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The Disappearance of Ashley Loring HeavyRunner
Indigenous Women

The Disappearance of Ashley Loring HeavyRunner

Location: Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Montana  |  Year: 2017

Ashley Loring HeavyRunner was 20 years old when she was last seen in June 2017. Although Ashley is only five feet two inches tall, a childhood friend described her as emotionally, spiritually, and physically strong. Loxi Loring, Ashley’s mother described her daughter as smart, athletic, positive, and always willing to help, someone who loved horses and the rain. Ashley is a member of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and was enrolled in Blackfeet Community College studying environmental science. The Blackfeet reservation is expansive and spans more than 1.5 million acres, and is larger than the state of Deleware.

Ashley Loring HeavyRunner (ABC News)

Ashley’s sister Kimberly first knew something was off when she returned from a three-month trip to Morocco. The plan had been for Kimberly to move Ashley into her apartment in nearby Missoula so they could start a new life together. Ashley never contacted her sister when she returned and any calls and messages to her phone went unanswered. Her family initially thought she could have gone to visit a family friend or lost her phone, as that had happened before. Paul was soon unexpectedly hospitalized for liver failure and when there was still no word from Ashley, they knew something was seriously wrong. They were a close-knit family and Ashley would have contacted them.

Kimberly reached out to Ashley’s friends on social media to see if anyone had been in contact with her. The last time anyone had seen Ashley was on the night of June 5, at a party on the reservation. Someone had also posted a short video of the party that night, and Ashley can be seen sitting on a couch surrounded by people drinking and chatting. On June 6, Kimberly received a message from Ashley asking if she could send her some money, but she couldn’t as she was in Morocco. She asked Ashley if she was ok, to which she replied yes. On June 7, someone said they received a message from Ashley asking for a ride, but never heard back from her when they responded.

Two weeks after Ashley was last seen, her family received their first tip: someone had seen a young woman running from a vehicle on U.S. Highway 89 on the reservation. The area is known to be desolate and is surrounded by swamps and dense forests. Blackfeet Law Enforcement and The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) launched a three-day search but did not find anything of significance.

Ashley and Kimberly Loring
Ashley Loring HeavyRunner and her sister Kimberly (ABC News)

Feeling that her sister’s case was not being taken seriously and experiencing an overall feeling of indifference from officials, Kimberly ended up taking matters into her own hands. She conducted daily searches on the reservation and became her own detective for the case— taking phone calls, reading messages, and following up on leads.

If me and my family didn’t search for Ashley, I don’t think anybody would be looking for her.

Kimberly Loring, sister of Ashley Loring Heavy Runner (ABC News).

Prior to her disappearance, Kimberly knew her sister had been struggling with the death of her grandfather and the breakup with her first love shortly thereafter. This led Ashley to begin experimenting with drugs and hanging out with an older crowd, which included Sam McDonald.

Sam McDonald was one of the last people Ashley Loring was with before her disappearance. After the party on June 5th, the two returned to his cabin and were together for several days. On June 11, he requested that she return home. As they were driving in the direction of her house, Ashley asked him to stop at a pull-off in the reservation so that someone named “V-Dog” could come get her. She also asked for directions to a cabin located in the same area and he pointed in the right direction. He then fell asleep in the car and when he awoke Ashley was nowhere to be seen. After looking around for her, he assumed she had gotten a ride with V-Dog and he left the area.

V-Dog was the nickname of a man named Paul Valenzuela. Paul was in his 50’s, had a criminal record, and was married to Ashley and Kimberly’s cousin Tashina Running Crane (also known as “Tee”). Paul and Tee were in a rocky marriage and Ashley’s family said that Ashley and Paul were seeing each other before her disappearance. A month after Ashely’s disappearance, Paul filed for divorce from Tee who said that she did not know about their relationship until after the disappearance. Tee told investigators that the couple was in Seattle around the time Ashley went missing, but on June 11, Paul had gone back to the reservation on his own. She told Kimberly that Paul picked up Ashley and gave her a ride to another town. When Paul was confronted by Kimberly for more details, Paul claimed that she had been misinformed by Tee and he never gave her a ride.

During a search around Sam McDonald’s property a tattered gray sweater and a pair of red-stained boots were found, both appearing to be in Ashley’s size. The items were turned over to the BIA, but unfortunately, no testing was done at the time as the BIA misplaced the items. The FBI who later join the case ended up recovering the items, but no results have ever been publically revealed.

To date, police have not named anyone as a suspect and no arrests have been made, although there have been sightings. A reporter from Montana named Rachel CrowSpreadingWings said she saw Ashley a few weeks after she had gone missing. She had pulled over to the side of the road to pick some berries when a woman approached her, asking her what she was picking. The woman looked exactly like Ashley and appeared a bit disheveled. She saw a man standing on the road, who also appeared disheveled. The man seemed intimidating and she felt the young woman was afraid of him. The woman introduced herself as “Ashley” when asked. Feeling uncomfortable, Rachel soon left and called the police to report her encounter, but never heard back. Rachel called again to follow up on her tip with the FBI but was told that there was no record of her story on file.

Kimberly Loring ended up testifying to Senate members about her experience, struggles, and the mismanagement of evidence she witnessed from law enforcement in her sister’s case.

From the very beginning, both the Blackfeet Tribal Law Enforcement and the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) have ignored the dire situation that Ashely is in and have allowed the investigation to be handled in a dysfunctional manner. This isn’t just a reality for our family but a reality for many murdered and missing indigenous women’s families.

Kimberly Loring, speaking to the Senate

Since Ashley’s disappearance, Kimberly has quit her job, moved back home, and continued to search for her sister. She has conducted more than 120 searches with little help from authorities.

She continues to search for her sister each day, the case is still open and unsolved.

Help this case

If you have any sort of information regarding this case, please contact the:
Browning Police Department at 406-338-4000
Blackfeet Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 406-338-4000
Share this #PL8PIC link to social media as a public post
Share the hashtag: #findAshleyHeavyRunner

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