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Who Killed Ashley Okland?

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Realtor Ashley Okland was 27 years old when she was murdered during an open house

Realtor Ashley Okland was 27 years old when she was murdered during an open house

Who Was Ashley Okland?

Ashley Okland was born on December 30, 1983 to Deb Cochran and Tim Okland in Ames, Iowa. She has a brother, Josh, and a younger sister, Brittany. They grew up in Huxley, and Ashley went to Ballard High School.

She was into sports, played the piano, danced, and was in the 4-H Club. After graduating high school in 2002, she went to the University of Northern Iowa, but later transferred and graduated from Iowa State University in 2006. She wanted to be a physical therapist and graduated with a degree in Exercise Science.

Ashley began her real estate career in 2007 and it quickly became her new passion. She was later hired on by Iowa Realty in 2010 after working for Century 21.

Outside of work, she enjoyed participating in groups such as Variety and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. She was passionate about helping children and had a radiant smile with an outgoing personality. Her brother says she was the glue that held the family together, as she was positive, loving, and trusted people easily.

She was also a prominent member of Young Professionals Connection, organizing the group's events and helping it grow.

Ashley's brother said she was the glue that held her family together

Ashley's brother said she was the glue that held her family together

Incident

On Friday, April 8, 2011, Ashley Okland was at 558 Stone Creek Court, holding an open house for a model townhouse in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Just after 2 PM, an employee of the Rottlund Homes heard a commotion inside the model home and found Ashley on the floor. She had been shot twice and was lying in a pool of blood. Medics rushed her to the Iowa Methodist Medical Center where she later died from her injuries.

Police initially said there was no apparent motive for Ashley's murder.

Police initially said there was no apparent motive for Ashley's murder.

Initial Investigation

Police began investigating but found no clues. In fact, the crime scene inside the model home was baffling. There were no signs of a struggle, nor was there evidence of theft or sexual assault. With no apparent motive, investigators began to suspect the perpetrator may have been someone Ashley knew.

However, Ashley's family said they couldn't imagine that she had any enemies.

The murder rattled the local community and within two weeks, tech security expert Bill Corwin said there had been a 30 percent increase in people wanting home security upgrades.

However, during an interview, West Des Moines police spokesman Lt. James Barrett tried to reassure local residents: “There is no reason to believe this is anything but an isolated incident.”

In late April, Ashley’s case was featured on the CBS News website, which helped it gain national attention. Subsequently, police got hundreds of calls on the tip lines. Two to three names came up often in the tips, as well as information on a black SUV, possibly a Cadillac Escalade, that was seen near the model home where Ashley was killed.

In the months and years that followed, the West Des Moines police investigated nearly 900 leads and interviewed around 500 people. But authorities got no closer to solving the murder.

In 2014, they briefly had a suspect, Arron Michael Lewis, a 33-year-old man from Jacksonville, Arkansas, who had killed another woman realtor near Little Rock and buried her in a shallow grave. But they were later able to rule him out as a suspect.

Police and family believe someone out there knows something crucial about what happened that day and who is responsible. There is a reward of $150,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved.

Where the Case Stands Today

Over 10 years after the murder of Ashley Okland, the case remains unsolved. Investigators are still actively working to find the killer, but have declined to release any details on new suspects or theories.

"We are doing everything we can to solve the case," West Des Moines police Sgt. Jason Bryan said in 2021. "It is not in a file cabinet where it's not going to get looked at. It's on the detective's desk. Every time a tip does come in it's investigated almost immediately and thoroughly so for us it's an active case and will stay active until it's solved."

Ashley's brother, Josh Okland, said that the family still feels a piece of them is missing, but that they have tried to come to terms.

"It's hard at times not knowing, but that's not what we focus on," he said. "That's not what I focus on. It's unhealthy to sit and think that way. If you let yourself think that way then you're going to start looking at people differently and thinking differently."

Josh now has two children and he tells them about their Aunt Ashley every day.

"It's important for me that my kids know who she was because she played a big part in my life and I want that for them."

Ashley Okland Star Playground

Sheri McMichael, a friend of Ashley's who worked with her at Variety, came up with the idea to build a playground for disabled children in her honor. The Ashley Okland Star Playground was completed in May 2014 thanks to a $100,000 donation from the Iowa Association of Realtors.

The playground was specially designed to cater to children of every ability, special needs or not. Josh Okland says the playground represents his sister’s all-inclusive, positive and loving personality, and he thinks Ashley would have loved the idea of the playground. It is located at Ewing Park at 5300 Indianola Ave.

The Ashley Okland Star Playground

The Ashley Okland Star Playground

Contact Information

If you have any information on this case, please contact West Des Moines Police Department at 515-222-3344. You can also contact Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at 515-223-1400 or visit their website.