BOULDER, Colo. –
Robert and Katie Oakley tried unsuccessfully for months to mend their marriage before divorcing last March, a friend of the former couple said Friday.
“They got married young, and they made a decision she was going to be the full bread winner,” said Marina Macho, 30, of Longmont, who first befriended Katie Oakley in 2002. “He decided to be a stay-at-home dad. It was difficult for them, to say the least.”
On Wednesday, one year after the divorce was finalized, police found the former couple’s bodies inside the north Boulder home they’d purchased together and shared for years. Their sons, ages 3 and 6, are in the care of family.
Robert Oakley died from a shotgun wound to the head and Katie Oakley died from a gunshot wound to the head, Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure said Thursday, but he hasn’t determined who killed whom. Police declined to release any details about their investigation Friday.
Macho said she and other friends are anxious to find out what happened, and are struggling to comprehend how a couple that once seemed full of promise ended up dead.
“It’s baffling to me,” she said. “Why did she go there by herself? Rob is not the type of person who would leave a loaded gun lying around the house.”
Macho said she recalls Katie Oakley calling early one morning, upset that her then-husband had “grabbed her in front of the kids.” Otherwise, she said, there was never any indication of physical abuse in the relationship.
In fact, Macho said, the couple once had a seemingly idyllic life.
Full of promise
Katie Oakley grew up in Fort Collins, Macho said, and attended a private high school in Steamboat Springs.
“She had a really strong group of friends in Fort Collins,” who kept in touch online and at annual New Year’s Eve parties, Macho said.
After graduation, Katie Oakley went on to earn a degree in English from the University of Colorado in 2001. She graduated summa cum laude and married Robert Oakley the same year. Together, the couple left for North Carolina, where she attended law school at Duke University before moving back to Boulder in 2004.
Their sons were born in 2003 and 2006.
“She was incredibly intelligent,” Macho said of Katie Oakley. “She loved the boys and being a mother.”
Macho said her friend enjoyed running, skiing and was an accomplished horse rider.
The couple bought a house at 3100 23rd St. as Katie Oakley took a job in corporate finance and acquisition at Denver’s Davis Graham & Stubbs.
Dawn McKnight, assistant executive director of the Colorado Bar Association, said the young attorney caught the attention of more seasoned lawyers, who appointed her to the Business Law Institute, where she helped teach business-law issues.
“As a young lawyer, being a faculty for an institute of that type is very impressive,” McKnight said. “Her work was very well-respected by her peers.”
Katie Oakley resigned from the firm March 20.
“A really big heart”
Meanwhile, Robert Oakley was working as a taxi driver in Boulder, and tried to find work as a teacher.
“He was one of the kindest spirits you’d ever met in your whole life,” said Nicole Sage, 36, of Trenton, New Jersey.
Sage grew up with Robert Oakley in Atlanta, where they attended Druid Hills High School together.
She said a group of close friends from the high school gathered at an Atlanta bar Thursday night to share stories of their friend. A candlelight vigil is planned for next week at the Lake Shore Park in Atlanta, one of Robert Oakley’s childhood hangouts.
“It just totally kills me this is the way he left us,” Sage said. “All I want is for people to know this was a wonderful soul.”
Also Thursday, about a dozen of Robert Oakley’s fellow cab drivers gathered in the Boulder home of a Yellow Cab manager to share stories and memories.
“They were very upset about this,” said Jo Ann Vann, who manages Boulder’s Yellow Cab drivers. “It’s just so tragic.”
Robert Oakley began driving a Yellow Cab in August 2005, and Vann said he chose the profession for the freedom it allowed.
“That was really important to him,” Vann said, adding that it was a top priority to be able to pick up his sons at daycare and school. “The No. 1 most important thing to Rob were those two boys.”
An online forum for off-road motorcycle riders contains videos and pictures of the father teaching the children how to ride bicycles and dirt bikes.
Vann said Robert Oakley didn’t share much about his relationship with his wife, but Vann said she knew they were having a difficult time and going through a “tough” divorce.
“Everyone is human,” she said. “But Rob had a really big heart.”
The drivers vowed to dedicate a portion of their nightly revenue to an Oakley Children Fund and hold an auction to raise more money for the couple’s young kids.
“All I know is there’s some darling little boys without any parents,” Vann said. “Those children are gonna be devastated once they put it all together.”
Robert Oakley was also a substitute teacher for the Boulder Valley School District from October 1999 until his certificate expired Monday, said Boulder Valley spokesman Briggs Gamblin.
He had not substituted since May 2006, Gamblin said.
Oakley applied last year for language-arts teaching positions at Fairview and Boulder high schools, but Gamblin said he didn’t get either job. He also applied unsuccessfully to teach for last year’s Boulder Valley summer school, Gamblin said, but he didn’t get that job either.
Columbine Elementary Principal Lynn Widger sent a letter home to parents Thursday about one of the Oakleys’ sons, who attend the elementary school.
The letter said both of the children are staying with their grandparents.