2 years later, Ashby Doman's family still seeking answers

Barbara High
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
The late Ashby Doman shares a happy moment with his daughter in this photo supplied by his family.

KEYSER - Nearly two years after the death of Ashby Owen Doman, his family is still seeking answers and justice for their loved one.

It is a battle they feel they are fighting alone without the help of local authorities.

Doman, 31, was found June 13, 2019, at 10:05 a.m. behind a residence at the intersection of West Piedmont and North E Street. He was originally thought to have been a victim of a drug overdose and, according to family members, a relative was called to the scene to identify the body.

Still going on the assumption that he had died of an overdose, law enforcement had his body transported to WVU Potomac Valley Hospital.

There, however, it was discovered that Doman had actually been stabbed.

For Donna Whiting, Doman’s aunt and a big part of his life, that day is one she will never forget. “A family member called me and said they had been called to identify the body and that he was dead from a drug overdose,” she told the News Tribune. Donna said the family member told her to go to the hospital.

“I was devastated and I was rushing to get ready,” she said. But before she could even get to the hospital, another call came in, just 20 minutes after the first call.

This call shook Donna to her core.

“I was told that there was no need to go to the hospital, because they wouldn’t let me see him,” she said. Donna was told at that time that her nephew had actually been stabbed and this was not a drug overdose.

“I still went to the hospital, but they wouldn’t let me see him,” she said. “How did they not know he had been stabbed?” was the question the family kept asking as they gathered together at the hospital.

Other family members questioned if the initial belief of an overdose caused the body to be moved and the scene not to be properly secured by investigators, and how that may have been harmful to any future investigations.

The investigation was headed up by they Keyser City Police Department, with Officer Mallory leading the investigation under then-Chief Tom Golden. Initially, the next day after finding Doman’s body, Golden told the News Tribune that autopsy results were inconclusive and remarked that the medical examiner had to do further forensic examinations. When asked if there were any signs of trauma to Doman’s body, Golden reiterated that everything was inconclusive at that point. Golden even mentioned to the press that Doman may have died of a drug overdose, or the wound could have been self inflicted.

In fact, the autopsy, which was started within 24 hours of Doman’s death, was concluded within an hour and a half from the start, and listed the cause of death as exsanguination. In layman’s terms, Doman had bled out due to a stab wound on his left chest. His death certificate also lists the same cause of death.

During the investigation, Golden said they had interviewed three to four people of interest. He did maintain the likelihood that drugs were involved, and even mentioned that the individual was known for having a history of drugs, saying “We know him.”

Golden told the News Tribune that there were some wild theories being told, and that law enforcement was looking into everything.

Some of those wild theories were suggested by the people that reached out to Doman’s family members immediately following  the incident.

Family members say they received calls, messages, and even face-to-face visits from individuals claiming to have known what happened. Some were claiming to have been there in person or had heard though admissions of others as to what “went down” that night.

Those individuals tell a story of something more sinister, more dark, and full of intent. They said Doman was indeed murdered.

The family maintains that each report to them was immediately sent to the police in the beginning, but they say they were told that they could not be considered to be truthful witnesses or reliable witness due to their drug addiction and involvement.

The Keyser City Police maintain, however, that every lead was followed up and taken seriously, but they just did not pan out or the information given was proven to be false. Saying some individuals who claim to know things gave incorrect  information, the police said that the subjects did not, in fact, have any knowledge of the alleged crime.

Family members said immediately following, all communications with police were dropped, and they were never called again with any information, leads or findings. Simply nothing.

Doman’s mother, Jeanee Doman, not only said that interactions with the police stopped, but also claims that after calling the police while she admits she had been drinking and accusing them of not doing anything to solve the investigation into her son’s death, she was told not to call back or she herself would be charged with harassment - a claim the police deny ever happened.

Jeanee Doman said she did have a conversation with Golden, however, while she was on a backroad and he happened to run into her while riding his atv. She claims he told her that he was looking into her son’s death and had good leads and people of interest. He also claimed that many of Doman’s friends were sketchy.

Jeanee said after that there was one conversation where Golden told her they impounded a car and had still not found any new leads or any evidence. She said that was their last interaction with police besides being told not to call back, and that was just weeks after Doman was found dead.

Jeanee told the News Tribune she needs the police to find her son’s killer, and she feels that by treating this as an overdose they didn’t find evidence that could have been used to catch the individual responsible.

“I don’t care if this was screwed up,” she says. “Just do something; I need justice for my son.”

Yet for almost two years the family has waited with no news. Many things changed during that time. The lead investigator Sgt. Mallory is no longer with the Keyser City Police after taking a job in Preston County. Chief Golden has since retired and turned the investigation over to new Chief Paul Sabin.

