A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the Grays Harbor County Courthouse Thursday morning to show their support for Oakley Carlson, a missing 5-year-old Oakville girl, while her parents and suspects in her disappearance, Jordan Bowers and Andrew Carlson, had hearings inside on unrelated criminal charges.
Both Bowers and Carlson have been charged with second-degree abandonment of a dependent person, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, for allegedly neglecting to give their 6-year-old daughter a prescribed medication for approximately 15 months.
Bowers and Carlson were taken into custody on Dec. 6 on suspicion of manslaughter, but after 72 hours with no manslaughter charges filed, those cases have been formally closed.
They were charged with second-degree abandonment of a dependent person on Dec. 10.
While their cases were initially filed as misdemeanor charges in Grays Harbor County District Court, both cases were elevated to felony charges about half an hour before their preliminary appearances were scheduled on Dec. 30.
Prosecuting Attorney Jason Walker argued for the court to maintain the $150,000 bail set for both defendants in district court.
“The reason for the bail is not necessarily the individual facts of this case with the current charge but … the facts leading to this charge. The police basically stumbled into it while investigating the disappearance of the 5-year-old child in this case, and that case is essentially one where the parents have tampered with evidence,” Nelson said during Bowers’ hearing.
Law enforcement became involved in Oakley’s disappearance on Dec. 5 when the principal at Oakville Elementary School contacted the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office with concerns about Oakley’s safety, according to a detective’s report.
Principal Jessica Swift expressed concerns about Oakley’s wellbeing based on interactions she had with the 6-year-old and on the fact that she hadn’t seen Oakley when she had been in contact with the Carlson family helping them recover from a fire.
A Tumwater police officer was dispatched to conduct a welfare check on Oakley at the inn where her parents were staying, located within the 1600 block of Southwest Mottman Road, just before 10 a.m. on Dec. 6.
Bowers and Carlson spoke to the officer and gave multiple, inaccurate answers on where Oakley was, according to court documents.
Then, approximately 10 minutes after the officer left, one of the defendants ordered a factory reset on their cellphone, Walker said, adding that the ongoing investigation into Oakley’s disappearance has revealed other instances where people, presumably Bowers and Carlson, tampered with evidence.
Both defendants have also admitted to relapsing on methamphetamine, he said.
He later clarified that his intention with revealing the information about the previous investigation “was to indicate that ... the parents tampering with evidence in the previous investigation implicates that they could tamper with evidence in this case,” Nelson said.
Both defendants have prior warrants for their arrest on record for previous cases, which Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Katherine Svoboda took as an indication the defendants would not voluntarily appear for hearings on this case if they were released.
That, along with the potential for the defendants to tamper with evidence, caused Svoboda concern.
“The court is holding them accountable for the charges that are currently filed, not for potential charges that may come as appropriate,” Svoboda said.
Svoboda approved Walker’s request to set bail at $150,000 each. Both defendants are scheduled to reappear for arraignment hearings on Monday, Jan. 1.
Detectives continue to seek information from anyone who may have seen Oakley, who the sheriff’s office now believes hasn’t been seen alive since Feb. 10, 2021, according to King 5 News.
Sheriff’s office personnel previously believed she was last seen alive on Jan. 27, 2021.
Bowers and Carlson claim the last time they saw Oakley alive was Nov. 30.
“The parents have given no indication that Oakley is in the care of an adult and cannot account for her whereabouts or condition,” said the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office in a news release. “Investigators believe Oakley would be unable to survive on her own for this length of time.”
Searches of the area surrounding the family's property in Oakville for Oakley’s body came up empty, according to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.
Anyone with information that may be helpful in the case is advised to contact detectives by calling the sheriff’s office’s non-emergency number at 360-533-8765 or contacting Detective Sgt. Paul Logan at 360-964-1729 or email@example.com.
Timeline of Oakley’s Disappearance
• Nov. 2019: Oakley leaves the care of her foster parents and returns to her biological parents, according to King 5 News.
• Feb. 10, 2021: The last time detectives with the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office can confirm Oakley was seen alive.
• Nov. 6, 2021: A fire was reported at the Carlson’s residence in Oakville just before 5 p.m. Andrew Carlson told dispatchers his 4-year-old (Oakley’s age at the time) had lit the couch on fire with a cigarette lighter and said he had put the fire out himself. Investigators later determined the fire most likely started in the microwave on the kitchen counter — not from the couch, as Carlson had claimed.
• Nov. 30, 2021: The date Oakley’s parents claim they last saw Oakley.
• Dec. 5, 2021: Oakville Elementary School Principal Jessica Swift contacts the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office with concerns about Oakley’s safety.
• Dec. 6, 2021:
• Approximately 10 a.m. - An officer with the Tumwater Police Department initiates a welfare check for Oakley and interviews Oakley’s parents in their hotel room.
• 3:31 p.m.: An officer confirmed Bowers and Carlson left the hotel with their 2-year-old and returned to their Oakville residence.
• 5:10 p.m.: Bowers is booked into the Grays Harbor County Jail for allegedly obstructing an officer and on suspicion of manslaughter.
• 9:30 p.m.: Carlson is booked into the Grays Harbor County Jail on suspicion of manslaughter.
• Dec. 9, 2021: The 72-hour hold on suspicion of manslaughter expires, and the case is closed. Bowers and Carlson are charged with second-degree abandonment of a dependent person for allegedly neglecting to give their 6-year-old daughter a prescribed medication for approximately 15 months.
• Dec. 13: Detectives complete their search of the Carlson family’s house and surrounding property.