It was the police to say they were exhuming her father’s body from his grave.
‘I started crying. Why would they dig up Daddy? He was resting peacefully. I thought it was inhumane,’ Ashley says.
Nine years earlier, when Ashley was 11 and her sister Bree was nine, their dad Michael had died of a suspected heart condition.
After grieving for her hubby, Ashley’s mum Stacey eventually found love with air-conditioning repairman, David Castor. They married, but tragedy struck the family again when David died.
Found on the bathroom floor with a bottle of antifreeze beside him, it was initially thought to be suicide. But then police found Stacey’s fingerprints and not David’s on the bottle.
Investigating further, they discovered a turkey baster in the garbage covered in Stacey’s prints. It contained traces of antifreeze. That’s when detectives exhumed the body of Ashley’s dad and also found traces of antifreeze in his system.
Stacey was interrogated for three hours, but denied any involvement in the deaths of either of her husbands. When police accused her of lying, Stacey became visibly agitated.
‘She shut down and said, “That’s it. I’m done. I want an attorney,”’ detective Valerie Brogan recalled.
Police told Ashley her mum was their prime suspect. But Ashley refused to believe her mother was capable of killing anyone, let alone the men she loved.Ashley called her mum, who drove to the college to pick up her daughter. ‘I wish I had done this so they would take the focus off you and it would put the focus on me,’ Ashley later recalled saying.
With both of them shaken, Stacey had an idea. ‘Oh, we’ve had a hard week, let’s just drink,’ she said to her daughter. Ashley was surprised, but loved the prospect of her mum buying alcohol for her. ‘What kind of teenager wouldn’t think that was awesome,’ she said. ‘So I drank with her.’
However, soon after drinking a few bottles of Watermelon Smirnoff Ice, Ashley became violently ill. Stacey gave her daughter a pill, saying it would help Ashley sleep it off, and sent her to bed.
The next day, Ashley went to school. But when she came home, her mother handed her a cup of vodka, orange juice and Sprite.Ashley recalls it tasting awful, but she drank it anyway. Little did Ashley know that her sweet mum, who she called her ‘best friend’, was actually on a mission to murder her. The drink was spiked with sleeping pills and Ashley soon passed out in her bed.
Determined that Ashley not survive, Stacey continued to force-feed hera cocktail of alcohol and dissolved pills using a spoon. Stacey then typed a 750-word suicide note admitting to murdering both Michael and David, and signed it from Ashley.
When her sister Bree went into Ashley’s room the next morning, she was horrified by what she found. ‘Her mouth was open, and her eyes were wide open and all glassy,’ Bree, then 17, remembers. ‘I tried to call her name and she didn’t answer me.’
Yelling for her mum, Stacey came flying into the room. Playing the role of a distraught mother, she called an ambulance as Bree picked up the suicide note. Mommy, I’m sorry all of this is happening to you, the letter read. But now everyone is going to know… it wasn’t you it was me…
It seemed to Stacey her plan to convince police she was innocent was complete. Except Ashley didn’t die. Unresponsive, and with a rapid heart rate, she was rushed to hospital.
Causing a scene, Stacey was frustrated at not being allowed to be with Ashley as doctors worked to save her. When Ashley woke up, she was confused and didn’t understand why her arms were tied down or why she was covered in tubes.
Police questioned her, asking how many pills she’d taken, what she’d drunk and about the confessions in the suicide note she’d written. ‘I’m like, “What are they talking about? I didn’t do any of those things,”’ Ashley said later. That’s when it came out that Stacey had framed her daughter. ‘How can you sit there and blame your own child?’ said Ashley.
Stacey was arrested and during her trial, even Judge Joseph Fahey was disgusted at the web this black widow had woven.
‘In my 34 years in the criminal justice system as a lawyer and a judge, I have seen serial killers, contract killers, killers of every variety and stripe,’ he said. ‘But, I have to say, Mrs Castor, you are in a class all by yourself.’
Stacey Castor was sentenced to 51 years in jail for murdering David Castor for his life insurance money, and the attempted murder of Ashley. Despite finding anti-freeze in his body, it could not be proved she was involved in Michael’s death.
On the morning of June 11, 2016, after serving seven years, Stacey Castor, 48, was found dead in her cell after a heart attack. For Ashley, the pain of what her mother did continues.
‘She was my best friend,’ Ashley lamented. ‘I would’ve done anything for her. But she tried to kill me instead.’
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