'Mom used a gun': Ashley Judd chokes up as she recounts finding her mother Naomi, 76, 'upstairs' after she'd shot herself dead last month following 'catastrophic' mental health battle

  • Ashley Judd was on TV for the first time since Naomi killed herself on April 30
  • She told how the singer shot herself with firearm at her Tennessee farm aged 76
  • The actress revealed she was with her mother and stepped out to greet a guest
  • But she said that when she returned she discovered her mother dead upstairs
  • Naomi killed herself day before being inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame

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Naomi Judd's heartbroken daughter Ashley revealed she'd spent the day with her mother, and had stepped outside to greet a guest before finding her dead with a gunshot wound in an upstairs room. 

The singer, 76, shot herself at her Tennessee farm on April 30 - a day before being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame - after battling her mental health, Ashley told Good Morning America on Thursday.

Ashley, 54, choked back tears as she drip-fed more details about the iconic singer's suicide last month in her first television interview on the tragedy.

Ashley and her sister Wynonna, 57 - who performed with Naomi for years in The Judds - first open up about her death at the Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony on May 1.

Meanwhile Naomi's husband Larry Strickland, 76, has remained tight-lipped, releasing a short statement saying he was going through a 'heartbreaking time'.

Country Music Hall of Famer Naomi Judd (right) killed herself with a gun, her daughter has revealed. Naomi is pictured with her daughters Wynonna (left) and Ashley (center) in 1997

'She used a weapon…a firearm,' heartbroken Ashley Judd shared in an interview with Good Morning America. 'So that's the piece of information we're very uncomfortable sharing'

Ashley told GMA: 'I appreciate so deeply and really want to start by thanking everyone for their outpouring of love and condolences and that my sister and I, we have a depth of gratitude.

'I'm here as an individual sitting with you by myself, but both my sister and Pop have sort of deputized me in certain ways to speak on behalf of the family at this early time - before things about the 30th of April become public without our control.

'You know, whether it's the autopsy or the exact manner of her death, and so that's really the impetus for this timing, otherwise it's obviously way too soon and so that's important for us to say up front.

'I think that I would start with my mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish and that she was walked home.

'When we're talking about mental illness, it's very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It's very real, and it is enough to - it lies. It's savage and, you know, my mother - our mother - couldn't hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers.

'That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn't penetrate into her heart and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.

'[The lie] that you're not enough, that you're not loved. That you're not worthy and I mean her brain hurt. It physically hurt.

'And I'm tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live. And I've thought about this so much because once I say it, it cannot be unsaid and so - because we don't want it to be a part of the gossip economy - I will share with you that she used a weapon.

'Mother used a firearm so that's the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand we're in a position that, you know, if we don't say it, someone else is going to.'

Ashley discovered Naomi shortly after she killed herself. The singer died at her home in Franklin, Tennessee (pictured) on April 30

Wynonna Judd and Naomi Judd are pictured at the 2022 CMT Awards on April 11

Naomi (left) and Wynonna Judd (right), performing as the mother-daughter duo The Judds, scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. They are pictured at the CMA Music Festival in 2009

Ashley, who was visiting Naomi's Tennessee home on the day she died, also detailed her last moments with her mother.  

'It was a mixed day,' Ashley told GMA. 'I visit with my mom and Pop every day when I'm home in Tennessee. So, I was at the house visiting as I am every day, and mom said to me: 'Will you stay with me?'

'I said, 'of course, I will.'

The actress had stepped outside to greet a family friend and when she went to notify her mother that their guest had arrived, she found her dead. 

'I went upstairs to let her know that the friend was there and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.

'My mother is entitled to her dignity and her privacy and so there are some things that we would just like to retain as a family. 

'I want to be very careful when we talk about this today that for anyone having those ideas or those impulses, you know, to talk to someone, to share, to be open to be vulnerable. There is a national suicide hotline.

