A 16-year-old Norris High School student warned administrators in early April that rumors were circulating about a relationship between the school's assistant trap shooting coach and a student athlete on the team, deputies alleged in court filings.
The 16-year-old student told investigators that he was instructed to stop speaking about 23-year-old Lillie Bowman's relationship with the student athlete or risk a suspension, Lancaster County Sheriff's Deputy Joanna Dimas said in a search warrant made public Wednesday that outlines a weeklong investigation that ended with Bowman's arrest Friday.
Prosecutors charged the English teacher and Norris High School alumna Monday with first-degree sexual abuse by a school employee — a class 2 felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
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In an email Wednesday to the Journal Star, Norris School District Superintendent Brian Maschmann said the district "received word" April 6 that rumors were circulating about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student, but that an immediate investigation seemed to quash the rumor.
"At that time, both (Bowman and the student) stated that the rumor was not true," Maschmann said in the email, in which he did not name Bowman.
Maschmann said the administrator also interviewed the student thought to have been spreading the rumor, who reported "hearing the rumor off campus and spreading the message to other students."
The administrator then called that student’s mom to relay the conversation "and that the accusation appeared unfounded," Maschmann said.
And, he said, administrators reported the rumor and investigation to Norris' school resource officer.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Ben Houchin said he didn't learn of the April 6 email from an assistant principal to the resource officer until this week, but said the resource officer seemed to follow protocol.
Houchin said the email seemed intended to keep the deputy in the loop about school happenings and — since the assistant principal indicated the rumor was "unfounded" and that there wasn't yet an indication of the relationship's sexual nature — there wasn't an apparent need for further investigating.
Then, more than a month later on May 14, a concerned Norris parent reported Bowman's relationship with a member of the team to the sheriff's office, prompting a weeklong investigation that resulted in Monday's felony charges.
In the search warrant, Dimas, the deputy, said a parent called the Sheriff's Office and said her son reported seeing Bowman holding hands with the student athlete, riding in a vehicle with him and going out to lunch with the teen.
Investigators later talked to Bowman's roommate, who shared a south Lincoln apartment with the Doane University graduate.
Bowman's roommate told authorities the 23-year-old informed her of her relationship with the student in mid-April and that the student had at times hung out at their apartment, Dimas said in the court filing.
But for the most part, Bowman tried to keep the student out of her roommate's sight due to the discomfort their relationship had caused, according to the search warrant.
Bowman would text her roommate and ask if she planned to be around their apartment before inviting the student over, Dimas said, doing so eight times in April and May.
On May 18 — the day before deputies arrested Bowman — investigators obtained the 23-year-old's phone records that showed she had spoken on the phone with the student 306 times between April 1 and then, Dimas said.
Deputies on Friday searched Bowman's apartment, at 8450 Cody Drive, and found open condom wrappers and used condoms — at least one of which is thought to have been from the night before, Dimas said.
In a Friday interview with investigators, the student said he had been in a relationship with Bowman since March after they grew close to one another as trap season progressed, according to the court records.
The student said he and Bowman had sex approximately 10 times since April, Dimas said.
Bowman, who was taken to the Lancaster County jail after she was arrested on school grounds Friday, was in her first year teaching at Norris following her graduation from Doane in May 2022.
She paid $5,000 to bond out Monday.
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