Ashley Simpson Case: Boyfriend Pleads Guilty to 2016 Murder, Bringing Closure to a Grieving Family

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RCMP Sgt. Eric Page showed Ashley Simpson's family where her remains were found by investigators in 2021, on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.

In a significant turn of events, Derek Lee Matthew Favell, the former boyfriend of Ashley Simpson, entered a guilty plea for the second-degree murder of Simpson, marking the end of a seven-year-long agonizing journey for her family.

In 2016, Ashley Simpson, 32, disappeared from a rural property near Salmon Arm, where she resided with Favell. Despite her family’s persistent search efforts, it was not until 2021 that her remains were discovered in a wooded area close to Salmon Arm, following a critical tip to the police.

Simpson’s father, John Simpson, said after the plea, “It was wonderful to hear him plead. I just wish he would have done it that week, instead of waiting so long.” He also expressed his relief at knowing that they would finally bring their daughter home, stating, “That’s key for us, to get our daughter home and to have her with us.”

Echoing John’s sentiment, Cindy Simpson, Ashley’s mother, added, “How many times did we or a member of our family, come out here while … searching. You’re wasting all this time and money and you’ll never find her … That’s not a man. That’s a coward.”

Justice Alison Beames, during the courtroom proceedings, ensured that Favell understood the gravity of his guilty plea. By admitting to second-degree murder, Favell is set to face life imprisonment, with parole eligibility ranging between 10 to 25 years.

Ashley Simpson disappeared in 2016 shortly after she told her family in Ontario that she was planning on hitchhiking back to her home province. (Rose Simpson)

The decision for the guilty plea came after the pretrial acceptance of evidence obtained from a 2019 Mr. Big sting operation. Favell’s attorney, Glenn Verdurmen, highlighted that even in his confession, Favell expressed remorse. The court awaits a more comprehensive expression of this remorse during the scheduled sentencing hearings that commence on February 13, 2024. As part of the procedure, a pre-sentencing Gladue report has been ordered, focusing on Indigenous offenders’ unique societal backgrounds.

In the aftermath of Ashley’s disappearance, Favell had told Global News that he was “crushed” and reported her missing after realizing she hadn’t communicated with her family. He even recounted a dispute they had about money on the day she was last seen.

The circumstances surrounding Ashley’s disappearance weren’t singular. Between 2016 and 2017, five women vanished from the North Okanagan-Shuswap region. While Ashley’s remains were found, the others are yet to be located. However, RCMP asserts that there is no linkage between Simpson’s case and the others, even as investigations continue.

John Simpson, persistent in seeking justice for his daughter and others, stated, “We’re not stopping. We’ve got justice for Ashley. We’ll see the sentencing and then we’ll turn to the other people.”