'I went upstairs to let her know that the friend was there and I discovered her,' Ashley shared. 'I have both grief and trauma from discovering her'

Naomi Judd is pictured with her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley in an undated photograph

Wynonna (left) and Naomi Judd (right) are pictured with Dolly Parton in 1987

Ricky Skaggs presents Ashley Judd the medallion that would have been given to her mother Naomi Judd during The Judds' Country Music Hall of Fame induction on May 1

Naomi Judd shows off her Nashville-area farmhouse on Oprah Winfrey Network in Jan. 2016

Ashley also shared what it's like to love someone struggling with mental illness.

'I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile, so when I walked around the back of their house and came in the kitchen door and she said 'there's my darling, there's my baby and she lit up,' I savored those moments,' she said.

'And every time we hugged and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later, whether it was by the disease or another cause.

'Mom was a brilliant conversationalist. She was a star. She was an underrated songwriter, and she was someone who suffered from mental illness, you know, and had a lot of trouble getting off the sofa except to go into town every day to The Cheesecake Factory where all the staff knew and loved her.

'And I know everything about them because she told me everything about them. Duane at Walgreens who needs to get a dog - that's the way she was.

'She always had $100 bills stuffed in her bra, passing them out to the janitorial staff. An unfailingly kind, sensitive woman.

'She was very isolated in many ways because of the disease and yet there were a lot of people who showed up for her over the years, not just me.'

Ashley also shred a letter from her sister, Wynonna, addressing her mother's passing.

'This is from sister and we talked a lot about doing this together and what she shared is just so her,' Ashley said before reading aloud: 'Thinking a lot about you today. I love you four exclamation points. I've been looking at photos of us when we were little, laugh out loud, good lord in capitals, you were such a cutie pie.

'I laugh and I cry and I thank god we have each other. I need to take some time to process and I need this time to myself. I'm not ready yet to speak publicly about what happened, so I know you understand why I'm not there today.

'We will do this piece differently. We have each other and I'm grateful we're connected as we walk together through this storm. I just can't - I just can't believe she's gone.

'I'm here. This will take time. I love you, dear sister, I'm proud of you and I'm here whenever you need me,' Wynonna's letter concluded. 

Naomi Judd shows off her round kitchen table

Naomi Judd is pictured with her children in an undated photo

Wynonna (left) and Ashley Judd (right) are pictured at the County Music Hall of Fame

Wynonna, Ashley and Naomi Judd (left to right) are pictured at the Academy Awards in 1998

Naomi had written extensively about her struggles with depression, and even referenced suicide in an open letter published in People magazine in 2018.

'For everyone mourning the death of someone who committed suicide, an inevitable question arises: Why did this happen? Unfortunately, we don't have very good answers,' she wrote.

'We do know that suicidal behavior accompanies many behavioral brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Suicide is actually one of the leading causes of preventable death among these mental illnesses.' 

In her 2018 essay, Naomi Judd advocated for more research into the nature of suicide.  

'To understand this issue better, we have to bring the study of suicide into mainstream neuroscience and treat the condition like every other brain disorder,' she wrote. 

'People who commit suicide are experiencing problems with mood, impulse control and aggression, all of which involve discrete circuits in the brain that regulate these aspects of human experience, but we still don't understand how these circuits go haywire in the brains of suicide victims.'

She described what depression feels like to her in an interview with People magazine while promoting her 2016 book.

'Nobody can understand it unless you've been there,' she said.

'Think of your very worst day of your whole life ‚Äď someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out¬†you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease ‚Äď you can take all of those at once and put them together and that's what depression feels like.'

Naomi Judd (second from right) appeared on The View alongside Meredith Vieira (left), Rosie O'Donnell (second from left) and Star Jones (right) in 2001

Actress Ashley Judd (left) and her mother, singer Naomi Judd (right), arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of Olympus Has Fallen in Los Angeles on March 18, 2013

Wynonna (left) and Ashley Judd (right) break down during The Judds induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on May 1, 2022

Naomi took her own life the day before she and Wynonna were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Judds scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades.

In addition to The Judds, Eddie Bayers, who played on many of the duo's records, Ray Charles and Pete Drake were also inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 1. 

