James Allan Chambers II
Source: NBC

James Chambers Disappeared in 2014, and His Body Still Has Not Been Found

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Oct. 1 2021, Published 5:12 p.m. ET

Since 1992, Dateline has been investigating the most bizarre and compelling mysteries. In the Season 30 episode, "The Bridge," the series sheds a light on James Allan Chambers's 2014 disappearance. While Howard Ashleman currently sits in jail for Chambers's murder, there are still a lot of unanswered questions in this case.

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James Chambers went missing in August of 2014.

In 2014, James Allan Chambers II, a 28-year-old construction worker and lifeguard from Fayetteville, N.C., went missing. According to an article from ABC 11 at the time, Chambers vanished on Aug. 15 and left behind his dog and all of his personal belongings at home.

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At the time, Chambers was living in a room that he was renting from Brandi Sugrue. Brandi and her husband were not home on Aug. 15 when Chambers's friend, who was later identified as Howard Ashleman, picked him up to drive him to his lifeguarding job. When they came home, they found evidence that Chambers had changed clothes, fed his dog, and taken his cell phone with him that day.

"He mentioned a falling out with somebody a few weeks ago, maybe a month, but he did not seem overly concerned about it," Brandi told the outlet at the time.

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Ashleman was arrested for Chambers's murder in 2018.

For years, this case was left open due to lack of evidence. According to the Fayetteville Observer, Ashleman stayed quiet about the murder for years and was not linked to it until he moved to Florida and began discussing it with a woman he was seeing, who would later become his wife. She recorded Ashleman talking about Chambers at least once before telling the police. Ashleman was interviewed by the police and remained a suspect, but was not immediately arrested.

Unfortunately, because Chambers's body was never found, they had little evidence against Ashleman other than the recording. Eventually, Ashleman got a lawyer and negotiations for him to surrender and plead guilty began in January of 2017. In Feb of 2018, Ashleman was charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon for his role in Chambers's disappearance, according to a statement from Fayetteville Police.

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Howard Ashleman's Mugshot
Source: Cumberland County Detention Center

Ashleman told investigators that he had initially burned and buried Chambers's body in the Wade area of Cumberland County. However, he later dug up the body, dismembered it, and tossed it into Cape Fear River. To this day, Chambers's body has still not been found. Ashleman is currently incarcerated at Columbus Correctional Institution in Whiteville, N.C.

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In Dateline: The Bridge, reporter Andrea Canning recounts the details of the case with Chambers's parents Rachel Wellhauser and Pete Chambers, as well as private investigator David Marshburn.

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