like Father, Like Son
A Background of Abuse
During the course of their interviews, police investigators, both at the local and federal levels, learned that a year earlier, Ashley's biological father had been indicted on 20 counts of rape and 20 counts of sodomy involving Ashley over a four-year period, according to reports in The Oregonian. She hadn't known her biological father until her mother, some seven or eight years into her marriage with her high school sweetheart and then-current husband, decided to divorce the man that Ashley had considered to have been her father. A dispute over child support payments prompted DNA testing to establish paternity, and Ashley was overwhelmed and overcome with confusion when the results of the tests came back — the man that she had thought of as her father for most of her life was not her dad after all. Sadly, the alleged abuse began shortly after she began trying to get acquainted with her biological father.
When she would come home from her weekend visits with her real father, friends and relatives noticed that she was often brooding and seemed angry, and that her behavior had worsened following subsequent visits over the four-year period. It got to the point where she refused to make the weekend visits, and she finally confided to her mother the details of what had been happening to her.
Her biological father managed to plea bargain his case, resulting in it never going to trial. He eventually pleaded no contest to a single count of attempted unlawful sexual penetration, and was sentenced to 10 years' probation — a mere slap on the hands for the shame and degradation that he had inflicted upon his own child. According to the deputy district attorney that prosecuted the case, Ashley had claimed that her biological father was not the only adult male that had sexually abused her.
By April 2001, the task force learned, the police had been called to Ashley's apartment several times to quell drunken disturbances and domestic disputes. As a result, she began spending considerable time at a neighbor's home, situated along South Beavercreek Road near the edge of the apartment complex where she lived. One of her friends and classmates lived there, along with other family members.
The neighbor, Ward Weaver III, 39 at the time, and his family had moved into the rental house at that location a few years earlier, and Ashley, along with another friend, Miranda Gaddis, had eventually befriended Weaver's daughter, who was near their age and attended the same elementary school. The trio had met the year before they graduated to Gardiner Middle School.
At first, Ashley's relationship with the Weavers simply involved sleepovers with their daughter when they were both still in elementary school. Weaver often dropped Ashley and his own daughter off at Gaffney Lane Elementary School following the sleepovers. On one occasion, Ashley's reading teacher saw Weaver kiss Ashley on the lips when he dropped her off. The teacher filed an official report of the incident with the principal, but little else was said about it. By the summer of 2001, she had purportedly begun staying at the Weaver home in what were described by the local media as "extended visits." In late July and early August, Ashley accompanied the Weaver family on a two-week vacation to California. Shortly after their return, Ashley accused Weaver of molesting her and moved back home. She also confided the matter to her reading teacher and claimed that Weaver had threatened to testify against her in her biological father's case, had it gone to trial, if she persisted in the matter.
Shortly after Ashley accused Weaver of molesting her, Weaver called one her relatives on the telephone to complain.
"I'm calling to let you know that Ashley has just now accused me of molesting her and raping her," Ashley's relative quoted Weaver as saying. "She (Ashley) told my daughter this. I want you to know that she is never allowed back at my house again. I've completely washed my hands of her. She just ruined the relationship."
The police would later learn that Weaver, on the day that Ashley disappeared, had shown up for work at his job in the community of Clackamas, not far from Oregon City, at around 9:30 a.m. that day. Apparently, according to police documents, it had not been determined whether he left work at anytime that day, nor had the police determined what time he arrived at home after work.