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‘Didn’t try to pop her:’ DNA from grape soda leads to charges in fatal shooting from April 2007

Dewan Ashford

Dewan Ashford

MILWAUKEE -- Charges were filed almost 12 years to the day after a fatal shooting in Milwaukee in which a woman was killed in her own apartment building. Prosecutors said DNA from a grape soda bottle, along with information from witnesses linked the suspect to Ashley Hudson's death. She was 21-years-old when she was killed at 35th and Hadley.

"We got some information that came forward as of recently," said Nathan Butz, an MPD cold case detective. "This was a good case to begin with, and it just needed that last piece of information to be presented to a DA."

Detective Butz and Detective James Hutchinson are the lone detectives in MPD's Cold Case Unit. It was new information from a jail informant that led them to review the case that was considered cold.

"We went through and re-interviewed a lot of the witnesses that were around at that time," said Butz.

The detectives said all the tenants from 2007 had relocated both within the state and out of state. The challenge was getting in touch with those witnesses, many of whom remembered the details of April 3, 2007 in great detail.

James Hutchinson

James Hutchinson

Based on their investigative work, the District Attorney's office filed a criminal complaint against Dewan Ashford, 27, of Milwaukee. He is charged with a single count of first degree reckless homicide. Authorities first questioned Ashford though when he was 16 years old.

Documents indicate witnesses knew he and another person to spend time around the apartment building at 35th and Hadley. Witnesses reported to police that Ashford got into an argument with the victim before the fatal shooting. Police said Hudson approached Ashford to get out of the building, telling the teens they should be in school.

During the initial investigation, authorities recovered two bottles; one was a grape soda bottle which investigators found DNA and fingerprints. But it wasn't until 2012 that the DNA was matched to Ashford.

Nathan Butz

Nathan Butz

"That was at least five years after the fact -- so with witness interviews and identifications through photos, it pushed it over the edge in 2019," said Butz.

With any cold case, Hutchinson said time can often help these types of cases and getting witnesses to remember the events that occurred.

"If you think about the facts of the case, the suspects were hanging out right outside these people’s apartments. One family came home and encountered these people and were confronted just walking into their residence. It’s understandable that if you’re in that type of situation, that you may not come forward with that information right away," said Hutchinson. "People have moved on with their lives. Situations have changed, and people, we find, are willing to cooperate."

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

Dewan Ashford

Ashley Hudson

Detectives said the District Attorney is considering charges against another person, who they believe was there in April 2007. Cold case detectives say that could be the final piece.

"As you can tell, it’s more than one person that was present. The DA is considering those charges as well and we’ll make a decision going forward," said Hutchinson.

In December 2012, the complaint said the swab taken from the grape soda bottle was used to develop a DNA profile, and it was revealed Ashford was the source of the DNA.

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

"Any case that’s this old has been worked on by a team of investigators, very talented investigators," said Hutchinson.

Both he and Butz have been part of five cold cases that have resulted in charges since October 2018. They're encouraging anyone with tips or information to contact them through their Facebook page.

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

April 2007 homicide near 35th and Hadley

"For it to be the fifth, it just feels like very satisfying that we’re doing good work," said Hutchinson.

In a statement to police back in 2007, the complaint said Ashford admitted he was in the apartment building, but said he left to spend the night at another residence. Ashford is in the Milwaukee County jail and is due back in court Friday April 12th.

"Everyone that has lost a loved one grieves in their own way. In this case, the family is very involved and has really felt that loss, and in this case in particular -- very grateful for the very little we’ve been able to give them at this point," said Hutchinson.

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