A former Republican state lawmaker from Mississippi was shot and killed Sunday on the same property where her sister-in-law was found dead inside a trailer that had been set on fire six months ago.
Reports say Ashley Henley, 40, was shot in the back of the head as she was tending the lawn at the burned-out trailer home where the body of Kristina Michelle Jones had been discovered in a bedroom the day after Christmas last year.
After Jones died, Henley and her husband, Brandon, raised a memorial at the trailer and put up a wooden sign outside that read “I WAS MURDERED.” The couple also publicly criticized the sheriff in the rural town in recent months for not adequately investigating the case, The Washington Post reported.
“We will find out who did this, with or without help from Yalobusha County,” Henley wrote in a Facebook post on April 6, according to reports. “She’s not the first to die like this down there, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure she’s the last. Her death will not be [in] vain.”
Six months after Jones’ death, the yard at the trailer had become overgrown from neglect.
Henley, determined to keep up the property while bringing renewed attention to the case, packed a weed whacker in her truck this past weekend and set out for Water Valley, about 73 miles to the south.
It would turn out to be a fatal decision.
Henley left her home in Southaven, Mississippi, about 10 a.m. Sunday and arrived at the trailer a little more than an hour later, reports said.
After not hearing from his wife for several hours, Brandon Henley called a neighbor about 8 p.m. to check the property, where Ashley Henley’s vehicle was still parked, but there were no signs of her.
“We will not be intimidated. We are not going away. We will not back down. We will not be silent any longer. My sister-in-law deserves #JUSTICE. I know the law, and I also know how quick people disappear down here. I'm not going down like that."
- Ashley Henley, on Facebook, writing about her sister-in-law who died Dec. 26
Two hours later, police arrived on the scene and discovered the woman’s body.
Authorities believe she was gunned down in cold blood while trimming the lawn, the North Mississippi Herald reported.
The Yalobusha County coroner is investigating, although no suspects have been named and no motive has surfaced.
The only clues so far appear to be Henley’s own social media posts about her experience with authorities in the small town in Yalobusha County, with a population of fewer than 4,000 people.
In one Facebook post, the woman revealed that sheriff’s deputies in the town had once threatened to arrest her for not surrendering her “lawfully holstered, concealed firearm without probable cause,” the Post reported.
“We will not be intimidated,” she wrote. “We are not going away. We will not back down. We will not be silent any longer. My sister-in-law deserves #JUSTICE.”
She added: “I know the law, and I also know how quick people disappear down here. I’m not going down like that.”
Investigators are not certain whether the Henley killing could be connected to Jones’ death at the trailer last year, but Brandon Henley said he suspects the same person killed both women.
“I have my own theory, and the police do, too,” he told local news station WREG. “I’d like for them to do their job because this is the second person someone down there has taken from me. My son doesn’t have a mother.”
The circumstances surrounding Jones’ death are just as mysterious as those in the Henley slaying.
Jones’ father owned the trailer where she was found dead in the predawn hours of Dec. 26, reports said.
The woman was in her bedroom when the home was reportedly set on fire about 1:30 a.m.
Brandon Henley said the fire occurred primarily in Jones’ bedroom and that there was no smoke found in her lungs, indicating she was already dead before the blaze.
The county coroner told the Mississippi Free Press there were no gunshot wounds present on Jones’ body. An investigation is continuing, and police have not ruled out homicide in the case.
Ashley Henley worked as a teacher before being elected to the state House in 2015, representing DeSoto County. She served on the Education Committee and held her seat for four years but lost to a Democrat by 14 votes in the 2019 election, the Post reported.
Republican state Rep. Dan Eubanks, who worked alongside Henley during her term in the state House, told local news stations that she had been adamant about keeping pressure on local law enforcement to look deeper into Jones’ death.
“I really believe that what happened was, she continued to pursue certain leads and she ruffled some feathers and somebody wanted to put an end to that search,” Eubanks said, according to the Post. “It’s obvious that it was an execution-style murder. Somebody wanted her dead. They didn’t rob her, they didn’t take any of her stuff. ... They killed her and just moved on.”