There are two ways of looking at the case(s) I am here to discuss today. One is as a discussion of two mysteries, one an unsolved murder and the other a missing persons case. The other possibility is that this is actually one case that has claimed at least two victims. My purpose here is to clarify the established facts, and let the reader form their own opinion. I will incorporate my own thoughts on the matter at the end.
This story starts on February 9th, 1999, with a fifteen year old girl named Ashley Erin Ouellette going to spend the night at a friend’s house. Ashely was a sophomore at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. She had been born on March 29th, 1983, to parents Lise and Robert. She had been struggling academically, but lately her grades had improved. When she wanted to spend the night with her friend Alia Page, her mother agreed, even though it was a school night. Ashley called her mother from Alia’s house at around 10:00 pm to say goodnight, and at the time, everything sounded completely normal, and there was nothing to indicate to Lise that this was the last time she would ever speak to her daughter.
There are several things that are unclear to me, even at this point. For instance, nowhere have I seen it stated if there were other people at Alia’s house for the sleepover, or if it was just her and Ashley. One source makes reference to “the other girls”, implying that there were multiple girls not including Ashley. Yet if these unnamed young people were even present, no source states how many there were or any other details about them. After this, the evening gets even less clear.
At some point “between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am” some male classmates stopped by Alia’s home to visit the girls. These included a pair of brothers named Daniel and Stephen Sandborn, the latter of whom Ashley had nursed a long-time crush on. One source even said that the two did have a brief romantic relationship at one point. Ashley’s mother has stated that a third boy named Jay Carney was also with the Sandborn brothers that night. This group said they were all going to the Sandborn home on Mast Hill Road, where Daniel and Stephen lived with their parents Earl and Muriel. At some point that night, Ashley would end up at the Sandborn residence with the brothers, although it is uncertain if Alia or anyone else from her home accompanied Ashely there or if she left on her own. According to one article, it was Jay Carney who drove Ashley to the Sandborn residence, although where he went afterwards is not stated. It is at this point that one of the articles I read states that “the other girls” left, but that Ashley remained with the Sandborns. This, however, if the only place that it is implied that there was more than one other guest at the sleepover, or that anyone besides Ashley left with the Sandborn brothers. If the brothers had their own vehicle, any other people besides Ashley came with them and then left, presumably in their own vehicles.
Daniel, Stephen, and their parents have said that they offered Ashley a couch to sleep on for the night, but that she must have left after everyone in the home had gone to bed. Ashley is officially listed as having last been seen at “a Saco home” around 2:00 am. At 3:57 am on February 10th, 1999, a passing motorist found Ashley Ouellette’s body on Pine Point Road in Scarborough, Maine, approximately ten miles from the Sandborn house.* According to the person who found her, she was “still warm to the touch.” An autopsy revealed that she had died by strangulation, and that her body showed no indication of having been struck by a car. It was theorized that her killer had left her body in the road, hoping she would be hit and that the damage from the car would obscure any evidence of her murder. However, one source did say that Ashley also had a broken neck, although it was not mentioned if this appeared to be pre/peri-mortem, or post-mortem.
Once the events of the previous night were established, investigators began to look hard at the Sandborn brothers. Some droplets of blood were found inside the home, and some dried grass found in Daniel’s car was similar to that found caught on Ashley’s body. There were also unspecified “signs of sexual activity” inside the home. As for Daniel’s own account, he initially stated that he had gone to school as usual on February 10th, then said he had decided to skip school and go to the beach (let me remind you, this was February, in Maine). He denied any involvement in Ashley’s death, despite police routinely questioning him, his parents, and his brother. All members of the family maintained that they had gone to bed and that Ashley had left on her own at some point during the night. Police, meanwhile, refused to name a suspect. To this day, Ashley Ouellette’s murder has not been solved, although her mother and friends have done their best to keep her name in the public eye. In the words of her uncle, Denis Lehouillier: “You took one of my family members who was a great kid and killed them and threw her out like a piece of trash.”
I’m going to switch gears at this point, but if it seems too abrupt, believe me when I say I will be coming back to Ashley’s story. However, first I have to talk about a twenty-one year old man named Antonio Torres and a mysterious incident that happened on May 21st, 1999, over three months after the murder of Ashley Ouellette. Antonio Torres, who went by “Tony”, was born on April 1st, 1978, to Ramona and Narciso Torres. Both of his parents were natives to Puerto Rico who came to the United States, and the two of them met and married in New York City. Tony had two brothers, Jamel and Luis. Jamel, who was only 12 years old when Tony disappeared, described his big brother as “fun and adventurous.” Tony grew up speaking both English and Spanish, and he was always very interested in sports. He was an avid fan of the New York Yankees, and he played soccer and basketball in high school. For as much as he enjoyed physical activity, he also liked to keep his clothing and possessions clean, and he had an interest in clothing and sports apparel. At the time he went missing, he was a junior studying business at Framingham State College in Massachusetts. He was minoring in psychology and Spanish, and his ultimate goal was to own a sporting goods store. When he entered college, Tony also picked up the nickname “Angel”, so he is referred to that way in some sources.
