Family visited, talked to sheriff’s officers before deaths: read part of 911 recording
Published 9:23 am Thursday, April 28, 2022
By Mike Barnhardt
Autopsies on Wednesday, April 20 revealed what investigators had suspected all along, a mother and her two children were murdered before the gunman – father of the children – set the house on fire and then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.
The final scene was at their home on Junction Road near Cooleemee on Monday, April 18.
Dead are: Ashton Brown, 26, the mother of Bella, 4, and Brixx, age 8 months. Authorities said they were shot to death by the children’s father, Aschod Ewing-Meeks, 26, who was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
All bodies were found inside of the house, which had been intentionally set on fire, said Davie Sheriff J.D. Hartman, who provided a timeline of events that included the family having several interactions with emergency personnel just prior to their deaths.
All four had visited the sheriff’s office just a couple of hours prior to the deaths, and the two adults had telephone conversations with an officer for several minutes.
At 12:11 p.m. Monday, April 18, all four were on video in a visit to the sheriff’s office. “They were very vague about what they wanted. They just wanted to talk to an officer,” Hartman said. The receptionist tried to get names and an address, but were only given a Gwyn Street address, that of Ms. Brown’s mother. There were no alarms that would have tipped staff that something would happen, Hartman said.
They left the lobby four minutes later, with the receptionist giving them a card with a non-emergency telephone number if they decided to talk to an officer later.
“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Hartman said. “They really wouldn’t interact with the receptionist or tell her what they wanted.”
Twenty minutes later, Ms. Brown called that 911 non-emergency number saying they wanted to talk to an officer. “They wouldn’t say what they wanted; they had some safety concerns, they said,” according to Hartman.
Ms. Brown: “Hi, how do you call in to speak with a deputy or anything?”
Dispatcher: “Do you need to speak with a deputy?”
Ms. Brown: “Yes, please.”
Dispatcher: “OK, what is your name? I just need a little bit of information. What is your phone number.”
Ms. Brown: Gives phone number.
Dispatcher: “And, what do you need to speak to an officer about?”
Ms. Brown: “I just need to speak with him about a safety reason.”
Dispatcher: “OK, from what address?”
Ms. Brown: “What’d you say?”
Dispatcher: “What address is it occurring at … They’re still going to call you, we need to know that … to dispatch an officer.”
Ms. Brown: “Oh, you’re going to dispatch him?”
Dispatcher: “No, he can call. I just need to know an address.”
Ms. Brown: Gives Junction Road address.
Dispatcher: “Tell me exactly what’s going on there. I just need to know.”
Ms. Brown: “I’m calling for my fiance. We’re both trying to speak with him.”
Dispatcher: “Can I speak with your fiance? I need a small reference to give them (officer). Ms. Brown”
Ms. Brown: “Really, it’s just safety precautions.”
Dispatcher: “OK, we’ll go ahead and get an officer to give you a call.”
Ten minutes later, an officer called them for a 33-second conversation. “Ms. Brown answered. She talked very shortly then she made the statement to the effect that she was just calling for her boyfriend and she handed the phone to her boyfriend – Mr. Meeks.”
All conversations after that were with Mr. Meeks.
After the first call ended by being lost or dropped, the officer called back. They talked for 55 seconds and it was dropped. The officer calls back and talks with Mr. Meeks for two minutes, 8 seconds. It was dropped. The next call lasted for 6 minutes 22 seconds before being dropped.
It was 1:06 p.m. by now, and all subsequent calls from the officer went to voice mail.
“Mr. Meeks, he wouldn’t advise what he wanted. He advised to the officer that he thought somebody was following him, but he wasn’t in any danger, that they weren’t threatening him. The officer attempted to get him to come back to the sheriff’s office. They were driving around and they wouldn’t tell the officer where they were.”
Hartman said the officer made every effort – calling back several times – to try to learn the issue. The officer called a total of six times, the last two at 1:06 and 1:07 went to voice mail. There was no indication of what was to occur later, he said.
At 2 p.m., a neighbor spotted all four in the yard of their Junction Road home, and they appeared to be arguing, they told officers. That witness left, going about his business, Hartman said.
Soon after that, a passer-by spotted smoke and drove to the nearby Cooleemee Police Department, who had firefighters on the scene three minutes later, at 2:17 p.m.
Hartman said that firefighters did a great job of putting out the flames while preserving the scene. The SBI was called in to help with the investigation.
The bodies of the infants and mother were found in the living room, the 4 year old at the entrance to a bedroom. The gunman’s body was in the hallway leading to the kitchen.
“I’ve seen a lot in 30 years, but children, especially children killed by gunshots and burned, it’s pretty heinous,” Hartman said.
None of those involved had prior run-ins with local law enforcement, although unbeknown to officers, Ewing-Meeks had a history of being treated for mental illness, Hartman said.