A Missouri couple now face federal charges in what federal authorities have called the “kidnapping and murder of a pregnant Arkansas woman.” The federal criminal complaints against the husband and wife reveal new, harrowing details in the case.
Amber Waterman and Jamie Waterman, both 42, are facing the newly levied accusations in federal court in Springfield, Missouri, because their crimes allegedly crossed state lines — thus triggering federal jurisdiction. The couple already was accused of state-level criminal charges, Law&Crime reported earlier on Friday.
Amber Waterman is charged federally with one count of kidnapping resulting in death, and Jamie Waterman is accused federally of being an accessory after the fact to that crime, according to twin criminal complaints obtained Friday.
Those documents say Amber Waterman kidnapped Ashley Bush, 33, who was “approximately 31 weeks pregnant,” in hopes of claiming Bush’s unborn baby as her own child.
Bush was shot and killed. She and her unborn baby were found in different locations in Missouri, according to local authorities.
The federal criminal complaint and an attached affidavit say the case unfolded when Bush’s fiancé, Joshua Willis, reported her missing on Monday, Oct. 31.
To understand the case, some backtracking is necessary.
Several days earlier, on Oct. 28, Bush and Willis met a woman who went by the name of “Lucy” at a public library in Gravette, Arkansas, according to a federal probable cause statement. “Lucy” had taken out a Facebook profile under the name “Lucy Barrows” on Oct. 25, the authorities eventually discovered, and had offered “a bunch of baby items if any moms to be need them.”
Bush took the alleged bait. “Lucy” met Bush at the library in Gravette, Arkansas and next offered to connect Bush with a person purported to be a supervisor at a company in Bentonville, Arkansas, to discuss a work-from-home opportunity, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Federal authorities say the scheme escalated when “Lucy” made plans to meet Bush at a convenience store in Maysville, Arkansas, on Monday, Oct. 31. From there, the feds say Bush believed she would travel with “Lucy” to Bentonville to meet the purported boss and to then be returned to the convenience store.
According to court papers, Willis said he had dropped Bush off at the store and saw Bush leave with the same woman he had observed at the Gravette library a few days earlier. The woman, the papers say, drove the same older-model tan pickup truck Willis saw at the library.
Around 3 p.m., again according to the probable cause affidavit, Willis said he received a text from Bush’s phone indicating she was in Gravette and was on her way back to the convenience store in Maysville.
Gravette and Maysville are only 13 minutes apart in the northwestern corner of Arkansas. Bentonville is about 25 minutes to the east.
Willis said he saw the tan truck “drive past the Handi-Stop convenience store and turn onto Highway 43 and travel north,” the affidavit indicates. Willis recognized the truck as the one “Lucy” had used, the affidavit says.
“Lucy” was driving, according to Willis.
Willis, by then apparently concerned and suspicious, said his attempts to contact Bush resulted in his calls going to voicemail, the affidavit indicates. Willis reported Bush missing at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.
On Nov. 1, Willis told detectives he had located Bush’s phone off the side of Highway 43 in Maysville. Officers took the phone into custody, and Willis helped them unlock it, according to the court papers. An investigation allegedly revealed the aforementioned Facebook connections.
While investigating at the convenience store, the authorities said a witness approached them and reported having seen a “male throw a red and black cellular telephone from the window” of a blue or gray pickup truck that was driving north on Highway 43. That eyewitness description of a second truck would soon become helpful, the affidavit suggests.
The alleged charade quickly fell apart once the authorities obtained and unlocked the phone. An emergency law enforcement request to Meta, formerly Facebook, revealed that the so-called “Lucy Barrows” account had been registered from an IP address connected to eventual defendant Jamie Waterman in Pineville, Missouri. Pineville is about 20 minutes north of Gravette.
Records were obtained from the phones and the accounts of Bush and Willis, the affidavit asserts. Bush’s phone traveled from Gravette to Maysville, Arkansas, between 11:07 and 11:41 a.m. It was in Pineville, Missouri, around 1:09 p.m. on the date in question. For nearly half an hour, the phone was at a location only 0.15 miles from the home of the defendants. The phone left Pineville at 1:28 p.m. It returned to Maysville around 6:51 p.m., according to federal authorities.
The investigation moved quickly. The same day the authorities obtained the phone — Nov. 1 — they were at the Waterman home. There they found a light tan truck and were given consent by the defendants to search the premises. Inside the vehicle, a detective found what appeared to be “blood stains on the inside of the vehicle, specifically on the center console, steering wheel, and headliner,” according to the probable cause paperwork.
