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Florence woman charged with criminal child endangerment
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Florence woman charged with criminal child endangerment

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A Florence woman was charged with three felonies after allegedly driving her children to school while under the influence of alcohol.

Cori Lee Hembrook, 40, appeared Monday in Ravalli County Justice Court on two felony counts of criminal child endangerment, felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor counts of driving while under the influence and unlawful possession of an open alcoholic beverage container.

According to the charging affidavit, both Ravalli and Missoula county dispatch started receiving 911 calls at about 9 a.m. regarding a silver Toyota 4-Runner being driven erratically and dangerously in the Florence area.

The calls continued until about 12:47 p.m. when a Montana Highway Patrol trooper spotted the vehicle on Highway 93 near Florence. The trooper watched the vehicle pull into a grocery store parking lot and saw Hembrook go inside.

While the trooper was waiting, a man pulled up next to the trooper and said: “That is the 4-Runner.”

About 10 minutes later, Hembrook came out, re-entered her vehicle and pulled onto the highway.

The affidavit said the trooper watched Hembrook allegedly drive into the oncoming lane of travel, miss a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, and then swerve back into her lane. The trooper immediately turned on the emergency lights to pull Hembrook over.

Hembrook continued driving until she could get her seat belt on before stopping.

The trooper noted Hembrook’s speech and movement were slow and her eyes were bloodshot and watery. Hembrook denied drinking or taking medications.

The trooper found an open 24-ounce Steele Reserve Spiked Tangerine drink in the vehicle’s center console that had been half consumed.

A preliminary breath sample resulted in a .210 BrAC. A second breath sample an hour and 45 minutes later was at .168.

In Montana, a driver is considered impaired with a blood alcohol content of .08.

Hembrook allegedly told the trooper she had dropped off her two children at the Florence School earlier that day and was planning to pick them up.

Two reporting parties said they saw Hembrook driving with her two children in the vehicle. They reported seeing her make a U-turn in the middle of Highway 93, driving the wrong way on the concrete median and driving over the median to get back into the correct lane, the affidavit said.

The Florence School Resource Officer pulled surveillance video that allegedly showed Hembrook driving erratically at the school while dropping her children off.

The affidavit said Hembrook left voicemails at the school saying her children took the bus to school, apparently forgetting that she had dropped them off.

Hembrook has a prior DUI conviction in Montana in February 2019.

Ravalli County Justice Jim Bailey set bond at $10,000.

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