Homecoming profile: Meet Ashley Wellman

Ashley Wellman

Ashley Wellman

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By BETHANY SHERROW
Assistant News Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Separate interactions with the hysterical mother of a murdered young woman and the compassionate father of a murdered young man changed UCM criminal justice professor Ashley Wellman’s life forever.
Ashley WellmanWellman interned with the Alachua County Sherriff’s Department in Gainesville, Florida while she was earning a doctorate in criminology, law and society at the University of Florida in Jacksonville.
One day, Wellman said a woman came in crying and demanding to know what had happened to her daughter.
Wellman talked to the woman for more than four hours and learned that the woman just wanted someone to listen to her story and treat her like a mother of a murdered daughter.
“At that moment I realized I’d never read anything about survivors of cold case homicides,” Wellman said.
That was when Wellman began to find her niche, qualitative research on cold case homicide survivors.
Homicide survivors is an academic term used to describe the family members who are left to live without closure after the murder of a family member, according to Wellman.
The interaction with that mother led Wellman to begin researching and interviewing those families.
“I went, ‘I could do this. I could publish literature that could make a difference for these people. And I could work with other detectives and agencies about the importance of communicating with families the best they can,’” Wellman said.
Wellman said beginning her research was challenging.
“I went in thinking I had to be a researcher and not show emotion or become part of the story, that’s foolish,” Wellman said. “They need someone who is safe and who is human.”
It was difficult for Wellman to do that because she said she is very sensitive, but she coped by looking for good in the awful situations.
“I look for beauty and joy and happiness – even in really dark situations.”
Wellman was encouraged to continue her research by the father of a murdered young man when he prayed for her before their interview.
“He said, ‘You have the ability to change people’s lives, so I pray that you always focus on that and you always remember how talented and blessed you are,’” Wellman said. “From then on I had his prayer written in the front of my journal. He had so much faith in me.”
Since then, Wellman has been working to publish literature on homicide survivors and has been teaching criminal justice students at UCM for two years.
While she was finishing her Ph.D. Wellman had the opportunity to become a federal agent working in the cold case unit.
Buddy Wellman, her then fiancé and now husband, told her to make the decision that was best for her.
“I feel like I’m called to teach and I feel like I’m called to change peoples lives on a college campus,” Wellman said. “I made the right choice, it wasn’t an easy choice because I’m very career driven. But, I’m a mom and wife. Those experiences I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.”