‘May he rot in that cell’: Family of B.C. woman missing for years faces her killer

Click to play video: 'Former boyfriend of Ashley Simpson pleads guilty to her murder on first day of trial'
Former boyfriend of Ashley Simpson pleads guilty to her murder on first day of trial
The former boyfriend of Ashley Simpson has pleaded guilty to her murder on the first day of his trial. This came as a great relief for her parents who had travelled from Ontario to attend. Catherine Urquhart has the details – Oct 30, 2023

The grief and anger Ashley Simpson’s family suffered after she disappeared without a trace in 2016 was laid bare Wednesday when they faced her killer.

Ashley’s parents, Cindy and John Simpson, travelled from their home in Ontario to a Salmon Arm courtroom to see Derek Lee Matthew Favell, 41, sentenced to life in prison for her second-degree murder. He won’t be eligible for parole for 12 years.

The Simpson family told the court how they had made similar journeys to the Shuswap community many times after Ashley disappeared from there eight years earlier.

For nearly six of those years, they searched forests and fields for a trace of the girl they said was a “bright light” with a love for adventure and the natural world.

However, as they attempted to keep their hopes for Ashley up, the family crumbled under the weight of their shared loss.

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Click to play video: 'Murder charge laid in Ashley Simpson disappearance'
Murder charge laid in Ashley Simpson disappearance

“Watching what this tragedy has done to my wife, my daughters, my grandkids, all her friends … it’s led to significant health issues for my wife myself, we both had to undergo emergency surgeries and it led to my granddaughter down a dark path she’s never recovered from,” said John

Ashley’s niece suffered mental health issues that persist even today in the wake of her disappearance.

“No parent should bury their child,” John said.

He added their suffering was compounded by the “torture” of not knowing what happened for the five years and eight months that passed before Favell was arrested.

During that time, John said Favell “was able to live and work, play and lie all the time knowing what he did. Knowing Ashley’s body lay rotting in a ditch for six years.”

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“I’m a decent human being and I will not give a thought to him while he’s locked away, looking for pity, offering up excuses without remorse,” John said.

“How can he call himself a man when he refuses to take responsibility for his actions and spreading lies about my daughter? A life for life is what I say.

“May he rot in that cell. Even a life sentence is not good enough.”

Cindy, Ashley’s mother, offered a similar perspective of their familial grief.

She said the 2,043 days that followed Ashley’s disappearance were akin to being on a “roller-coaster ride” and Favell should be held accountable for that, as well.

Click to play video: 'B.C. RCMP confirm Ashley Simpson’s remains found; boyfriend charged with murder'
B.C. RCMP confirm Ashley Simpson’s remains found; boyfriend charged with murder

“All the time he knew where she was and watched as my family kept going back to Salmon Arm to search, year after year. When they returned with no Ashley, they were feeling guilty that they didn’t find her,” she said. “Our lives were consumed with finding Ashley and, as a family, we shed enough tears to fill a lake.”

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Crown counsel Alison Buchanan said the ongoing deceptions perpetrated by Favell after he fatally strangled Simpson following an alcohol-fuelled argument they had in their home, a travel trailer, is the most egregious issue at play.

“The callous and cowardly manner Favell disposed of Ashley Simpson’s remains is by far the most aggravating feature in this case,” Buchanan said.

“(Favell) dumped Miss Simpson like she was garbage. In his words, he ‘chucked her body in the truck, drove her up the mountain, kicked her out, went to his mom’s to destroy evidence and then dumped the truck in the bush.’

“These are Mr. Favell’s own words, talking about what he did to another human being, a person he was supposed to love and care for.”

Then, Buchanan said, he went on to cover his tracks again and again.

“He lied to the police, he destroyed evidence, he sent text messages from Ashley’s phone to make it look like she left on her own and he told her family she left and he did not know where she was.”

He kept up the ruse for five years and seven months until he was arrested for her death.

He pleaded guilty in October 2023. On Wednesday, he told the court he was remorseful for his actions.

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In court, Favell, a recovering addict, said that he understood that it was his actions that led “to the worst thing that a family could ever go through — the loss of a child.

“As a father, I could never imagine the pain you and your family have gone through. I hope today is where you and your family can certainly heal,” Favell said to the family.

“I’m sorry for the pain that I caused you. I promise for the rest of my life, I will work on my substance abuse issues, and I will become a person that society deems rehabilitated. I’m guilty for the death of your daughter and deserve any kind of punishment.”

That was something that Buchanan agreed with, pointing out that the prospect for rehabilitation appeared dim given how Favell behaved in the six years before his arrest.

“Mr Favell might be taking responsibility now, but to this family, it does nothing to undo that torture that he put them through,” Buchanan said.

In her sentencing, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames addressed Favell and Simpson’s family.

“Thank you for providing the court with your victim impact statements. It took all of you a great deal of courage and is a testament to your love for Ashley that you attended and were able to read your statements aloud,” Beames said.

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“I know that the grief will not come to an end but hopefully you’ll be able to move forward and live your lives as you believe would be the way Ashley would have wanted.”

To Favell, she was optimistic.

“Mr. Favell, you did commit a senseless crime. You spoke today about your remorse and about your promise to work toward rehabilitation in that endeavor. I wish you good luck. You owe that to Miss Simpson and to the members of your own family.”

Five women, including Simpson, have disappeared from the North Okanagan and Shuswap regions since 2016. Only one has been found.

RCMP have said there is no connection between Simpson’s death and the other cases. Those investigations continue.


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