NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Bridge’ is an episode that examines a disappearance and homicide case that disconcerted not only the affected family and the investigators but also the entire state of North Carolina to its very core. After all, when 28-year-old James Chambers II reportedly left his Fayetteville house to go to his weekend lifeguard job at a lake right outside of town on August 15, 2014, no one could’ve imagined that he’d lose his life. It took roughly four years for his assailant, Howard Ashleman, to face justice, and that’s when the whole truth came out. So, let’s find out more about him.
Who is Howard Ashleman?
By August 2014, Howard Adrian Ashleman was a native of the 1300 Block of Main Street in Wade, Cumberland County, and had worked with James. There’ve been reports that the two had growing animosity between them — the reason for which has not been revealed — yet Howard was allegedly giving the construction laborer a ride to his other job. As per his confession, things got tense and argumentative for the duo once again on that fateful evening, and Howard ended up pulling out a gun. He stated that he aimed to intimidate James, except he murdered him instead.
As time passed, Howard’s behavior incriminated him. Not only did he burn and bury James’ body before unearthing, dismembering, and disposing of it, but he allegedly also bought marijuana that night and insisted that he’d taken the money from a dead man. Moreover, he had his vehicle crumpled in a local salvage yard. Howard eventually relocated to Florida and began a new life with a family of his own. With that said, he soon claimed to have found faith and religion as well, leading him to unveil his past and crimes to his new wife. She, in turn, reported him to the local authorities.
Where is Howard Ashleman Now?
Howard Ashleman spoke of his offense with his wife on several occasions, and she taped, at least, one of them as evidence. He was later brought in for an interrogation, following which he lawyered up, indicating that it took some time for him to agree to surrender and plead guilty. The negotiations for the latter began in early 2017, but because they didn’t go anywhere for more than a year, officials intervened. In February 2018, while Howard was in North Carolina, Fayetteville Police arrested and charged him with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
The negotiations continued after Howard’s apprehension, and within days, he pleaded guilty to the new, lesser charge of second-degree homicide. A judge ordered him to serve no less than 15 years and six months in prison by the end of February. Howard’s maximum sentence duration was settled at 19 years and eight months, including a six-month penalty for his failure to surrender as promised. Therefore, today, at the age of 28, he is incarcerated at the medium-security Columbus Correctional Institution near Brunswick, North Carolina. As per Department of Corrections records, his projected release date is August 7, 2033.
Read More: Where Are James Chambers’ Parents Now?