Rock Center's Kate Snow meets the family of Ashley Summers, who disappeared in 2007 in the same Cleveland neighborhood where Ariel Castro allegedly kidnapped three women. The FBI says the Summers case was once tied to two other victims and is still an active investigation.
By Kate Snow, Diane Beasley, Jay Kernis, Michelle Kessel and Erin McClam
Friends started calling Jennifer Summers on Monday night and telling her to turn on the news: Three kidnapped women had been freed, and there was a chance that one of them was Summers’ daughter, who disappeared in Cleveland six years ago.
Courtesy of Summers family
“Oh, my God,” Summers remembers thinking. “Let’s hope it’s Ashley.”
It was not. So while Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are all beginning to adjust to open society again, and while their families can finally start catching up on lost years, the family of Ashley Summers still waits.
“It’s been a restless week,” her mother told Kate Snow of NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams. “I’ve been feeling all kinds of emotions. Happy for the girls that were found, very sad that it wasn’t my daughter, wondering when it’s going to be her turn.”
Ashley was 14 when she disappeared one day in July 2007 and never came back. She went missing just blocks from where the other girls were last seen in Cleveland, and Ashley went to the same middle school as one of them.
She even looked similar in some ways to the other girls — on the smaller side and close in age.
“We were very concerned that maybe this was all one thing,” said Vicki Anderson, a special agent in the FBI’s Cleveland office.
But the family has heard little, except for one day almost a year after Summers’ disappearance, when her mother got a phone call. She is certain that it was her daughter on the line.
“She took one deep breath, and she was like, ‘It’s me, mom. I’m OK. Don’t worry.’ It was really fast.”
Then the phone went dead.
Her mother said she misses everything about Ashley. She thinks of how they used to stay up late and watch scary movies together — the mother always scared, the daughter never scared.
Ashley Summers as a little girl.
When Ashley reached her teenage years, her mother said, things got harder. She gave her mother a hard time about going to school, and the two sometimes fought. In the summer of 2007, just before she went missing, Ashley went to live with her great uncle.
Anderson, the special agent, said that so far authorities have not connected Summers’ disappearance to Ariel Castro, the man charged with kidnapping the other three women and holding them for a decade.
She stressed that agents are still investigating.
“All the investigators that were on the situation this week,” she said, “everybody is aware, if you hear Ashley Summers’ name, you know, let’s get on that immediately. Everybody has been looking.”
In the meantime, the family keeps hoping. On Wednesday, Vicki Summers, Ashley’s little sister, made a video featuring all her siblings.
One of them, a 5-year-old whom Ashley has never met, introduced herself: “Ashley, I’m Tina.”
Jennifer Summers, the mother, said she thinks of her daughter a million times a day.
“These six years have been the worst six years of my life,” she said. “If I could just see her one time, it would erase all the pain.”