- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - The parents of Ashley Morris Mullis have gotten accustomed to standing by and waiting in the 13 months since their 28-year-old daughter went missing.

Don and Leandra Morris literally stood by on a downtown Muncie sidewalk in August, when police searched a house in connection with the disappearance of another young woman, Brianna DiBattiste.

They followed developments, from a distance, when DiBattiste’s body was found in rural Jay County in September.

They felt blindsided when their daughter’s husband won a divorce - and custody of their two children - months after the disappearance.

But the Morrises aren’t waiting anymore. Their family has increased to $1,000 the reward offered for information leading to their daughter’s recovery. They’re working with Delaware County police to put pressure on anyone who might know her whereabouts since she disappeared in September 2013.

It’s part of an effort to bring closure to a mystery that has left them without a daughter and Ashley’s three children - all age 5 or younger - without a mother.

“I fear she might not be alive at this point because she hasn’t contacted us,” Don Morris told The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1xwYi87 ). “How many people can go without seeing their kids for a year?”

“I want my daughter back,” Leandra Morris said. “I want her back home.”

Ashley Morris Mullis was last seen in September 2013 by family members of a man she was dating, Delaware County Police Detective Kurt Walthour said. Her family hadn’t heard from her “two or three weeks prior,” the investigator added.

“It’s been a year now and it’s hard to believe she wouldn’t be in contact with her family,” Walthour said.

Walthour said Mullis was an occasional drug user, and her parents said she took prescription drugs. But police don’t have reason to believe the potential overdose scenario sometimes applied to 25-year-old DiBattiste - who was a heroin user, although authorities have not yet indicated the drug was a contributing factor in her death - was a likely scenario for Mullis.

Mullis apparently told people she knew that she was leaving the area, but Walthour said, “It just doesn’t add up.”

Chief among the problems with the scenario that Mullis simply left is that she left behind three children: her sons are 5 and 3 years old and her daughter, now about 2, was only a few months old at the time Mullis disappeared.

Besides the disappearance of their daughter, the Morrises are troubled about other developments in the past year.

Mullis’ husband had filed for divorce before she disappeared. The divorce was finalized in a Delaware County court five months after Ashley Mullis’ disappearance.

“He got divorced without her being in the courtroom,” Don Morris said, although the Morrises added that their daughter’s ex-husband lets them see their two oldest grandchildren whenever they want.

The same can’t be said for their youngest grandchild, who is with the family of their daughter’s boyfriend. “We don’t get to see her,” Morris added.

Walthour declined to call the boyfriend a suspect. “We talked to him about things,” the investigator said.

The Star Press called the boyfriend’s business on Monday and was told he was out of town and could not be reached.

In the 13 months since their daughter’s disappearance, the Morrises have tried to spread the word. Facebook groups have been started and an initial $500 reward for information recently was increased to $1,000.

The Morrises said they won’t give up their search for their daughter.

“We need to know something at this point about what happened to our daughter,” Don Morris said. “We just need answers so our hearts will quit aching.”

___

Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com


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