When three teenage boys Will Kleier, Jon Perez, and Keyton Cornelius decided to go on a hunting trip at a ranch in the desert, they never dreamed that they would be held hostage by Benjamin Peter Ashley, a crazed transient man brandishing a sawed-off shotgun. Tonight on the Investigation Discovery Channel, their harrowing tale will be told on the show Dead Silent. California authorities went on an 18-day manhunt to find Benjamin Peter Ashley, a homeless drifter who they believe also killed David Louis Markiewitz, after holding the boys hostage. Authorities say Ashley also shot two cops. The Dead Silent episode recounting the tale is “The Desert Drifter.” On the show, Investigation Discovery viewers will hear a first-hand account from the three victims about their survival and escape.
Dead Silent: “A Desert Drifter”
- It’s summertime and three teen guys plan on soaking up the sun in a California desert while visiting the family’s ranch at Indian Creek. But what begins as a planned day of hunting and hiking in the rugged mountains, ends in unspeakable terror as the teens are confronted by a deranged transient, who is prepared to shoot them all dead.
ABC Exclusive: Benjamin Peter Ashley's Hostages Explain How They Were Able to Escape http://t.co/0p2aNri4Si— 23ABC News (@23ABCNews) August 19, 2015
Teens Held At Gunpoint By Desert Drifter
According to Dead Silent’s episode, police received a phone call in July 2015 from the father of one of three teens who were kidnapped and held hostage at their Twin Oaks cabin in the desert. Bakersville, California, teens Will Kleier, Jon Perez, and Keyton Cornelius planned to hike and hunt in the remote desert. However, there was one stipulation: they had to return home before dark.
When the teens failed to return, Will Kleier’s father decided to head up to the cabin to look for them. He was caught by surprise when he found all three teens on the side of the road. Out of breath, tired, and delirious, the boys told him a horrifying account of their hunting trip gone wrong.
According to ABC News, a man, later identified as 34-year old Benjamin Peter Ashley, showed up at their cabin and held them at gunpoint. One by one, he marched the teens inside, where he threatened them while proceeding to carry out some sinister plan.
At one point, the teens believed that Benjamin Peter Ashley had planned to burn down the cabin with them inside, judging by the way he positioned several propane tanks around the cabin.
The scared trio knew that if they were going to get out of this alive, they needed to think of a plan to escape. The plan was to tell the gunman that their parents would be coming up to the cabin to pick them up. So that he wouldn’t be discovered, the young men offered him the ATV.
In an interview with ABC News, the teens made the following statement.
“We’re in the middle of the woods. He could have shot the gun a thousand times and no one would have heard it.
“Pretty much that whole entire two hours, he was just debating whether he should kill us or not.
“All we could think of is that he was hunting … us.”
As Dead Silent will show, the teens deliberately sent Ashley on an opposite path so they could make their daring escape. When Ashley left, Kleier, Cornelius, and Perez took out running through the rocky, rugged trails of the desert. After three hours and a 15-mile hike, they were picked up on the edge of the road by Will Kleier’s worried father.
Kern County Manhunt
As you’ll see dramatized in Dead Silent, they took their story to police, who searched for Benjamin Peter Ashley for over two weeks. He was finally shot dead by police after he was spotted buying $100 worth of snacks before heading back to a makeshift living area in the desert, according to NBC News.
Authorities believe that two days after the three teen boys escaped, Benjamin Peter Ashley continued his violent spree by killing David Louis Markiewitz, a 64-year-old retired dentist. Markiewitz was found dead in his cabin on Jawbone Canyon Road by family members.
Some Key Details About Benjamin Peter Ashley
- Ashley had an unusual appearance and didn’t look anything like the composite sketch.
- Benjamin Ashley was a light-skinned black man with hazel or green eyes.
- He often had different looks that made him appear white, black, or Hispanic.
- Benjamin had an extensive criminal record.
Watch Dead Silent: “The Desert Grifter” tonight at 9/8 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery (ID). In a previous episode of Dead Silent, the case of Alicia Eakins was explored.
[Featured Image by Victoria Romanchenk/Shutterstock]