Charges: Port of Alaska engineer planned to kill family, self over job
The Port of Alaska’s head engineer has been arrested on accusations that he tried to drown his daughter in a bathtub, in what police say he claimed was a response to stress on the job.
Todd Cowles, 46, faces two counts of domestic-violence attempted murder in the Jan. 2 incident, according to court records. He was arraigned Saturday afternoon.
A criminal complaint against Cowles, written by APD Detective Taylor Falvo, said officers had responded to the home of Cowles’ wife shortly before 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. His 8-year-old daughter subsequently told investigators Cowles had filled the tub, then “picked her up by the waist and attempted to put her into the bathtub head first.”
“[The daughter] grabbed the sides of the bathtub and screamed,” Falvo wrote. “Todd stopped but attempted a second time with the same results.”
Cowles’ wife returned home to find the phone unplugged, Falvo wrote, but the daughter told her what happened. Relatives initially took Cowles to Providence Alaska Medical Center for evaluation.
When police interviewed Cowles’ wife the following day, she told them Cowles had been under significant stress due to the port’s billion-dollar reconstruction project. In November, Cowles had appeared before the Anchorage Assembly regarding funds for the project.
“[Cowles’ wife] said due to this stress Todd had an incident in November where he had a loaded shotgun in the bed and admitted to [her] that he had thought about harming himself but could not do it,” Falvo wrote. “Todd was taken to Providence for evaluation and released the next day with medications.”
Ever since that incident, Cowles’ wife said, she didn’t want to leave their daughter alone with him. On the day of the bathtub incident, she needed to mail a package, and Cowles said he would look after the child.
After leaving home at about 3 p.m., Cowles’ wife said she texted him about 15 minutes later to let him know the home’s heater wasn’t working. Instead of texting her back, he called just after 3:30 p.m.
“Todd talked to her about the heater but then advised [his wife] to stay out,” Falvo wrote. “[She] said there was something wrong with the way Todd talked to her, almost cold, so she went home.”
The daughter told her mother that Cowles had filled the tub with water, then said they were “going to play with her duckies.”
“[The daughter] stated while they were playing with the duckies Todd pushed [her] neck down towards the water and [she] screamed,” Falvo wrote. “Todd stopped and then [the daughter] went to her room.”
As the daughter recounted the incident, Cowles’ wife said, he began crying and said that “the state/port was in trouble.”
“[Cowles’ wife] said a statement was made by either her or Todd about him wanting to ‘hurt [the daughter], then hurt [her] and then take himself out,’” Falvo wrote. “[Cowles’ wife] said Todd agreed with the statement.”
Cowles had also recently stored “a fillet knife, a rope and gloves” in his sock drawer, according to his wife, which she hid after she discovered them.
When officers approached Cowles at Providence’s psychiatric unit, he initially refused to speak unless an attorney was present. Later, however, he called Falvo to waive his Miranda rights and discuss the case, confirming his wife’s account of the incident involving the shotgun.
“Todd advised me that he has been having trouble at work which is causing him great despair,” Falvo wrote. “Due to this trouble with work Todd said he had been having thoughts about killing his family.”
Cowles told Falvo he had tried to drown his daughter, and had drawn blinds in his home both to prevent discovery and allow him to ambush his wife when she returned home. Instead, however, he abandoned the scheme and turned on a movie for his daughter.
“Todd said he was going to stab [his wife] and kill her when she walked in,” Falvo wrote. “Todd said he would then hang himself. Todd said after [his daughter] screamed he found he was unable to do it. Todd explained the reason he wanted to kill his family and himself was to escape.”
Court records show Cowles was initially held on $100,000 bail in the case. He remained in custody Monday afternoon at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, according to a statewide inmate database.
Port Director Steve Ribuffo said Monday afternoon that Cowles has not been removed from the port’s staff, although managers are now monitoring the case against him.
Asked about the claim in charging documents that Cowles had been under stress at work, Ribuffo said, “We all have.”
“This modernization program, it's pretty involved, and we're actually getting to the point where we're going to start construction,” Ribuffo said. “There's some legitimacy behind that, but at this point we’re waiting to hear from the doctors as everyone else is.”
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