Ashley Reeves Survived an Attempted Murder — Where Is She Now?

“It’s kind of hard to believe that this is actually where I was for that long and in that condition. Maybe I am as tough as everybody says I am."

Jamie Lerner - Author

Mar. 12 2024, Published 8:39 a.m. ET

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of attempted murder.

Many true crime stories are left unsolved, but that doesn’t make the solved cases any less harrowing. Ashley Reeves was just 17 years old when she was found barely breathing in a densely wooded park in Illinois. The incident left Reeves in a dire situation as police went after her assailant. It took some time, but the following year, her attempted murderer was in custody.

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What actually happened to Reeves is a terrifying story, and hopefully, something that could never happen today with the power of cell phones and other types of technology. Even still, Reeves’s assailant will be up for parole on April 22, 2024, so it’s likely we’ll hear more about her story and where she is now.

'Left for Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' poster
Source: Lifetime
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What happened to Ashley Reeves? Her boyfriend with tried to murder her.

On April 27, 2006, Reeves was reported missing. Over a day later, authorities found Reeves in a densely wooded park in Illinois, according to the Illinois Daily Journal. She survived, but barely. In critical condition, she went to the hospital while police tried to figure out who did this to her. At first, police had no idea who to suspect in Reeves’s attempted murder, but after various interviews, 26-year-old teacher Samson Shelton became the prime suspect.

However, his attorney, Justin Kuehn, said Shelton would plead not guilty. “We want people to know we plan to fight this," Kuehn said. But the evidence against Shelton was overwhelming. As his story continued to change, police learned that he met Reeves when she attended a middle school he taught at and the two eventually began a romantic relationship.

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When they tried to break it off, they got into a violent fight in which Shelton tried to push Reeves out of his moving car. When her neck cracked, Shelton carried her and dumped her in the park “to make it look like she got strangled there,” according to CBS. He admitted to then tightening his belt around her neck, after which he heard a gurgle and then nothing, assuming she was dead.

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However, Reeves was found 30 hours later, still alive, and between the work of the police, doctors, and nurses, she was able to survive and tell her story. Because of the injuries and trauma, much of her memory around the incident is fuzzy, but she now lives her life without being defined by her attempted murder.

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Now, Ashley Reeves is a mother to two kids in Illinois.

After the incident, Reeves was in such bad condition that she had to relearn everything, from swallowing to walking and talking. In an episode of Crime Watch Daily with Elizabeth Smart, Reeves revisited the park where she was found. “It’s kind of hard to believe that this is actually where I was for that long and in that condition,” she said. “[It] makes me feel like maybe I am as tough as everybody says I am. I’m a fighter and I just keep wanting to push myself harder and harder.”

In 2021, Lifetime made a dramatized film of Reeves’s story called Left for Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story. At the end of the film, it’s revealed that Reeves has two children, who she’s raising in Illinois while working as a caregiver. Perhaps her experience informed her decision to care for others, but Reeves tries to live without that defining her. Now 35 years old, she keeps a low profile with her last recorded interview in 2017.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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