PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The mother of the two little Phoenix girls who vanished for hours and became the center of a large search operation over the weekend is facing charges of child abuse. Police arrested Ashleigh Nicole Williams, 40, Sunday evening. Officers with the Phoenix Police Department and other agencies spent hours looking for Williams's 3- and 4-year-old daughters Sunday morning. They were eventually found safe with a good Samaritan who had taken them in for the night.
According to public court documents, Williams admitted she was with the girls over the weekend even though she is not allowed to visit them without supervision. "The defendant admitted to detectives that she has a substance abuse problem and about a year ago she gave up her parenting rights to her ex-boyfriend ...," the probable cause for arrest statement explains. Williams also told police there was a Department of Child Safety case. Police said Williams initially said she only had a shot of vodka on Saturday but later admitted taking two fentanyl pills.
Police say Williams told them she passed out in the girls' bedroom upstairs while they were playing downstairs. The last time she saw them was at about 6 p.m. Court document says Williams woke up because her ex was yelling at her over the baby monitor and remote camera system, which he had been monitoring on his phone while he was out of town.
At some point, while Williams was unconscious, the young sisters left the apartment. It was about 2 a.m. when Williams called the police to report her daughters missing, according to police.
Police say a woman saw the girls playing near their mom's car several hours before that call. According to court documents, the woman who found the girls knew Williams and knew she had a substance abuse disorder. Police said the woman tried to wake Williams. When she could not, she took the kids to a friend's apartment nearby.
Police were relieved to find the sisters late Sunday morning at a YMCA with the good Samaritan who had taken them in. "She was not aware that anyone had reported them missing or that we were out here actively looking for them," Justus said Sunday afternoon. "She doesn't watch the news, she said, and she doesn't have social media." It was more than 17 hours from when Williams saw the girls Saturday evening to when they were found shortly before noon on Sunday.
Williams was released on her own recognizance with supervision by pretrial services. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28.