Ashley Mathers Fontaine was born on July 15, 1982, in Oxford, Mississippi. She was known as an all-American beauty and as a girl who got what she wanted, but life wasn't always so easy for her.
Her mother, Patty Mathers, entered Ashley in her first beauty pageant when she was six years old. By the time Ashley had won the Yoknapatawpha County Junior Miss at age 16, she had nearly 20 first-place trophies. In addition to beauty and natural poise, the young Ashley demonstrated a sweet disposition, kindness, and a love for animals.
But Ashley's home life was troubled, though she seldom talked about it. Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department records show multiple domestic disturbance calls at the Mathers residence. Incident reports show the calls never originated from the Mathers home and the apparent victim, Patty Mathers, never wanted to press charges, despite her obvious minor injuries. When Ashley was 10, her father ran out on his wife and daughter for good.
In 1996, Ashley entered Oxford High School, where faculty and friends remember her as athletic and as having abounding energy and a bubbly personality. She became a cheerleader and, in her senior year, was voted the most popular girl in class. However, Ashley's mother watched her daughter closely, telling neighbors she would see to it that Ashley would be able to choose from among the best and wealthiest bachelors in town.
In 2000, Ashley entered the University of Mississippi. During her sophomore year, her mother died suddenly of cancer, and Ashley's behavior changed. She concentrated much less on her studies, and turned to partying and developing beneficial social connections instead.
Ashley was 21 when she met Philip Fontaine at a bluegrass concert, and they took to each other instantly. After a whirlwind courtship of six months, they married on July 15, 2004, which was also Ashley's 22nd birthday. Sources close to the couple said Ashley seemed to look up to Philip, but she also made it clear that she was no fool. She appeared to know exactly how to get what she wanted from Philip.
From the start, Ashley worried about her stepson Grant, who was only 13 when she married Philip. Grant was already getting into trouble at home and at school, and Ashley's friends said she wanted to protect the boy and hoped to save him from the self-destructive path he was on.
Within two years of the marriage, Ashley and Philip were seen in public together less often, although the couple still entertained clients together in their large home. By 2011, it had become an open secret that Philip had a mistress. Gossips suggested that Ashley had considered divorce, but had rejected the idea and taken a lover instead.