43 years later, siblings from Cardiff seek answers in brother’s unsolved murder at Torrey Pines State Beach
Adam Ashley, 14, was found murdered in 1979 at Torrey Pines State Beach
Growing up in the burgeoning beachside community of Cardiff in the 1970s, 14-year-old twins Adam and Marc Ashley liked to skate, surf and play guitar.
But Marc recalled that their more unscrupulous hobbies, including drinking and smoking weed, fueled a “dysfunctional” home life. Adam also had anger issues and a penchant for violence toward his siblings that put him into a nearby foster home.
The Ashleys never became whole again.
On the morning of May 17, 1979, a bicyclist saw Adam’s lifeless body lying in the sand on the northern edge of Torrey Pines State Beach. It was Adam and Marc’s 15th birthday.
“I wasn’t a twin anymore and everything changed,” said Marc, who is five minutes younger.
The cause of death was contusions, lacerations and blunt injuries to Adam’s head, according to an autopsy report completed the day after he was found about a half-mile south of Carmel Valley Road, just off North Torrey Pines Road. “Homicide: Struck in head by another person,” it reads.
Adam’s murder is still unsolved.
A May 27, 1979, a San Diego Union newspaper article urged the public to contact San Diego police if they saw Adam the day before his body was found or know anything about his activities that day. Forty-three years later, his family is still waiting for someone to come forward with a lead that opens a new door in the cold case.
“Somebody knows something,” Marc said.
The aftermath of Adam’s death was difficult on the family. Marc said he openly blamed his mom, who raised the children by herself after their father’s untimely death when they were toddlers. She turned to alcohol to cope, and died a few years later at 53.
“I was really still hurting,” Marc said, adding that he regrets he didn’t offer her any support.
Marc said he’s worked in screenprinting over the years, and has also regularly experienced homelessness. He’s currently living in the Midway District. Even though he continues to struggle with alcohol, he said he no longer uses harder drugs. He said he broke nine months of sobriety this past May 16, the anniversary of the day Adam was last seen alive.
Terri MacQuarrie, Marc and Adam’s older sister by about one year, dropped out of high school to help support the family at age 15. She has since earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.
Reflecting on Adam’s tragic death, she said “There’s a guilt and there’s a helplessness, but mostly an overwhelming grief.”
The last time she saw Adam was on the campus of San Dieguito Academy, where he went to school. They spoke about their mom.
Terri recalls him saying, “She must be really happy that I’m not there.”
“She’s even sadder that you’re not here and we’re not together,” Terri told him.
Adam also told her that he was no longer using drugs, and even quit smoking cigarettes. She noticed how calm and composed he was for a change. There was hope that he was on a better path.
But a week after that, the bicyclist who noticed his body went to a phone booth to call the police, who arrived at the scene at 7:50 a.m., according to the autopsy report and news articles from the following days.
Adam was living in foster care on Seventh Street in Del Mar with Gene Requa, who had reported Adam missing and later identified his body for the coroner, the autopsy report said. Requa died at age 94 in 2009.
The family said there’s no useful DNA evidence, which is why they’re pinning their hopes on finding a witness. San Diego police Sgt. Joel Tien said via email that the department can’t comment on evidence, and that the focus of the Cold Case Unit needs to be “protecting the integrity of the investigation.”
“We are hopeful that someone will provide information that will lead to solving this case and bringing closure to Adam’s family,” Tien said.
Tien added that the case is in the process of being posted to a San Diego police webpage that has a searchable database of the department’s cold cases. As of this publication, Adam is not included in the database.
Marc said there were times when he felt “prepared to go to the end and not find out what happened,” but can’t help feeling someone will eventually come forward.
“I’ve never given up hope,” he said.
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