He made it his Facebook profile picture on May 18, and it hasn’t changed since.
Even though police said she had recently broken up with him.
Even though friends said he had been more depressed than they had seen him.
Even though investigators said he stole a revolver from his father’s locked gun cabinet, shot her in the head and then cleaned the blood from her body before he drove her corpse to a tiny town in Colorado.
Tanner Flores, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping after authorities said he killed 18-year-old Ashley Marie Doolittle late last week near a lake in Larimer County.
“She had her future ahead of her,” her mother, Ann Marie Doolittle, told the Denver Post.
‘She was an inspiration’
An obituary on the Colorado State University website, which she was set to attend in the fall, said Doolittle had been riding horses since she was 5 and was a longtime member of Boulder County 4-H. She was interested in agriculture and had served as vice president of a local chapter of Future Farmers of America.
This year, she was named the Lady-in-Waiting at the Boulder County Fair and Rodeo to help promote agriculture and the western heritage.
“Ashley had a smile that made everyone feel special,” said the obituary. “She truly reflected God’s love to all she came in contact with and she was an inspiration and role model to each person she encountered. She lived life to the fullest and lit up the world with her enthusiasm for life. Ashley will continue to live in the hearts of everyone that knew her.”
In lieu of flowers, Doolittle’s family is asking people to donate to the Ashley Doolittle Princess Program, according to her obituary.
Flores’s friends: He seemed ‘suicidal’
It appears Doolittle and Flores may have still been together last month. She posted a photo May 29 on Facebook that shows Doolittle in a graduation gown.
The next day, Flores commented beneath the picture.
“You are so gorgeous,” Flores wrote. “I love you.”
On June 9, Doolittle was reported missing hours after she had gone to the bank and never returned to her home in Berthoud, some 50 miles from Denver, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, which was obtained by CBS Denver.
Her car was found empty at a nearby reservoir.
Flores, authorities said, was missing as well.
Authorities learned from Flores’s friends that the teen had been distraught over a recent break-up with Doolittle. His friends said that he was “upset,” “really down” and more “depressed” than they had seen him and that Flores had told them he didn’t understand why his year-long relationship with Doolittle had come to an end, according to court documents.
He had sent a Snapchat message to friends that was described by investigators as “suicidal in nature.”
Flores’s father told authorities that his .22-caliber revolver was missing from his gun cabinet and that Flores knew where to find the key, according to the documents.
Authorities started to search for the teen, who they believed was armed and driving a 1999 Dodge 2500 diesel pickup truck, according to a statement from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Flores’s family told authorities that a neighbor at his deceased grandfather’s house told them that Flores’s pickup truck was parked in the driveway, 275 miles away in Collbran, Colo.
Authorities spoke with the neighbor over the phone, who told them she could see a man she thought was Flores removing what appeared to be a body from his vehicle.
She said “she saw that the male had opened all the doors to the truck, and pulled out what looked to be a bundled up blanket from the back seat of the truck and set it on the ground,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit. It said she thought she could “see an arm sticking out of the bundle.”
Moments later, she said, he “picked the bundle back up and placed it back inside the cab of the truck,” according to the warrant.
Flores was taken into custody June 10. He is being held without bond in the Mesa County Jail, according to booking records.
The coroner’s office determined that Doolittle died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the statement from police.
Flores told authorities that he shot Doolittle twice in the head near Carter Lake, which is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
He was “angry with her,” according to the court documents.
He also told authorities that he carried her dead body into his grandfather’s home and cleaned her up before he put her back into the truck.
After Doolittle’s death, fellow 4-H members and friends rode together in memory of the 18-year-old girl who they say died too soon, according to Reporter-Herald.
Rhonda Johnson, a project leader from Doolittle’s 4-H Club, told the newspaper that Doolittle will be mourned by the tight-knit community.
“She was just a confident, happy example of what a teenager should be,” she said. “She was so happy, so full of life … always responsible.”