She was strangled three times and left for dead, but Ashley survived this horrific attack.
On April 28, 2006, police in St. Clair County, Illinois, found 17-year-old Ashley Reeves unconscious in the woods covered in insect bites, freezing, and with a broken neck. First responders believed she was dead until she moved. Police would later find out that Ashley had been strangled three times before being left in the freezing woods alone for 30 hours. Ashley’s story, her fight for survival, and her journey afterward is one doozy of a tale. So grab a cup of something comforting, because we’re about to dive into this hair-raising story. How did Ashley end up in those woods?
About Ashley Reeves
Ashley Reeves was born in Belleville, Illinois, to parents Michelle Reeves and Tracy Green Koenig. According to friends and family, Ashley was a normal high school junior who was looking forward to graduating high school in Millstadt, Illinois.
Okay, so I found conflicting reports about Ashley’s age and birthday. All sources agree that she was 17 at the time of the attack, and many sources say she was born in 1983. I immediately knew this made no sense. I was born in 1990 and I was 16 in 2006, so I know that’s wrong. If you do the math, that would put Ashley at 23 years old in 2006. The reported date of birth must be wrong.
Have you talked to Ashley?
On April 27, 2006, Ashley told her parents that she was going to a job interview in the next town over and then to play basketball. She promised her parents that she would be home by curfew. She played basketball often.
Police did wonder why Ashley went to that other town to play basketball. Weird, right? File that away in your noggin. We will come back to it.
Ashley’s boyfriend Jeremy let her borrow her car to go to the interview, and she left around 3:30 that day. Good boyfriend energy from Jeremy. She had a change of clothes with her to play basketball in after the interview.
By 10:30 p.m. (30 minutes past Ashley’s curfew), Ashley’s mother Michelle became worried about her. Ashley’s sister Casey had not heard from Ashley all day, which was unusual. They both sent multiple text messages with no response.
Michelle smartly filed a missing person report with St. Clair County Police. The police had originally thought that Ashley was just staying out past her curfew, but then they found Jeremy’s abandoned car about 15 minutes from Ashley’s house with the change of clothes still inside.
Police knew at this point that something was wrong. Understandably, they first turned their sights on Jeremy, the boyfriend. It was his car after all. But Jeremy was cleared early on. He seems to genuinely be concerned about Ashley in his interrogations. It wasn’t Jeremy.
Ashley’s mother Michelle got Ashley’s phone records. Unfortunately, she could only get incoming and outgoing calls, no text messages. But we don’t need any text messages to find a new lead.
Michelle noticed that there were several calls from a number she didn’t recognize. So Michelle called the number and found 26-year-old Sam Shelton on the other end. He says he hasn’t talked to her and hung up before answering any other questions.
Suspicious indeed. Like it had to be him, right? But how did Ashley know Sam and why would they be calling each other?
Ashley had told her friends that she was seeing an older man. And…that they would play basketball together. In fact, she had plans to meet him the day she went missing. It’s all becoming clear.
Sam Shelton was the driver’s ed teacher at a nearby high school. He was also a wrestler who went by The Teacher. Very clever, Sam.
His principal said he was a great teacher and that both students and other teachers liked him.
You may be wondering how Ashley met Sam like I was since he didn’t work at Ashley’s school. Well, Sam was one of Ashley’s teachers when she was in the 7th grade.
For a reason that I couldn’t find in my research, they began talking to each other again about two months before her disappearance. It’s not clear if Ashley reached out to Sam or if Sam had reached out to Ashley. It doesn’t matter but It bugged me that I couldn’t find that info.
The police obviously brought Sam in for questioning based on those phone records. Sam was cooperative and polite. If you watch the interview, it’s kind of creepy how calm he is about the whole thing. I was disturbed by it.
But Sam’s story kept changing. He maintained that there was no sexual or romantic relationship between him and Ashley. But the police knew differently, and he changed his story when confronted with the truth.
But now, he says it was Ashley who had initiated their relationship. He painted her as a crazy stalker who was obsessed with him. But he finally admitted that they had been having a sexual relationship.
