After longer than normal court docket sessions, a technical delay with the court reporter and an inconvenient timing for a computer update, the first hearing for Jordan Bowers regarding the charges of identity theft levied against her commenced on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Grays Harbor Superior Court in Montesano.
Bowers, the biological mother of missing 6-year-old Oakley Carlson, did not appear in person for her scheduled hearing but instead appeared via Zoom from the third floor of the Grays Harbor County Jail.
The presiding judge for the hearing, Katherine Svoboda, read out loud each count and the punishment attached. Bowers currently faces the potential for a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine due to three counts of first-degree identity theft and one count of second-degree identity theft. She stayed mostly quiet during the entirety of the hearing, only talking when directly addressing a question from Judge Svoboda.
While determining any bail or release status for Bowers, Prosecuting Attorney Richard Petersen said the court-set bail of $25,000 was “appropriate if not a little bit low” as well as advising against a pre-trial release.
“I’ll tell the court that while these are just property crimes, Ms. Bowers has somewhat of a history with failure to appear with warrants issued in the past,” Petersen said during the hearing. “Based on the type of offenses here, these are not violent (offenses) so that’s not the basis of my request, it’s simply that I don’t know what she’s going to do when she gets out and I think she’s a flight risk.”
Bowers did apply for a pre-trial release, requesting being supervised by Edward Shaw, an Auburn resident. However, it was dismissed quickly due to mismatching addresses linked to Shaw provided by Bowers and what was found by the defense attorneys.
“(Bowers) has no established address, the plan is to go to a new residence out of county and to be supervised by someone who the court is not familiar with,” Judge Svoboda said. “Without hearing from Mr. Shaw, I’m not going to consider him as a potential supervisor.”
Growing speculation has been made regarding the timing of the charges. Bowers remain a prime suspect in the disappearance of Oakley, and Bowers was arrested by the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office minutes after being released from the Washington Correctional Center for Women on Sunday, Jan. 15. She had just completed a nine-month sentence on charges of child endangerment unrelated to Oakley.
Petersen was adamant that there is no tie between the identity theft charges and Oakley’s disappearance as they are currently being treated as separate cases. He did confirm there is still an ongoing investigation into the missing 6-year-old girl, but noted that no detective in that inquiry is involved in the identity theft case.
“The issue of the timing is probably not what it seems. I know the case itself has been floating around and I knew (Bowers) was going to be getting out because law enforcement was wondering if we were going to file charges or not,” Petersen said. “I’ve only seen this case for about literally a week and a half and that was when I decided charges should be filed.”
According to court documents and information provided by Petersen, the identity theft case against Bowers began in December 2021 when investigators looking for Oakley Carlson searched a Tumwater hotel, Extended Stay America, where Bowers, her husband Andrew Carlson, and three of their children had been staying for two months.
While attempting to unclog a toilet that had been in their room, the hotel staff discovered three credit cards all linked to different individuals and all having a close relationship with Bowers.
“What she would do was help (the victims) fix their unemployment accounts, get their personal information, create either credit cards or debit accounts, and then change the routing number for the unemployment to have it go into those cards that she had just created in their names,” Peterson said.
When asked if his investigation had led to any indication as to whether Andrew Carlson, the biological father of Oakley and a prime suspect in her disappearance, had been involved in defrauding any of the victims, Petersen said there is no evidence that Carlson was directly a part of the accused crimes but noted there was a reference that he might have been aware it was happening.
According to information gathered by Petersen, Bowers began committing identity fraud in December 2020. During her year-long financial theft campaign, Bowers appeared to have done “a lot of gambling” at the Little Creek Casino in Shelton. Peterson said the estimated theft was more than $50,000 and said it could be “significantly higher.”
More investigations are underway to determine how much money Bowers acquired at the expense of her victims. One individual, Tracy McGee-Mills, was defrauded the most of the four victims, losing $28,000 according to court documents.
Bowers is scheduled for arraignment on Monday, Jan. 23, at 8 a.m. in Grays Harbor Superior Court. Judge Svoboda clarified that while bail will remain at $25,000, she will consider additional arguments as to a release or bail reduction.
Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 or firstname.lastname@example.org