The current marital status of Howard Ashleman, who is infamously known for the murder of his colleague James Chambers, is shrouded in mystery. The authorities have remained tight-lipped about his personal life, including his relationship with Hannah Jones, to whom he was married.
Howard and James both worked in construction at the Fort Bragg military base and lived nearby; Howard in Wade with an elderly couple and James in Fayetteville with his roommate Brandi. Colleagues had observed increasing friction between the two men before James vanished after last being seen by his girlfriend on August 15, 2014. He was believed to be heading to a weekend job with Howard. When James failed to return and did not show up for work the following Monday, concerns escalated. After his girlfriend alerted his parents, they reported him missing.
During the period of James’ disappearance, Howard met Hannah Jones, who unaware of her future husband’s actions, would later play an instrumental role in the investigation. Tasked by the police to secure a confession, Hannah covertly recorded Howard as he recounted the murder, believing he was confiding in his wife. Howard described luring James to a secluded lake and killing him, and even consented to signing a formal confession at the Fayetteville police station.
This act of betrayal by Hannah, who had won Howard’s trust, was pivotal in gathering the evidence necessary for Howard’s subsequent arrest and charge for the murder of James Chambers.
The couple’s marriage took place under peculiar circumstances, with their nuptials occurring abruptly just two days prior to Howard’s arrest in December 2017. At the time, Hannah was just old enough to legally wed. The prosecution surmised that the hastily arranged marriage could have been a tactic to exploit spousal privilege, potentially shielding Hannah from testifying against Howard. Nonetheless, she chose to assist the police, and her recorded evidence of Howard’s admission made her courtroom testimony potentially redundant.
Howard Ashleman was a mere 20 years of age at the time of writing. Born in 2004, he and Hannah, aged 18, did not have children. The couple’s marriage was hastily arranged in the shadow of legal proceedings, and it remains uncertain whether their bond will endure Howard’s incarceration. Howard entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder in late February 2018, receiving a sentence of 15 years and 6 months to 19 years and 8 months, with an additional 6 months for not surrendering as he had initially promised. He is serving his sentence at a correctional facility in Columbus, North Carolina, with parole eligibility commencing on August 7, 2033.
The tragic loss of James Chambers continues to affect his loved ones, as the aftermath of the crime and subsequent legal proceedings unfold. With the details of Howard’s personal life largely uncommunicated by officials, the question of whether he and Hannah Jones remain married lingers unanswered.