"I hope it's a coincidence and not a trend," said Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne.
"If it's a trend it's alarming," said Hubbard County Chemical Dependency Coordinator Sara Bowles.
Four women have been arrested drunk this summer in Hubbard County, driving with their children in the car. All four incidents resulted in a crash. None of the children was seriously injured physically.
Bowles said the emotional scarring could take years to heal.
- On June 1, Ashlie Marie Jackson, 24, of Dilworth, was northbound on U.S. Highway 71 when she veered over the centerline and sideswiped a semi in north Hubbard County. Had the semi driver not veered at the same time to avoid the collision, the crash would have been head-on, the accident report states.
A Preliminary Breath Test indicated Jackson had an alcohol content of .286.
In the back seat, Jackson's 5-year-old son was in the center back seat without a proper child seat or restraint.
An eyewitness "stated she overheard the child present... ask the driver why she had been drinking."
The boy was immediately removed by authorities and placed with Social Services. The trooper at the scene attempted to ascertain whether the boy had been injured in the crash after the boy said he'd hurt his knee.
"Jackson pulled him away and covered his mouth with her hand," the complaint states.
The trooper observed Jackson's "speech was slurred, her eyes were bloodshot and she had poor balance," the complaint stated.
Jackson served 30 days in jail for the DWI and Child Endangerment charges and is working with Clay County Social Services to get her son back, she told the judge in court.
- On June 18, Dolly Fay Hanks, 25, of Anoka, was arrested after officers found her car crashed in the ditch off Highway 64.
The deputy was told a woman was given change by a convenience store to use a pay phone. Hanks and her 3-year-old son were found "attempting to sleep in the phone booth" in Akeley, the complaint stated.
"Her eyes were bloodshot and watery, and there was a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on her breath," the complaint states. The PBT measured a .094 alcohol concentration. Hanks told the officer she had not had anything to drink since 2:30 a.m. She admitted being in an accident, which occurred three hours later. Trial on the two counts of Third Degree DWI and single count of Child Endangerment is set for Sept. 22 if the case doesn't settle in a plea bargain earlier.
- On July 2, Park Rapids City Councilman Pat Mikesh made an emergency call from Highway 71. A vehicle following him "was weaving from the shoulder of the road over to the center line," he told the dispatcher.
By the time officers had arrived at the scene, Shannon Marie Gray-Boettcher, 41, of Morris, had rear-ended Mikesh, the complaint states.
The officer "asked Gray-Boettcher to step out of the vehicle and as she did she fell to her knees and (the officer) caught her in his arms."
Her PBT indicated a .207 alcohol concentration.
Two of her three children, a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old, were in the car with her.
She was initially charged with two counts of Second Degree DWI, Child Endangerment and Leaving the Scene of an Accident.
"The (official alcohol) test came back under the .20 so we weren't able to forfeit the vehicle," Dearstyne said. "We did a Third Degree (DWI) with a child in the car. The only thing I can guess there is the PBT was so high, she may have just taken a swig of the alcohol just before she had the accident," he said.
The pretrial hearing is set for Aug. 30.
-On Aug. 4, a deputy responded to a report of a "vehicle in the ditch with a baby in the backseat and a female rolling around outside Becker Line Road and 190th Street," the complaint states.
Arrested was Janel Lemyra Walker, 39, of Park Rapids.
"Walker was extremely emotional and had a hard time keeping her balance," the complaint stated.
The PBT indicated an alcohol level of .186.
The baby was unhurt and was taken to the Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center, where it was turned over to relatives.
Walker made an initial appearance last week in Hubbard County District Court. She is charged with two counts of Third Dewgree DWI, Child Endangerment and driving with a suspended license. Trial is set for Oct. 20.
"There's potential for injury and fatality," Bowles said. "And just the whole scarring issue that occurs after... and the fear and neglect."
Bowles worries, "Those kids are a victim of their circumstance, which is really sad, and then this cycle starts."
Dearstyne said children are routinely referred to Social Services agencies and immediately removed from the drinking parent.
"It's something we need to start waking up about," Bowles said. "We don't have stiff enough penalties for these things but if you look at those moms they probably all have a problem and what are we doing to treat these things?"
Two of the women have previous substance abuse convictions, Jackson for a minor consuming in 2005 and Hanks for being a minor consuming and possession of marijuana in 2004.
Gray-Boettcher and Walker have only been convicted of speeding violations in the past,
Gray Boettcher said she is a full-time nurse in Willmar.
"I've really been trying to get to the parent and the youth," Bowles said. "If you don't give the parents the resources and support they need, the kids continue to go back into an environment that doesn't support them not using. "
And Bowles said it can often take three generations to eradicate alcoholism from a family tree.
Bowles pointed to a recent ABC Health report that indicated parental substance abuse interrupts a child's normal development and cognition. Children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves.
"We'll keep watching it and see how it comes out," Dearstyne said.