Investigation Discovery’s ‘Signs Of A Psychopath: Unholy Acts’ chronicles how 19-year-old Ashley Wilson was murdered inside her Pecan Grove apartment in Richmond, Texas, in January 2004. While the police initially ruled the death as a suicide, they were not prepared for the heartwrenching twist that came two months later. If you want to learn more about the case, including the killer’s identity and current whereabouts, here’s what we know.
How Did Ashley Wilson Die?
Ashley Nicole Wilson was born to Renee Coulter and Dan Wilson in Harris County, Texas, on August 27, 1984. She graduated from Elkins High School in Missouri City in 2002. Friends and family described Ashley as a kind, innocent girl who had just passed out from school and had a bright future. The 19-year-old lived alone in her Pecan Grove apartment in Richmond in Fort Bend County, Texas, in January 2004. Hence, it was shocking when her mother, Renee, found her hanging from her bedpost on January 19.
According to news sources, Renee had gone to check up on her daughter after not hearing from her in a couple of days. She was shocked when she entered the apartment to find her teen daughter deceased, with a pillowcase over her head. Ashley also had the cord from her high school graduation gown wrapped around her neck. When officers came over, they found a note, which looked somewhat like a suicide note, and the door locked from the inside. They believed all the evidence suggested Ashley had died by suicide.
Who Killed Ashley Wilson?
According to police sources, the authorities never suspected any foul play was involved. The way the body was positioned and the letter found nearby sealed it as a suicide case. Besides, one of the investigators stated that even though the note didn’t explicitly say Ashley was going to kill herself, it did mention that she was extremely depressed because she was pregnant and the father of her baby was not going to be there for her to raise the child. With this evidence and other autopsy results, the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
Despite the evidence, Ashley’s parents refused to believe their daughter committed suicide. They had difficulty agreeing with the sheriff’s department’s assessment and pointed toward several discrepancies that proved otherwise. They claimed the authorities’ review of the case did not add up to the person they knew as her daughter. According to reports, Renee stated, “My daughter lived in an apartment by herself. She always had the TV on, always had the ceiling fan on, and always had lights on.”
However, police sources stated the television, lights, and ceiling fan was off when they discovered Ashley’s body. Moreover, her apartment key was missing from her key ring. Renee added, “To me, that meant that somebody was there and had taken the key.” The authorities stated they completely understood the grieving parents and claimed they were denying the obvious because of grief and shock. When the Harris County medical examiner reported the death as suicide, the police officially closed Ashley’s case.
But the sheriff’s department was unprepared for what came two months later. Dan Randall Leach II, then 21, had been in a relationship with Ashley. Yet, their relationship had soured shortly before her death, and some felt it was the motive for her depression and the alleged suicide note she had left behind. According to police sources, Dan voluntarily came to the sheriff’s department and confessed to murdering Ashley. The detectives claimed he was allegedly moved to confess the crime after viewing “The Passion of the Christ.”
According to his confession, Dan murdered Ashley in her Pecan Grove apartment on January 15. He claimed he plotted the murder ever since he heard she got pregnant and thought the unborn child would ruin his life. As per Dan, he did not want to remain involved with Ashley anymore. Fort Bend County Detective Michael Kubricht said, “We found he was devising this little scheme. He called it a ‘pseudo-therapy’ exercise, where she would sit down and write a letter about all the bad things that were going on in her life.
The detective added, “He told her to generalize it, not to name any names, and had her sign it. After she wrote down all the bad things in her life, then he told her to talk about all the good things. Then he said, ‘Now we are going to do a trust exercise. We are going to rely on your other senses than sight.'” Dan then put a pillowcase over Ashley’s head while she sat on the corner of her bed. According to investigators, he told the victim he had a cramp in his back and needed to stretch, and he pulled out gloves from the waistband of his pants under his shirt.
According to Michael, Dan said he took an item from Ashley’s room, “got behind her, wrapped the cord around her neck, and strangled her to death.” Following that, he tied the cord to the banister of the bed and made it appear as if she laid down and hung herself. Dan removed all traces of DNA and fingerprints from the scene before exiting the apartment. The investigators said it might have been impossible to prove it as a murder if he had not eventually confessed.
Where is Dan Leach Now?
Dan arrived at the Sheriff’s Office with his parents, requesting a court-appointed attorney, on March 7, 2004. Nevertheless, he returned two days, on March 9, after he was informed he would have to be charged with a crime before that could happen. During the two-hour interview, Dan allegedly confessed to the murder. The detectives attending the interview claimed the 3-time-a-week church attendee of the Church of Christ showed no emotion or remorse.
Michael noted, “He spoke in a straight monotone. He never raised or lowered his voice, looked straight at us, and never shed a tear. No remorse was expressed for her. It is more about him being forgiven. He said he tried his best not to think about it and just tried to get on with his life. He said some events that happened in his life, that is his words, ‘pricked his heart.'” According to court records, pathologists and attorneys spent significant time determining whether Ashley was pregnant at the time of death.
Court documents state it was eventually found she was not, despite a positive pregnancy test from her doctor and the medical records to back it up. Reports indicate she might have likely miscarried before she was murdered. Eventually, Dan Leach’s trial began on August 11, 2004, and he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison and will not be eligible for parole until 2034; his projected release date is 2079. The 40-year-old is incarcerated at the TDCJ Memorial Unit in Brazoria County, Texas.
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