Ashley Summers, Fourth Missing Cleveland Girl: Is She Connected to Kidnapping Case?

While the family members of recovered kidnapping victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are rejoicing this week, the kin of another Cleveland woman, Ashley Summers, are struggling to keep hope alive under the heavy weight of disappointment.

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Summers went missing in 2007 at the age of 14, and on Monday, before third woman Michelle Knight was identified, her aunt Debra initially thought she was among them.

“I called my mom, I called my sisters, I called everybody,” she told CNN, standing in front of her house with tears in her eyes, agreeing that she was crushed when Ashley was not one of the saved women. “I was upset, but I was happy at the same time that they found the third girl,” she said. “We’re hoping that it’s connected, and they knew where she was. We’re hoping for a miracle.”

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Debra was at work when Shine reached out to her at home in Cleveland, speaking instead with her fiance Jonathan who said, "I've known [Ashley] since she was 5 years old, but it's not my place to comment."

Summers first left home after reportedly having a fight with her mother, Jennifer. She had dark hair at the time, and has blue eyes and a tattoo of the name "Gene" on her right arm, according to the Charley Project, which keeps files of missing people. Jennifer, who appeared on “Oprah” to share her story in 2009, the same year that abducted young woman Jaycee Dugard was rescued after an 18-year disappearance. “Jaycee’s story gives me hope, because it makes me believe Ashley will come home,” Jennifer had said. She received a call from her daughter about a month after she disappeared, in which Ashley said she was fine, but then no one ever heard from her again.

Investigators have long thought the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and Summers, all close in age and from the same West Side Cleveland neighborhood, were related. “We did in fact believe that there was an association between these cases, the Berry case and the DeJesus case, as well as another case, the Ashley Summers case,” former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin, now a case manager with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told CNN. Now, authorities plan to ask the three rescued women, as well as the three suspects, about Ashley.

“We are keeping Ashley in our thoughts as we go, every step of the way,” FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson told the Plain Dealer on Tuesday. “Whether it is something we find at the house, or someone seeing the stories remembers something, we continue our search for Ashley.”

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