Russ Johnson may have retired from the Fulton Police Department, but his mind never retired the hit-and-run case of four-year-old Carolee Ashby.
Johnson’s perseverance is what led to the confession from the driver who killed Carolee on Halloween night in 1968.
There have been many twists and turns in the case over the years, as well as dead-end leads, but Johnson detoured around every dead end, determined to bring closure for the family.
The case was reopened in 1999 and Johnson, who kept a black and white photograph of Carolee taped to his computer tower next to one of his own daughter, began pouring through the thick files searching for clues or anything that may have been overlooked.
He had hoped to solve the case before he retired in 2005, but that didn’t happen.
Johnson went to work for a pharmaceutical company, but the case continued to haunt him. Last year, he reached out to the Fulton community on a Facebook group page dedicated to happy memories of the city.
In his March 17, 2012 appeal, Johnson acknowledged that his post didn’t pertain to a happy memory but asked if anyone could recall anything or had any information that could be helpful.
That post led to a message from a Florida resident, who had lived in Fulton at the time of the accident. The witness came forward and alleged that soon after the accident, the mother of the driver of the car asked her to give an alibi for her son.
She would later give a statement to police, who then questioned the suspect and subsequently received a written confession.
“I’m so happy for them,” Johnson said of the Ashby family. “That family has been suffering for 44 years.”
Johnson commended the Fulton Police Department for the work they did in solving the case.
The confession brings to an end the decades of speculation as to who killed Carolee and the years of torment the family suffered not knowing.
Carolee and her sister, Darlene, were walking to the store with a cousin on Halloween night to buy candles for Darlene’s birthday cake. The trio went into the store, bought the candles and bought Carolee an ice cream cone.
Darlene Ashby McCann recalled that they went to Fay’s Drug Store on South Second Street to get the candles.
“There was no sidewalk and we went to the four corners to cross,” she said. “My cousin ran across the street and I took my sisters hand to cross. I stopped in the middle, facing west, and the next thing I knew my cousin was screaming and I realized my sister had been pulled out of my hand.”
McCann said she didn’t see Carolee; only her ice cream cone laying in the road.
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For 44 years, Marlene Ashby waited for the day when she would learn the truth about the driver of the car who took the life of her four-year-old daughter.
For Ashby and her family, the wait is apaprently over.
Last Thursday, a City of Fulton resident reportedly confessed to police of being the driver of the car that hit and killed Carolee Ashby as she walked with her sister on Halloween night in 1968.
The Fulton Police Department is not releasing the identity of the driver publicly, according to Marlene’s daughter Darlene McCann, and while the family was allowed to read the confession, they weren’t allowed to have a copy.
The person who confessed to hitting Carolee will not be charged, McCann and Ashby said they were told, His name isn’t being released because he gave only a 99.9 percent confession, they said.
The case was cracked when a Facebook post, written by former Fulton Police Lieutenant Russ Johnson, led a witness to come forward. The witness alleged that she was asked by the driver’s mother to provide an alibi for her son (see related story). The witness said she refused to do it. The mother allegedly had put together that her son had been the driver to hit and kill Carolee.
Ashby and McCann said they were told that two brothers were in the car and both were intoxicated. The driver of the car, who was 19 years old at the time, reportedly told police that he wasn’t sure what he had hit, but knew he had hit something.
And while the wait is over for the Ashby family, the frustration and anger has just begun.
That’s because police had questioned the suspect several days after the accident and let him go, despite evidence against him.
The police report from November 3, 1968 states that the suspect had been questioned and an officer had noted that his story wasn’t consistent with the damage to his car.
“(Suspect) came to the station as his brother went to Tug Hill and had him come home from from a hunting trip,” the police report states. “I checked (suspect’s) car and found damage to the left front fender which he claims happened Oct. 31, 1968 on Route 57 at about 6:45 p.m. as the result of his car striking a guard post.”
The officer continued, “We went to where he claimed this accident took place and in my opinion the damage to his car never happened as he claims. I pointed out to (name redacted) that the paint that was removed from post was about 26 inches from the ground and the damage caused by the impact was close 35 inches from the ground.
The officer, whose name is redacted on the copy given to the Ashby family, stated that the dent in the fender was the size of a person’s head, something the suspect couldn’t explain. The brother of the driver was also questioned and could not tell police where the accident had taken place.
The suspect’s car matched witness descriptions, yielding yet another point of frustration for the Ashby family.
To read the rest of the story, see tomorrow’s paper
The Fulton boys tennis team topped Homer 6-1 Monday afternoon.
In first singles, Mitchell Lalik of Fulton defeated Ian Heath of Homer 6-0, 6-2 while in second singles, Javier Pajaron of Fulton defeated Jack Stokoe of Homer 6-3, 6-3.
In third singles, Brad Crofoot of Fulton defeated Drew Potter of Homer 6-4, 6-2 and in fourth singles, Carlos Feliciano of Fulton defeated Sean Herman of Homer 7-5, 6-2.
In first doubles, Tom Natale and Brian Mitchell of Homer defeated Jacob Strauss and Logan Carvey of Fulton 6-4, 7-5. In second doubles, Zach Perry and Joel Monaghan of Fulton defeated Ben Shultis and Ben Tarasevich of Homer 6-4, 7-6.
In thirdd doubles, Benjamin McKay and Thomas Distin of Fulton defeated Cody Johnson and Dan LHommediu of Homer 6-4, 6-4.
The Fulton tennis team lost to East-Syracuse Minoa 4-3 Wednesday.
In first singles, Brandon Stone of East Syracuse-Minoa defeated Mitchell Lalik of Fulton 6-3, 6-3. In second singles, Tyler Underwood of East Syracuse-Minoa defeated Javier Pajaron of Fulton 6-3, 6-1.
In third singles, Esef Hamzic of East Syracuse-Minoa defeated Brad Crofoot of Fulton 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. In fourth singles, Lucas Eastman of East Syracuse-Minoa defeated Carlos Feliciano of Fulton 6-4, 6-3
In first doubles, Jacob Strauss and Logan Carvey of Fulton defeated Connor Bayly and Michael Abbott of East Syracuse-Minoa 7-6, 6-3 and in second doubles, Joel Monaghan and Zach Perry of Fulton defeated Jeff Episcopo and John Drogo of East Syracuse-Minoa 6-4, 6-3. In third doubles, Stephen Heywood and Benjamin McKay of Fulton defeated Andrew Kerik and Anson Cheng of East Syracuse-Minoa 6-4, 6-1.
As part of National Financial Literacy Month, Empower Federal Credit Union has partnered with the award-winning financial literacy program Banzai.
Due to donations by Empower FCU, Banzai, an online-based program, will be offered free to students and teachers in the Phoenix Central School District.
Empower is sponsoring 96 schools, including Phoenix, reaching over 64,500 students.
National Financial Literacy Month is recognized in April in an effort to highlight the importance of how money works in the world, while also teaching people how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits for a lifetime of well-being.
Debbie DuFour, who teaches business at JCB High School, has started using Banzai in her Small Business Management class, which is comprised of mostly juniors and seniors. She has also used the program in her account course.
DuFour instructs a unit on financial literacy and has students follow up with a simulation using Banzai. Students are then graded for completing the simulation.
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