MADRAS, Ore. - The head track and field coach at Madras High School was arrested Monday by Oregon State Police on charges she engaged in an unlawful sexual relationship with a 17-year old boy on the track team.
OSP said it is continuing the investigation and requesting contact from anyone with information or who may have been a victim related to the investigation.
Melissa Marie Bowerman, 43, was arrested at her home in the Wheeler County town of Fossil, troopers said.
Troopers took her to the Jefferson County Jail in Madras on Class C felony charges of second-degree sexual abuse, luring a minor and online sexual corruption of a child, as well as contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.
OSP said it received a tip earlier this month that Bowerman, who has been coaching at Madras High for two years, was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a juvenile male.
A subsequent investigation, in cooperation with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, identified the teen male and developed evidence that led to her arrest related to alleged unlawful conduct since May of this year.
"OSP investigators are concerned there may possibly have been other victims," the news release stated. "Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call OSP Northern Command Center dispatch at 800-452-7888. Tips will be forwarded to the lead investigator for follow up."
The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/VJmd5B ) that her husband, Jon Bowerman, says authorities served a search warrant at the couple's house and searched his wife's computers, cameras and other belongings.
Jon Bowerman says he's in a "state of shock" and adds he loves his wife "and still will no matter how this thing turns out." The 76-year-old Bowerman says he helped his wife coach the Madras High School track team. She's expected to have a court appearance Tuesday.
Jefferson County School District 509-J Superintendent Rick Molitor prepared a letter being sent out Tuesday morning:
"Dear 509-J staff, families and community members,
"Yesterday, we were shocked to learn that one of our former Madras High School track coaches, Melissa Bowerman, was arrested by Oregon State Police on a number of charges including 2nd degree sexual abuse involving one of our students. While we are currently awaiting more information, we wanted to share this unfortunate news immediately because we believe that transparency is an important part of the trusted relationship we've built with our families and community members – especially during difficult times such as this. Melissa Bowerman is currently not an employee of the District as her coaching contract ended at the conclusion of the 2013/2014 track season.
"We are devastated anytime we learn that the safety or well-being of a student may have been compromised. We recognize the impact these situations have on our students, staff, families and community members. There are no words to describe our frustration as we review the care and thoroughness involved in our hiring and screening processes.
"Melissa Bowerman had worked with our District as both a volunteer in the spring of 2013 and contractual coach in the spring of 2014. Until yesterday, we had not been aware of any indications of criminal activity during her time with us.
"We will work closely with law enforcement as they proceed with their investigation. Per their request, we ask that you direct questions to the Oregon State Police while the investigation is underway.
"Please know that we take these matters very seriously and will continue to make student and staff safety a priority. Thank you for your patience and support as we learn more about about this situation.
It's the second such allegations involving a Madras High School coach in less than a year.
Last November, Michael Ray Osborne, 44, of Redmond, a PE teacher who also was the girls basketball and soccer coach, was arrested on 10 counts of sex abuse involving a then-16-year-old girl. He later was arrested on added charges, which since have been dropped. In February, Osborne was indicted on a separate case involving 11 counts of second-degree sex abuse in Washington County involving the same girl.
Bowerman, the daughter-in-law of the late Oregon track coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, drew wide publicity and controversy two years ago, when as volunteer track coach at Condon High School, she took a 17-year-old boy to his prom. That led to her ouster as a volunteer coach.
Bowerman said at the time she'd gone to the prom with one of the track athletes because he felt bad about not having a date and had been struggling in English class. She said it was an error in judgment to do so, but denied an inappropriate relationship with the team. She told the East Oregonian newspaper they danced to a few slow songs but mostly played ping pong and foosball.
Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt said at the time he'd found no evidence she broke the law -- and the boy's father said he gave her permission to take his son to the dance.