As readers of my blog know, I’m a native of Marion County, Florida. A local mystery has gone unsolved for more than two years. In the spring of 2007, Christine Blackburn Wiles left a bar near Belleview and went missing. The mother of a son and daughter, Christine has never been found.
On February 29, 2008, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement: “A search is scheduled to take place in the Ocala National Forest on Saturday, March 1 for Christine Wiles, W/F, 11-02-67. Wiles was last seen April 21, 2007 and was reported missing by her father in early May, 2007. An ongoing investigation supports the possibility of foul play in Wiles’ disappearance. DNA evidence found in the trunk of a 1995 Chrysler New Yorker, which may have been seen in the Ocala National Forest in the area of Wild Cat Lake, has led detectives to conduct the search scheduled Saturday. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office hopes to bring closure to the family of Christine Wiles and possibly locate additional evidence that may aid in the investigation of her disappearance.”
That search, as was the case with other searches, ended with no evidence being found.
Christine’s mother, Connie Blackburn, emailed me recently describing the events that occurred on the night Christine went missing. “On the evening of April 21, 2007,” she wrote, “Christine and her sister [Leah] went out together for a few drinks. Sometime during the evening they met up with Billy Ashton whom Christy was living with at the time. At one point during the evening, the girls left him at a bar just wanting to have girl time, but he ended up following them in a Chrysler New Yorker.”
Although Christine may not have known it, Ashton had a lengthy criminal history. In 1998, he’d been convicted of kidnapping and assaulting a former girlfriend and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Ashton had just been released from prison a few months before he met Christine.
“Fearing Ashton was going to run her off the road,” Christine’s mother wrote, “Christy’s sister pulled over. She begged Christy not to go with Ashton but to spend the night with her at a friend’s home. At the time, Christy had stitches in her eye where Ashton had elbowed her. Unfortunately, Christy did get in Ashton’s car and was never seen again. The car was later recovered at the home of his mother where he and Christy had been living.”
Leah believed that Ashton would have run them off the road had they not stopped. She stated that she thought he was angry because the sisters left the bar without telling him.
Marion County Homicide Detective Rhonda Stroup, who is in charge of the investigation, said, “I do believe that this is a solvable case, and we can bring this to an end.”
Anyone with information about this case should call Detective Stroup at 352-368-6845. Crime Stoppers is offering a $ 1,000 reward leading to the location of Christine Blackburn Wiles.
While Billy Ashton is a suspect in the disappearance of Christine, he has not been charged. He is currently in jail on other charges.
NOTE: On March 1, 2013, the Ocala Star Banner reported that all charges against Billy Ashton have been dropped: "The State Attorney’s Office has dropped its murder charge against Billy Joe Ashton, the man accused of killing Christine Blackburn-Wiles six years ago.