On October 14, 2005, my daughter, Ashley Barnett, her boyfriend, and two other couples, boarded Carnival Cruise Line’s Paradise in Long Beach, California for a 3-day cruise to celebrate her 25th birthday. Less than twenty-four hours later, Ashley was dead.
According to her boyfriend, he and Ashley went to the casino and a concert,and then returned to their cabin. At approximately 2:30AM, there was an alleged disagreement. The boyfriend returned to the casino, while Ashley retired for the evening.Her boyfriend said that he returned to the cabin at approximately 4AM and joined Ashley, who was asleep. Early-afternoon he awoke and went upstairs to join friends, leaving Ashley, who he says was asleep,
to rest. He returned to the cabin at approximately 2PM and was unable to awaken Ashley. He ran into the hallway screaming that his girlfriend wasn’t breathing. Another passenger heard his cries and responded, telling him to call 911.
A nurse arrived and began CPR. An emergency broadcast was made to summon the ship’s doctor. The doctor arrived but efforts to resuscitate Ashley were unsuccessful. According to the ship’s records, she was pronounced dead at 2:45PM.
At approximately 6:00 PM, I learned of this nightmare from the ship’s nurse, who informed me of my daughter’s death. She had no answers as to what had happened to her. I demanded to speak with her boyfriend, but I wastold that he was currently in questioning. Later, I was informed that he had been cleared from the questioning, but declined to speak with me.
Because the boat was docked in Ensenada, the Mexican authorities boarded the ship to determine if a homicide had been committed. The FBI was also notified. Later that night, with her boyfriend and the rest of the group on board, the Paradise set sail. Thoughthe ship was scheduled to return to the Long Beach port within 36 hours, Ashley was left behind, alone in a Mexican morgue.
The following day, her boyfriend contacted me. He claimed not to know what had happened to my daughter, but continued to say that some of his medications were missing – Methadone and Vicodin.
When the ship returned to Long Beach, the FBI began its own investigation. As per their request, I was waiting at the harbor. I believed the FBI would find answers asto what happened to my daughter. I stood in the rain for four hours. Finally, the agents interviewed me; however, they revealed very little.
Five days after her death, my daughter’s body reached the United States.. The process of getting her home was both tedious and torturous. I hired a private pathologist to conduct a forensic autopsy. His study indicated that her organs were healthy and her body was in pristine condition, with some evidence of alcohol consumption. There were no signs of trauma. Weeks later we learned the cause of death. Ashley died of the toxic effects of methadone..
Ashley would not have taken methadone. Ashley was adamantly anti-drug, and she would never have knowingly taken methadone. To prove this, we requested a test of Ashley’s hair follicles. The results were clear. No drugs, including methadone,were found in her beautiful, long hair. The test was unequivocally “negative” for habitual drug use.
How did this drug end up in her beautiful, healthy body? Her boyfriend claims that he would never have given her this drug. A year and a half has passed since Ashley’s death, and our question remains, “Who did?” Despite four trips to meet with the authorities in Ensenada, Mexico, we have no answers. To date, the FBI investigation remains “open”, but to our knowledge, no continuing action is underway.
I wake up every morning, wishing I could hold my daughter just one more time. And I pray that no other mother ever has to live this nightmare.