Ashlee Martinson is charged with murdering her mother and stepfather

By K.C. Baker
July 18, 2015 12:00 PM

Ashlee Martinson seemed like any other happy-go-lucky teenager when she first moved to the small, rural town of Piehl, Wisconsin, in 2014.

“She loved to make people smile,” says a friend of Ashlee’s from Rhinelander High School, where Ashlee was a junior. “If they weren’t smiling, she made sure they left school with a huge smile on their face. She always put everyone else before herself.”

But her seemingly happy demeanor belied something darker. On March 8, two days after Ashlee turned 17, she was arrested in Indiana with her boyfriend, Ryan Sisco, 22 – after a nationwide manhunt – for murdering her mother and stepfather. Sisco has not been implicated in the murders. Ashlee has plead not guilty.

Police who responded to 911 calls from Ashlee’s modest, two-story home in Wisconsin’s North Woods found a grisly scene: three terrified children, 9, 8 and 2, in the house alone, with their slain parents.

On March 7, Ashlee allegedly shot her stepfather, Thomas Ayers, 37, in the head before allegedly fatally stabbing her mother, Jennifer Ayers, 40, multiple times and locking her younger sisters in a room with snacks and juice before fleeing, say court records.

Residents of the usually quiet town were stunned, with many asking: How could this have happened? “The whole situation is a shocker,” says neighbor Roy Rasmussen.

Even more shocking is what authorities learned about her soon after her arrest. Calling herself “Vampchick,” the self-described “horror fanatic” penned a blog she called “Nightmare,” writing graphic stories and poems about blood, mutilation, death and dying posted macabre pictures on her Pinterest page, where she says she hails from “the dark, haunted woods of Wisconsin.” Among drawings of hers that she pinned: a faceless, naked girl with black wings sitting beside a gravesite under a full moon and a skull with a rose coming out of the eyesocket.

While no one yet knows if her obsession with death played a part in the murders, police say that on March 7, she fought with her parents over Sisco, because they said he was too old for her.

Sisco told investigators that he believes he had been messaging with Ashlee’s mother and stepfather on Facebook the day authorities believe they were killed, according to court records obtained by PEOPLE. He had received a message warning him to stay away from Ashlee because she was a minor, writing, “As her parents we can press charges,” according to court records.

“She was allowed to date certain people – people her age,” says her friend. “They had to be exactly her age or younger.”

When Rasmussen’s son wanted to date Ashlee, he says he spoke to her stepfather about it, who said no. “He didn’t like the fact that she was 16 and he was 18, so I said, ‘Maybe it should be just friendship, you know?’ ” he says. “I knew how he felt about it and I respected that. So we left it at that.”

On June 29, Martinson pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to charges of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of false imprisonment.

As she awaits a hearing in September and her younger sisters remain in foster care, her family and friends are trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what went so very wrong. “Sadly, this has changed everybody’s lives,” says Thomas’s brother, Don Ayers.

For more on Ashlee Martinson’s case, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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