Ashley Miller Carlson

The remains of Ashley Miller Carlson, a 33-year-old mother of four who was last seen on Sept. 24 near the Lake Lena Reservation of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, were found  in Ogema Township, on lands belonging to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe between 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 27 by Christian Aid Ministries volunteer search and rescue team in coordination with Carlson’s family. According to a close family member, it was Carlson’s uncle along with older family cousins who found Carlson. 

The family noted that Ken Anderson of Search, Rescue and Recovery Resources of MN (SRRRMN) was also instrumental in the forensic aspect of the search. 

Family member, Carrie Miller, released this statement on Facebook on Nov. 28: “Much to say today … But still at a loss for words. As a family, we are devastated, angry, frustrated and everything in between. Yet, we did it, we did #BringAshleyHome which is what we set out to do.  It brings us comfort and relief knowing she is back where she belongs, with her mom, her four kids and her family that love her beyond any words can describe. 

“Thank you to the countless people who showed up every single time; we couldn’t have done it without any of you. Thank you for the prayers and support that we received over the last nine weeks, we felt them and they carried us through. Thank you to my family, we are strong, resilient and the love we have for each other has no boundaries. I am forever grateful to be a part of this crazy clan. 

“Ashley, words will never be enough to tell you and show you how much you are loved and missed. Thank you for all that you shared with the countless people you shared your life with. Rest easy, sweet girl and know that we will be here with and for your mom, your four beautiful children as well as all of the family and friends you touched. I infinitely love you.” 

According to Justin Terch, president of Applied Professional Services (APS), a Duluth-based investigation firm, ​​Carlson’s remains were found in a wooded area near the Lake Lena community just off of Grace Lake Road near where her car was found in September. The Lake Lena Reservation is located about 25 miles east of Hinckley.

According to a press release from the Pine County Sheriff’s Office, the body was positively identified as Carlson’s, the cause of death is still to be determined by Midwest Medical Examiner, and the investigation is still open. 

“This is a sad day our family hoped would not come, and there are still many questions that need answers, but the important thing is we now have Ashley,” said Krista Struck, Ashley’s mother. “Our family received incredible support from the community these past many weeks, and we thank them, the Christian Aid Ministries volunteer search and rescue team, the many involved law enforcement agencies and Applied Professional Services for helping locate Ashley.” 

APS was hired by the Miller family on Oct. 24 and had been out searching approximately three to six times per week depending on leads and had worked with the Pine County and Burnett County sheriff’s offices. The investigation firm received more than 70 calls to its 24-hour tip line, many of which were valuable in helping locate Carlson.

“We’re pleased we could help Ashley’s family during this terrible time, even though the resolution isn’t what they hoped for,” said APS President Justin Terch. “But at least there is closure to this tragedy, and we know the family finds some comfort in that.”

Though the family initially heard it would be four to six weeks before there is a final word from the medical examiner, it may be weeks to months before a cause of death is determined.  

A family spokesperson stated Tuesday that the family’s main priority was to get Ashley home. “We pushed for finding her,” said the spokesperson. “It may have disappeared on the back page of a newspaper for a week, but the family said ‘we aren’t giving up until we get her home.’ And now we have.” The spokesperson added that they have received thousands of condolences and have been appreciative of that. 

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Pine County Sheriff’s Office at 320- 629-8380, the Burnett County Sheriff’s Office at 715-349-2121 or anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-222-8477.


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