SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A McDonald County couple accused of murdering a woman and her unborn child are in federal court today in Springfield.
Ashley Bush, 33, and her unborn baby’s bodies were found in separate locations in McDonald County: one on Nov. 2 and the other on Nov. 3.
Amber Waterman, 42, and her husband Jaime Waterman, 42, of Pineville, Missouri, were arrested in connection to the murder. Amber is charged with one count of kidnapping resulting in death. Jamie is charged with one count of being an accessory after the fact to kidnapping resulting in death.
The couple appeared in front of Judge David Rush in federal court today, Nov. 4.
Bush was 31 weeks pregnant when Amber Waterman allegedly kidnapped her. Amber Waterman used a fake online persona — named “Lucy Barrows” — to meet Bush in person twice: once to talk about job opportunities and the other to give her a ride to a false job interview. The second time they met, Amber Waterman killed Bush, according to an affidavit.
According to court documents, her plan was to kidnap and hold Bush to claim her baby as her own.
In court Friday, the Watermans requested public defenders to represent them. They’re scheduled to appear in court again Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Oct. 31: Ashley Bush reported missing
Bush was reported missing on Oct. 31. Bush’s fiance told law enforcement that he watched Bush drive away in the car of a woman he knew as “Lucy Barrows.” He met “Lucy” with Bush at a library in Gravette, Arkansas, days earlier and witnessed Bush and “Lucy” discuss employment opportunities.
The day she was missing, she thought she was going to Bentonville, Arkansas, to meet “Lucy’s” supervisor. He took her to a gas station in Maysville, Arkansas to meet “Lucy.” Later, he received a text from Bush asking him to pick her up at the same gas station. He was waiting there when he saw the truck “Lucy” drives past the gas station without stopping. He saw Bush in the truck with her.
His calls to Bush went to voicemail and he later found her phone on the side of the highway, according to the press release.
Investigators used this phone to find a Facebook account for “Lucy” and a post on that account:
“I have a bunch of baby items if any moms to be need them.”
The Facebook account was connected to Jaime Waterman and Bush’s Google record showed that she had traveled to Pineville, Missouri, to a spot that was less than half a mile away from the Watermans’ home. Law enforcement discovered through an emergency request sent to Facebook’s parent company that the account was created just days prior, on Oct. 25.
Nov. 1: Watermans questioned
According to a probable cause statement, law enforcement showed up at the Watermans’ on Nov. 1. They were told that Amber Waterman had a miscarriage. She told them that on Oct. 31 — the day of Bush’s disappearance — she was at home all day with her son and her husband Jamie’s cousin’s daughter. She told investigators that she went into labor that day and asked someone in the house to call 911. She told the detective that she had a stillborn child that evening. When the detective asked for her phone, she told him she lost it.
The detective asked her if she knew Ashley Bush. She said she did not. He then asked her if she knew “Lucy Barrows.” She said she did, and that “Lucy” was a former coworker of hers. She said they were not close and that she had seen “Lucy” at a store a few weeks ago.
When Jaime was interviewed, he told the detective that he went to work at 6 a.m. on Oct. 31 and came home for lunch at noon to find the truck wasn’t there. He said that he went back to work and at 4:30 p.m. received a call from his wife to tell him she was having a miscarriage. He said he drove her and the two children to their residence to meet an ambulance.
Law enforcement found blood inside a vehicle that matched the description of the one driven by “Lucy.” They seized the truck and came back to the residence on Nov. 3 with a search warrant for the home and vehicle.
Nov. 3: Discovery of the body, Jaime talks
Jamie Waterman was questioned again on Nov. 3. He told detectives that after they had left the last time, his wife told him she killed Bush. She quickly changed that statement — “Lucy” had killed Bush. She led him to her body and he then allegedly helped her get rid of it.
Jamie Waterman said Bush’s body was covered in a tarp near a boat next to their home. According to a press release from the United States Department of Justice, the couple allegedly used that tarp to drag Bush’s body to a fire pit behind their home and burned the body. They then moved the burnt body into Jamie Waterman’s pickup and drove a short distance away from their home to hide the body.
On Nov. 3, Jamie took law enforcement to see where they took the body. When they arrived, they found it still there. Back at the house, law enforcement found a charred human hand and bone fragments in the fire pit behind the home.
According to Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith, Ashley Bush died from an apparent gunshot wound.
Amber and Jaime Waterman were charged in separate criminal complaints on Nov. 4. Those complaints were filed with the U.S. District Court in Springfield on Nov. 4.
Western District of Arkansas Attorney discusses the case
Clay Fowlkes, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, said this is a unique case with unique circumstances.
“One of the things that’s really unique about it is that there are four separate jurisdictions that have an interest in prosecuting these two individuals,” Fowlkes said. Fowlkes listed McDonald County, federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri, Benton County, Arkansas and federal prosecutors in the Western District of Arkansas as jurisdictions that could prosecute the Watermans.
The crime began in Benton County, Arkansas and continued into Missouri, Fowlkes explained.
He said over the next few weeks, the four jurisdictions will discuss which one should prosecute first. Each jurisdiction can proceed with prosecution, but the decision will be which one is in the best position to go first based on evidence in that jurisdiction.
Fowlkes said the Western District of Arkansas is still deciding what federal charges it will file, and that it made sense for Missouri’s district to file federal charges since that’s where the Watermans were arrested.
“Because portions of the crime occurred in all those jurisdictions, and for us especially, the victim of this terrible, terrible crime is a citizen of our district,” Fowlkes said. “We believe the people have a significant interest in seeing that case prosecuted either in state or in federal court here in Arkansas.”
“These details are very very very gruesome,” Fowlkes said of the death of Ashley Bush and her baby. “Just when you think as a prosecutor you’ve seen the worst, a case comes along that proves you may be wrong about that.”
“As a father, as a longtime member of the community here in Northwest Arkansas and the Western District of Arkansas, obviously I’m deeply concerned about the facts of this case,” Fowlkes said.
He praised state and federal investigators for their work on this case and said the efforts show how federal and state agencies can work together.
Fowlkes explained the Western District of Arkansas prosecutes federal crimes in the 34 counties on the western side of Arkansas.
“These cases are significantly rare. We don’t have a lot of kidnappings resulting in murder that cross state lines,” Fowlkes said.
Fowlkes said this case could carry the death penalty for the Watermans. He said a committee will look at the evidence and decide or make a recommendation on whether the death penalty should be pursued, and that’s a long process.