Melissa Bowerman charged in sex abuse case

By Tyler Leeds The Bulletin

Melissa Bowerman sent naked pictures of herself to a student on the Madras High School track team she coached, asking the 17-year-old student for pictures in return and if he wanted to have sex, according to court documents.

Bowerman, 43, a daughter-in-law of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, was arrested Monday by Oregon State Police. Bowerman and her husband, Jon Bowerman, had been volunteer coaches two seasons ago at the school and served as head coaches this past school year. Melissa Bowerman was arraigned Tuesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court and charged with second-degree sexual abuse, luring a minor, second-degree online sexual corruption of a child and contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor. She was being held in the Jefferson County jail in lieu of $400,000 bond.

Jon Bowerman, 76, did not return a call for comment.

According to the affidavit for probable cause, police were tipped off by Jon Bowerman’s daughter-in-law, Liz Russell, that her stepmother was having a sexual relationship with a student. In Facebook messages provided to investigators by Russell, Bowerman told the student “she loved him.” In the messages, Bowerman referred to herself as the student’s “angel girl,” calling him her “monkey boy,” a reference to a monkey Bowerman stitched on his track jersey.

Bowerman sent the boy photos of herself naked, “(asking) him to masturbate until he ejaculated.” After sending the naked pictures, Bowerman asked for a naked photo in return. The boy told police he sent Bowerman a photo of a penis from the Internet. After the exchange, Bowerman asked the boy whether he wanted to have sex, to which he said no, the affidavit said.

After an awards banquet, the boy said Bowerman drove him home and he “rubbed her stomach and grabbed her breast.” He also said he kissed her in the locker room during the track season, “because he wanted to.” As the boy left the locker room, he said Bowerman spanked him.

During an interview with police, Bowerman said the kiss was unwanted and the boy had forced his hand down her pants on a walk. She could not say why she sent the boy naked photos and admitted to talking to him about having sex.

This accusation is the second for the Jefferson County School District, and Madras High School, specifically, in 12 months. In November, Michael Osborne, a basketball and soccer coach, was arrested after accusations of sexually abusing a female student. He pleaded not guilty.

Superintendent Rick Molitor called the situation “unacceptable” but noted the district “thoroughly investigates” coaches before they are hired, following the same recommendations from the Oregon School Boards Association as other districts.

“When we hear anything like this happens, it’s horrible, but two times within one year, that’s just devastating,” Molitor said. “We need to figure out what we can be do differently to prevent this.”

Molitor said a consultant from the Special Districts Association of Oregon will work with the district “to help review practices and policies” related to hiring.

In 2012, Bowerman was dismissed from a volunteer coaching position with the Condon/Wheeler track team in Eastern Oregon after she escorted a student to prom, according to The Oregonian. Molitor said the district was aware of that incident but found no reason not to hire her, saying she was never charged with a crime.

“She fully disclosed that misstep, and in hindsight she realized she shouldn’t have done it,” Molitor said. “She had the permission of the parents and thought it was OK. After we did our reference checks, we felt there was no indication whatsoever that would have led to what she’s been charged with now. On the surface, it really did just seem like a lapse of judgment.”

Molitor said he was meeting with Madras High School’s athletic director to discuss how to support students on the track team. According to state police, there may be other victims.

Bowerman is expected to next appear in court Friday.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

Melissa Bowerman