Ashley and Wynonna broke down in tears during the induction ceremony.

'My mama loved you so much,' Ashley said to the crowd gathered. 'And I'm sorry that she couldn't hang on until today,' she said through tears.

'I didn't prepare anything tonight because I knew Mom would probably talk the most,' Wynonna told the audience in Nashville.

'I'm gonna make this fast, because my heart's broken, and I feel so blessed. It's a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed…. Though my heart's broken, I will continue to sing, because that's what we do.'

Ashley Judd posts about Naomi Judd's death on April 30

Larry Strickland, Ashley Judd's father and Naomi's husband of 32 years, said: 'Naomi Judd's family request privacy during this heartbreaking time'

The pair cited a bible verse and lamented that Naomi hadn't lived to receive the honor herself.

'Your esteem for her and your regard for her really penetrated her heart and it was your affection for her that did keep her going in the last years and please come see Pop,' Ashley said, referencing her father and Naomi's husband, Larry Strickland.

Ashley also paid tribute to sister Wynonna, who was also inducted alongside her mother as part of the country music duo The Judds.

'While this is so much about The Judds as a duo, I want to take a moment to recognize my sister, a GOAT,' she said, meaning 'Greatest of All Time.' 

Wynonna Judd talked about the family gathering as they said goodbye to her and she and Ashley Judd recited Psalm 23.

'Though my heart is broken I will continue to sing,' she said.

The daughters kept their sense of humor amid the sadness, as Wynonna said: 'I didn't prepare much to say, because I assumed mama would be doing all the talking.' 

'Newspapers don't get a lot right these days but when they said you were Elvis-like, they got it.' 

The next day Ashley posted a heartbreaking Instagram message declaring herself 'Speechless' and telling Naomi: 'Be free, my beautiful mother. Be free.' 

The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday. The duo is pictured performing in 1988

Naomi Judd (left) and Wynonna Judd (right), of The Judds, perform at the Girls' Night Out: Superstar Women of Country in Las Vegas in April 2011

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. After rising to the top of country music, the duo called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis.

The Judds' hits included Love Can Build a Bridge in 1990, Mama He's Crazy in 1984, Why Not Me in 1984, Turn It Loose in 1988, Girls Night Out in 1985, Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain in 1986 and Grandpa in 1986.

The pair last performed together at the CMT Music Awards of April 11, singing Love Can Build a Bridge. They were accompanied by a gospel choir. 

The Judds had also recently announced a farewell tour, the first by Naomi and Wynonna in more than a decade. 

The short, 10-date tour, which was being produced by Sandbox Live and Live Nation, was to start on September 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and wrap up October 28 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. 

They first got attention singing on Ralph Emery's morning show in early 1980, where the host named them the 'Soap Sisters' because Naomi said she used to make her own soap.

After the success of 'Mama He's Crazy,' they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Naomi started her speech by saying, 'Slap the dog and spit in the fire!'

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actress known for her roles in such movies as 'Kiss the Girls,' 'Double Jeopardy' and 'Heat.'

Larry Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. For confidential help, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here.  

'Mother used a firearm... if we don't say it, someone else will': Ashley Judd reveals details of Naomi's death in first TV interview since 

'I appreciate so deeply and really want to start by thanking everyone for their outpouring of love and condolences and that my sister and I, we have a depth of gratitude,' Ashley Judd told GMA.

'I'm here as an individual sitting with you by myself, but both my sister and Pop have sort of deputized me in certain ways to speak on behalf of the family at this early time - before things about the 30th of April become public without our control.

'You know, whether it's the autopsy or the exact manner of her death, and so that's really the impetus for this timing, otherwise it's obviously way too soon and so that's important for us to say up front.

'I think that I would start with my mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish and that she was walked home.

'When we're talking about mental illness, it's very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It's very real, and it is enough to - it lies. It's savage and, you know, my mother - our mother - couldn't hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers.

'That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn't penetrate into her heart and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.

'[The lie] that you're not enough, that you're not loved. That you're not worthy and I mean her brain hurt. It physically hurt.

