Search continues for Santa Barbara nurse who vanished after shift at hospital on May 29

A week has passed since 36-year-old Ashley Lynn Zachman did not show up for her shift at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara where she works as a nurse, and her family is worried.

“We just don’t have any answers at this point,” Ashley’s older sister, Erica Safecheck, told Dateline. “Anything is a possibility. But we just want to know that she is safe.”

Ashley Zachman
Ashley Zachman

According to Anthony Wagner, the Public Engagement Manager for Santa Barbara Police, Ashley was last seen at work and left between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Police believe she made it home to her apartment in Santa Barbara and then left again. Ashley’s cell phone was left behind, but her purse and white 2008 Mazda 3 with California license plate 6DRL358, are also missing.

Ashley was reported missing by her family on Monday, June 1, when she didn’t show up for her next shift at the hospital. None of her family or friends have seen or heard from her since she was last seen.

Erica told Dateline this is “out-of-character” for Ashley to just up and leave without telling anyone.

“This isn’t like her at all,” Erica said. “And we don’t know if she’s alone or if someone is with her.”

Photo of Ashley's car and license plate (Santa Barbara Police Department)
Photo of Ashley's car and license plate (Santa Barbara Police Department)

Santa Barbara Police confirmed to Dateline they consider Ashley to be “at-risk” but SBPD spokesperson Wagner said, “there are no specific signs of foul play at this time” and that “SBPD continues to investigate the case.”

SBPD confirmed they have investigated various electronic records, checked surveillance video at businesses and public places and interviewed employees at the hospital.

Because Ashley is an avid hiker, according to her sister, police have worked with the local fire department to check surrounding trails.

Police said they have expanded their search past state lines into Nevada and Arizona, but said they have found no evidence of Ashley or her vehicle.

“We’re just at a loss of where she would go,” Erica told Dateline. “Until then, it’s hard to know where to even start.”

Erica describes her little sister as a free spirit who loves traveling, being the “best auntie” to Erica’s children and passionate about helping others as a nurse. Ashley graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles and worked for years as a traveling nurse. Now, she works in the cardiac cath lab at Cottage Hospital. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she began covering other areas of the hospital.

Cottage Health released the following statement to Dateline:

“We are working with authorities to offer the assistance they need to help find Ashley. Our thoughts are with our colleague and her family. We are all hoping for her prompt and safe return.”

“She’s very family-oriented and I just don’t think she would let us worry like this,” Erica said. “We’re just waiting for something to point us in the right direction - and that’s the hardest part.”

Ashley is described as being 5'5" tall and weighs about 115 pounds. She has blue eyes and brown hair. Police released photos of her car, a 2008 White Mazda 3 with a California license plate 6DRL358.

Anyone with information about Ashley’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Santa Barbara Police Department at (805) 897-2347.