WARREN COUNTY, MO (KTVI/CNN) – After spending four years in jail, waiting for a trial in the killing of her abusive husband, a Missouri woman walked free this week.
Ashley Hunter shot her husband to death in 2015 after, she said, he attacked her one night. A jury this week finally acquitted her on the grounds that she did so in self-defense.
She’s now hoping she can regain custody of her daughters, and help other women in abusive situations.
“I look at my mom, and she says, ‘You’re coming home,’” she said of hearing the verdict. “Finally, it hit me, and I just started bawling.”
On Jan. 15, 2015, Ashley said her husband Nick Hunter, who could be prone to jealous outbursts and abused her physically, mentally and sexually, attacked her.
In the days leading up to the shooting, Ashley said Nick had been laid off work and was stressing about money.
The night of the shooting, she said he seemed angry and agitated.
Ashley sent her two daughters, then 5 and 7, to their room.
When his anger intensified, Ashley told Nick she was leaving.
“And he actually at that point, he wrapped his hand around my throat, and raised his fist at me,” she said.
Then he got a gun.
“I don’t know at what point when he had got the gun, but when I went from the basement to the first level, he had it,” she said.
Ashley said she kicked Nick, he fell back, and then he came after her again.
That’s when she fired several times.
“I didn’t even know how many bullets were in there, I didn’t know how many times I shot him,” she said. “I just knew that he had hurt me many times before, I knew what he was capable of and I know what he was going to do that night.”
Ashley and Nick met and dated briefly when she was 18 and he was 21, and nine years later they reconnected.
The following week, they got married.
She said that while he could be incredibly kind and charming, and remains the only man she’s truly loved, her lawyer argued during the trial that he could have violent mood swings, thanks to drinking and steroid use.
The day of the fatal fight, he told her in a text he had “no idea” why he ever married her.
Ashley said she relied on her family and her faith while in jail.
She has not seen her daughters in four years, thanks to what her attorney called a “long process” that included a $1 million bond she could never pay and multiple delays in her trial date.
“I wrote them a letter every single day – I’m talking every single every single day, of all four years,” she said.
The girls live with their father, but Ashley got to speak with them when they visited her family.
“They would always tell me things like, ‘Thank you mommy for protecting us,’” she said.
Now the daughters are 9 and 11, and with help from an attorney she hopes to be able to regain her parental rights.
She also wants to get a law degree so she can work with women who, like her, were abused by their partners.