Ashley Barnett, 25 – Drug Overdose, Carnival Paradise Passenger, October 15, 2005, Time of Death 4:00.
The cruise was the Xingolati Groove Cruise of the Pacific, a three day cruise in the Pacific. It was a cruise that was described as a combination of a Jam Fest and Burning Man, an artisic expression event.
On October 15, 2005, Ashley Barnett, 25, from California was an aspiring actress and had been working with composer John Debney. The day after they boarded Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Paradise, in Long Beach, California Ashley was dead.
Some potential evidence in the case was caught on the home video Ashley was making to document her trip. Ashley was just turning 25, and decided to take a cruise to celebrate her birthday with her boyfriend. Geoff Ginsburg, her boyfriend, says he planned to use the time on board to detox. He had relapsed into his Vicodin habit. And that’s why he says he had methadone with him. Most people associate methadone with heroin addiction but it’s also used to help addicts withdraw from other drugs. Geoff says he wasn’t under a doctor’s care and attempted to do this himself. It is unclear whether he was arrested for smuggling the drugs, or not.
According to reports, he hid the drugs in a bottle of cold tablets in order to sneak them onboard. In Ashley’s home video, Geoff is seen on camera when he clears port security. “We’re getting ready to load the boat. And we got past the dogs,” he said into the camera. Clearly he was smuggling the drugs onboard. Geoff refused to say how he came to have the drugs, but said that Ashley knew the drugs were in the cold tablet bottle. She had seen him place them in the bottle.
Family members report that Ashley had cold symptoms, and may have accidentally consumed the smuggled drugs onboard when she took some cold tablets. Geoff says that is not likely. The family investigators took samples of Ashley’s hair and confirmed no other drugs were in her system, with only the recently consumed drugs either self-administered, given in a spiked beverage or in some other manner unknown, found in her system.
This report on the toxicology confirms reports from friends that Ashley was anti-drugs, and didn’t used drugs prior to this incident. “To me it was like a big rave at sea. Just people dancing and everyone just having so such a good time you know. You know drinkin’ and partyin’. This is gonna be a cool time,” says Joe Fischera, a friend of Geoff and Ashley’s. He was part of the group that joined the couple, along with Geoff’s brother, Keith. But the nonstop music festival was not the romantic getaway that Ashley was expecting. We know from Ashley’s video tape that she and Geoff went to the casino that night and also they went to hear the bands play. “What I know is they went to the concert and then they went back to the room,” Joe says.
According to Geoff, back in the cabin, there was a disagreement. He wanted to return to the casino but it was about 2:30 a.m. and Ashley wanted to go to bed. Geoff says he left her in the cabin, and went on to have fun without her. He says when he left, Ashley was a little upset with him. “She was very alive when I left that room”, Geoff says. What happened in the cabin after he left remains a mystery. About 4:00 a.m., according to Geoff, he returned to the cabin. He says Ashley was asleep and that he cuddled up against her and went to sleep. There is no way of verifying if Geoff went in and out of the cabin at the times he said he did or if anyone else might have entered, because on this cruise, on this particular weekend, the key lock, which records all entries to the door of cabin R-149 malfunctioned.
At midday on Saturday, Geoff said Ashley was still sleeping. So he left her in the cabin and went upstairs to join the group. “He comes by and his exact words were, ‘My baby doll’s still snoring. Let’s let her sleep a little bit longer, and we’ll wake her up in a little bit,'” Joe remembers. About 2 p.m., Geoff says he returned to wake Ashley. He tried to wake her, and she did not respond. He knew something was very wrong and called for help. At 2:07 p.m., Geoff called 911. “I said you know my girlfriend’s not breathing. I don’t think she’s breathing. Please come help,” Geoff recalls.
Within three minutes a nurse arrived and attempted CPR. At 2:10 p.m. an emergency announcement was broadcast to summon the ship’s doctor. At 2:12 p.m. the doctor arrived. According to his statement, Ashley was unresponsive, cold, with no pulse.
As CPR was being performed on his dying girlfriend, Geoff mentions missing some of the smuggled drugs to the doctor and nurse. “I told them, you know while they were working, I said, ‘I have methadone. I have Vicodin. You know give her. If she had taken that, give her something for that do whatever you can,'” Geoff explains.
At 2:45 p.m. she was pronounced dead. But, according to Geoff, Ashley was warm when he called for help.
Ashley was removed from the ship in Mexico, but Geoff remained onboard. He says he was prevented from leaving the ship, because investigators needed to interview him. It was the next day before he called Ashley’s mother, Jamie, to tell her what happened. But, her mother found out right after the death, when ship’s staff called.