Not only that, but he had met Ashley the day she went missing.
What Really Happened?
Ashley did in fact meet up with Sam on April 27, 2006. What we know is that the pair got into some sort of argument. Sam claims that he wanted to end their relationship, but I’m not really buying that. Other sources say that Ashley wanted to end things. He says that he pulled her out of his car and left her on the side of the road. He said she was still alive when he abandoned her.
Hours later, Sam changed that story. Now he admitted to putting her in a chokehold to drag her out of his car and that he heard Ashley’s neck pop and her body go limp. He believed he had accidentally killed her.
He panicked and dragged her limp body into the woods where he strangled her again once he realized she wasn’t dead, this time with his bare hands. But Ashley was a real fighter because she was still breathing after the second choking.
Then Sam put a belt around Ashley’s neck and used his foot as leverage to choke her again. He pulled so hard that the belt snapped. Like what a monster. Almost killing her wasn’t enough. He had to finish the job.
But finish the job he did not. He left Ashley in the woods, partially buried thinking that she was dead.
He led police to the site in Citizens Park in the cold rain where he had left Ashley. When first responders finally found her, she appeared to be dead. She was covered in bug bites and her tongue was sticking out of her mouth. That can happen when a person is strangled.
But guess what? Ashley moved. She was still breathing. I’m not going to post any photos of the crime scene, but the video is out there if you want to find it. It would be so disturbing if she had been dead. But the minute her eyes fluttered I jumped with happy shock.
Ashley was rushed to the hospital and put into a medically induced coma.
Boot Scootin’ Boogie
Quick question, reader. Do you think you could hate this guy any more than you already do? If you said no, I have bad news for you.
After leaving Ashley for dead but before that police interview, Sam went line dancing. You read that right. Line dancing. After committing what he believes was murder. I don’t have any words. That’s not actually true. I have a few words for Sam (monster, heartless, psychopath)
He was seen that Thursday night at Wild Country in St. Louis. The same night he believed he killed Ashley. Apparently, he is a regular there.
What kind of person could go dance after brutally choking someone as if nothing had happened? Sam Shelton apparently.
This isn’t really related to the dancing, but Sam asked the police if he could go pee alone because he has a nervous bladder. The police said no. lol.
Sam Shelton Plea Deal
While on bail, (yes, he got bail), Sam attempted to kill himself with prescription drugs.
When first responders attempted to revive him, they noticed that he had written “do not resuscitate” on his chest. They didn’t listen and Sam was furious when he was revived.
Now, was this a genuine suicide attempt? I don’t know. It could have been but it also could have been a ploy to get himself declared incompetent to stand trial. A judge even ordered a psychiatric evaluation and he was found competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors thought it was all a plan to get jurors to feel sorry for him.
Ashley’s family agreed to a plea deal for Sam to keep Ashley from having to relive that night and testify about the events, which is totally understandable. In 2007, Sam pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2024. Yikes. I hope he doesn’t get parole.
Where is Ashley Reeves now?
Ashley had to re-learn how to walk, eat, talk, etc., after she recovered from her coma. This had to be especially hard for Ashley because she was a talented athlete before the attack. She eventually made a full recovery.
Elizabeth Smart (yes, that Elizabeth Smart) interviewed Ashley for an excellent piece on the case on Crime Watch Daily. Ashley says she doesn’t remember much of the attack except for the initial argument, and thank god for that.
Today, Ashley is living a normal life with a husband and two children. Again, some sources vary here. I read that she married a man named Jeremy and I immediately thought it must have been the same boyfriend that lent her his car and my heart grew three sizes. But then I also saw that her husband’s name was Danny, so I can’t say for sure who her husband is. I imagine Ashley values her privacy, and who could blame her?
Left for Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story
I can’t believe that I had never heard of this case! What a story. Ashley is such a survivor.
Other than the interview with Crime News Daily and the initial local news reports, there isn’t much information about the case online. If you’ve made it this far, you know some facts aren’t clear, and I wish I had better answers for you.