James Chambers II, a 28-year-old civilian construction worker at Fort Bragg, was last seen on August 15, 2014, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and he was reported missing several days later by his family. His former girlfriend last saw him at home the evening of August 15 and she told authorities that Chambers’ coworkers Howard Adrian Ashleman was also there and was supposed to drive Chambers to a weekend job out of town, the Fayetteville Observer wrote.
A lengthy, three-year investigation eventually led to Ashleman’s arrest in Randolph County by the Fayetteville Police Department’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office. Ashleman was charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, CBS17 reported.
A few days after his arrest, Ashleman pleaded guilty to the crime and provided authorities with more details about what happened, including where he disposed of Chambers’ body, although his remains have still not been found today.
Ashleman Said He Shot & Killed Chambers Before Disposing of His Body, Which Has Still Not Been Found
Many of the details about what took place on August 15, 2014, were unknown until Ashleman’s sentencing hearing when prosecutors shared what he’d revealed as part of his guilty plea, the Fayetteville Observer reported. Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said Ashleman and Chambers, who worked together, had become nearly violent in the past due to tensions between the two.
That evening, Ashleman was driving Chambers and the animosity became even greater until Ashleman said he stopped his truck, grabbed his gun from the truck bed and fired it into the cab. According to prosecutors, Ashleman said his objective was only to scare Chambers but he accidentally killed him with that shot.
Later that night, Ashleman visited a marijuana dealer and told him he had money from a dead man, the outlet reported. According to prosecutors, Ashleman told them he burned and buried Chambers’ body in Cumberland County but became worried that it would be found as the missing person’s investigation progressed.
Prosecutors told the court that Ashleman confessed to digging up the body, dismembering it and putting it in plastic garbage bags and then driving to “a remote bridge over a waterway” where he dumped the bags over the side. Ashleman then had his truck crushed at a salvage yard out of fear authorities would find evidence inside, the outlet wrote.
Prosecutors Spoke About the Ongoing Search for Chambers’ Remains Following Ashleman’s Arrest
In a statement to the Fayetteville Observer, West said, “We sympathize with all our victim’s families, but particularly this one because this family, to this day, is just very desperate to find the remains of their son that they love very much.” Assistant District Attorney Robby Hicks said, “It’s just tragic, my heart broke for the family. I just felt so sorry for all of them, the mother and father, not being able to find their child, and that just pains me to this day.”
West told the Observer that it’s rare to see an individual convicted of murder without a body being found but it does happen. “It’s just hard to prove the case if you can’t prove the person is actually dead, and certainly the best way to do that is to have a body and a medical examiner and all that, and we never had that in this case,” he said.
Prior to Dateline NBC’s episode covering the case, West told the outlet, “I’m glad that we were able to provide some measure of justice. But I’m disappointed that we have not been able to give the family that closure, in being able to discover Mr. Chambers’ body.”