Ashlee Martinson from Piehl, Wisconsin, is currently serving a 23-year sentence for the murder of her mother and stepfather. After enduring a lifetime of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, Ashlee finally snapped the day after her 17th birthday
On the 7th of March, 2015, Ashlee’s stepfather, Thomas Ayers, and her mother, Jennifer Ayers, were found dead in their home. Thomas had been shot one in the neck and once in the head while Jennifer had been stabbed over thirty times. Ashlee’s three younger siblings were found inside the home, one of whom had called 911. The children were unharmed and informed police that Ashlee had committed the murders before fleeing from the home. 1 Police would find a shotgun in the kitchen sink and a blood-stained knife on the counter.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Department would send out a nationwide alert for Ashlee and warned people that she was very likely armed and dangerous. Ashlee and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Sisco, were arrested shortly thereafter when their vehicle was spotted on I-65 near Lebanon, presumably driving to the home of Ryan’s parents. Ashlee would be charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of false imprisonment. Ryan was not considered a suspect in the murders and was allowed to go free without charge.
The oldest sibling of Ashlee, who was 9-years-old, told police that she had been downstairs with Jennifer at the family’s home when they heard two gunshots. After the shots were fired, Jennifer rushed up the stairs. The child followed shortly thereafter and walked in on Jennifer and Ashlee fighting. Ashlee ordered the child back downstairs and she complied. Unbeknownst to the child, Ashlee had just stabbed Jennifer to death. Ashlee then said to her younger sibling that they were going to play a game. She locked all three of her siblings in a bedroom but not before providing them with juice and food.2 Afterwards, Ashlee fled from the home.
Following Ashlee’s arrest, it was publicly revealed that she had run a horror blog using the name “Vampchick.” Here, she shared her writings which had a sinister undertone. One poem titled “Unworthy” detailed a scene in a log cabin wherein a person is tied to a table, tortured, mutilated and then murdered. 3When this information was released in the media, many people believed that Ashlee had committed the murders simply out of pleasure. However, they would soon come to realise that the motivation was much more complex…
The day before the murder, Thomas and Ashlee gotten into an argument over the fact that Ashlee was dating Ryan, who was five years her senior. Thomas and Jennifer took away Ashlee’s keys and cell phone and sent Ryan a message on Facebook, warning him to stay away from Ashlee. “As her parents, we can press charges,” they warned. They told Ashlee that they were going to lock her inside the home and home-school her, forbidding her to ever leave.
Ashlee managed to flee from the home and went to a nearby friend’s home. However, she quickly caught by Thomas and brought back home. Ashlee informed police that she grabbed “one of the many loaded shotguns in the house” and decided that she was going to end her life. She went up to her bedroom and closed the door behind her as she prepared to commit suicide. She claimed that moments later, however, Thomas started angrily banging on her bedroom door and she decided that instead of ending her own life, she was going to kill Thomas.
Ashlee shot Thomas once in the neck and a second time in the head. As she said, she shot Thomas a second time “to ensure that he was dead and could not hurt her.” She said that when her mother came up the stairs, she sought her comfort for what she had just done. However, she said that her mother grabbed a knife and attacked her. According to Ashlee, they wrestled over the knife and she then stabbed her mother over and over again with considerable force.
As it would soon be uncovered, Ashlee had suffered years of abuse and was diagnosed with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The murders had been the accumulation of the mental, verbal, physical and sexual abuse that Ashlee had endured for a number of years. She had been abused by a number of her mother’s former boyfriends, one of whom had burned her with a cigarette and raped her when she was 9-years-old.
In fact, Ashlee, her mother, and her siblings had all been abused by Thomas. The first instance of abuse came when Thomas flew into a blind rage, ripping up the kitchen counter, throwing a trash can at the wall and grabbing Jennifer by the throat and shoving her up against a wall. There were a number of instances where Thomas would punch, smack and choke Jennifer and threaten her life with a gun. According to court documents: “The triggers were if something was not cooked correctly, something was not cleaned or she did not rub his back effectively.”
At one point, Ashlee was sent to live with her biological father, Jeremy Martinson. In December of 2013, however, police were sent to the home and Jeffrey admitted that he had slapped Ashlee. On this occasion, she informed police that Jeremy had punched, shoved and kicked her as well. From that day onwards, Jeremy made no effort in his daughter’s life. He had no interest in seeing her or speaking to her and when she was arrested for the two murders, he expressed no interest in acting as her guardian or assisting her in any way. According to court documents, all he cared about was whether the media would case him in an unfavorable light.4
After moving back in with Jennifer and Thomas, the abuse continued and this was something that Ashlee’s sisters all corroborated. They said that they were terrified of Thomas and that he would often spank them with a belt. They were all forbidden from having visitors at the home and had to wake up early to do chores. All of Ashlee’s pay checks had to be handed over to Thomas. On another occasion, Thomas physically abused the family’s puppy and eventually, killed the puppy in front of Ashlee and her sisters. Following Ashlee’s arrest, she informed police that her mother often took part in the physical abuse.
Just a couple of days before the murders, Ashlee had text Ryan to say that she had woken up as her mother was being beaten by Thomas. She wrote: “I can’t take this shit anymore. He’s gonna kill her if she doesn’t leave soon and I don’t want to be around when that happens. I want to kill him so fucking bad, just take one of his guns and blow his brains out.”5 Following Ashlee’s arrest, she said:“I’m not a monster. I never meant any of this to happen. I want people to know that I myself was a victim in this. It doesn’t make it right, what happened. But at that moment, I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”
Ashlee would plead not guilty by reason of insanity but in March of 2016, she would accept a plea deal and plead guilty to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to 40 years, 23 of which would be incarcerated and 17 of which would be on extended supervision. From behind bars, Ashlee earned her high school diploma and has expressed that she feels much happier, safer and free in prison than she ever did at home.
- Greensburg Daily News, 9 March, 2015 – “Teen Wanted in Connection with Wisconsin Double Murder”
- The Lakeland Times, 9 March, 2015 – “Double Homicide Leaves Piehl Residents on Edge”
- International Business Times, 30 June, 2015 – “Wisconsin Teen Horror Blogger Charged with Murder”
- The Lakeland Times, 15 March, 2016 – “Document Lays Out Martinson’s Life of Abuse”
- The Ottawa Sun, 19 March, 2016 – “Welcome to Hell”