'And I'm tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live. And I've thought about this so much because once I say it, it cannot be unsaid and so - because we don't want it to be a part of the gossip economy - I will share with you that she used a weapon.

'Mother used a firearm so that's the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand we're in a position that, you know, if we don't say it, someone else is going to.

'It was a mixed day. I visit with my mom and Pop every day when I'm home in Tennessee. So, I was at the house visiting as I am every day, and mom said to me: 'Will you stay with me?'

'I said, 'of course, I will.'

The actress had stepped outside to greet a family friend and when she went to notify her mother that their guest had arrived, she found her dead. 

'I went upstairs to let her know that the friend was there and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.

'My mother is entitled to her dignity and her privacy and so there are some things that we would just like to retain as a family. 

'I want to be very careful when we talk about this today that for anyone having those ideas or those impulses, you know, to talk to someone, to share, to be open to be vulnerable. There is a national suicide hotline.

'I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile, so when I walked around the back of their house and came in the kitchen door and she said 'there's my darling, there's my baby and she lit up,' I savored those moments.

'And every time we hugged and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later, whether it was by the disease or another cause.

'Mom was a brilliant conversationalist. She was a star. She was an underrated songwriter, and she was someone who suffered from mental illness, you know, and had a lot of trouble getting off the sofa except to go into town every day to The Cheesecake Factory where all the staff knew and loved her.

'And I know everything about them because she told me everything about them. Duane at Walgreens who needs to get a dog - that's the way she was.

'She always had $100 bills stuffed in her bra, passing them out to the janitorial staff. An unfailingly kind, sensitive woman.

'She was very isolated in many ways because of the disease and yet there were a lot of people who showed up for her over the years, not just me.'

Ashley also shred a letter from her sister, Wynonna, addressing her mother's passing.

'This is from sister and we talked a lot about doing this together and what she shared is just so her,' Ashley said before reading aloud: 'Thinking a lot about you today. I love you four exclamation points. I've been looking at photos of us when we were little, laugh out loud, good lord in capitals, you were such a cutie pie.

'I laugh and I cry and I thank god we have each other. I need to take some time to process and I need this time to myself. I'm not ready yet to speak publicly about what happened, so I know you understand why I'm not there today.

'We will do this piece differently. We have each other and I'm grateful we're connected as we walk together through this storm. I just can't - I just can't believe she's gone.

'I'm here. This will take time. I love you, dear sister, I'm proud of you and I'm here whenever you need me,' Wynonna's letter concluded. 

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Naomi Judd spoke about falling into an 'dark, absolutely terrifying hole', said she considered suicide and underwent electroshock therapy to treat depression before her death at age 76: Daughters say they lost their 'beautiful mother to mental illness' 

Naomi Judd, who died at the age of 76 on April 30, had battled with her mental illness for many years and previously admitted to undergoing electro-shock therapy and having considered suicide in recent years.

She told the Today Show in 2017 that after The Judds stopped touring, she didn't get off the couch for two years, falling into  'extreme' and 'severe' depression.

'[Fans] see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am,' she said. 'But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pyjamas, and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad.

'When I came off the tour I went into this deep, dark absolutely terrifying hole and I couldn't get out,' she added. 'I spent two years on my couch.'

She said she even scouted out a bridge near her family's farm to jump from. 

'That's how bad it can get,' she said. 'It's hard to describe. You go down in this deep, dark hole of depression and you don't think that there's another minute.'

She said that one night, her husband and daughter Ashley called 911 and she entered therapy, eventually undergoing ECT (electroshock therapy) to 'jump start' the chemicals in her brain. 

Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died at age 76 

Wynonna Judd, Ashley Judd and Naomi Judd during 'Kiss The Girls' Premiere at Paramount Theatre in Hollywood, California

Wynonna Judd, left, and Naomi Judd arrive at the CMT Music Awards on Monday, April 11

Wynonna Judd's final Instagram post before Naomi's death showed off her excitement to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

Naomi Judd posts a picture of her book 'River of Time' on Instagram with caption: Only by telling our stories will more people understand. Only by telling the truth will we stop the stigma. I've told my story. And now you can tell yours. You are not alone. I'm still here

Naomi had spoken publicly and written books over the years about her struggles with mental health issues.

