Portales native killed in collision

Courtesy photo Ashleah Richards died in a car crash early Sunday morning, three miles south of Hale Center in the Plainview, Texas.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Ashleah Richards liked to do things that stereotypically interest many girls — fix up hair, put on makeup and the like. But Richards was tough as nails, too, and that was evident in her playing days at Portales High School in the sports of volleyball, basketball and softball.

Though standing only around 5 feet 5 inches tall at the most, Richards’ favorite spot on the basketball court, it seemed, was just under the basket fighting for the ball with opponents several inches taller.

Early Sunday morning, three miles south of Hale Center in the Plainview, Texas, area, Richards died in a car crash that sent four other people in her vehicle to the hospital with various injuries. Richards was driving north on I-27 when a southbound pickup truck driven by Jimmy Scott Barnhill, 48, of Midland, Texas, crossed into oncoming traffic and struck Richards’ car head on.

The accident, according to the Texas Department of Safety, occurred at 3:51 a.m.

Jennifer McClure, Erika Rodriquez and Florencia Oliver, all 21, and Roxanne Paslay, 20, all passengers in the car driven by Richards, were transported to hospitals in Lubbock and Plainview, according to the Plainview Daily Herald.

McClure and Rodriquez were later released, while Oliver and Paslay remained hospitalized Monday morning. Barnhill was also treated and released from the hospital, according to the Daily Herald.

Richards, 21, however, was pronounced dead at the scene by Hale County Justice of the Peace Karen Davis at 5:02 a.m., according to the Daily Herald.

Davis and DPS communications officer John Gonzales could not be reached for more information on Monday, but, according to the Plainview Daily Herald, DPS officials have said alcohol was involved and Barnhill could face charges.

“Drinking and driving, you just can’t do that,” Mark Richards, Ashleah’s father, said. “My baby’s life was cut short because someone did that. I don’t want her to become another statistic.”

Richards graduated from Portales High in 2006 and moved with her parents, Mark and Lorraine, to Plainview. There, she earned a scholarship to play volleyball at Wayland Baptist University and did that for one season.

At the time of her death, Richards was working at Chili’s restaurant and helping train new personnel at the business.

“They all told me that she would tell (employees and customers alike) that she would pray for them, if there was something going on,” Lorraine Richards said.

Ashleah Richards was on two state championship teams for Portales in basketball (2003 and 2004) and two state-winning volleyball squads (2003 and 2005) as well.

A memorial service has been scheduled at 10 a.m. Thursday in Plainview, but Richards — born and raised in Portales — will be buried in Portales beginning with a 2 p.m. service at Third and Kilgore Church of Christ.

“Ashleah just had a zest for life, to live every moment like it was her last,” Mark Richards said. “She had a genuine love for people.”