William Ashby: Background - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/03/06

William Ashby: Background

Officers at the scene where Ashby was killed Monday night. Officers at the scene where Ashby was killed Monday night.

The death of shooting suspect William Ashby may leave us with as many questions as answers. We do know how it ended: in a shootout in north Florida outside St. Augustine. He led authorities there on a high-speed chase, with speeds topping 110 miles an hour.

Ashby finally crashed his car. He crawled out with a gun. Officers returned fire, killing him. (See Effingham County Suspect Dead After Florida Shootout for details.)

Officers in Florida are also looking to see if Ashby had anything to do with the murder of a businessman in Gardens Corner, South Carolina, last week. They are working on the ballistic comparisons to see if there is a possibility that the weapons could be tied. Those results to could take up to a week to return.

Police are now trying to link him to a crime spree that stretches from Palm Beach, Florida, up through Georgia into Beaufort County and then into Virginia, and the list continues to grow.

Who was William Ashby? Where was he from? Where did he work? What set him off on this violent rampage?

WTOC spoke with law enforcement investigators and a friend of Ashby's to learn more. We found out he is originally from Ripley, West Virginia, and he spent a lot of time in Virginia Beach and Leesburg, Virginia. He moved to Savannah last November.

According to investigators, he went to college, served in the US Air Force and was married twice. Ashby's second wife Kimberly joined him in Savannah in January. He worked at Vopak, a company at the Savannah port that handles liquid chemicals.

Ashby and his wife befriended a Savannah restaurant owner, Carl Blanchard. Blanchard told WTOC, "He was the nicest guy you'd ever want to be around."

Last month, when the couple fell upon hard times, Blanchard invited them to move in with him. Last week, Blanchard says Ashby took off in his car, then he noticed his gun was missing. When he saw the surveillance video of an robbery and shooting at an Effingham County convenience store on WTOC, he put the pieces together and called police.

"At that point, I realized everything they told me was a lie," Blanchard said. "This has been the worst ten days of my life."

Ashby has no criminal history of violent crime. Investigators say he's only been arrested once, that was last year in Burke County, Georgia. Police charged him with DUI.

So far no one knows why Ashby went on this deadly shooting spree.

Reported by Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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