Anessa Paige Gower is a California teacher arrested on child molestation charges accusing her of sexually abusing at least seven students, prosecutors say. Gower was a biology teacher at Making Waves Academy, a charter school in Richmond. Gower was arrested in April 2022, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office said in a press release. She is facing 29 charges.
Gower, 35, was fired by Making Waves Academy after her arrest, the school’s chief executive officer, Alton Nelson Jr., said in a statement, calling the accusations against the biology teacher “highly concerning.” Nelson added in his statement, “We immediately shared that information with authorities who are reviewing the matter. That teacher is no longer employed by Making Waves Academy and we have reached out to parents, students and faculty to provide support where it might be needed.”
Here’s what you need to know about Anessa Gower:
1. Anessa Gower Is Accused of ‘Sex Acts With Minors, Inappropriate Touching & Sharing Sexually Graphic Photos Over Online Platforms,’ Prosecutors Say
The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office said in its news release, “Gower was a biology teacher at Making Waves Academy in Richmond and allegedly engaged in numerous acts of a sexual nature with minors between 2021-2022. Investigators took statements from the victims and witnesses about a number of incidents involving sex acts with minors, inappropriate touching, and sharing sexually graphic photos over online platforms.”
Further details about the accusations against Gower were not immediately available. Court records show that the charges accuse Gower of criminal behavior during incidents between December 23, 2021, and February 15, 2022. It was not immediately known when the investigation into Gower began. It was also not immediately clear if the investigation remains ongoing and if police suspect there are any other potential victims.
It was also not clear how police and school officials became aware of the accusations against Gower. The charter school said that it made police aware of the “highly concerning” allegations. About 1,000 students from grades 5 to 12 attend the school, located on Lakeside Drive in Richmond, California.
2. Gower Was Arrested at the Sacramento Airport After Returning to California on a Flight From Hawaii, Authorities Say
“Richmond Police, with assistance from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Gower at Sacramento International Airport on April 6, 2022, as she was returning to California from Hawaii. She is currently in custody in Richmond,” the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office said in its press release.
According to the San Jose Mercury-News, Gower is not the first teacher accused of child molestation in recent years at Making Waves Academy. Middle school teacher Ronald Guinto was convicted in 2017 of 87 felonies accusing him of sexually abusing 15 boys at a youth outdoor camp he created, the newspaper reported. Guinto was sentenced to 931 years in state prison.
The charter school paid the victims and their families $10.9 million to settle a lawsuit, according to the Mercury-News. Nelson, who was the school’s CEO at the time of that case as well, said the charter school was not aware of Guinto’s behavior and said in a statement, “Our sympathies continue to go out to children and families who were impacted.”
3. Gower Is Originally From Arkansas & Has Also Spent Time Living in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia & Tennessee Before Moving to California in 2018
According to public records, Gower has lived in California since 2018. She lived in Foster City, California, from January 2018 to February 2021. She has also lived in San Francisco, according to public records. Making Waves Academy did not say when Gower began working at the school or what ages she taught. The charter school also did not say if Gower was involved in leading any clubs or extracurricular activities at the Richmond school.
Gower’s previous employment history was also not known and Heavy could not locate any social media pages, including a Facebook profile, LinkedIn page or Instagram in her name. Records show Gower, who has also gone by Anessa Paige Smythe, was born and raised in Arkansas. Along with living in Arkansas, Gower has also spent time living in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee before moving to California, public records obtained by Heavy show.
Gower does not appear to have any previous criminal history in California or outside of the state, except for a 2004 speeding ticket in California and a 2009 infraction, also in Arkansas, accusing her of failure to present proof of insurance and not wearing a seatbelt. The then-22-year-old Gower paid a fine in that case, according to court records viewed by Heavy.
4. Gower Faces Several Years in Prison on the Felony & Misdemeanor Charges Filed Against Her
Gower is facing 25 felony charges and 4 misdemeanor charges, according to Contra Costa court records available online. The felony charges include sodomy of a person under the age of 16, lewd act upon a child, contacting a minor for purposes of committing a felony, showing or sending harmful material to seduce a minor, meeting a minor for lewd purposes and unlawful sexual intercourse.
Gower is additionally facing four misdemeanor charges of child molesting. She could face several years in prison if convicted of the felony and misdemeanor charges filed against her, according to California state law. The charges were officially filed in a complaint on April 8, 2022.
Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office public information officer Ted Asregadoo said in a press release announcing Gower’s arrest, ” A former Richmond school teacher is facing multiple charges of child molestation. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office filed 29 counts against Anessa Paige Gower on April 8, 2022, in Contra Costa County Superior Court. The case involves seven minors, so their identities are being withheld.”
5. Gower Is Being Held on $1.625 Million Bail
Gower is being held on $1.625 million bail at the Contra Costa County jail, online records show. She is being held at the Martinez Detention Facility. Records show Gower was arrested by the Richmond Police Department on April 6, 2022, about 9:50 p.m.
Gower was scheduled to appear in court for the first time on April 11, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. in superior court in Contra Costa County, records show. Court documents, including a charging affidavit, filed in the case by prosecutors were not immediately available and no other details have been released.
It was not immediately clear if Gower has hired an attorney who could comment on her behalf and she could not be reached for comment by Heavy. This story will be updated as more information is made available and if Gower or her attorney comments about the accusations made against her by police and prosecutors.