DNA breakthroughs give new hope to daughter of missing mom

Target 8

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ashley Copelin was 2 months old when her mom left the family home in Barryton, a small village east of Big Rapids, for a gallon of milk. They were living with grandpa and grandma.

That was on May 17, 1987.

Nobody has seen her mom, Margie Ann Ranshaw, in the nearly 35 years since.

“I just want people to know her name,” Copelin said on Friday.

She said recent breakthroughs in missing persons cases in Kent and Ottawa counties are giving her renewed hope for her mom’s case which quickly went cold.

“I don’t believe that she’s alive,” she said. “But I do believe that her body is out there somewhere, and I do believe that we deserve to know what happened to her, regardless if she’s dead or not.”

Her mom was 29 when she vanished. She’d be turning 64 this month.

In NAMUS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, she’s listed as Missing Person Case No. 14788.

“She was sick. She had schizophrenia,” Copelin said of her mom. “She told my grandfather right before she left that the voices were telling her to leave, and my grandfather was telling her she had to fight through that and she had to ignore those voices.”

Her mom, she said, had dreams of living out west.

“She would often hitchhike and she would be gone for months at a time. She would always come back,” Copelin said.

This time, police found her car abandoned two weeks later two hours away at a hotel in Howell. Most of her family believes she was the victim of foul play.

The investigation by the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department never turned up any answers.

Ashley Copelin was raised by her aunt and uncle after her mother went missing in 1987. (Courtesy)

An aunt and uncle adopted and raised the missing mom’s daughter.

“I had a great life, and I had a great childhood,” Copelin said.

She now is raising two kids of her own in Hastings.

“There was a hole missing in my heart, and I had pain that stuck with me my whole entire life,” she said.

She has tried finding her mom on her own — background searches, Google searches — with an outside hope that she’s still alive.

“No matter what kind of research I do, no matter what I do, it comes to a dead-end with her,” she said. “And I believe, I have come to the conclusion that it’s something that maybe God doesn’t want to reveal.”

She reached out to Target 8 after learning that genealogy researchers working with DNA had identified two bodies found decades ago in West Michigan: remains previously known as Ada Bones in Kent County and Matilda in Ottawa County.

“It gives me a lot of hope,” she said. “Some families are getting their justice 40, 45 years later, and I’m hoping for that chance ourselves.”

Her mom is among 619 people listed by NAMUS as missing from Michigan. Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department at 231.592.0150.

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