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Blood, bullets and an abandoned SUV: Young mother vanishes on road trip with ex-boyfriend

The smell of “putrefied blood” was seeping out of an abandoned black 1999 Dodge Durango found by police in Wyoming earlier this month.

Inside the vehicle, countless trash bags were discovered by investigators, some containing stripped-off materials from the interior of the car smeared with blood, along with a Glock pistol magazine and cleaning supplies.

The car belonged to Adam Shane Aviles Jr, 26, who was arrested on charges of illegally possessing ammunition, as he had a firearms disqualification.

Yet this Dodge Durango is not only linked to Mr Aviles Jr’s bullet possession, as it was the last vehicle his girlfriend, Katie Ferguson, 33, was seen in before she disappeared.

Here’s everything we know about the disappearance of Katie Ferguson:

Missing woman leaves Alabama for Wyoming

A public criminal complaint obtained by The Independent was filed by an FBI agent for the arrest of Mr Aviles Jr over the illegal possession of ammunition, but an accompanying sworn statement details the disappearance of “K.F.”, the same initials as Mr Aviles Jr’s missing girlfriend Katie Ferguson.

The complaint also references “M.H.”, the initials of the missing woman’s mother, Mona Hartling.

The Independent has not been able to independently verify that the two initials are in reference to the missing woman and her mother and has contacted the United States Attorney’s Office for confirmation.

On 2 November, Mona Hartling, the mother of the missing woman, called the Cody Police Department in Wyoming after growing suspicious that she had not heard from her daughter and reported Ms Ferguson missing, the complaint reads.

Ms Ferguson was last seen in early October on a road trip with her on-and-off boyfriend, Mr Aviles Jr, who was bringing her back from Alabama to Wyoming along with her daughters, who are four years old and 11 months old.

There are different reasons believed as to why Ms Ferguson left her mother and Alabama behind.

Missing Mother Katie Ferguson (Mona Hartling/Facebook)
Missing Mother Katie Ferguson (Mona Hartling/Facebook)

Ms Hartling told police, according to the legal document, that her daughter had been “clean” for a while but had recently relapsed, so she allegedly rang Mr Aviles Jr around three months after she moved “for help.”

Mr Aviles Jr travelled to Alabama, then departed a few weeks later with Ms Ferguson and their two young children.

Nicole Ferguson, the missing woman’s sister, told KTVQ that Ms Ferguson originally came to Alabama with her children to allegedly flee from her boyfriend.

Ms Hartling and her son, Alen Ferguson, wrote on a GoFundMe page that Mr Aviles Jr allegedly “manipulated” Mr Ferguson to come back with him to Wyoming.

However, Ms Ferguson never arrived back in Wyoming; when Mr Aviles Jr returned, he only had their two young children with him.

Katie Ferguson disappears on a cross-country road trip

At some point during the cross-country road trip, Ms Ferguson reportedly vanished from her boyfriend’s car.

During the trip, Mr Aviles Jr’s Dodge Durango vehicle was pulled over three times in different states on their way to Wyoming, the complaint states.

The vehicle was first stopped in Trumann, Arkansas, on 5 October; at that point, Ms Ferguson was still in the passenger seat, and there was no projectile hole in the passenger door, as bodycam footage showed.

A second stop was carried out by the Texas State Patrol on 9 October. This time bodycam footage showed a projectile hole in the passenger door concealed with duct tape.

Ms Ferguson was also not in the vehicle, and a large pile of clothes was on the passenger seat.

Katie Ferguson was traveling with her boyfriend Adam Aviles when she dissapeared (Mona Hartling/Facebook)
Katie Ferguson was traveling with her boyfriend Adam Aviles when she dissapeared (Mona Hartling/Facebook)

On 11 October, the legal document stated that the vehicle was stopped again, this time by the Colorado State Patrol; again, Ms Ferguson was not present.

According to the court document, Mr Aviles Jr talked to police and said that Ms Ferguson was not with him or his two daughters for the rest of the trip because when they stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas, she “did a drug run” and had not been heard from since.

Despite being home for weeks, Mr Aviles Jr allegedly never filed a missing police report, but he told police he didn’t think she was missing but that she just didn’t want to get in contact with her mother, Ms Hartling.

The smell of “putrefied blood”

At this point, in the missing person’s case, there were more questions than answers as to what happened to Ms Ferguson on that road trip - until police made a huge discovery.

On 4 November, the complaint said Mr Aviles Jr’s Dodge Durango was found dumped in the Oregon Basin area near Cody, Wyoming. The car was allegedly piled high with trash bags, so police could not see what was inside.

