Ex-wife defends massage therapist charged with CSC

Debra Sullivan speaking to 24 Hour News 8 on Saturday March 19, 2016.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While the idea of a mall massage therapist committing illicit sexual penetration against a female customer is enough to send a chill up the spine, the woman who was married to the suspect for 25 years warns against a rush to judgement.

John Ashby, 54, stands accused of assaulting a 41-year-old woman during a massage at the Centerpoint mall on Feb. 28.

A mug shot of John Ashby provided by the Grand Rapids Police Department. (March 18, 2016)
A mug shot of John Ashby provided by the Grand Rapids Police Department. (March 18, 2016)

Grand Rapids police allege Ashby used force or coercion when he sexually penetrated the woman he had met for the first time.

But Ashby’s ex-wife, Debra Sullivan, says the allegations do not fit the man she knows and when she found out her response was — “Total shock. Unbelievable. Totally, 100 percent out of character for John,” Sullivan said.

She said the man she married at the age of 21 and with whom she had three children before divorcing in 2011 had no criminal proclivities.

“His record is clean,” Sullivan said. “He has never done anything like this. He has put 15-plus years in the military with a clear record. Never had anything on him the whole time we were married.”

She said Ashby spent four years in the Marines and another 12 or more in the National Guard.

Sullivan said while he has had financial troubles, he worked hard and was hoping a career in massage therapy would be a something in which he could excel.

Massage Green Spa, located in the Shops at CenterPoint complex. (March 18, 2016)
Massage Green Spa, located in the Shops at CenterPoint complex. (March 18, 2016)

Ashby is a state-certified massage therapist and has no formal complaint against him.

“Y’know, this is something John really wanted, he looked forward to it. Why would he destroy it?” Sullivan said.

Ashby is in jail on a $40,000 bond and faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Sullivan says she hopes people remember that the idea of innocent until proved guilty.

“You do not know the guy, I mean, we have had our ups and downs, but 25 years of marriage, this is out of character for him, so give him a chance,” Sullivan said.

One of Ashby’s sons, Luke Ashby, echoes his mom’s disbelief and says he and his siblings have not been able to visit their dad in jail.

They are hoping to raise the bail money to get him out of jail pending his next court date on April 7.

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