That document says Amber Waterman spoke with the local constabulary while they were at her house. She claimed she’d been home all day on Oct. 31 with her son and her husband’s cousin’s daughter, the document asserts. “Later in the afternoon,” however, she claimed to have gone into labor, asked someone to call 911 for her, and then “drove to meet an ambulance at a store in McDonald County, Missouri,” the affidavit states. Waterman then allegedly claimed she gave birth to a stillborn child on the evening of Oct. 31.
When law enforcement asked Amber Waterman for her phone, she claimed to have lost it, the court paperwork says. But she also claimed she was the only one who had keys and access to the tan pickup truck in question.
Amber Waterman then allegedly claimed she had no clue who Bush was. However, she allegedly said that she previously worked with “Lucy” at Walmart. She claimed she and “Lucy” were not close but that she had recently bumped into “Lucy” at a store, according to the affidavit.
Attention then turned to Jamie Waterman, who allegedly said he drove a blue GMC pickup truck.
Jamie claimed he went to work at 6 a.m. on Oct. 31, returned home for lunch at 12:00 p.m., and that the tan truck was gone at noon, according to the affidavit. He allegedly said he returned to work in his own truck. At 4:30 p.m., Jamie said Amber called him and told him she’d suffered a miscarriage. Jamie said he drove home, took Amber to meet the ambulance, and had no knowledge of Bush.
Authorities seized the truck as evidence and returned to the Waterman home on Nov. 3 with a search warrant. That same day, FBI agents and sheriff’s office detectives met Jamie at work. According to the affidavit, Jamie said he assumed the blood in the truck was his wife’s. However, Jamie allegedly said that Amber would not explain the source of the blood when he asked her about it. He said he helped Amber clean the blood and burn the rags they employed in the process in a burn barrel in front of their house, the affidavit asserts.
Jamie Waterman then allegedly said that he knew Bush was missing when detectives first approached him on Nov. 2, 2022, based on “social media coverage.”
After detectives originally left the Waterman home at 5 a.m. on Nov. 2, Jamie allegedly explained that Amber confessed to him that she had killed Bush. But then, according to the affidavit, Jamie said Amber “quickly changed her story and said that ‘Lucy’ had killed Ms. Bush.”
Amber’s story didn’t last more than an hour and a half, the affidavit asserts. It says Jamie confided that Amber led him to Bush’s body around 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 2.
The document goes on to explain Jamie’s alleged actions — in essence, a cover-up:
JAMIE WATERMAN stated that the body was clothed and was lying face-down next to a boat next to the house. The body was covered with a blue tarp. AMBER WATERMAN removed a ring from Ms. Bush’s finger and rolled the body onto the blue tarp. JAMIE WATERMAN dragged the body on the tarp to a fire pit behind the residence and AMBER WATERMAN asked JAMIE WATERMAN to get gasoline. JAMIE WATERMAN brought a gallon of chainsaw bar chain oil to AMBER WATERMAN. AMBER WATERMAN proceeded to light the tarp and poured about 1/3 of the oil over the body. AMBER WATERMAN then began collecting wood to throw on the fire. JAMIE WATERMAN stated that he dragged a small sofa next to the fire and believes that AMBER WATERMAN put the sofa into the fire. After the fire burned for about one hour, AMBER WATERMAN doused the fire with water from a garden hose and JAMIE WATERMAN to remove the body from the burn pile.
According to the affidavit, the body was still hot and difficult to move. Jamie Waterman allegedly said that he obtained a new tarp from a nearby shed and “rolled the body onto the tarp.”
The affidavit then says Jamie and Amber Waterman next loaded the body into Jamie’s blue GMC pickup truck and drove it to an area “a short distance from their residence.” The destination location, described in the affidavit as “the spot where the body was to be hidden,” was where Jamie allegedly said he and Amber unloaded the body and removed the tarp. Jamie then allegedly said he and Amber drove home and burned the tarp.
After that alleged confession, the authorities say Jamie Waterman then showed them exactly where the body was hidden.
But the body wasn’t complete.
During a successive search of a “residence” — presumably the Waterman home, though the address is redacted — “FBI evidence response team members discovered a charred human hand and bone fragments located in a burn pile behind the residence,” the affidavit indicates.
In a press release, federal prosecutors alleged that “Amber Waterman adopted the false on-line persona of ‘Lucy’ in order to meet Ashley Bush, then lured her to meet a second time to give her a ride to a purported job interview.”
“Instead, the affidavit says, Amber Waterman killed Ashley Bush,” the press release concluded.
The federal court paperwork says nothing of Valkyrie Grace Willis, the victim’s unborn baby. Local officials previously said that the Baby’s remains were recovered “in a separate location.”
Both of the federal affidavits are available here.
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