Ashley Summers vanished in July 2007 when she was 14 after getting into a fight with her mother, and police say they have a new lead in the case.
Ashley’s step-grandmother was online in January and saw a surveillance photo that was posted on a website showing criminals wanted in Rhode Island. She believed that the similarity to her long-lost granddaughter was indisputable, so she contacted authorities.
The bereaved grandmother isn’t the only one who sees the connection, with FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson saying the similarity is “just amazing.”
“She looks a lot like her,” Anderson told ABC News. “If you look at her eyebrows; you look at her hairline, it looks a lot like her.”
The surveillance footage was posted by the Warwick, Rhode Island, police department in connection to the thefts of purses from cars in a parking lot near a gym. The cards from those purses were used to obtain money from a nearby ATM, Warwick police Capt. Christopher Stewart told ABC News.
The woman took an undisclosed amount of money from the ATM Oct. 22, 2014, and although the investigation into the car break-ins is ongoing, the Warwick police are not actively involved in the search for Summers. They also have no hard leads on the identity of the woman at the ATM or the man seen with her.
Until now, the FBI’s Anderson said, the biggest lead in the Summers investigation came with the 2013 discovery that three long-missing women, identified later as Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, were being held at a home in Cleveland.
“When the girls escaped, and we heard that there were three of them being held, we knew Amanda and Gina but we weren’t sure who the third person was,” Anderson said of how there was speculation that Summers could have also been held by Ariel Castro. “We just assumed, ‘Oh, my gosh, Ashley!’”
The tip from the Rhode Island ATM case seems like the most promising lead yet, Anderson said, adding authorities are not going to stop until they at least get the identity of the person in the surveillance footage.
“It’s going on eight years, but this to us is a significant lead and we have to follow,” she said. “We have to find this young woman.”