Family and friends of a missing Texas woman are pleading for help with finding her after they say she traveled to Florida for work over the summer but has not been seen or heard from in nearly three months.
Ashley Lucas, 34, left her home in Texas back in July and drove to the Florida panhandle, planning to stay there for two weeks caring for her a friend’s elderly mother.
But through a series of events involving Lucas’ struggle with drug addiction and mental health issues, she ended up getting involuntarily committed by the authorities, before disappearing on September 24.
Where is Ashley? Ashley Lucas, 34, has been missing since last September. She disappeared in Florida after leaving a mental health treatment facility
Lucas’ roommate said she was last seen leaving a drug treatment facility on September 19, but her final sighting, according to the police, was on September 24
‘We just want to know that she’s OK,’ Ashley’s sister, Jennifer Ackerson, told NBC’s Dateline. ‘For no one to hear from her for this long… it doesn’t make sense.’
Ackerman said that during her last phone conversation with Lucas in late August, her sister told her she was planning to return home soon.
In was not unusual for Lucas to take off on her own for weeks at a time, but her sister said she would always call to check on their mother because she worried about her, to the point that she would request welfare checks from the police if she could not reach her by phone.
Lucas’ friend-turned-roommate Jeff Epperley said it all started in early July, when he asked the 34-year-old to travel to Lake Placid, Florida, to look after his mother while his sister, who has been caring for her, was away on vacation.
‘She worked for about 10 days before my sister came home early,’ Epperley said. ‘But Ashley wanted to stay in Florida so we ended up getting an apartment together.’
Lucas’ new life in Florida started out well, but according to Epperley, the situation took an alarming turn in late summer.
Lucas left her home in Texas in early July and traveled to Florida, planning to stay there for two weeks caring for her a friend’s elderly mother. She ended up staying and getting an apartment with a friend near Fort Lauderdale
‘She was going through a lot in her life… drug addiction, mental issues,’ the roommate recounted. ‘Seemed like that all came down on her at once and she started breaking down.’
Epperley said that not long before her disappearance, Lucas received a text message from a Florida number, which she claimed was from her mother who lives in Texas. The text sent her into a tailspin of paranoia, said the friend, because Lucas was convinced her mother had been kidnapped, and even blamed him for it.
Epperley said Lucas made several trips to the emergency room in August to seek treatment for her anxiety attacks, before ultimately checking herself into a drug rehabilitation facility in Fort Lauderdale.
After not hearing from Lucas for several weeks, Epperley said he became concerned and began calling treatment facilities in the area in an attempt to track her down.
He eventually learned that Lucas was seen leaving a facility on NE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale on September 19, but she did not reach out to him. On October 9, Epperley reported his friend missing to the police, sparking an investigation.
A spokesperson for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department revealed that Lucas was involuntarily committed under Florida’s Baker Act on September 24 and was last seen at the time of her release a few days later.
The Baker Act allows judges, law enforcement officials, doctors or mental health professionals to involuntarily hold people struggling with mental illness for up to 72 hours if they are in danger of harming themselves or others.
Jeff Epperley, Lucas’ friend and roommate in Florida, said she was struggling with drug addiction and mental health problems, and had sought treatment for panic attacks in August, before checking herself into rehab
The investigation into Lucas’ disappearance remains active, but police do not suspect foul play.
Lucas’ sister has launched a Facebook page, Finding Ashley Lucas, in an effort to raise awareness of her case and encourage people who might have information on her whereabouts to come forward.
‘There’s so many people out there who love her and are looking for her,’ Ackerson told Dateline. ‘We’re not giving up.’
Epperley said he feels guilty for bringing Lucas out to Florida and is beginning to lose hope. He also revealed that she once told him that if she ever went missing, she would want him to come find her so her family would not worry.
Lucas is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing 150lbs, with brown hair and green eyes. She has several tattoos on both arms, legs, and upper chest.
Anyone with information on the woman’s whereabouts is being asked to contact the Fort Lauderdale Police Department (954) 828-6617.