Tony’s family lived in Denmark, Maine, near the same town as Ashely Ouellette, but as far as anyone has been able to determine, they never directly crossed paths. However, it does appear that they had some acquaintances in common. On Mother’s Day weekend, 1999 (May 7th-9th), Tony returned home to visit with his family and some of his friends from high school. At the time, Ashley’s murder was still a main local news item. One evening, Tony and his father were watching the evening news together when the case came up. According to Narciso Torres, Tony said, “I know who killed her. I knew the people who killed her.” He did not say who he meant, but Narciso believed he was telling the truth. Narciso says he then told his son to tell the police, or else to keep quiet and be careful who he talked to about it. He later expressed how much he regretted not taking the information to law enforcement right then and there.
A few weeks later, in the early morning hours of May 21st, 1999, Tony would be seen for the last time on South Street in Biddeford, Maine. He had been at a party at an ex-girlfriend’s house. Also in attendance at this party was none other than Jay Carney, who had also been present with Ashley the night of her murder.** Around 2:00 am, Tony and Jay left the apartment to walk to a nearby convenience store, but only Jay would return. According to witnesses, Jay appeared “disheveled and upset.” He apparently gave not explanation for his condition, but only said that he and Tony had gone to the Whistle Stop convenience store, and that Tony wanted to catch a ride home or else to someplace in Conway, New Hampshire. Why he wanted to go to either of these places in the middle of the night was never explained, but Jay did add that a “man in a red truck” was going to drive Tony. Equally ambiguous is if this means that Jay actually saw Tony get into a red truck with this man, or if Tony simply told Jay that a man in a red truck was going to be picking him up. The latter seems like a strange thing for someone to say–not to identify who was picking them up but describing their vehicle–so I think it more likely that Jay meant the former. This is not to say that he had to have been telling the truth, however. Although to my knowledge Jay has never recanted this version of events, he also stated that the reason he and Tony left the party in the first place was because Jay had been selling drugs and they were going to meet some customers who weren’t happy with what he had sold them.
Now, there is a lot to unpack in the above paragraph, and I will not pretend to have all the answers to the questions raised by Jay Carney’s narrative. Although Tony had been at a party and presumably interacted with several other people during the night, we only know of two: the ex-girlfriend who was hosting the party and Jay. We don’t know who else was present and what type of relationship they had with Tony. It is implied that Jay and Tony knew each other, but not clear how they knew each other or for how long. The distance between the apartment and the convenience store is not stated, nor is the length of time that Jay was gone. I have already addressed the strangeness of Tony wanting to get a ride away from the area with the red truck-driving mystery man at 2:00 am with no known prior discussion of his plans. If there is any weight to the possibility that Tony got into a vehicle with someone else, he would have had to have contacted this person at some point and arranged the meeting place. Moving onto Jay’s additions or alterations to his story, we have the account of the two men meeting with “some customers” (neither the names or number of which is known) who had complaints about the drugs Jay had sold them. Why would Jay have taken Tony along to such a meeting? It has been speculated that Tony was also involved in selling drugs, and this is something his parents have begun to accept as a possibility over the years. Still, to my knowledge at least, there has never been any concrete proof of this. If he was involved, the likely reason for his accompanying Jay is that he was working in some kind of partnership with him.
Now, the crucial question left by Jay’s account is what happened after meeting with the customers. Had Tony already left in the red truck by the time Jay met with them, or did the two men part ways afterwards? How exactly was the issue with the customers resolved, and what happened that left Jay appearing “disheveled and upset?” For that matter, how long was Jay gone from the party at the apartment?
With no trace of Tony ever surfacing, he was declared legally dead in 2004. Jay Carney died of a drug overdose in 2020, taking whatever information he may have had about Ashley’s murder and Tony’s disappearance with him. The case is still being investigated by Major Crimes Unit South and the Unsolved Homicide Unit, and police believe foul play was involved. Despite the passage of time, the investigation into Antonio Torres’ disappearance is not inactive. According to Mark Holmquist, head of the Maine State Police southern division: “We get leads on this case quite frequently, it’s one of our more active cases in major crimes. Police Major Scott Gosselin has stated, “We are confident there are people in the community who have the right information to bring successful resolution to the Torres family. We just need those people to be courageous and come forward.” Antonio’s parents want everyone to know that [he] was a son, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend. He was also funny, a ladies’ man, an athlete who loved his New York Yankees, and was hoping to help young adults. He had hoped to own a sporting goods store in the future. He had a lot of goals, but is life was taken away from him far too young.”
Ashley Ouellete’s murder had not been relegated to the back burner, either. The Maine State Police have called it an “open, ongoing, and confidential investigation.” An article from February of 2021 stated that four new tips were in the process of being investigated, and Police Major Scott Gosselin has said there are “a great deal of persons of interest,” although no suspects were named. He added that investigators have “a good idea” about who was responsible for her death.
