ASHLEY WELLMAN Photo by Amber Shumake




Ashley Wellman is a leading scholar in the field of victimology and her work on the survivors of unsolved homicide was the first comprehensive study of families impacted by cold case murders.

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She is now cited by scholars and contacted by survivor organizations for her expertise in the area of violent crime grief and healing.

After the sudden death of her husband in 2018, just months after moving to Fort Worth, Wellman, inspired by her daughter’s love for her “best friend,” an inanimate poseable skeleton, wrote a children’s book, The Girl Who Dances with Skeletons: My Friend Fresno.

In 2019, she established her own business, Rea of Sunshine – named for her daughter, Reagan – for the “MyFriendFresno” franchise. The first book and the ancillary items are in production and are expected to launch in the summer of 2020.

“Ashley has made a significant impact on many various groups through her scholarship, advocacy, role as an instructor, and public speaker,” said nominator Tracy Matheson, founder of Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission. Matheson’s daughter, Molly Matheson, was raped and murdered in her Texas Christian University-area garage apartment in April 2017.

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“Trust me when I say it is not easy for someone to commit their life to advocacy and trauma focused work. It takes a special person to be committed to working with and advocating vulnerable populations, grieving families, and survivors of abuse,” Matheson said.

Wellman holds a bachelor’s in public relations the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, and a master’s and a doctorate in criminology from the University of Florida, Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law in Gainesville, Florida.

– Paul K. Harral

Where did your first paycheck come from?

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A summer camp counselor.

What movie, TV series, play or video game influenced you growing up?

The Wizard of Oz. The film is a reminder that everything you’ve ever wanted to be is already inside of you if you are willing to believe, brave enough to seek adventure, embrace challenges despite the risks, have a little help from your friends, and always know how to find your way home.

What other profession would you like to try?

Host a true crime television show or be cast in a Broadway musical.

Tell us about an influential person in your life, how they influenced you and why he or

she was important.

The most influential person in my life is my daughter, Reagan. She has been my greatest blessing and a daily source of joy and happiness. Since the unexpected loss of my husband (her father), Reagan has also been my inspiration to recreate our life, turning tragedy into something beautiful.

Her innocence and unapologetic bravery gave birth to my new business, Rea of Sunshine. With her as my muse, I am embracing my creativity and writing children’s stories that are full of magic, provide new reasons to smile, and teach valuable life lessons.

My daughter is one of the quirkiest, funniest, kindest and most precocious people you will ever meet. She truly is a 25-year-old in a 5-year-old’s body.

When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

I have always had a love of learning, serving others, adventure and true crime. How these passions play out in my career has morphed over the years, from academic and advocate to television personality and author.

What is your favorite song?

The Greatest Show, The Greatest Showman

Tell us about your photo shoot prop.

“Fresno,” a skeleton who started as a prop in my criminology office. At age 2, my daughter named and adopted him as her best friend. Fresno is now a staple in our family, serving as a symbol of kindness, love and adventure. Fresno is the main character in my debut children’s book, The Girl Who Dances with Skeletons (coming Summer 2020). The shoes that I am wearing feature his illustrated smile.