Ashley Judd Says Seeing Her Mother Naomi Die “Haunts” Her!
Ashley Judd wants her mother, The Judds singer, to be remembered for how she lived rather than how she died.
In a New York Times guest essay, the Double Jeopardy actress and humanitarian wrote about the horrors of that day, when Naomi Judd died by suicide, and the family’s efforts to keep records from the death investigation sealed.
Ashley began, “April 30, 2022, was the most shattering day of my life.” “Naomi Judd, my beloved mother, who had come to believe that her mental illness would only worsen, never improve, committed suicide that day. My nights are haunted by the trauma of discovering and then holding her laboring body.”
According to the activist, the family of the country singer, who battled mental illness, is still in mourning. “The cruel and pervasive misinformation ruins my days about her death and our interactions with her that have spread.”
The horror of it will only get worse if the circumstances of her death are made public under Tennessee law, which generally allows police reports, including family interviews, from closed investigations.”
Even though Ashley “lost a long battle against an unyielding foe that in the end was too powerful to be defeated,” she was writing that she “can do something about how she is remembered.”
And now that I am painfully aware of the anguish endured by families whose loved ones have committed suicide, I intend to make the subsequent invasion of privacy — both the deceased person’s and the family’s — a legal and personal cause.”
Earlier this month, Ashley, Naomi’s sister Wynonna, Naomi’s husband Larry Strickland, and other members of Naomi’s family petitioned a Tennessee court to seal the police reports and recordings from the investigation into her death.
They claimed that publicizing the records, including the interviews with Ashley and Strickland, would cause people to be traumatized and cause irreparable harm.
Generally, Tennessee law allows the release of law enforcement records, but police are allowed to keep records during an ongoing investigation. According to the Associated Press, descriptions are typically made public once an investigation is completed.
Ashley discovered Naomi in a bedroom and witnessed her death, she wrote. As police questioned me, I felt trapped and powerless as my mother’s life dwindled. I assured her that she would see her father and brother soon after she “went home.”
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Instead, I began a series of forced interviews that took me away from the end of my mother’s life with no indication of when, where, or how to participate. When we were trying to figure out why Mom killed herself, we shared everything we knew about her, her mental illness, and her harrowing past.
Ashley claimed that the detectives were following the rules, which included “terrible, out-of-date interviewing techniques, ineffective ways to deal with grieving or traumatized family members, and the people in my mother’s bedroom that terrible day was neither bad nor wrong.” They presumably followed instructions.”
“The men there stripped us of any sensitive boundaries, interrogated us, and made me feel like a suspect in my mother’s suicide,” the author writes.
She hoped Naomi’s “intimate personal and medical information,” as well as the investigative file containing “police interviews with us when we were most vulnerable,” would not be made public. She stated that they are “nervously awaiting the decision of the courts.”
“Compassion for Vanessa Bryant and all families who have had intimate death details leaked or legally released,” Ashley writes. “Because we can’t rely on basic human decency, we need laws to compel restraint,” she wrote, urging Washington, D.C., and state leaders to provide basic protections “for those involved in police response to mental health emergencies.”
Ashley reflected on her mother’s journey from small-town Kentucky girl to Country Music Hall of Famer. Naomi received numerous honors and awards, but “I know her as my mama, who put salt and pepper shakers at each place setting for family dinners.” She should be remembered for her silly wit, onstage glory, and unfailing kindness offstage, not for how she died.
Ashley posted her essay on Twitter. “Today, I describe the four interviews I was forced to give the day our mother died and why such information should be kept private for all families dealing with suicide,” she said Wednesday.
“Is there anything else people want from us?” we shared our story to raise awareness, reduce stigma, assist people in identifying mental illness, and ensure we face it together. To give suffering families and the deceased more dignity, we need better law enforcement procedures and laws—toxicology studies.
Naomi died on April 30, at the age of 76. “We lost our beautiful mother to mental illness,” Ashley explained. The next day, Wynonna accepted The Judds’ Country Music Hall of Fame induction. She stated that The Final Tour would continue, albeit in tribute to her mother.
With Strickland as executor, Naomi’s $25 million will leave Ashley and Wynonna out. Naomi’s death investigation was quickly closed by the daughters and Strickland. Ashley was in “clinical shock, active trauma, and acute distress” following her mother’s death and refused to allow police interviews to be released. Strickland had no idea his police interviews were being taped. The family also wishes to keep Naomi’s medical records private.