Suspect's friends are baffled by hostage case


Three days after Ralph Ash was charged with holding a 20-year-old woman hostage for 13 hours in her Woodbine home and raping her, his friend Scott Morris is still trying make sense of what happened.

Mr. Morris, who lives in the Ashley Mobile Home Park where the standoff occurred Wednesday, has known Mr. Ash seven years and says Mr. Ash is his best friend.

"He was a good person as far as I was concerned," Mr. Morris said yesterday. "Evidently there was another side of him I didn't know. . . . I guess he just snapped."

Other residents of the mobile home park in the 5900 block of Woodbine Road, where Mr. Ash lived with his wife and twin 5-year-old sons, had similar impressions. His neighbors described him as friendly, helpful and a good father.

"I've never had any problem with him; he's always been extremely friendly and helpful," said Diana Kohlhepp, a 22-year resident of the park, who said Mr. Ash helped her son with some work on his truck.

"From what I saw he was a very caring, very loving father," Mrs. Kohlhepp said.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Morris said, Mr. Ash stopped by his home, where the two men talked and drank a couple of beers.

He said Mr. Ash was upset because he had recently been served with a court order to stay away from his estranged wife and their sons after she alleged abuse. On Tuesday, Mr. Ash was also served with a court order to vacate their mobile home.

Mr. Morris described the child-abuse allegations as "totally ridiculous."

"He's never done anything to his kids that I know of," Mr. Morris said. "He loved his kids and stayed home all day to take care of them because he couldn't afford day care."

Mr. Ash remains in the Carroll County Detention Center, held without bond. Court documents allege that the standoff grew out of a plan by Mr. Ash to kill his wife.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said last week that he expected to present the case against Mr. Ash to the county grand jury this month.

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