Two cases involving child endangering were heard Wednesday in Highland County Common Pleas Court, with one defendant pleading guilty to related violations after being accused of fleeing police with children in the car, and another defendant being sentenced to prison after his infant child was injured while he was drunk.
Misty Cowan, 39, Leesburg, pled guilty to failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, a third-degree felony, and child endangering, a first-degree misdemeanor, after reportedly leading Leesburg authorities on a high-speed chase with children in the back of an allegedly stolen vehicle earlier this year.
As previously reported, Cowan was indicted in October on one count of failure to comply; two counts of endangering children, a first-degree misdemeanor; and one count of receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony.
As previously reported, Cowan was arrested Aug. 30 after she allegedly fled from Leesburg police at Fairfield High School with two juveniles in a stolen car, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph on U.S. Route 62 before being thwarted by traffic near Staunton in Fayette County.
Leesburg Police Chief Shane Nolley told The Times-Gazette that Madison County authorities had been in contact with his department about a stolen vehicle suspected to be in the area, and when he received an anonymous tip that the vehicle was at Fairfield High School, Nolley went to investigate.
According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, the tipster said Cowan planned on leaving for West Virginia after picking up her children from school.
When Nolley located the vehicle, he found that the tags were fictitious, and the driver, who had a felony warrant from Madison County for fraud, was in the driver’s seat.
Nolley said he told Misty Cowan, 39, Leesburg, to shut off the vehicle, but she allegedly refused and took off northbound on SR 771 with two juveniles in the vehicle. According to Cowan’s indictment, the juveniles were ages 11 and 14.
Nolley said he pursued the vehicle through Leesburg to U.S. Route 62, where it headed northbound.
It was then that the vehicle exceeded 100 mph on the U.S. route, the chief said, and it was seen weaving in and out of traffic across double yellow lines.
“It ended up just south of Staunton,” Nolley said.
Fayette County authorities had placed spike strips in the road and traffic had become congested. The suspect vehicle became stuck between two cars, and Nolley was able to apprehend Cowan and place her under arrest.
Highland County Children Services responded to the scene and placed the two juveniles with family members, according to Nolley. There were no reported injuries and Cowan was taken into custody without incident, Nolley said. Cowan was transported to the Highland County Jail.
Nolley said Cowan allegedly purchased the vehicle at a car lot in Madison County using a fraudulent check, and it was listed as stolen. Cowan said on Wednesday that she is charged in Madison County with passing bad checks, and the case is pending.
Judge Rocky Coss ordered a presentence investigation be completed. Cowan will be sentenced Dec. 21. She faces up to 36 months in prison on the felony charge and up to six months in the county jail, although the state has recommended she be sentenced to a term of community control sanctions.
Also Wednesday, Matthew K. Williams, 25, Hillsboro, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in September to third-degree felony endangering children.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Williams’ 3-month-old child sustained head injuries on June 29 that doctors found suspicious.
The child was flown to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati for treatment, according to the affidavit, and doctors found that the child had two brain bleeds from separate injuries.
In law enforcement interviews, Williams first said the child had fallen out of a car seat, but he later said he had left the child alone in the home while he came into Hillsboro to buy vodka, then got drunk, and was standing in his living room holding the baby when he blacked out, according to the affidavit.
Williams said when he fell, the baby’s head hit the edge of a stand in the room, and when Williams awakened, the baby was not moving, according to the affidavit. Williams said he believed the baby was dead and began to shake the child to get a reaction, the affidavit states.
As of July 6, the child was still being treated at Cincinnati Children’s. Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said Tuesday that she did not know the child’s condition, but she said it survived the injuries.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.