MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The boyfriend of a Mount Vernon mother of two, whose body was found days after she was reported missing, has been charged with murder after police said he confessed to killing her and dumping her body in a Bronx park.
Mount Vernon police said 32-year-old Jason Myers was charged Saturday with second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, 27-year-old Ashley McDuffie.
Friends and family held a vigil for McDuffie Saturday night at Hudson Park in New Rochelle.
“She was a loved person and everybody here, if you knew her, you loved her,” Linda Hines, the grandmother of McDuffie’s children, told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare. “You had to love her.”
Police said her family reported her missing on Wednesday in Mount Vernon where she lived.
Her father, Ricky McDuffie, said his daughter dropped off her children, ages 6 and 3, with family in Connecticut for what was supposed to be a two-day visit.
But police said her family got worried when they couldn’t reach McDuffie and said it was unusual for her to not contact her children for an extended period of time.
“When they didn’t hear from her after a couple of days, they tried to get in touch with her and then they eventually came into police headquarters on the 24th to report her as a missing person,” Mount Vernon Police Captain Roy Hastings told WCBS 880.
Hastings said as they were investigating McDuffie’s disappearance, they tried to find Myers regarding her whereabouts, but couldn’t reach him.
Then on Friday, police said his attorney notified detectives that Myers would come in and give a statement.
“During the course of the interview and the investigation, he indicated that the victim was deceased and that her body was dumped in a park in the Bronx,” Hastings said. “He indicated that he had strangled her at the residence.”
Hastings said they notified the NYPD, who found the victim’s body in a wooded area behind a fence at 233rd Street and Monticello Avenue in Seton Falls Park Friday night.
Bronx resident Martin Francis saw investigators by the park and witnessed the body being recovered from the woods.
“Tragic. She is a young mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s family,” he told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “Just to have her discarded like that, like she’s a piece of trash. It’s terrible.”
The victim’s father struggled with torment over his daughter’s death.
“She was a great young lady and she’s going to be missed,” he told Carlin. “Now we gotta fight for justice for Ashley and her children.”
Meanwhile, Hines recounted a haunting conversation with her granddaughter about having to go see police last week.
“She said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because we’ve got to make sure they’re still looking for your mommy.’ She said, ‘I think Jason killed my mommy.'”
It is not yet known how long her body was in the park.
“It’s my understanding they got into an argument and he went too far with that,” Hines said.”It’s not the first time that he had choked her.”
Hastings said she was last seen alive on a store surveillance video with her boyfriend the night of Aug. 19.
“She was recovered a week later so it may be up to seven days that she was in the park,” Hastings said. “This went from a missing persons investigation to a tragedy and her boyfriend now being charged with her murder.”
McDuffie graduated Lawrence High School then left Long Island for Westchester County, where she studied criminal justice at Monroe College.
She took time off from college to focus on her kids, working part-time at a pharmacy and a daycare.
“I have to be strong for her kids all the kids I have to be strong for myself my family my friends,” her father said.
She lived for a while in New Rochelle, where residents remember a helpful neighbor and a doting young mom.
“She was very happy all the time,” said Gabriel Contreras.
Hastings said Myers is set to be arraigned on Monday.