The day she was killed, Ashley Harlan of Olathe had plans to learn the sex of her first baby.
Instead, the 23-year-old was found dead Tuesday afternoon inside a house at the Westerfield Townhouses off East Westerfield Place. Olathe police said one day later that Harlan’s death is being investigated as a homicide.
Sgt. Logan Bonney, a spokesman with Olathe police, said the department had no new details to release on Thursday. He added that officers have received multiple tips, but he encouraged others with information to come forward as well.
Harlan had moved into the Olathe house earlier this month from Manhattan, Kan., to be nearer to her baby’s father, friends said. She was living with her grandfather.
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Harlan was about 20 weeks along in her pregnancy.
She had not had an easy life, according to Kaitlin Beeton, 22, and Tabitha Brown, 23 — both of whom described themselves as close friends of Harlan’s since grade school. Harlan attended Spring Hill Middle School with Beeton, and the two quickly became close in the town south of Olathe.
Harlan’s mother died when she was “very young,” Brown said, which resulted in her entering the foster care system. Harlan and Brown once lived together for a few months in the same foster home.
“She had a hard time finding her way,” Brown said.
But eventually, she did, Brown added.
Though Harlan struggled with drug addiction after running away from her foster home, Brown said that with the help of friends she had gotten clean and begun working on behalf of victims of sex trafficking at Homestead Ministeries, a Christian-based organization in Manhattan.
Harlan had attended classes at Kansas State University and her goal was to become a social worker to “help kids who’d gone through things like her,” Beeton said.
“She’d been doing so well, working hard on her future.”
Harlan planned to start a job in the coming weeks as a mentor to foster children.
She was living with her grandfather until she and her boyfriend could “get back on their feet,” Beeton added. They were hoping to one day rent an apartment together in Olathe.
Harlan’s grandfather was out of town in Las Vegas when his granddaughter was killed, Beeton said.
Brown, who was to be the godmother to Harlan’s child and planned to accompany her to the ultrasound appointment, said her friend never did learn the sex of her baby.
“I don’t know who would want to hurt her,” Brown said. “She was the sweetest person I think I’ve ever known.”
Those with information are encouraged to contact Olathe police at 913-971-6950 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.