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Who Was Ashley Okland?
Ashley Okland was born on December 30th, 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 was quickly this career 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, she was super positive and trusted people easily. She was also a prominent member of Young Professionals Connection, she would organize their events and loved to be involved as much as possible.
Ashley Okland was at work on Friday, April 8th, 2011. She was at an open house showing of a model townhouse in West Des Moines Iowa. The model home was located at 558 Stone Creek Court. 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. They quickly called 911 and Ashley was rushed to Iowa Methodist Medical Center where she later died from her injuries.
Police began investigating but found no clues. There was no sign of a struggle so police think it may have been someone she knew. They believe this was an isolated incident. In late April Ashley’s case was featured on the CBS News company website and blog. This was a website and blog dedicated to true crime stories and it helped gain Ashley’s case national attention. After this, the police got hundreds of calls into the tip lines. Two to three names came up often in the tips including information on a black SUV, possibly a Cadillac Escalade, that was seen near the model home Ashley was working at.
Despite investigating nearly 900 leads and interviewing around 500 people, police are no closer to solving this murder. They had a suspect in 2014, Arron Michael Lewis, 33 from Jacksonville Arkansas. He had killed another female Realtor near Little Rock and buried her in a shallow grave. They were able to rule him out as a suspect later on.
Police and family believe someone out there knows something crucial about what happened that day and who is responsible. There is a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. The reward is set at $150,000.
Ashley Okland Star Playground
A friend who worked with Ashley at Variety, Sheri McMichael, came up with the idea to build a playground in Ashley's honor. It would be a playground that was built for handicapped children to be able to play and have fun. It was called the Ashley Okland Star Playground and was built in May 2014 with the donation help of $100,000 from the Iowa Association of Realtors. The playground was specially designed to cater to children of every ability, special needs or not. Susan says the playground represents Ashley’s all-inclusive, positive and, loving personality and she thinks Ashley would have loved the idea of the playground. The Star Playground is located at Ewing Park 5300 Indianola Ave.
If you have any information on this case please contact West Des Moines Police Department at 515-222-3344 or you can call Polk County Crime stoppers at 515-223-1400.