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Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
May 21, 2013
DALLAS -- An 18-year-old mystery involving a child abducted from Dallas came to an end last week when the girl, Ashlyn Wilson, now 18, walked into the Polk County Sheriff's Office on May 13.
Meanwhile, across the street at the Polk County Jail, her mother, Tara S. Wilson, who authorities say abducted Ashlyn in 1995, was being booked on a contempt of court charge.
The charge stemmed from several missed court hearings during a custody dispute in 1995. The elder Wilson was booked, paid bail and was released.
It's a curious conclusion to the case, and one that police can't fully explain quite yet. In fact, Ashlyn Wilson and her mother nearly left the jail May 13 before speaking to authorities.
"It was one of the jail deputies who saw the daughter outside and said she had better go over to the sheriff's office and talk to someone," Sheriff Bob Wolfe said Friday.
Ashlyn and her grandfather, Gayle Wilson, walked over to the sheriff's office and spoke with detectives, but she didn't provide much information.
"When Ashlyn talked with detectives, she gave very short cryptic answers," Wolfe said. "She said she was 18 and had not been held against her will."
Wolfe said she didn't provide any information about where she had been since 1995.
However, the FBI, which got involved in the case in 2003, reported that Tara Wilson could have taken Ashlyn to California, Montana or Canada.
Polk Sgt. Mark Garton said it appeared mother and daughter had a plan, given the timing of their appearance.
"If she had been 17 we would have had to take her into custody," Garton said.
When asked questions about her previous whereabouts, Ashlyn was evasive.
"She would say things like, `I love my mother'" Garton said. "She did a lot of that kind of thing when they asked questions."
In 1994, Tara Wilson and Ashlyn's father, Dan Wilson, were in a custody battle over the girl. Tara Wilson did not appear at a series of legal hearings in 1994 and later left with Ashlyn in 1995. Dan Wilson was awarded full custody of Ashlyn, but has never seen his daughter.
Polk County charged Tara Wilson with violating a custody court order and issued a warrant for her arrest in July 1995. The FBI became involved in 2003 after the Polk County District Attorney's Office asked the bureau to obtain a federal fugitive arrest warrant.
The custodial interference charge was dropped in 2011. Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton said it was dismissed because the passage of time would make a guilty verdict unlikely. The decision was made before Felton took office and he couldn't comment further about why that decision was made.
Wolfe said Ashlyn Wilson appeared to be healthy when she spoke to detectives before leaving the office May 13.
Tara Wilson is due in court on the contempt of court charge May 28. More charges may be forthcoming, but Wolfe said it is up to the Polk County District Attorney just what those charges may be. The DA's office has been reviewing the case since May 13. Felton wouldn't comment Monday on whether more charges would be filed against Tara Wilson.
Detectives are still investigating and have tried to contact Ashlyn Wilson and her mother at the Dallas address they left without success.
"We still have a lot of unanswered questions, so we want to follow up to figure out where they have been," Wolfe said. "Clearly, there are some questions here."