Back in L'Anse, Michigan, Ashley was on track to have a rather idyllic little life going for him. He wasn't the star quarterback dating the head cheerleader, but he had impressed enough people that he had a football scholarship for the University of Michigan and he had impressed one of the other members of the cheerleader squad enough that he had a steady, serious relationship for most of his high school career. But this is the World of Darkness, and good things never last. Christmas Eve after the couple graduated high school, Ashley and his high school sweetheart Annabelle were driving to his parents house for dinner when they were forced off the road by the antics of a van full of drunken revelers; your typical country redneck. Annabelle begged Ashley to just start the truck and go, but his teenage pride was wounded and he had no idea that a dozen drunken yahoos were waiting for just this sort of confrontation.
Ashley ignored the pleas of his girlfriend and instead got out of the truck, intent on yelling at what he thought was a single asshole who didn't know better. Instead he found himself confronting a dozen drunks, all of which were eager to kick the ever-loving-shit out of anyone who got in their way. What they encountered was a young buck and his rather impressive girlfriend, and the ideas of just beating the shit out of someone were soon replaced with more horrific ideas. What followed next is sketchy in the official reports, and Ashley has vowed to take the truth of it to his grave.
He couldn't hope to defend himself against a dozen, and really couldn't. He ended up pinned in the dirt on the side of the road while Annabelle was dragged out of the truck and pawed at. What Ashley told the cops was that she resisted, and the thoughts of rape turned to rage, the rednecks proceeding to beat Annabelle first, to smack the fight out of her. The story given to the cops was that Ashley snapped at this point, and found it in himself to fight off all twelve of the drunks, to fight and kill the entire mob. This is a story that the cops mostly believed, chalking it up to youth and adrenaline, the primal need to protect one's mate, even if Ashley wasn't able to do so before Annabelle was beaten to death.
This is close to the truth. For Annabelle did resist, but she did so through the use of her abilities and knowledge of a member of the Awakened Nation; either she had already Awoken at some point in the past and had hidden this from Ashley (who was at the time still a Sleeper), or the stress of the attack is what caused her to wake up. She managed to kill one of her attackers before Paradox kicked in and caused her abilities to fail spectaularly; this is when the beating commenced, and when Ashley snapped. The stress of the situation being what caused Ashley to momentarily flee into the Kingdom of the Celestial Spheres, to find the Watchtower of the Golden Key and carve his name there in the hope of saving his love. A signature scrawled in the dirt on the side of the road sealed the deal, and Ashley Awoke.
To this day he's still not one-hundred-percent clear as to what occurred after he Awoke; this isn't exactly a memory he likes to revisit, even if it haunts him still. But the rednecks were dead, burnt or beaten, Ashley's arm was broken in multiple places, and Annabelle was dying in the cold winter night. Like the song went, she died in his arms that night, and something of Ashley died with her.
The small-town scandal that followed was never picked up in any of the big pictures; L'Anse being a small enough community where they felt the need to keep this as much a personal matter as possible. The families of the drunks had pressed for action to be taken against Ashley, even going as far as getting charges filed and a hearing scheduled, but their drive petered out once the facts of the situation came out; including toxicology reports that pegged the men with blood-alcohol levels several times over the legal limit, and the coroner's examination of Annabelle confirming that she was beaten to death by the rednecks. The charges were dropped, and Ashley applied to colleges across the US, having lost the scholarship at the first hint of trouble. He was accepted to St. John's in Fallcoast, and here we are.
None of this is something he'll discuss with just anyone, but this event has understandably affected him. To those few that he gives his loyalty to, he'll kill to protect; he runs with the Arrows to protect even more people. But it is rare that he allows anyone to get too close, even those that have gotten his loyalty.