The long-awaited trial for Jordan Bowers, the biological mother and prime suspect in the disappearance of 6-year-old Oakley Carlson, has been delayed, striking the originally slated date of March 21.
What was supposed to be a trial readiness hearing for Bowers, who appeared in court via Zoom and is currently being held in Grays Harbor County Jail on four counts of identity theft, turned into a granting for a motion of continuance by state prosecutors.
“My preference would be at least 30 days. I’ve got a lot of witnesses to wrangle together to get them all heard at a certain time,” said Prosecuting Attorney Richard Petersen during the hearing.
When questioned by Katherine Svoboda, the pre-assigned judge for the trial, Bowers agreed with the notion that the additional time would be in her best interest to let her defense attorney, Michael Nagle, prepare for the trial. However, Bowers claimed she didn’t communicate with Nagle regarding the state’s request for more time.
“I’ve had a conversation with (Bowers) about continuing the trial, but we didn’t discuss this particular motion,” Nagle said.
With Bowers declining to object to a new trial date, both attorneys and Judge Svoboda came to an agreement that the first week of May would provide a good time for the trial to commence.
“Based on the motion filed by the state, I’m going to find good cause for the continuance. I will grant complex case status but based on the length of this continuance, it will have to be extraordinary circumstances before you’ll get additional time,” said Judge Svoboda.
When asked for an estimated duration by Judge Svoboda, Petersen said the trial would take four days. As such, the trial is set to begin on May 2 and conclude on May 5. While trial readiness will commence at 8:15 a.m. on April 24, Judge Svoboda also issued a pre-trial hearing at 8:15 a.m. on April 3 to address any “scheduling issues or discovery issues.”
Following the conclusion of the hearing, Petersen said to The Daily World that he filed the motion of continuance on Wednesday, March 8, but reiterated that it had been in the works for a while.
“It’s a complicated case and there are a number of witnesses, a bunch of whom are with DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) unemployment security and they just started their own internal investigation so I’m hoping that will bring some additional evidence to light,” Petersen said. “It’s extremely difficult to get that many witnesses together on the same page that quickly.”
According to Petersen, he hasn’t spoken with anyone from DSHS before the March 13 hearing but stated that he was informed by detectives that the DSHS investigation would be helpful. When asked how many witnesses Petersen has for the case, he claimed there are at least 14 right now ranging from victims, DSHS workers, detectives and officers.
While indicating that there could be more witnesses by the time the trial date arrives, Petersen said the fifth victim of Bowers’ alleged defrauding, Todd Ritter, is still being looked at. Ritter was originally brought up during a Feb. 21 omnibus hearing for Bowers which eventually got delayed until March 6.
Petersen revealed that, pending more development, Ritter would not be included in the charges if Bowers was to agree to a newly drafted plea offer. As described by Petersen, the plea offer would require Bowers to plead guilty to the three counts of first-degree identity theft and the one count of second-degree identity theft as well as agree to all restitution to the victims.
If agreed to, Petersen said he wouldn’t file an aggravator for a sophisticated planner scheme which could result in Bowers receiving the statutory maximum sentence on each of the four counts. If Bowers does accept the plea offer, she would be sentenced to a maximum of 70 months in prison with good time credit for early release potential.
“If (Bowers) doesn’t take the plea and she gets convicted at trial, she could do as much as 10 years. She could do even more since there are a number of triggers that could happen for the judge to technically make them consecutive sentences. It’s not likely but it’s possible,” said Petersen.
Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 or email@example.com