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Thursday's Axios Des Moines stories

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Apr 8, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Des Moines realtor fights for industry safety 10 years after colleague's unsolved murder

Ashley Okland, a Des Moines-area realtor, was murdered 10 years ago during an open house. Photo courtesy of Jen Stanbrough.

On April 8, 2011, Des Moines realtor Jen Stanbrough was showing houses like any other day when her phone began to flash repeatedly with calls and texts — but, still in work mode, she waited to answer.

When she finally did, she expected to hear something had gone wrong with a closing. Instead, a fellow realtor told her that her close friend, Ashley Okland, had been shot twice at her open house in West Des Moines and pronounced dead at the hospital.

Polk County deaths jumped almost 20% in 2020 thanks to COVID

Data: Polk County Medical Examiner; Chart: Axios Visuals

Polk County’s deaths increased almost 20% last year, up 706 from 2019, according to a report presented to supervisors Wednesday by Polk County medical examiner Joshua Akers.

  • Statewide deaths were up by almost 5,000, or just over 16%, according to a separate preliminary report released last week.

Why it matters: It's a sobering reminder of the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the importance of vaccines and maintaining precautions like wearing a mask.

Prison sentence for Iowa face mask fight raises questions about mandatory minimums

Mark Dinning was injured in a fight in November that started over a face mask. His alleged attacker, Shane Michael, faces a mandatory 10 year prison sentence. Photo: Polk County District Court

A Des Moines man accused of starting a fight after being confronted over wearing his face mask incorrectly has been convicted of a felony and faces a mandatory 10 years in prison, as first reported by Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Why it matters: The case raises the question about whether the punishment fits the crime and could result in legislative action, Bob Rigg, a Drake University law professor told Axios.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Apr 7, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Des Moines City Council cracks down on "scooping the loop"

A gif showing downtown Des Moines near the sculpture park in 1985 and 2021. Images via Google Earth

Scooping the loop in Des Moines is a coming-of-age tradition bred out of Midwest boredom and our love for long drives.

But city officials, like they have for decades, say it's a nuisance to downtown residents that needs to change.

  • Why it matters: The weekend gathering is as classic as a corn dog, but it's at risk because of complaints about noise, loitering and high speeds.

DSM's Fleur Cinema to remain closed for months

Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Fleur Cinema and Café won’t reopen until mid-summer or early fall because not enough movies are currently available for theater distribution, owner Michael Coppola told Axios this week.

Why it matters: The four-theater cinema, which shut down a year ago due to the pandemic, is the prime place for DSM to catch new indie and foreign films on the big screen.