BLYTHEWOOD, SC A trio of men on bicycles, still sought by authorities in New Orleans, is suspected of cutting short the life of a Blythewood native who rose beyond expectations.
Ashley Nicole Qualls, 25, a Lander University alumna and a Class of 2011 graduate of Tulane University’s social work program, was walking home from work at a local substance abuse treatment center around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday when she encountered the men, New Orleans media report.
A witness described an argument and gunfire to police. Qualls was killed about seven blocks from her home.
She leaves behind a community of classmates and friends in shock and quick to remember Qualls’ many endearing qualities, from humility and compassion to fashion and “heartfelt, rib-cracking hugs.”
Many gathered for a Wednesday night vigil in her honor at the place she was killed. They also honored Qualls’ well-known predilection for fashion and high heels, asking participants to wear their classiest footwear. The murder and a lamentation about violence in New Orleans was the subject of a New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial published Friday.
The School of Social Work’s 2011 class started a fundraising effort to give Qualls’ family money to help with burial expenses. They hoped to raise $10,000. As of Friday morning, they had easily surpassed that, with $11,868.
Qualls was raised by her grandmother, Elizabeth Addison, and also is survived by a 23-year-old brother, Rashawn Addison, and a 27-year-old sister, Kuan Qualls. Ashley Qualls brought them to New Orleans to live near her with the hope they would find more opportunities.
One friend, Nadine Wu, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Qualls once said a high school counselor told her she was not college material.
But a desire to succeed and help others pushed Qualls on to greater things.
After graduating with her masters degree from Tulane, Qualls joined the Navy but left after finding it was not a good fit, friends said. She returned to New Orleans in March and found work at a restaurant, and, just three weeks ago, a drug treatment center called Odyssey House.