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Murder of promising Social Worker featured on The First 48

Ashley Qualls. Photo courtesy of The Advocate.

Ashley Qualls. Photo courtesy of The Advocate.

Social worker Ashley Qualls each night would walk four miles home from her job at a New Orleans drug treatment facility because city buses did not run so late and she did not have a car.

While walking home on July 9, 2013 Qualls was allegedly gunned down by three juveniles on bicycles who may have been trying to rob her.

Qualls’ case was recently featured on A&E’s reality series “The First 48,”which looks at the crucial first 48 hours of murder investigations.

The episode featuring Ashley Qualls originally aired on Dec. 13, 2013 but will be made available online. The episode is entitled “Game Over/Long Walk Home.

Qualls, 25, came from humble beginnings in Blythewood, S.C. She wanted to make a difference in the world through social work and earned her master’s degree in social work from Tulane University.

Her case is unsolved. New Orleans Police Department Detective Nicholas Williams said in a Times-Picayune article that Qualls’ case continues to haunt him.

“Here goes a lady trying to make a difference in New Orleans, who’s not even from here,” he said. “She’s from South Carolina. Not only does she put herself through Tulane to get her master’s in social work, but she goes on to work at the Odyssey House, to do something positive with her career. The tragic part is, this lady doesn’t have a vehicle.”

NOPD detectives Nicholas Williams, left, and Greg Johnson investigate the murder of social worker Ashley Qualls. Photo courtesy of the Times-Picayune.

NOPD detectives Nicholas Williams, left, and Greg Johnson investigate the murder of social worker Ashley Qualls. Photo courtesy of the Times-Picayune.

Hospice social worker Sarah Goodman, LMSW, attended classes at Tulane and said Qualls was a friend and inspiration. She and other social workers in the area hope the airing of The First 48 episode will lead to the capture of Qualls’ killers and raise awareness about the dangers of social work.

“They are still looking for killers and her classmates and family are still hoping for justice,” Goodman said in an email sent to the National Association of Social Workers.

Safety is major concern for social workers, who often help clients in dangerous surroundings. The National Association of Social Worker’s Center for Workforce Studies and the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany did a survey that found that four out of 10 social workers face personal safety issues at their work site. You can also read about what NASW is doing to improve social worker safety.



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  1. “Her decision to walk led to her death.”

    REALLY? It wasn’t the adolescents’ decision to SHOOT HER?

  2. Thank you so much for keeping her story alive. It is much appreciated by the entire Tulane School of Social Work class of 2011. #JusticeForAshley

  3. Social worker safety could be improved by paying them the salary they deserve so they can afford a car or a taxi.

  4. Thank you Kate for noting that this lady is not responsible for her murder by walking… was the choice of those who killed her. Anyone should be able to walk anywhere without fear of an individual or group harming or even killing. I join Sarah and the Tulane SSW in mourning the loss of a fine person who sought to make a positive difference in the world. However,
    unless more is known about the offenders it is premature from the information provided in this article to conclude that the murderers killed her because of her devotion to social work. It seems more likely to me she was just a woman alone that predatory young men chose to kill.

    We need to hold those who commit crimes accountable and not imply any responsibility of the victims for conduct against them. I don’t dispute that social work, law enforcement, and many other professions have risks directly associated with them, require bravery and yet given the ready access to guns by those who would commit such acts the risks are much higher than they should be for many, including teachers and even children just going to school.

    I hope these offenders are identified and prosecuted. And I hope that NASW, the University at Albany and others continue to look at how to increase the safety of social workers and to end violence. Sincerely, Deborah D. Tucker, Executive Director, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

  5. I didn’t know Ashley, but for a tragedy to a fellow social worker hurts my heart. I pray the savages that did this to her are brought to justice. We take a chance working in the field as well. I encourage all of my colleagues put safety first.

