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Crime News Dateline

Mom of Three Dies from Gunshot Wound After Hosting New Year’s Eve Party, but Was It Suicide or Murder?

Ashley Fallis was all smiles at her New Year's Eve party to ring in 2012, but less than an hour into the New Year, she sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head.

By Jill Sederstrom
"Mommy Got Shot": The Tragic Shooting Death of Ashley Fallis

Ashley Fallis had been in high spirits the night of her New Year’s Eve party, smiling, dancing in the living room with her husband Tom and taking jello shots with a new coworker.

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But just minutes after the last guest departed her Colorado home—and less than an hour into 2012—Ashley’s life was left hanging in the balance after she suffered what would later prove to be a fatal gunshot wound to the head, according to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

Tom, a corrections officer with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, insisted his wife took her own life during a heated argument as they got ready for bed.

“My wife just shot herself in the head. Please, help me. Please help me,” a frantic Tom screamed in the 911 call. 

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But Ashley’s mom Jenna Fox and stepdad Joel Raguindin didn’t believe their son-in-law’s story and insisted the 28-year-old mother of three would have never taken her own life. 

For years after Ashley’s death, the drama between the fractured family continued to play out, until a jury would settle the mystery once and for all.

Who is Ashley Fallis?  

Those who knew Ashley described her as “spunky” and “full of energy.” 

“She was a happy person,” recalled one coworker and friend. “She laughed a lot and joked.” 

Ashley worked as a respiratory therapist at a rehabilitation hospital. When she wasn’t helping her patients, she was a busy mom of three. Her youngest son had been born with a dangerous condition called hydrocephalus, which causes life-threatening fluid build up in the brain.  

Her son’s special needs put extra stress on the family, but Ashley’s mom said she embraced the challenge and even appeared before the U.S. Congress in 2011 to try to secure funding for the condition. 

How Did Ashley Fallis Die?

Everything seemed to be going well for the family, when Ashley and Tom decided to host a New Year’s Eve party on the night of Dec. 31, 2011. Guests would later testify that Ashley had been in great spirits during the alcohol-fueled night, even dancing in the living room with Tom as friends and family looked on. 

While Ashley did confide to her coworker that she suffered a miscarriage earlier that day, the coworker told Dateline that Ashley didn’t seem overly upset. 

“My impression of it was, she already has her beautiful family. It seems like her life was already complete, so I don’t think that she was devastated that she had found out that she had a miscarriage,” the coworker said.

Just after midnight, as the party was wrapping up, Ashley asked her uncle for some marijuana. According to Ashley’s family, the mood suddenly shifted and Tom flew into a rage. He reminded Ashley her employer required regular drug tests.

“He walks by me and says that he hated us all and wished we would bleeping die and he went into the bedroom and slammed the door,” Fox recalled. 

Ashley’s parents decided to leave to give the couple some time alone, but just minutes into their drive, they pulled over to discuss what had happened. 

As they were sitting along the side of the road, they saw emergency vehicles race past and immediately turned back toward the house. 

“Something automatically felt bad and I whipped a u-turn,” Raguindin said.

They arrived at the chaotic scene to learn that Ashley had been shot in the head. Paramedics rushed to save her, but Ashley died at the hospital a short time later. 

Was Ashley Fallis’ Death Suicide or Murder?

Ever since those early moments on the 911 call, Tom has continued to insist that his wife took her own life in the middle of their argument.

“I was in the closet, I heard her gun cock and I looked out, I was like, I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And before I even had a chance to finish my sentence or close the door,” a visibly emotional Tom would later tell an Evans Police detective. “There was smoke. I hear—I heard it, and there was just smoke.”

Tom told the detectives his wife had voiced suicidal thoughts before and he believed her miscarriage earlier that day may have sent her over the edge. 

But while he was being interviewed by police, Ashley’s parents arrived at the station to share their suspicions that Tom “was just in a fit of rage” and killed Ashley.

“We had just seen them seven minutes before this, she was completely fine,” Fox said. “You know, she wouldn’t do anything like this.”

Fox told Dateline she “always was afraid he was gonna hurt her” because of his temper. 

“You can’t go from 0 to 100 and think clearly,” she said.

Despite the family’s concerns, Evans Police ruled Ashley’s death a suicide after a coroner and crime scene investigator reached the same conclusion. 

They pointed to Ashley’s ongoing mental health issues. She had stopped taking her medications cold turkey after discovering she was pregnant and also had a past family history of suicide after two close family members had taken their own lives. 

The case was closed and Tom moved with his children to Indiana to get a fresh start and head back to college. But, two years after Ashley’s death, a television investigative reporter’s query into the death prompted police to reopen the investigation. 

The reporter discovered the couple’s neighbor Nick Glover—just 15 years old at the time—claimed he heard Tom confess to killing his wife that night as he stood in his front lawn. Glover had been kneeling down in front of an open window when he alleged he heard Tom say “I shot my wife.” 

Was Tom Fallis Convicted? 

With the new evidence, a grand jury indicted Tom for second-degree murder and he was brought back to Colorado to face charges.

For Ashley’s family, who had long been critical of law enforcement’s investigation, it was welcome news.

“I just started crying,” Jenna said. 

When the trial began four years after Ashley’s death, prosecutors called those who had been at the party that night to testify about Ashley’s seemingly happy mindset. They also called Glover and his mom, who had a strange story about another teenage neighbor calling that night to say she had heard Ashley scream “get off of me.” 

Tom Fallis sits in the court room hearing testimony from witnesses

Yet when prosecutors called the neighbor to the stand she testified that she had been intoxicated that night and couldn’t remember making the call or hearing the screams. Prosecutors also called a former homicide detective to the stand who testified he believed there should have been more blood on the ground if she had shot herself. 

The defense focused on Ashley’s mental health at the time and read a letter they said Ashley had written to Tom just months earlier. 

“I have so much pain on the inside I can no longer take it,” she allegedly wrote. “I’m sorry to do this to you and the kids but I find myself not even liking my children.” 

She went on to say that “every day is a chore with them and you” and said she had to “pretend to be happy.” 

“I do love them,” she wrote of her children. “I just can’t take this life any longer.” 

They called a suicide expert who testified that Ashley had “many, many risk factors” for taking her own life, especially given her miscarriage just that day. They also called an investigator on the case to the stand who testified that the physical evidence at the scene appeared to match Tom’s account and claimed that the angle of the gunshot wound suggested Ashley had fired the weapon.

It took a jury less than four hours to reach a verdict. Tom was acquitted of the charges against him and set free. 

Her family later sued several investigators connected with the case alleging that they falsified or omitted key evidence, but the case was ultimately dismissed in 2017.