Crime & Courts

Head engineer at Anchorage port accused of attempting to drown daughter

The head engineer at the Port of Alaska was arrested last week and charged with attempted murder after police said he tried to drown his 8-year-old daughter in the bathtub.

Todd Cowles, 46, told police he was having trouble at work, according to a criminal complaint. Cowles has been in charge of the project to replace corroding docks at the Anchorage port, said Jim Jager, external affairs director for the port.

In November, Cowles was admitted to Providence Alaska Medical Center after his wife found a shotgun in bed, according to a complaint signed by police detective Taylor Falvo. Cowles’ wife said he told her he thought about hurting himself but couldn’t do it, the complaint says.

Cowles was under a large amount of stress at the time because of his job, his wife told police. She told police he was bringing a funding proposal before the Anchorage Assembly. Cowles was evaluated at Providence and released the next day with medications, the complaint says.

On Jan. 2, while his wife was out mailing a package, Cowles tried to push his daughter’s head down in the bathtub, Falvo wrote. The girl resisted and Cowles stopped, Falvo wrote.

Cowles later broke down and told his wife that “the state/port was in trouble,” Falvo wrote in the complaint. Cowles also talked about how “the port was failing and people were after him,” Falvo wrote in the complaint. His wife and father-in-law drove him to Providence hospital that night, the complaint says.

On Jan. 4, a police officer reached Cowles by phone at the psychiatric unit at Providence. Cowles told the officer he began having thoughts about killing his family and himself in November, the complaint says. He said he was “having trouble at work which is causing him great despair,” Falvo wrote in the complaint. Cowles said he called in sick Jan. 2 because he did not want to go back to work, according to the complaint.

Jager, the port communications director, said he could not comment directly on Cowles’ situation. Cowles had worked for the port about a decade, Jager said.

In general, Jager said the problems with the port that Cowles referenced are well-documented. Because of age and corrosion, port officials have warned that the docks at the port will begin closing in about a decade without major repairs. He said officials have been stressed for some time about how to pay for the project, how much dock can be built and whether it can be built in a timely fashion.

“Todd, as the project engineer for the city, is the focal point for a lot of that stress,” Jager said.

After unsuccessfully seeking full funding from state and federal sources, officials are preparing to recommend a tariff increase, Jager said. This summer, work began on the modernization project without full funding. That was stressful for project managers, Jager said.

Cowles has no prior criminal convictions in Alaska, records show. He made his first court appearance Saturday.

His bail was set at at $100,000, records show.