A Tragedy

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

Investigators had hoped for the best, but officers knew immediately the identity of the two people found dead inside a vacant home on Panama City Beach.

The owner of a Dolphin Bay house under construction was the first to call police Monday morning around 8 a.m. after noticing personal items scattered on the first floor of his house.

Ruth Sasser with the Bay County Sheriff's Office says he had a problem with vandals breaking in the house and assumed this time it was the same.

"He saw a bike, went inside and found some shoes [on the] bottom floor thinking it was kids coming in, and he didn't think too much about it. He saw the shoes, saw some written material, decided he needed to have it checked out."

A deputy arrived and searched the home only to find the bodies of the two missing teenagers. According to family members and sources close to the case, the deaths appear to be suicides. Now, the parents are left with scattered details and many questions.

Fourteen-year-old Ashlyn Pecori and 15-year old Jeremy Hightower both went missing last Tuesday, but took few personal items with them. Since officers learned a hand gun was missing from Ashlyn's home, they issued an Amber Alert.

"We never lost hope. We always felt we could find them. We had 70 deputies and officers out here Thursday evening and Friday morning looking everywhere that we could. Every lead that we had, we followed up."

Jeremy's aunt, Stephanie Brooks, says the family can only try and cope right now because all they are feeling is hurt.

"Right now we're very sad. We're very hurt. There's shock. You can imagine the typical feelings everybody would be feeling right now. Just a lot of pain."

The Bay County Sheriff's Office and the Panama City Police Department are investigating the deaths. They are not releasing any details about the crime scene at this point, and the exact cause of death is pending the medical examiner's report expected out Tuesday.

When many teenagers head back to school Tuesday morning, they too will learn and cope with the deaths of their friends and classmates. Ashlyn attended Surfside Middle School and Jeremy attended New Horizons Learning Center.


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