The devastated family of the man shot to death in his car in Jersey City Tuesday were shocked to hear of his violent death — made all the more senseless after he beat throat cancer several years ago.
“I said maybe it’s not his body,” said Krystle Clarke, 28, of her reaction to the call she received from her sister on Tuesday telling her their father, Robert Ashbourne, 46, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., was dead. “Maybe it was someone else in his car. … When it settled in, I started to scream and cry. I had to tell my (other) sister and she started to scream and cry.”
Clarke, who lives in Connecticut and is the oldest of Ashbourne’s nine children, said she then began to feel numb.
“I lost feeling in my hands. I felt very hot. I became so physically ill at that moment because I was in shock,” she said.
Clarke said her father survived larynx cancer in 2006 and that he had a son who died of cancer about 19 years ago today at the age of 5.
On Tuesday at 1 p.m. Ashbourne’s Cadillac was headed east on Waverly Street when it struck an SUV on the far side of Palisade Avenue and came a stop. Police found Ashbourne slumped over in the driver’s seat with a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
No motive has been identified for Ashbourne’s death and no one has been charged.
Clarke said her father was born in the Bronx and moved to Mount Vernon with his parents when he was a teen. He graduated from Mount Vernon High School and since then he has been a professional driver of stretch limousines and sedans.
“He liked doing it and he is really good at it,” Clarke said, adding that her father has driven celebrities Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Beyonce, Queen Latifah and Patti LaBelle. She said her father and Jay-Z were friends.
Ashbourne was a member of a gym in Edgewater. Although authorities say Clarke lived in Mount Vernon, his daughter said he had moved to New Jersey a few months ago.
She said she did not know which limo company he was working for, or if he was working at the time of his death. Clarke said the family has no idea what could possibly have led to his being shot.
“The family just doesn’t know what happened,” she said “He was not a man that participated in any crime life, so it didn’t make sense… Who would take my father’s life? They took life out of all of us.
“There are nine of us, I am the oldest, so my younger brothers, they are torn. He was very active in their lives. We are just trying to get through it together. There are so many of us connected through him.”
Ashbourne said her father lived in Georgia a short time after high school. She said the Georgia license plates on the Cadillac belong to his uncle in Augusta, Ga. The Augusta police went to the uncle’s house to notify him of the death, Clarke said.
Asked what was important to her father, Clarke said “I would say one thing that was important to him was just living a good life. Being happy, enjoying his life and having a good time with his kids. We used to go out, drink together and have fun. He loved his family and being around us and hanging out.”
Clarke said her father also loved sports, fishing and barbecuing. Numerous people offered their condolences on Ashbourne’s Facebook page.
A viewing for Ashbourne will be held Monday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Friendship Worship Center in Mount Vernon, followed by a funeral service at the church and burial in Queens, Clarke said. Ashbourne is survived by eight grandchildren and his mother, who is in her 90s.
Anyone with information on the homicide is asked to call the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Unit at (201) 915-1345.
As the oldest of nine, Clarke said “I am trying to be there for all of them and be there for myself at the same time. I just can’t believe this happened and he is gone. This is really sad.”