James Chambers II, 28, was last seen on August 15, 2014, and was reported missing several days later by his family. The civilian construction worker at Fort Bragg was last seen at his home by his former girlfriend, the Fayetteville Observer reported, and she told authorities that Howard Adrian Ashleman, a coworker of Chambers, picked him up to drive him to a weekend lifeguarding job.
Ashleman, a coworker of Chambers, later moved to Florida and got married but eventually confessed to his wife that he’d killed Chambers and was feeling guilty, the Observer reported. He got a lawyer and began negotiations with prosecutors for a guilty plea in January 2017. The negotiations fell through on many occasions but Ashleman was eventually arrested in Randolph County on Feb. 12, 2018.
Where is Howard Adrian Ashleman today?
Ashleman Pleaded Guilty to Second-Degree Murder After a Year of Plea-Bargain Negotiations & Is Currently in Prison in North Carolina
Ashleman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder eight days after his arrest and was admitted to prison on February 21, 2018. According to the terms of his plea deal, his sentence is between 15 years and six months and 19 years and eight months, and public records show that Ashleman’s projected release date is August 7, 2033, when he will be 40 years old.
Ashleman, now 28, is serving his sentence at the Columbus Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility for male inmates located in Whiteville, southern North Carolina, public records show. According to his offender information with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Ashleman has four infractions to his name, including involvement with a gang or security risk group (SRG), weapon possession and fighting.
After the murder, Ashleman moved to Florida where he got married and “found religion,” according to Cumberland District Attorney Billy West. The Fayetteville Observer reported that prosecutors told the court at Ashleman’s sentencing that he’d told his wife about the crime several times and his wife recorded at least one of these conversations and told the police in Florida about it.
In February 2018 at Ashleman’s first court hearing where he was charged with Chambers’ murder, WNCN reported that Ashleman’s wife was present and attempted to hug Chambers’ parents but was turned away. It’s unclear if the two are still together today.
At His Sentencing, Prosecutors Indicated That Ashleman Had Been the Prime Suspect From the Beginning
At Ashleman’s sentencing hearing several days later, Assistant District Attorney Robby Hicks said Ashleman had been a suspect from the start of the case but since it was “weak,” prosecutors “wanted to be very careful before moving forward,” the Fayetteville Observer reported.
West said, “I can say with certainty that Ashleman was the prime suspect from the beginning.” He continued, “We did not have a solid confession from him. We made the decision that if he would not go ahead and turn himself in, then we would go ahead and arrest him. We basically wanted to make sure we had a solid enough case to convict him before we made the arrest.”
According to the outlet, Ashleman’s defense attorney, Cumberland County Assistant Public Defender David Smith, told the court, “Let’s suffice it to say that the defendant wanted to give the members of Mr. Chambers’ family some closure. An opportunity, if they can, to be at peace. And so that’s how this was accomplished.”