Produced By Nancy Kramer
[This broadcast first aired on Sept. 23, 2006. It was updated on June 8, 2007.]For Jamie Barnett, the loss of her daughter Ashley has been a nightmare. "On October 14th, 2005, Ashley sailed out of Los Angeles to celebrate her upcoming 25th birthday and one day into that cruise, she was dead," she says.
Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Ashley's death and a mother's quest to find answers.
Jamie has made a promise to herself and to her daughter: she is determined to find out how and why her daughter died. Jamie knows this much is true: her daughter sailed off with her boyfriend, Geoff Ginsburg. But he came back, alone.
"She was very alive when I left that room," Geoff says. What happened in the cabin after he left remains a mystery.
This was not the ending that anyone would have predicted for 24-year-old Ashley Barnett, who had everything to live for. Ashley had the love and support of a large extended family. Though he and Ashley's mother were divorced, there was a devoted father, and three adoring brothers, as well as two half sisters and two stepbrothers.
"They were all so close. A wonderful thing about all of my children. Those boys adored their sister. And she them," Jamie recalls.
Ashley seemed destined for a life in front of the camera, right from the start, growing up in Burbank, Calif., in the shadow of the Hollywood studios
Jamie works at the CBS Television Studios, behind the scenes, running the grip department.
When she was 20 years old, Ashley landed a job on the lot, just like her mom. She moved on to become a production assistant on the TV show, "Will and Grace."
It was just the kind of stepping stone that a young aspiring actress needed. Soon, she caught the eye of film composer John Debney. "She had star written all over her. Not only was she beautiful, but she had such a heart and soul," he remembers.
He wrote the scores to box office hits like "Princess Diaries and "Bruce Almighty." Debney offered Ashley a position as his music coordinator.
"There are a lot of fine actors and actresses in this town. But Ashley had an extra something," Debney remembers. "I think it's a spark of fairy dust. It's this thing that very few people have."
Debney never imagined he would lead an orchestra at Ashley's funeral, with 40 instruments playing the music he had chosen just for her
Many of Ashley's closest friends stood up and paid tribute but one person at the memorial was not welcome to speak: her boyfriend Geoff Ginsburg.
"I felt you know like I should have been a part of it. That, you know I could have, I could have shared a lot of stories. I was a big part of Ashley's life. You know Ashley did love me. I did love Ashley," Geoff says.
Geoff and Ashley had been friends since the ninth grade but became a couple in their early 20's. By then, Geoff was working as an electrician.
What did Geoff like about her so much?
"Her personality, her carefree you know look at the world. Her eyes. Her hair. Everything. I mean her laugh," he says.
But there was a problem that was bigger than both of them. Geoff had struggled with drug addiction, saying he was using the painkiller Vicodin.
"Did she know that he was a drug user when she started dating him?" Lagatutta asks Ashley's mother.
"When she started dating him, she knew he had been, that he was clean now," Jamie replies. "And she was proud of him of what he had conquered, what he had gone through to you know, to clean up."
Everyone who knew Ashley knew this: she did not use drugs and didn't approve of them.
What was she doing with Geoff?
"I think she looked, she looked past it, she looked at when I'm in my addiction. That's not me. That's not Geoff," he explains.
"Ashley's the type of girl where if somebody's hurting she will comfort you and try to help you and fix you," says Allie Tweast, Ashley's best friend.
Allie says Ashley thought she could help Geoff and "that her love could somehow wake him up."