Katie Ferguson was last seen in October before she embarked on a trip with Adam Shane Aviles Jr. and their two daughters
A Wyoming woman disappeared during a cross-country trip with her ex-boyfriend and their two children.
Katie Ferguson, 33, was last heard from in October, her family tells PEOPLE.
Her ex-boyfriend, Adam Shane Aviles Jr., has been arrested on weapons-related charges and is being investigated in connection with Ferguson’s disappearance, Park County Sheriff’s Office in Cody, Wyo., tells PEOPLE.
According to a criminal complaint filed on Nov. 9, Aviles had been spotted by law enforcement on four occasions during this cross-country state trip. Only on one occasion, on Oct. 5, Ferguson was present in the car with him.
On the subsequent encounters with his vehicle, starting Oct. 9, police allege that Ferguson was not seen with him and they spotted a gunshot on the car. Police also allegedly found bloodstained clothings and noted smell of "putrified blood" from his vehicle during one of these encounters, the criminal complaint states.
In a subsequent interview with law enforcement, the couple's 4-year-old daughter allegedly said she witnessed her father "accidentally hurting" her mother, according to the complaint.
Ferguson’s mother, Mona Hartling, says the couple had been in an on-again, off-again relationship for eight years that was tumultuous.
Hartling and Ferguson, along with the couple’s two children, were in a shelter for a few months before Hartling moved them to Alabama to be with Hartling’s sister and to give Ferguson a “fresh start,” she tells PEOPLE.
She says her daughter and Aviles were living in motels during their stay in Alabama. But when Aviles returned home to his family in Wyoming in October, Ferguson was nowhere to be found.
Hartling says Aviles told her that Ferguson had left him and the children. The criminal complaint states that Aviles maintains that Ferguson went on a "drug run" during their trip and did not return. He also allegedly said she was "not missing," but instead wanted to lose contact with her mother.
In text exchanges between Ferguson and her stepmother reviewed by PEOPLE, Ferguson expressed her fear of Aviles before the trip took place.
The sheriff’s office has been investigating Ferguson’s disappearance since they discovered that Aviles had allegedly abandoned his vehicle, public information officer Monte McClain tells PEOPLE.
“We’re actively investigating and looking for leads in her disappearance,” he says, declining to comment further.
The Park County authorities are investigating the issue in conjunction with the ATF, the FBI, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Cody Police Department.
A fundraiser has been set up to assist the family with search efforts and to set up a "stable home" for the children.
According to court records, Aviles pled not guilty to the weapons-related charges. PEOPLE wasn't able to immediately reach his attorney.
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