@TheEnd

After tweeting about the alleged sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father — and an investigation that came up empty — Ashley Billasano killed herself.

@TheEnd

On November 7, 2011, Ashley Marie Billasano stayed home from school so she could kill herself.

The 18-year-old Rosenberg high school senior told her closest friend, who drove her to school every morning, that she wasn't feeling well. Then, from 6:44 a.m. to 2:08 p.m., she issued 144 tweets, many of which alleged years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father John Billasano, when she lived with him in Round Rock and Pflugerville.

At the urging of friends, Ashley had reluctantly told a teacher about the alleged abuse in spring 2011. The teacher notified Child Protective Services. The investigation would prove inconclusive. At 1:37 p.m. the day of her death, Ashley tweeted about a call she had received from a CPS caseworker: "Weeks passed then I got the call. They said, 'Sorry, but there isn't enough evidence.' I hung up. That's when I changed. I didn't care anymore."

Ashley was very good at putting on a happy face.
Photos courtesy of Ayan
Ashley was very good at putting on a happy face.
Ashley's friends say she wanted the world to know she wasn't lying. Click to enlarge.
Photo illustration by Monica Fuentes
Ashley's friends say she wanted the world to know she wasn't lying. Click to enlarge.

In addition to her tweets, Ashley left behind a four-page suicide note that her mother, Tiffany Ruiz-Leskinen, has not shared with Ashley's friends. Her closest friend read redacted excerpts at the funeral. According to friends, Tiffany shared the note with the church minister, who excised the profanity — there was apparently quite a bit. After all, God's house was no place for cuss words.

But the entire content appears to be one big middle finger to the world. In the note, Ashley thanked YouTube and Wikipedia for giving her the tools to fashion her suicide kit: a pressurized tank of helium and a plastic bag.

Ashley's body was barely cold before her mother rushed in front of every camera she could to blame authorities for leaving her daughter without hope. CNN. The Houston FOX affiliate. The Today Show (although it never aired). Her father, who was barred from Ashley's funeral and never saw his daughter's body before she was cremated, responded with absolute silence.

The story of Ashley's final tweets struck a nerve worldwide. On a Facebook memorial page created by her friends and mother, people who never knew Ashley have shared their stories of abuse and despair. (Despite the fact that Ashley very publicly, and very deliberately, posted the awful allegations in what her friends say was an attempt not only to warn others of a sexual predator but to prove that she was not lying, the Fort Bend County Attorney's Office has sought to block the release of records pertaining to her death based in part on potentially "intimate and embarrassing details.")

The investigation into Ashley's alleged sexual abuse is still open, according to Travis County assistant district attorney Melissa Douma. Neither she nor prosecutor Dayna Blazey, who previously led the investigation, would comment further, so it's unclear how an investigation that apparently went nowhere in the seven months while the complaining witness was alive can effectively remain open. John Billasano has never been charged with a crime in these events, and in the eyes of the law is presumed innocent.

Tiffany and her mother, Ema Cook, have worked hard to control Ashley's story. Initially, Tiffany didn't tell interviewers that Ashley had been sexually abused once before, at age six, by her stepfather, who is nearing the end of an 11-year prison term. And according to Cook, interviewers agreed to refrain from mentioning Tiffany's own five-year stint in prison, which is how Ashley went to live with her father in the first place.

In her 18 years, Ashley suffered a pain she simply could not handle. She was determined to stop her suffering the only way she knew how; a suicide attempt two months before did nothing to take the idea out of her mind.

Her excruciating tweets, half-told in rhymes, seem calculated at least in part to inflict some of that pain on people who loved her. "Hummm wish somebody would text me," she wrote at 9:46 a.m., followed a minute later by "Kinda lonely right now."

Two hours and 19 minutes pass after a tweet at 10:42 a.m. Two hours and 19 minutes in which she could have called her mom, gone to a school counselor, called a friend, called a hotline.

Then, at 1:47, there was a 21-minute gap before her final tweet. Twenty-one minutes to check the pressure in the tank and the seal on the bag, to get down to the actual business of suicide.

At 2:08 p.m., she tweeted: "Take two. Hope I get this right."

Unfortunately, she did.
_____________________

In addition to her media blitz, Tiffany Ruiz-Leskinen launched a Web site called the Ashley Marie Just Breathe foundation 11 days after her daughter's death.

She sold wristbands for $3 and T-shirts for $20, in her daughter's memory. The money allegedly went to cover funeral costs and then into a fund to help give a lifeline to other girls in Ashley's situation.