“Due to K.F. being listed as a missing persona and her connection to Adam Aviles Jr, along with the suspicious condition and location of the vehicle, Deputies broke a window to make sure no one was in the vehicle who may need medical attention,” the criminal complaint read.

As they opened up the trash-filled vehicle, a sheriff claimed they could smell the odour of “putrefied blood” coming from inside the car.

Initially, police found that the car was missing its passenger seat, with Clorox wipes lying around.

A Glock pistol magazine with loaded live ammunition was allegedly found in the centre console and interior body mouldings with dried streaks of blood on them were stuffed inside the trash bags, according to the complaint.

Investigators also found a projectile hole in the front passenger door that had duct tape over the entrance and exit of the whole, possibly in an attempt to cover it up.

While investigators were still assisting the vehicle, the complaint said Mr Aviles Jr appeared out of nowhere and approached the scene with a gas canister.

He admitted to police that it was his vehicle, but it ran out of gas, so he went to go and get some to fill up the tank; however, the vehicle was secured by police and towed back to the Law Enforcement Center.

Laboratory results from the Wyoming State Crime Laboratory later confirmed that dried blood had been found in the car.

Investigators also claimed they found three fired projectiles around the passenger door and blood traces on the loaded magazine and cleaning supplies and tools in the car.

Adam Aviles Jr arrested

Four days after police recovered Mr Aviles Jr’s vehicle he was arrested by Park County Sheriff’s Office deputies on 8 November for charges of possession of a controlled substance, unauthorised use of a vehicle and a previous warrant, according to Cowboy State Daily.

Mr Aviles Jr, was previously convicted in 2017 for possession of heroin, allegedly possessed methamphetamines and took his father’s truck without permission.

Yet these charges were dropped to make way for a larger federal charge.

“We dropped the local charges,” Park County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Monte McClain told the outlet.

“We used those to hold him ’til the big charges came out. His charges have escalated to the point that a misdemeanour ticket of unauthorised (truck) use is a moot point. It would actually delay the furtherance of justice in trying to get this taken care of.”

On 21 November, Mr Aviles Jr was arraigned for illegal possession of ammunition, stated the United States Attorney’s Office.

The couple allegedly had a tulmultous relationship (Mona Hartling/Facebook)
The couple allegedly had a tulmultous relationship (Mona Hartling/Facebook)

This charge comes after the complaint said investigators found he was in possession of a Fiocchi .45 calibre bullet sometime between 2 November and 4 November, which he had illegally as he already had a firearm disqualification.

The court documents said that the father of Mr Aviles Jr told police that he had allegedly recently seen his son with a handgun. Police suspect the magazine found in Mr Aviles Jr’s vehicle belonged to a large calibre handgun consistent with a Glock 21.

After searching Mr Aviles Jr’s residence, they also claimed to have found packaging for a holster that was designed for a large calibre pistol.

The legal documents do not link Mr Aviles Jr to Ms Ferguson’s missing person case but do heavily detail her disappearance in his criminal complaint.

However, the case seems to be under investigation as on 8 November, the FBI interviewed the four-year-old child in the car with Mr Aviles Jr on the road trip and made a statement about “her father accidentally hurting her mother.”

Katie’s family are losing hope

A GoFundMe page has already been set up to raise funds for funeral arrangements and support for Ms Hartling, who will potentially become the carer for Ms Ferguson’s children.

Now two months have passed, the family are losing hope that Ms Ferguson is alive, especially after what was found in the Dodge Durango.

“I don’t think she’s alive. I really don’t,” Nicole Ferguson, the missing woman’s sister, told KTVQ.

Adam Aviles was arrested earlier this month for the possession of ammunition (Adam Aviles/Facebook)
Adam Aviles was arrested earlier this month for the possession of ammunition (Adam Aviles/Facebook)

Angela Ferguson, the missing woman’s stepmother, also believes that this case is pointing in a “very tragic direction.”

“It’s hard to hear the rumours, to hear what might have happened to her. It’s just unfathomable," she told KTVQ. "It’s devastating. It’s the most tragic, awful thing.”

What is happening next?

Nicole Ferguson told the station that the family is waiting to hear back from investigators about DNA results from the blood found in the vehicle.

Mr Aviles Jr has pleaded not guilty to possession of ammunition, and his trial has been set for 22 January, the United States Attorney’s Office said.

He is due to remain in custody until his trial. If he is convicted he could face up to 15 years in prison with three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

Nicole Ferguson hopes that Mr Aviles Jr’s arrest will lead to more answers on what happened to her sister.

“I just really hope he, Adam, will talk and just really say what happened,” she said to KTVQ. “I love her and I don’t want to be negative, but I don’t think she’s coming home, but I at least want her to be found.”