A paraprofessional at a Valdez middle school was arrested twice last week — within the span of a few hours — after she allegedly drove drunk with a student in the car, police said in an affidavit Wednesday.
Valdez police received a tip around 8:30 a.m. Dec. 6 from someone working at the school district office that Melissa Bowden, a 52-year-old special education paraprofessional who worked at Gilson Middle School, might be driving intoxicated. The witness told police Bowden smelled strongly of alcohol when she came to pick up the keys to the school’s Chevrolet Suburban.
Police said Bowden drove from the school district office to Gilson, where she picked up a 12-year-old student and then drove to a nearby Safeway. When officers arrived at Safeway, Gilson Middle School Principal Rod Morrison was there with Bowden, attempting to keep her from leaving until officers arrived. Another school employee took the student back to school, police said.
One of the officers said in the affidavit that he "observed a strong odor of alcohol coming from Bowden’s person and blood-shot, watery eyes.” Police said Bowden failed a field sobriety test with a blood alcohol level of .198, more than twice the legal limit. After officers arrested Bowden and processed her at the Valdez Jail, she blew another Breathalyzer test, which resulted in an even higher blood alcohol level of .265, according to the affidavit.
Bowden was charged with driving under the influence and endangering the welfare of a minor. Her husband paid her $500 bond.
At around 11:06 a.m. that same day, police received another call from a witness who said he saw Bowden driving away from Hermon Hutchens Elementary School. Police said Bowden came into the lobby of the Valdez Police Department shortly after that, saying “she believed she was ok to drive.”
Another field sobriety test revealed Bowden had a blood alcohol level of .215, still more than twice the legal limit, police said. She was arrested again and charged with another count of driving under the influence and one count of violating a condition of release. Her bond was set at $2,500, which her husband again paid.
Valdez City Schools Superintendent Shawn Arnold said Bowden is no longer employed with the school district and that her last day was Dec. 6. She had been working at the school for about three or four months, he said.