Tiffany has applied for nonprofit status and is seeking licensed therapists willing to volunteer their services, which is why it's confusing that the "foundation" also has an e-mail contact for "individual and corporate sponsorship." The foundation's vague mission statement is "to make a positive impact in the lives of children, teens, and young adults."

Yet there is little in Tiffany's background to suggest that she is qualified to make a positive impact on anyone's life.

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39 comments
advocate.2000
advocate.2000

I personally don't believe anyone is trying to be "rude", Maddie. On the contrary I commend this reporter for attempting to peel away at the layers of this most twisted taboo onion. If anything, this sad story (and it IS sad) is textbook classic that unless someone takes the initiative to break the cycle of abuse, it will most likely continue. On the surface, Tiffany's attack on the public agencies she blamed for the death of Ashley could be contributed to the actions of a grieving Mother. But what THIS reporter did was dig a little deeper and sadly, where other news agencies were too quick to allow this woman national airtime to publicly convict a man who had neither been charged nor convicted in our judicial system, Craig with the Houston Press did not jump on that bandwagon. He did his homework and chose to take a closer look at the people making these accusations. Everything he found is public information available to anyone who visits the courthouse downtown...even the sad details of what a young Ashley told authorities when Tiffany's husband, Allan Leskinen raped her in an attempt to get back at her for screwing around with his friend of over 30 years. Most people get a divorce if a spouse is having an affair, in this sick twisted tale, Allan raped his step-daughter in order to punish Tiffany for making him babysit her while she was "out"! Does this in and of itself place blame for Ashley being raped at 7 years old on Tiffany or the man she was having an affair with? No! Of course not. BUT when public records soon show that this "grieving Mother" wanted and expected all focus to be solely on Ashley's biological father RATHER than on the fact that when Ashley was an infant, Tiffany took her child to MN to live in a questionable type of relationship with her own biological father before needing John Billasano to rescue his child. AND THEN upon Tiffany's return to Houston, she not only married a "new" Daddy in Allan Leskinen but then gave birth to another child belonging to him before setting her sights on another older "Daddy" which set the stage for a triangle of twisted events and the rape of her young daughter. Most NORMAL Mothers would immediately divorce the rapist of their child and spend the rest of their lives trying to heal the wounds of abuse for their child....BUT shortly after divorcing the man, her obsession with the new older man didn't pan out exactly as she had planned so when planning to kill the man's wife landed herself in prison for 5 years rather than married to the new beau, she REMARRIED the rapist rather than have to serve time in jail as an unmarried woman! To make matters worse, she wrote countless letters to the rapist of her child stating how PROUD she was to be his wife again! This new living arrangement for Tiffany resulted in Ashley's biological father getting custody of her and it was NOT quite as Tiffany tried to sell the media and world in her infamous YouTube appeal. Still? The death of Ashley was and remains a tragic end to the painful existence of this young girl but a Mother such as Tiffany is not completely without blame and to allow her to deflect the attention from her own actions onto the police, CPS, school authorities or anyone else she feels compelled to lash out at, begs the reasonable mind to ask ...WHAT did the Mother EVER do to protect this or ANY of her children in the first place? WHAT was the reaction of Tiffany AND her mother when asked WHY they had no problem allowing her own brother to be around her minor children, when he too was a convicted sex offender and prohibited from doing so by law? A sounding board to the public to spew her unfounded allegations is NOT what Tiffany Leskinen needs...I would submit a MIRROR is more appropriate for such a person!

Maddie..
Maddie..

You know what who ever has rude fucking comments about this needs to stop. That my friend who lived right down the street. I went to school with here I enjoyed her company very much because here sprit was jus glowing at times. & I honestly wish she told me because almost the exact same thing was happening down the street. And the monster is still in the house. Put your self in the victim shoes ... how could you go day to day about bad memories that just cant go away and you see the monster time to time free while daddy is in prison about the same thing. I understand why Ashley did what she did she jus couldn't keep sane, and yes she made difference like she wanted to because I am sane. Things like this happened and were the ones who are stuck with the aftermath to has happened to us and to the confusion on to ' how come he is still in free world like nothing happened ? ' //////////  I love you Ashley /////////

Miss210sanantonio
Miss210sanantonio

Everyone makes mistakes. I met Tiffany in prison. I'm a good person & so is Tiffany. Neither of us have been in trouble since our release. Tiffany didn't have a great childhood & maybe that affected her decisions as a very young mother to 3 kids. She has done her best since being released from prison & no parent is perfect. This tragedy is something everyone will live with daily & question their actions .. we can only move fwd & learn from what has happened. I believe Ashley was abused by John & even though he may not do any jail time for it ... I hope he gets help cuz he has 2 other daughters at home. Also if no insurance was an issue ... Thats where state grants should go... Many parents can't afford therapy for their hurting kids. Either way... I love you Ashley & always will.