  6. I pray they bring her assailants to justice!!!! I just want to say after reading the article and point out that social work can be a dangerous field to work in, but so does being a police officer or school teacher! Social work didn’t cause Ms. Qualls death. I don’t know her financial situation, neither does it matter why she didn’t have a car. I lived in New Orleans for five years and its a beautiful city, but it can be a dangerous city as well. Bad intentions, and choices of a few took her life!!! Her professional and choice to become a Social Worker and helping people is to be commended, and should not be used in a way to say it played any part in her death. God Bless her and all the Social Workers out there paying it forward # Justiceforashley #futuresocialworker

  7. JUSTICE FOR MY NIECE ASHLEY QUALLS We dealing with her death that didnt mean for Some no life little boys hiding man enough to shoot her be man enough to own up to it we not gonna stop until they are caught ‘ n jail where they belong she didn’t do nothing to nobody now her life ending too soon because of them we need justice now!!!!!

  8. Very sad story. Ashley and myself attended the same school for undergraduate studies.

  9. My heart goes out to her family. I am a retired Social Worker of 32 years, graduated from Northwestern State University, worked in Louisiana and retired from the state of North Carolina. We as Social Workers have been put in some dangerous situations. Usually its the surroundings that you are in that are so dangerous. Over the period of years, we had to fight with the agency to provide us some protection just in the building. It’s a shame that the facility that she worked for was not concerned about her walking home from work each night and the salary she had was not enough for her to get a car. Then running into Thugs on the streets of New Orleans. I hope they find them so justice can be served.

  10. It is so important that this case remain open and present in our minds. Please keep updating the social work and general communities about this story in order for justice to be had for the family. Social work is a hazardous career and exposes kind-hearted individuals to the dangers of the world.

  11. Ms Qualls had a master’s degree and could not afford a vehicle! what does that say about our profession and how severely underpaid we are? Hopefully this brings awareness to this issue and advocacy to increase the pay of those who work so hard to make a difference in people’s lives and better our communities

  12. What a waste of life, talent and spirit. Makes me wonder if she had been trained and had a concealed weapons license, if she would still be alive today to be able to continue to serve the community. It’s not an easy choice. But there are others to consider such as her family and coworkers. One of the first rules of EMT and social work school I recall learning is to guarantee one’s own safety. We can’t always guarantee our safety. But we can prepare for it. And oftentimes, according to research, if accosted, perpetrators most often flee when confronted by a concealed weapons carrier. Again, it’s not an easy choice. But it is something to ponder. Ashley might still be with us today. I also “ditto” Kate’s thoughts above.

  13. I saw the airing and was so touched by the story. I was also touched by the detectives as well as the co-workers that spoke openly about her and the work they provide.

    On a side note……by all cost avoid shaming & blaming. Le’ts pray for justice and peace. Any one of us could have been a victim that night. If she was walking, running or driving it wouldn’t matter. If she was working and just enjoying the day. Someone decided to take her life unprovoked.

    Remember compassion and respect!

  14. I saw this episode! Working and completing my masters in social work, this story sticks out in my mind.

  15. Bless your beautiful soul Ashley Qualls!

    I hope to this case brought to justice for your friends and family!

    Supporters in Utah

  16. God Bless You Sweetie. May You Rest In Peace.

  17. This is a sad story and it’s also ashamed none of her co-workers offered her a ride home

  18. Just seen the first 48 aired in UK, what a awful loss ! To the lady in the first comment “Katy” all I can say is shame on you ! But for the grace of God ! Hope that at some point there is a closure for the family and friends of Ashley.

  19. R.i.p you will be missed regards go to the family may god help yall out in your needs god bless you

  20. So very sad , may she R.I.P and I hope they find the scum that did this

  21. I watch first 48 when this aired and it touched me a lot justice for Ashley quall I am so sorry for your loss

  22. I just saw the First 48 and my heart goes out to Ashley’s family and friends.

    I’m wondering if the New Orleans police checked out any of the residents at the treatment center at the time of her murder (or maybe prior clients). Maybe look into her past and her clients at the time?


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