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Zahra investigator charged with DWI

December 15, 2010

A North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper charged an investigator in the Zahra Baker case with driving while impaired.

Robert Joseph Falowski, 42, of Claremont, was charged Dec. 4 with driving while impaired, failure to report an accident and failure to maintain lane control.

Falowski's name appears on a Hickory Police Department warrant to search Zahra Baker's former residence, located at 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory.

The warrant includes information about how Zahra Baker's stepmother

Elisa Baker, led police to locations where the child's body was disposed, as well as information about items seized from the former Baker residence.

The warrant, signed and dated Oct. 29 by Catawba County Superior Court Judge Nathan Poovey, lists Falowski as an investigator with Hickory Police Department.

Hickory Police Maj. Clyde Deal said only Chief Tom Adkins could comment about the incident, and Adkins did not return phone calls Wednesday from The O-N-E.

Deal wouldn't say whether Falowski is employed at Hickory Police Department, but Falowski still has a voicemail box through the department.

According to a crash report from the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Falowski was traveling north in a 1998 Jeep on Rock Barn Road in Claremont when he ran off the road to the right and struck a mailbox about 6:30 p.m.

The report says Falowski overcorrected and crossed the center line, running off the road to the left and hitting a stop sign. Falowski then allegedly traveled across the road and into a field, striking a tree near Rock Barn Road.

Falowski was traveling at 45 mph during the incident, which is the listed speed limit, according to the report. After the crash, Falowski allegedly left the scene.

NCSHP Trooper R.E. Rudisill cited Falowski for drinking and driving after the trooper noticed Falowski had "an odor of alcohol coming from his breath" and "red, glassy eyes," according to court documents.

Falowski submitted to a blood test at 9:41 p.m. that night to determine if he was impaired while driving. Falowski called an attorney and/or a witness to be present at the time of the blood test, according to court documents.

Those results are pending, according to the Highway Patrol District Office.

Damage to Falowski's Jeep was estimated at $1,000. Damage to the mailbox, which belonged to a resident on Rock Barn Road, was about $100.

Falowski is scheduled to appear in Catawba County court Jan. 19 on charges of failure to maintain lane control, failure to report an accident and driving while impaired. The Department of Transportation-owned stop sign received $250 in damage.

According to the search warrant, Falowski has been a law enforcement officer for 19 years and is assigned to the Criminal Investigations division. He graduated from the North Carolina Criminal Investigators Academy and has more than 2,000 hours of training.

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