Ashley Judd Felt Like a ‘Possible Suspect’ During Naomi Judd’s Suicide Investigation
Ashley Judd says that she felt like a "possible suspect" during authorities' initial investigation into her mother Naomi Judd's suicide, in an op-ed calling for privacy for her family in their time of grief and loss.
In an impassioned editorial for the New York Times, the actor and activist writes that standard police procedures following a death by suicide can leave survivors feeling "revictimized by laws that can expose their most private moments to the public."
"I gushed answers to the many probing questions directed at me in the four interviews the police insisted I do on the very day my mother died — questions I would never have answered on any other day and questions about which I never thought to ask my own questions, including: Is your body camera on? Am I being audio recorded again? Where and how will what I am sharing be stored, used and made available to the public?” Judd writes.
"I want to be clear that the police were simply following terrible, outdated interview procedures and methods of interacting with family members who are in shock or trauma and that the individuals in my mother’s bedroom that harrowing day were not bad or wrong. I assume they did as they were taught," she adds. "It is now well known that law enforcement personnel should be trained in how to respond to and investigate cases involving trauma, but the men who were present left us feeling stripped of any sensitive boundary, interrogated and, in my case, as if I was a possible suspect in my mother’s suicide."
Ashley and Wynonna Judd filed a court petition in early August of 2022 alongside Naomi Judd's husband, Larry Strickland, asking to keep the file from the investigation into Naomi Judd's death private. That file includes photos and videos taken at the scene, as well as videotaped interviews with family members that were recorded in the hours directly after Judd's death.
"I don’t know that we’ll be able to get the privacy we deserve. We are waiting with taut nerves for the courts to decide," Ashley Judd admits. "... The raw details are used only to feed a craven gossip economy, and as we cannot count on basic human decency, we need laws that will compel that restraint."
Judd goes on to highlight her mother's career accomplishments, as well as the personal warmth and charm that made her so beloved.
"She should be remembered for how she lived, which was with goofy humor, glory onstage and unfailing kindness off it — not for the private details of how she suffered when she died," she finishes.
Naomi Judd died on April 30, 2022, with her daughters attributing her death to her longtime battle with mental illness. Ashley Judd later confirmed that her mother had died from a self-inflicted firearm wound.
Judd died just one day before the Judds were slated for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 1, and the family opted to go forward with the ceremony honoring Judd's musical accomplishments.
The Judds had announced what was billed as their Final Tour prior to Naomi Judd's death. On May 19, Wynonna Judd announced that she would honor those dates with a slate of special guests. Brandi Carlile, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Ashley McBryde and Trisha Yearwood are set to join Judd for the tour, with more guests to be announced.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach a trained counselor at the Crisis Text Line. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.