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Friday, December 8, 2023
‘A great burden has been lifted’: Accused killer pleads guilty and Ashley Simpson’s family gains closure
Parents Cindy and John Simpson hold the urn containing murdered daughter Ashley's ashes. FILE

The past seven years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for the Simpson family of Niagara-on-the-Lake – a rollercoaster that may finally be coming to an end.

Derek Favell has pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the disappearance and death of Ashley Simpson.

Simpson vanished in April 2016 and was missing for five years until her remains were found in a remote area of British Columbia in 2021.

Favell, her boyfriend, pleaded guilty last week to the charges, marking the beginning of the end of a long road to justice.

“I myself feel a great burden has been lifted off of my shoulders,” Ashley’s father, John Simpson, told The Lake Report. 

“We’ve gotten the closure we want. We got the justice we want,” Simpson said. “The only other thing we need now is to go forward with the sentencing and make sure that he gets his just rewards.”

Favell will be sentenced February.

Simpson has been vocal about his thoughts on Favell since he was charged in 2021.

In an interview with The Lake Report that year, he detailed stories of Favell getting kicked out of his daughter’s workplace for being “drunk, disorderly and abusive.”

Despite the closure that has come from Favell’s guilty plea, Simpson shared one downside to this outcome.

“The facts aren’t going to come out and that’s not fair,” he said. “We’re doing as much as we can that after the sentencing happens so that these facts do come out.”

Simpson explained that he and his family are in conversation with the Crown and victim services to ensure all supporters know the full truth. 

The trip to Salmon Arm, in central B.C., for the trial was one of many for Simpson and his family. 

“For the first five years, we travelled for about a week every year to go down and search for her,” he said. “The hardest thing about coming back was not having her.”

After Ashley was found, the family visited Salmon Arm again.

“I went down to the site where Ashley was found and I went down to where she was killed,” Simpson said. “That was a part of the closure for me. It helped me to bear it all.”

“It was nice to get down there but it was hard for the soul,” he added.

Simpson said the community in Salmon Arm has been especially supportive and kind to him and his family in recent months.

“We’ve had donations come almost every day,” he said.

“It’s pretty uplifting for us.”

Support from the Niagara region hasn’t faltered either. Simpson mentioned the recent Roper Romp organized by Megan Vanderlee, which raised more than $750 for the family. 

The Simpson family is still welcoming donations to support their travels back and forth from British Columbia.

The family will accept Air Miles and any donations to their GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/ashley-simpsons-family.

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