Her daughters announced her death the day before The Judds were set to be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at a medallion ceremony in Nashville. 

'We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory,' Ashley and Wynonna's statement read.

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. 

After rising to the top of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis.

The Judds' hits included Love Can Build a Bridge in 1990, Mama He's Crazy in 1984, Why Not Me in 1984, Turn It Loose in 1988, Girls Night Out in 1985, Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain in 1986 and Grandpa in 1986.

Wynonna Judd, left, and Naomi Judd arrive at the CMT Music Awards on Monday, April 11, 2022, at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Naomi pictured in Universal City in March 2018

Wynonna Judd, left, and her mother, Naomi Judd, of The Judds, perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta on Jan. 30, 1994

The Judds had also recently announced a farewell tour, the first by Naomi and Wynonna in more than a decade. 

The short, 10-date tour, which was being produced by Sandbox Live and Live Nation, was to start on September 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and wrap up October 28 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. 

'What I'm looking forward to most is celebrating Judd music with the fans,' said Wynonna in a statement when the tour was announced. 'Mom and I have had quite the journey over the last 38 years, and the fans have been with us through it all. This tour is a celebration for them.'

The Judds sang on the CMT Music Awards telecast and walked the red carpet just this month. The show aired live on CBS April 11.

'Honored to have witnessed 'Love Can Build a Bridge' just a few short weeks ago,' singer Maren Morris posted on Twitter on Saturday. 

Dolly Parton and Wynona and Naomi Judd perform 'Stand By Your Man,' as part of a five woman group vocal, at the 35th annual Academy of Country Music Awards

Judd stands behind President George H.W. Bush at a rally just prior to the 1992 Presidential Election

The Judds flanking legendary comedian Bob Hope and his wife Doloris

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse in Nashville, when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. 

Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

'We had a such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do,' Naomi Judd told The AP after it was announced that they would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Judds released six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They earned a total of five Grammy Awards together on hits like 'Why Not Me' and 'Give A Little Love.'

The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Naomi was so young looking, the two were mistaken for sisters early in their career.

Judd and her husband Larry Strickland at a 2004 event for Musicares

The Judd sisters with Natalie Cole and Lyle Lovett

Naomi with daughter Ashley Judd and husband Larry Strickland

The Judds first got attention singing on Ralph Emery's morning show in early 1980, where the host named them the 'Soap Sisters' because Naomi said she used to make her own soap.

After the success of 'Mama He's Crazy,' they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Naomi started her speech by saying 'Slap the dog and spit in the fire!'

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actor known for her roles in such movies as 'Kiss the Girls,' 'Double Jeopardy' and 'Heat.'

Larry Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.

Larry Strickland, Naomi Judd, JT Hodges and Kasey Hodges attend the private screening of the movie 'Christmas Stars' at the Franklin Theater on November 25, 2019

Naomi with daughter Ashley at the premiere of Resurrection in Los Angeles in 1997

In her book ' River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope ' she writes about struggles a single mother and a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault

Judd posted an Instagram photo from a mental health conference in 2017, seen here with Carlos Zarate Jr, the chief of the National Institutes of Mental Health

Naomi faced hard times and battled depression, as she admitted in one of her several books. 

She claimed to have put herself through nursing school to support her daughters before pursuing her Nashville dreams with Wynonna, becoming the Judds.

In her book 'River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope' she writes about struggles a single mother and a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.  

At the height of their popularity, Naomi lived through the previously incurable Hepatitis C virus, having been pronounced cured five years after the diagnosis.  

After finishing the last Judds tour in 2011, she battled depression and anxiety through treatment.

She called River of Time 'her poignant message of hope to anyone whose life has been scarred by trauma.'

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Naomi Judd killed herself using a gun as she lost her battle with mental health, daughter reveals

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