Progress Energy lobbyist and ex-chief of staff to Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ashley Westbrook Turton, opened the door of her BMW suburban utility vehicle a few minutes before 5 am on January 10. The 37-year old mother of three young children, including twin boys, and the wife of Dan Turton, President Obama’s chief liaison to the House of Representatives, was on her way to work. Later that day, an announcement would come from Duke Power that it was buying Progress Energy for $26 billion, creating the largest power utility in the United States.
Ashley Turton would never make it to work that day. Turton’s car was engulfed in flames after she turned the ignition. The Washington Metropolitan Police Department, which can always be counted on to come up with the best fiction any time there is a suspicious death with political implications, surmised that Turton’s car was involved in a “low-speed” crash in her garage with a work bench that triggered a chemical fire.
But to top it all off, the police said an “unknown medical condition” was also likely involved in what was described as a “freaky” accident.
Turton’s short biography in the funeral service guide reads: “Ashley Westbrook Turton was born in Greensboro, NC; graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh in 1991 and from North Carolina State University in 1997. After working for Gov. James B. Hunt in NC, Ashley came to Washington, DC, in April 2000 to work as director of communications for the Honorable Rosa DeLauro, and later became her chief of staff. Since 2007, she has been manager of Federal Affairs for Progress Energy Service Company.”
Based on the presence of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, and former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) at Turton’s funeral service on January 14 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, there is little doubt that Turton and her husband were a “power couple” in the nation’s capital. But there was also a sense from those in attendance, including members of Ashley Turton’s family from North Carolina, that all the information about Ashley’s tragic death was not being brought forward by the police or the fire department.