Teacher Arrested for Murder Already Facing Charges; District Not Alerted
LEHI, Utah – A Utah teacher under arrest for suspicion of aggravated murder would have been placed on administrative leave more than a month ago had her school district known about previous charges for assault and domestic violence.
“We should have been made aware so that proper steps could have been taken,” said Kimberly Bird, assistant to the superintendent at Alpine School District. “We would have followed the process and made sure that everybody was safe.”
Chelsea Watrous Cook, 32, of Herriman, is accused of shooting and killing her ex-husband’s girlfriend on Sunday night in Midvale, according jail booking documents. Lisa Williams suffered several gunshot wounds and later died at the hospital.
The Alpine School District immediately fired Cook from her job as a teacher at Skyridge High School in Lehi, a spokesperson said. Unbeknownst to the district, Cook was already facing three misdemeanor charges stemming from an Oct. 16 incident that happened at her apartment in Herriman.
The Herriman Police Department investigated the case that resulted in Cook being charged with two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child and one count of assault. The victim in the case was an adult male who lives at a separate residence, according to Lt. Cody Stromberg.
As a licensed school teacher, Cook should have reported the charges to the school district within 48 hours or as soon as possible, according to rule R277-516-3 of the Utah Administrative Code.
“Any charges of that nature you must self-report,” Bird said.
That didn’t happen, Bird went on to say, and the district also didn’t receive a notification from Utah’s Bureau of Criminal Identification.
“If we would have been alerted, what would typically happen is an employee is placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and there would be certain things that we would look for — most importantly are children in imminent danger,” Bird said.
As of Tuesday evening, the district had still not received the report from the state about the October charges, even though Cook already appeared in the Herriman Justice Court on Nov. 13 for an arraignment, where she entered pleas of not guilty on all three charges.
“We typically find out within 24 hours,” Bird said. “So it’s been a very trusted process for us,” Bird said about the daily reports indicating if a school district employee has been arrested, cited or charged with offenses involving drugs and alcohol, domestic violence or felony crimes.
A spokesperson for Utah’s Department of Public Safety said the Bureau of Criminal Identification received Cook’s paperwork from the Herriman Police Department in the beginning of November. However, it wasn’t processed until Monday because there wasn’t an electronic version filed first.
“It’s put into another stack of papers to be verified and inputted manually into our system,” said public safety spokesperson Marissa Cote.
Had Herriman Police submitted Cook’s citation electronically, Alpine School District would have been alerted to the charges in early November.
“There’s nothing odd about this specific case,” Cote said. “That’s how long it takes if it’s not entered electronically.”
Paper copies of citations are processed based off of the date they are received, regardless of the severity of the alleged crimes, Cote said.
In response, Lt. Stromberg said Herriman police had to submit a paper copy of Cook’s citation because the department doesn’t have the machine needed to submit it electronically.
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