TiffanyisAScank
TiffanyisAScank

Who gives a crap about this. Her mother was a gold diggin scank. Way to go Mom - You tramp!

mas1492
mas1492

The only thing one should come away with after reading about Ashley Marie, is that she suffered very much and had very sick, evil, worthless people very close to her when she was most vulnerable; CHILDHOOD! Instead of judging HER, any anger, dismay, etc. should be directed @ the worthless, decrepit people that abused her and allowed her to be abused!! This child was full of love in the most pure sense of the word! Pray and hope that she's in heaven today!

Augustus
Augustus

Perhaps there was no indictment due to the fact that the father is innocent?

Reader1
Reader1

I do not think any reader of this article has enough elements to pass judgement on Ashley, she might have had psychological or psychiatric issues but I think having no sympathy for someone so desperate and sick as to kill herself is just a very poor reflection of the person expressing these ideas. Sorry for diverting from the subject but it appalls me to see how cynical some comments can be. All I can say is this is a job well done by the journalist, the mother and the father are both criminals and so this poor girl grew up in a horrible world, no wonder she might be so messed up as to kill herself with no one to stop her, I mean she tried suicide 2 months earlier and yet the mom wouldn't take her to therapy? Too many lose threads, hopefully more information will come out later on, i.e. details on the police investigation on the abuse, etc

Catherine
Catherine

I think this little girl was drama queen through and through to the end. I think she fabricated her father's abuse and used suicide as a "get back at the world" tactic, leaving all of her friends and family hurt beyond measure. No sympathy for these kinds of attention-getters. My condolences to the family and friends of this dead actress.

Robert Gartner
Robert Gartner

This is but another story of a failed process to identify a child's need.I would personally like to see one about a local group, Justice For Children, and how it has destroyed children and their parents in the sanctimonious name of saving a child from abuse. This group knows nothing about false allegations. Furthermore it is sexist, and rejects the existence and credibility of Parental Alienation. I for oen amo one of their victims and my daughter now 25 years of age still cannot restore our relationship, this after 20 years of waiting. The do gooders fail from both directions. Perhaps they dont have the ears to hear what's really going on.

De
De

Son of a bitch, this pisses me off.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

Having moved out of the Houston area a few months before this happened, so I'm just hearing about this. Terrible that it had to be written, but wonderfully written. This story infuriated me, saddened me, disappointed me and disgusted me. I watched some of the videos they have on YouTube and she seemed genuinely happy around her friend - seemed like a good kid.

Geezy
Geezy

I have to say, that was extremely hard to read on so many levels but I have to commend Craig for making this the cover article. I remember when the news broke that next day, her photo was on the Chrons website and it went into some bleak detail about her committing suicide and tweeting about it and have not followed it again until I read this.

It's sad that almost noone in her family wanted anything to do with her- and because they were either past victims themselves, sex-offenders and felons they were perpetrators and enablers instead of a source of solace. Poor girl just wanted to be loved and even that did not work out for her.

Nicely done Craig, thank you for that. Sadly, there are many teens exactly like her and this story is all too common.

Svasquez83
Svasquez83

The truth shall set you free!!!!! Ashley Billisano my heart aches for you... I wish I had met u then u wld've had the chance to hear my story.... Tiffany I forgive you and may GOD have MERCY on ur SOUL.

Acjlo
Acjlo

That was a hard story to read. I heard of parts of the story,but this was more than i needed to know. This girl had a hell of a life. No person should go thru that much pain. At least she no longer has to suffer. I DIDNT KNOW YOU PERSONALLY,BUT YOU WILL BE DEARLY MISSED.

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Rudytrue
Rudytrue

Is this a real article? The tone seems very biased and I am struggling to see how the reporter can justify the negative stance they are taking towards this girl. The writer seems to have made unfounded conclusions. Not the sort of reporting I am used to in UK.

Xxx
Xxx

The end had me crying. This poor baby girl, wish she could have stuck out the pain a little big longer. Wish the women in her family had cared about her more than then their disgusting men did. Rest in peace, baby.

 
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