Nation & World

Kids playing in the Kansas woods stumble across remains of long-missing Army veteran

Army veteran Ashley Meiss of Ogden, Kansas, went missing in May and her disappearance drew national attention in June when NBC’s “Dateline” reported on it. Remains found over the weekend have been identified as hers.
Army veteran Ashley Meiss of Ogden, Kansas, went missing in May and her disappearance drew national attention in June when NBC’s “Dateline” reported on it. Remains found over the weekend have been identified as hers. Facebook/Bring Ash Home

After five months of not knowing where she was, family and friends of missing Army veteran Ashley Meiss have ended their search.

Children playing in the woods in Ogden, Kansas, where the 30-year-old Meiss disappeared in May, found human remains over the weekend, according to WIBW in Topeka.

On Thursday, the Riley County Police Department said the remains belonged to Meiss.

“154 days ago Ashley Meiss went missing, those 154 days have been the LONGEST 154 days anyone could ever imagine,” read a new post Thursday on the Bring Ash Home Facebook page, where loved ones for weeks tried to keep their hope alive.

“Waking up today, knowing that it’s now been confirmed that the remains in fact are hers, Ashley’s. It’s hard to even wrap our brains around. We no longer have our mother, daughter, sister, niece, friend, our kind loving Ashley of whom will be dearly missed by so many.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Meiss “was last seen at 8:30 p.m. May 18 with two older men at the Rock House Sports Bar & Grill in Ogden.”

Her disappearance gained national attention in June when NBC’s “Dateline” reported on the search. Her family shared an emotional story of a young woman fighting depression and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder .

According to “Dateline,” Meiss had returned home to Kansas in June 2010 after serving more than a year in Iraq. “She had been honorably discharged after becoming pregnant with her first-born child, a son,” reported “Dateline.”

After six years and another child, her father, Tom Lewis, told “Dateline” that he and his wife saw changes in their daughter’s personality.

“We started to see signs of stress, depression and anxiety,” Lewis told the TV show. “(Ashley’s mother and I) were talking to Ashley every other day to see how she was doing. Ashley thought it may be signs of PTSD.”

He described an incident in December 2016 when she called her parents in a panic and told them someone was in her backyard stalking her; he and his wife drove to Kansas to get her and the children.

“As we are driving back to North Carolina, Ashley was in the car behind me. We are going through Topeka, Kansas, and we stop at a stoplight and Ashley gets out of her car and starts banging on my SUV saying, ‘There is a bomb in there,’” Lewis told “Dateline.”

“She was admitted to the VA hospital in Topeka for about two weeks. Then in January, I picked her up from there and drove her to North Carolina where her kids had been staying with us.”

She was well enough, he said, to return to Ogden in July 2017 to reunite with her husband, Chris, an Army master sergeant returning from Iraq, Lewis told “Dateline.” But the two broke up earlier this year, “Dateline” reported.

Witnesses told police they saw Meiss leave her apartment in Ogden wearing running gear around 6 p.m. on May 17, and her father found it strange that she didn’t take her service dog, a bulldog named Flicker, like she usually did, according to “Dateline.”

Riley County detectives said Meiss was also seen the next day at a local bar. They told NBC they spoke with two men she had spoken to, but the men didn’t know where she went when she left the bar.

Around 3 p.m. on Saturday, the Riley County police received a call that possible human remains had been found on North Park Road in Ogden, the department’s press release said.

Randi Dunning told WIBW her children found the body when they were in the woods looking for kittens.

An autopsy revealed no signs of foul play, police said in their statement, adding that “no further information regarding this case is expected to be released to the public.”

“This has been a long, hard thing for the family,” the department’s Sgt. Dan Bortnick told The Mercury newspaper in Manhattan. “I would hope that it would (bring closure), but they’ve lost a daughter. I have no way of knowing how they can feel after something as traumatic as this has happened.”

Meiss’s brother, Chris Lewis, wrote on a GoFundMe page that “everyone has a lot of questions and concerns revolving around her case but the family is trying to put Ashley to her final resting place in peace.”

He said there would be two viewings - one in Ogden on October 28 and another one later in her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

It's an acronym we hear often, but what does it really mean when someone is diagnosed with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder? In short, it's a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening