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HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. - Charges against a Sumner County man are upgraded to murder. Ashlee Witham died Tuesday morning, 6 days after police say she was shot by her husband. Witham's family is sharing her story, hoping it will prompt other victims of domestic violence to get help before it's too late. Family members tell us Ashlee was a devoted mother of 2 who desperately wanted to keep her family together. They believe that devotion may have prompted her to stay in a marriage and a situation that put her life at risk. Ashlee Witham was always surrounded by cousins who were more like sisters.
"She never judged anyone," says Witham's cousin Sommer Lopez. "She had a great heart. Her kids were her world. She loved watching Joey play football and Miley was her princess."
On February 13, Ashlee's husband Joseph Cundiff was charged with shooting her at their Hendersonville home. Ashlee died at Vanderbilt Tuesday and the charges were upgraded to First Degree Murder.
"That night the call came in as an accidental shooting," says Hendersonville Police Sgt. Jim Vaughn. "Once we got there, we noticed there was some inconsistencies in what we were being told as opposed to what the scene represented."
Relatives believe there was physical abuse in the marriage that Ashlee was reluctant to talk about.
"She loved her husband and she wanted it to work so it was hard for us," says Lopez.
"One in 3 women is now, has been, or will be in a violent relationship," says Home Safe Director Sherry Tolli.
Home Safe is a domestic violence program for victims in Sumner and surrounding counties. She's seen Ashlee's story and others, including Carla Pearman, a Murfreesboro woman who was allegedly killed by her husband on Valentine's Day.
"Don't know what was going on with these women but I do know that if someone tries to leave a violent relationship their lethality level just went through the roof," says Tolli. "That's when people start dying. Maybe that's what's happening. I don't know."
Ashlee's family is hoping her story will prompt domestic violence victims to reach out before it's too late.
"The first time it happens to leave or call the police," says Lopez.
"Get help," says Tolli. "Call and talk to somebody. There is information and help, you've just got to pick the phone up and call."
Ashlee leaves behind a 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter. The family is setting up a foundation to help them. You can donate to the Ashlee Witham Foundation at any US Bank. You'll find links to the foundation page and a Prayers for Ashlee page on Facebook. Just log onto Fox17.com and click the FOX LINKS section.
Wednesday, February 20 2013, 11:51 AM CST
Body found in Percy Priest Lake
May 25, 2013 20:14 GMT
SMYRNA, Tenn. (AP) -- Authorities say a body has been found in Percy Priest Lake in Middle Tennessee.
WSMV-TV (http://bit.ly/16gYKys) reports officials with Metro Police, the Office of Emergency Management and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were at the scene Saturday at Hole In The Wall Island. The body was reported to authorities about 11 a.m.
TWRA officials say they believe the deceased man is a boater who disappeared in the lake two weeks ago.
Police said the agencies coordinated with each other to get a boat in the water and recover the body.
Information from: WSMV-TV, http://www.wsmv.com/
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