In talking to the press about his retirement in December 2019, Golden said the investigation into the death was still underway and was definitely “not on the back burner.” He said he would like to see some closure on the case and he was optimistic that it would be solved, with Chief Sabin inheriting the case.

It would be almost two months later before any news would come to police on the case, and even a year after that before the family would be told that news. News that did not come from any medical examiner or law enforcement officers.

At the end of January 2020, the West Virginia State Medical Examiner released his opinion on the manner of death - suicide.

This was news that the family says simply is not true and that they cannot accept.

During a recent interview with Chief Sabin, he expressed shock that the family had not been notified of this latest finding, saying he thought that was something that the medical examiner’s office routinely did after an autopsy and an investigation.

A spokesperson for the state medical examiner’s office, however, told the News Tribune that it was not customary for their office to contact family members with autopsy results.

According to Sabin, the investigation into Doman’s death was closed after the ME’s opinion was released. The chief said that he knew Doman and had arrested him several times, although he never considered Doman to be a bad guy - just one who had made mistakes due to his addiction.

Sabin said he himself had heard Doman say on multiple occasions that he was done with it all, and had expressed the desire to end his life due to his addiction.

When asked about some of the information that the family shared with the police, Sabin said he knew that Golden had looked into every possible lead and did a through investigation, although he did express limited knowledge of some information due to not being chief at the time and the case not being assigned to him as an officer.

Sabin did state that from observing the stab wound, he felt that it did not look to be a typical stab wound. He said it just didn’t look right.

When asked how a stabbing victim could be misidentified at the scene as an overdose, Sabin said there simply wasn’t much blood present on the victim and some injuries bleed more internally. Sometimes, he continued, when individuals are stabbed quickly there isn’t as much blood.

Sabin also stated that he believed that this was a cry for help from Doman, and that the wound appeared to be shallow, and he felt Doman did not mean to go too deep.

The autopsy shows, however, that the wound was four inches in depth and went through skin, tissue, rib and into the heart. This caused brisk bleeding in the space surrounding the heart and that of the left chest cavity, causing Doman to bleed out.

Chief Sabin said that a fold-up knife was found near the body, and several more were in his pockets. None of those were listed as items that were received with the body when it arrived for autopsy, however.

There is mention in the investigation referred to during the autopsy, however, that one rusty white metallic folding knife had been found near the body, measuring 3-4 inches in length. No information was given on the width.

When asked if a forensic report ever came back on the knife to check for blood, or on another piece of evidence that was supposed to be sent out, Sabin said at that time he was not sure if it had came back or not.

In the report listing the manner of death as suicide, the state medical examiner states that several things were considered in reaching that conclusion: A review of the law enforcement investigative report, the knife found at the scene, the fact that Doman had previous arrests, a history of drug use, a history of opioid and benzodiazepine dependence, a history of suicidal ideation and attempts, and a toxology report stating he had drugs in his system at the time of death.

This leads the Doman family, however, to have a lot of questions; one being how the trajectory of the knife wound doesn’t name anything that specifically points to it being self inflicted, and the trajectory also doesn’t list this wound to be consistent with a left- or right-handed individual who would have stabbed himself.

Also, the family would like to know why there is another sharp force injury listed to one of his forearms; described as a puncture wound within ecchymosis, also known to be  bruising or below-surface bleeding around the wound.

The family also says that Doman was not suicidal, and had no known attempts of suicide in his history.

“He loved his daughter and never would have chosen to leave her,” said one family member.

The family would also like to know where the forensic evidence report is. “Where is the knife? Why can’t they say blood was found on it that matched him and his fingerprints on the other end?” they want to know.

The family also wants to know why it took almost a year after the autopsy for them to come to this conclusion.

 “If the autopsy pointed to suicide, it would have shown that after it was completed the day after he was found, but they wait a year and come off with an opinion based off of the death investigation?” a family member asks.

Doman’s family says they know Ashby had dealt with addiction his whole life, but that he was a loving father and friend, and that is what people don’t know about him. They say he would have been the first person to help someone out if needed and that he didn’t deserve this end.

His Brother Levi wrote from a federal detention center where he is serving time that Ashby was his best friend and he can honestly say his life will never be the same again now that he’s gone. He said that his brother had been there for him through the good times and the hardest of times, and although his brother wasn’t perfect, he deserves justice.

“Now he will never get the chance to show the world how brightly his light truly shines,” Levi wrote.

Sabin says that those involved in the investigation did a thorough job, and would have gladly put some of the ones named in this investigation away if they could … if the evidence pointed toward them. Yet after a competent investigation none of that was ever proven to be true.

The family says they know in their heart that Ashby never would have killed himself, nor would he have done it as a cry for help.

“He would have never taken his life two days before his daughter’s birthday,” they said, adding that he was excited for her birthday and to celebrate with her.

One family member went on to say, “The only people who know what really happened that night are the ones that were there, and I believe someone in our community is getting away with murder!”