Country star Naomi Judd was still alive when her daughter Ashley found her with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
In a harrowing essay in The New York Times, Ashley described how discovering her mother after her suicide in April was ‘the most shattering day of my life.’
‘The trauma of discovering and then holding her laboring body haunts my nights,’ she wrote.
But instead of being able to comfort Naomi in her dying moments, Ashley said police officers harshly interrogated her and kept her from her mother.
‘I felt cornered and powerless as law enforcement officers began questioning me while the last of my mother’s life was fading,’ she wrote, ‘I wanted to be comforting her, telling her how she was about to see her daddy and younger brother as she “went away home,” as we say in Appalachia.’
Ashley revealed the heartbreaking details while announcing she was undertaking a ‘legal cause’ to prevent the public from having access to police records in sensitive and intimate personal situations.
‘I intend to make the subsequent invasion of privacy – the deceased person’s privacy and the family’s privacy – a personal as well as a legal cause,’ she wrote.
Naomi died of a self-inflicted bullet wound in April 2022 at the age of 76, the medical examiner’s office in Nashville confirmed last week.
According to the report Judd battled with ‘significant’ anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.
Ashley Judd (left) with her mother Naomi Judd (right). Ashley and her family filed a petition to seal police records of interviews taken in the moments after Naomi’s suicide last April
The country superstar died of a self-inflicted bullet wound in April 2022 at the age of 76
Ashley said she was in such a state of shock after she found her dying mother that she answered questions from police ‘I would never have answered on any other day’ and never thought to consider whether the public would later have access to it.
‘In the immediate aftermath of a life-altering tragedy, when we are in a state of acute shock, trauma, panic and distress, the authorities show up to talk to us,’ she wrote, ‘Because many of us are socially conditioned to cooperate with law enforcement, we are utterly unguarded in what we say.’
‘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?”’
Ashley said she did not fault the officers on the scene for their approach, but instead blamed the ‘terrible, outdated interview procedures and methods of interacting with family members who are in shock or trauma,’ that she assumed they were taught.
‘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.’
She argued records of statements made in moments of distress when people don’t have the capacity to consider whether they might be made public should be kept private, saying the current laws ‘revictimize’ family members.
‘Family members who have lost a loved one are often revictimized by laws that can expose their most private moments to the public.’
Ashley Judd (left) with her mother Naomi Judd (center) and her sister Wynonna Judd (right)
Naomi Judd’s home in Tennessee where she was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head
Ashley said she and her family filed a petition in early August asking the courts not to release documents in the investigative file from her mother’s suicide.
She asked the courts to seal the ‘interviews the police conducted with us at a time when we were at our most vulnerable and least able to grasp that what we shared so freely that day could enter the public domain.’
‘This profoundly intimate personal and medical information does not belong in the press, on the internet or anywhere except in our memories.’
She noted the request was made not to hide family secrets, but to protect the dignity of her mother and to save her family from further harm.
‘We ask because privacy in death is a death with more dignity,’ she wrote, ‘And for those left behind, privacy avoids heaping further harm upon a family that is already permanently and painfully altered.’