When I first started researching these cases, I was working under the suspicion that they were connected. After learning more details, I no longer think this is the case, although it is still within the realm of possibility. This is not to dismiss the claim that Tony did in fact know who killed Ashley, but this in itself may not have been the motive behind his own probable murder. First of all, we don’t know if what he knew about Ashley’s murder was even correct, or how he came across the information. It’s possible he learned of it second or third-hand, in which case the killer or killers may not have even known that Tony knew the truth. Knowing for certain if the Sandborn brothers were present the night Tony disappeared might sway my opinion back in the other direction, but as it is, Jay Carney is the only factor which links the two incidents. Although he might have known who killed Ashley, and possibly relayed this information to Tony at some point, there is no strong evidence that he himself was directly involved in her death. He was present early in the evening when Ashely met up with the Sandborn brothers and may have been the one to drop her off at their home, but nothing places him at the scene during the time period when she most likely died. No one in the Sandborn family has ever indicated his involvement, and since implicating him would have directed suspicion away from themselves, it seems logical that they would have done so if he had been present in the home at all that night. Furthermore, there is nothing in the timing of events to indicate that knowing the identity of Ashley’s killer(s) was the cause of Tony’s disappearance. In his statement to his father, he did not say when he came by this information, although we know that it was sometime between February 10th and May 7th of 1999. Tony could have known this for as long as three months without telling anyone, and if that was the case, what would have changed that made Ashley’s killers decide that Tony had to die to ensure his silence? As far as we know, the only person he ever told was his father, who spoke to no one else about it. It’s possible that Tony got into some kind of heated argument with someone with an interest in keeping the truth about Ashley’s murder secret and threatened to tell the truth, and that things escalated from there, but it seems unlikely that he would be so incautious. The person or persons responsible for both events may in fact have known one another or moved in the same social circles, but the crimes need not be connected to one another or committed by the same individual. To summarize, there is nothing tying Jay Carney to Ashley’s death, and Jay Carney is the only known person to be with Tony on the night he disappeared. For me, it makes the most sense to analyze the cases separately rather than as a single sequence of events.
While this is very far from proven, Ashley’s death seems most directly linked to the people and events in the Sandborn home on the night of February 9th-10th, 1999. We only know of Daniel, Stephen, and their parents, but that is not to say that there were not other, unknown individuals present. Blood and the ambiguously phrased “signs of sexual activity” were found inside the home, although left unclear is if the blood was Ashley’s or if there were signs of sexual activity or assault on her actual body. At some point Ashley was murdered and at least one person with access to a vehicle brought her body to Pine Point Road and left it there, apparently in the hope that it would be hit by a car and further obscure her cause of death.
I want to pause here to point out the glaring difference between the two cases being discussed. The person or persons responsible for Ashley’s death made zero attempt to hide her body. Quite the opposite actually–they appeared to have wanted the body to be found in such a way that the murder could not be linked to them. Then we have the case of Antonio Torres. If he was in fact murdered, as seems to be the assumption of most investigators, then his killer or killers were very successful at hiding his body. This does not rule out any kind of connection between them, of course, but it does indicate that the two crimes were committed under very different circumstances. One was hasty and most likely unplanned, while the other was handled much more carefully and was possibly planned in advance.
What can we conclude about Antonio Torres’ disappearance, based on the few facts have? We don’t actually know why he left the party with Jay Carney at the time he did or if Carney wanted him accompany him to the convenience store. If Tony decided to come along on the spur of the moment, then whatever happened to him after that was probably unplanned and arose from the immediate circumstances. If Carney did ensure that Tony, and only Tony, came with him, we then have to consider the possibility that there was some kind of set-up. It’s never stated how long Carney was gone before returning to the apartment, but it is worth noting that he had no known access to a vehicle at that point. Killing Tony, and then transporting and hiding his body would have been a difficult task for one person in a moderately populated area with no car, which makes me think that Tony was intercepted by one or more people who did have a car. Carney may have led Tony into a trap of his own volition, or he may have been instructed to bring Tony to a specific spot, and did not know what was going to happen. Either way, this would had to have been arranged at some prior time, and I wonder if anyone ever looked into Carney’s phone records on May 20th and 21st of 1999? If this scenario does bear any resemblance to what actually happened to Tony, we still don’t know what the motive could have been. As I have stressed before, it is possible that it was related to Ashley Ouellette’s murder, but it could just as easily have stemmed from some other cause. This is sheer speculation, but Carny did say that he was going to go meet with some irate customers who had bought drugs from him. One possibility is that this meeting did in fact take place, but that it was Tony who took the blame for whatever the customers were unhappy about. Due to Jay Carney’s 2020 death, this possibility can never be more than hypothetical.
Whether the cases are connected or not, the families of both Ashley Ouellette and Antonio Torres deserve answers. Anyone with information about the murder of Ashley Ouellette or the disappearance of Antonio Torres is encouraged to contact the Maine State Police at 207-657-3030.
Seven Thousand Three Hundred Days (Editorial written by Antonio’s parents)
*In yet another inconsistency, a different article says Ashley’s body was found 10 miles away from Alia Page’s home.
**One source says that Stephen and Daniel Sandborn were also present, but as this was limited to a single article, I don’t give it much credence.