By Kim Harding
Imagine skipping out on your bond and hiding out in a Texas hotel room, flinching with every little noise, terrified that the police are going to raid the place at any minute. And then you hear the soft voice of a woman outside your door. You peek through the peephole and see an attractive blonde in the hall. Disarmed, you crack the door to see what this petite, lovely lady might need. But as soon as the door cracks just a bit, she kicks it in and points a pink mace gun at you.
Next thing you know, you’re being escorted out in pink handcuffs.
Sound like a “Charlie’s Angels” story? Think again. It’s one of the many outrageous, true stories from Beaufort’s most unlikely bounty hunter, Ashley McElveen.
McElveen was born in Barnwell and has lived in Beaufort ever since she was 4 years old. She graduated high school from Agape Christian Academy in 2001 and continued her education at TCL in 2003. Just a year later, Ashley laid her eyes on the love of her life, Ricky McElveen, a friend of her sister’s. They now share four children, three businesses and the love of tracking down a client who has skipped out on the bond that their company, McElveen Bail Bonding, puts up. For seven years now, they’ve been working side by side.
Ashley has an interesting work history. She learned graphic design so that she could design logos for her sign company, A Sure Sign. She worked at the city jail for a stint. She helps manage Ricky’s businesses, Tire Buster’s and McElveen Marine. And now she owns her own bail bond company. Ashley is basically a serial entrepreneur who learns skills on an as-needed basis to run her businesses. A true street savvy woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.
The bondsman career developed from her long-standing interest in criminal justice, which she harnessed at Polk Bail Bond School in Columbia. In bail bonding, she could make her own hours and still have plenty of time to spend with her small children. Contrary to what many might assume about her job, Ashley says she has a heart of gold and that, rather than being a “tough” gal, she simply knows what she has to do and does it.
One time she arrested a defendant in her office for failure to appear in court and he escaped in his handcuffs while she was filling out the paperwork.
“I looked over and the defendant was gone!” she said. Ashley followed a tip that the defendant was on Broad River Boulevard. “I searched and searched and finally had to make the call I never wanted to make to dispatch,” Ashley said. But, she found the defendant the next day.
It’s not an easy line of work, but one that has also inspired Ashley’s father, James McPartland, to work with her as a bail bondsman.
“If I can only help change one person in my career, that will be enough for me to hang my hat on,” Ashley said. “Every time a new defendant walks into my office, the first thing I do is let him know that this was only a speed bump in your life. Today you can make a change! Each one of us has an opportunity to make something of ourselves, and today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Ashley does everything she can to help her defendants better themselves, even if it means giving them a ride to court.