On Friday, Oct. 1, Dateline NBC is scheduled to air a special titled "The Bridge," which details the 2014 Fayetteville disappearance and murder of 28-year-old James Allan Chambers II.
When Chambers left his house the evening of Aug. 15, 2014, to go to his weekend lifeguard position at a lake outside of town, none of his family realized they would never see him again.
For years, the Chambers family was kept in the dark. They were desperate for answers surrounding James' murder, and in 2018, justice was served as the truth came out. So, let's find out more about Howard Ashleman.
Who is Howard Ashleman?
In August of 2014, Howard Ashleman was residing in Cumberland County, N.C. He worked with James Allan Chambers II, and reports stated that before the murder, the two had hatred for each other.
On the night of Aug. 15, 2014, Ashleman was driving Chambers to his weekend gig as a lifeguard at a lake a few towns over. During the ride, things escalated quickly, and Ashleman pulled his truck over to the side of the road. He pulled a gun from his trunk and aimed it at Chambers as an intimidation tactic; however, he then ended up murdering Chambers.
As the night went on, Ashleman only made things worse for himself. At first, he burned and buried Chambers' body, but for fear of being discovered, Ashleman dug up the body, dismembered it, put it in plastic garbage bags, and threw it off a bridge. Later on, he bought marijuana and informed the dealer that he had stolen money from a deceased man.
As for his truck, Cumberland District Attorney Billy West said Ashleman told him that he had it crushed at a salvage yard.
Eventually, Ashleman took off and relocated to Florida. The Fayetteville Observer reports that, according to Assistant District Attorney Robby Hicks, Ashleman "...allegedly developed strong religious beliefs and began to feel guilty about Chambers' killing" while he was in Florida. In the preview for the Dateline special, Chambers' mother is heard saying that Ashleman was attending a Bible college, which appears to confirm his turn toward religion.
While in Florida, Ashleman met a woman whom he would end up marrying. In the same exclusive with The Fayetteville Observer, Hicks recalled, "Ashleman discussed the homicide on several occasions ... and she recorded him talking about it at least once before telling police in Florida about her husband's confession."
Though he was later brought in and interrogated, no arrest could be made since a body was never recovered.
After that, Ashleman hired a lawyer, and nothing could save him from his fate. In February of 2018, while Ashleman was in North Carolina, the Fayetteville Police arrested him and charged him with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. As the case continued and negoitations rolled on, Ashleman finally pled guilty to second-degree homicide, a charge less than his original.
Where is Howard Ashleman now?
Today, 28-year-old Howard Ashleman is incarcerated at the medium-security Columbus Correctional Institution near Brunswick, N.C. As per Department of Corrections records, his projected release date is August 7, 2033.
Watch Dateline "The Bridge" at 9 p.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 1 on NBC.