GREAT FALLS — It’s been more than four years since Ashley Loring Heavyrunner disappeared from the Blackfeet Reservation. Several rewards have been offered for information that leads to an arrest in Ashley’s case.
Awareness walks have been organized to spread the word and political leaders have even spoken about Ashley’s case.
Thanks to the efforts of Ashley’s sister Kimberly and others, Ashley has in many ways become the face of the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons movement, pushing the issue more into the national spotlight.
Ashley’s disappearance is now the focus of season three of an investigative podcast called “Up and Vanished.”
Reporter Shannon Newth talked with the podcast’s creator and host Payne Lindsey about his investigation and why he choose Ashley’ case to cover.
“I’ve noticed over the years just doing true crime, we get tons of emails, different cases, all over the country, honestly all over the world. One of the most underreported, under-covered cases out there are missing indigenous women and it’s a huge epidemic that was brought to my attention," Lindsey said.
"Up and Vanished is a huge platform, there’s millions of listeners and it only felt right to be able to highlight a case that is largely underreported so we can actually bring a spotlight to it and make a difference no matter what,” explained Lindsey.
Lindsey and his crew have spent months flying back and forth from their home at Tenderfoot TV in Georgia to Montana. The reception to his presence and investigation of Ashley’s case has been mixed.
“I think every time someone is poking around a cold case people are going to be up in arms about something. It’s a very sensitive subject. People are hurt. People want answers. For the most part the Browning community has met me with open arms."
"I’ve made a lot of really cool friends, met a lot of really nice people, but there are also people who don’t want me to be there and have even threatened me to leave, but to me, it’s no surprise.”
Lindsey has immersed himself in Ashley’s case, talking with many people connected to Ashley.
“It’s going to take somebody coming forward and saying what they know happened. Admitting that they did something or that they saw something. That’s what it’s going to take,” Lindsey explained.
Up and Vanished is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in Ashley’s case.
“$50,000 is a lot of money. That can change your life. If you’re somebody who knows something, somebody who had a small part in it, whatever it is, you can get out of town, start over new, maybe cut a deal with law enforcement. $50,000 can change your life."
"I think that a lot of people in the community fear retaliation. A substantial amount of money like this can hopefully encourage somebody to have the nerve to come forward and say what they know.”
The billboard advertising the reward also has a tip line number, set up just for Up and Vanished. Anyone with information can call 406-215-1543.
Based on prior seasons of Up and Vanished, Lindsey is hopeful the podcast and his investigation will lead to answers for Ashley’s family and others.
“In season one of Up and Vanished we had a lot of good things happen. There were two arrets made in the case. It became a national story. It was a 12-year cold case and since then I’ve continued to make more podcasts. This season we’re covering Ashley Loring and we’re hoping to have some more answers just like the other seasons.”
Season three of “Up and Vanished” premieres Wednesday, Sept. 1.