Activist Says Riverton Woman Evicted Because Other Tenants Planned To Murder Her

A Wyoming civil rights activist said during a Monday meeting of the Wyoming Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that a Riverton woman was evicted after other tenants threatened to murder her because she’s Black.

Leo Wolfson

September 19, 20235 min read

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Towana Groves said she was in a bad situation living at the Owl Creek Apartments in Riverton.

Wyoming civil rights activist Jimmy Simmons said the property manager at the low-income apartment complex communicated to him that other tenants were planning to murder Groves, so she was forced to evict Groves from her apartment.

Groves, who is Black, told her story of discrimination during a virtual meeting of the Wyoming Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Monday afternoon. The purpose of the meeting is to collect testimony from people about their civil rights concerns related to housing discrimination and fair housing practices in Wyoming.

A forum was also provided for Wyoming landlords, but none participated. 

She Was Unwelcome

Simmons backed up Groves’ account, and even added more to it. He said the property manager told him she had to give Groves her 30-day notice to leave the premises because she didn’t want anything on her conscience in case something happened to her. 

“The manager said, ‘Ms. Groves is in a very dangerous situation here. We have to evict her for her own safety,’” Simmons said.

Simmons, who also is a member of the advisory committee, said it was the second time a situation like this has happened at the Owl Creek Apartments in Riverton. 

A property manager for Owl Creek told Cowboy State Daily that the claims made by Groves and Simmons aren’t true, but declined further on the situation.

The purpose of the advisory committee is to research housing discrimination in Wyoming and report what it finds to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. This nonpartisan and nonregulatory federal agency studies civil rights policy across the U.S. and makes recommendations to lawmakers. 

“I just really hope that if you guys have the power to do something, please do,” Groves told the committee. “I hope somebody looks into it and makes some changes.” 

Groves said she faced constant harassment during her two years living at Owl Creek, which came to an end in August. At one point she had her Ring video doorbell ripped off her door by another female tenant. Another time she had her car keyed, and she also said people broke into her apartment and peed on her rug. 

“These people were relentless, it was nonstop, nonstop,” Groves said. “It was just horrible. It was like the whole entire building was focused on trying to harass and molest me.”

When she attempted to contact Riverton Police about the matter, Groves said the police sided with the apartment's management.

“They (property management) would say, ‘oh she’s crazy, nobody is bothering her,’” Groves said.

Groves said she had also heard that residents of the apartment didn’t want to have more than one black person living there, as another black resident also lives in the apartment. 

A low-income housing complex, Owl Creek receives subsidies from the federal government.

Groves, a former Miss Wyoming contestant who raised her children in the Cowboy State, said she would never have expected this to happen here.

“I couldn’t believe people would do these things,” Groves said. “I tried to stand my ground.”

Now, Groves says she is in a much better living situation with her dog Frank.

“Only by God’s grace am I here today,” Groves said. “There’s only so many people who could go through what I went through.”

Other Discrimination

Cheyenne resident Becky Coombs said she’s faced discrimination from landlords about her service dog. Coombs, who has a disability and receives income assistance, said she’s had many landlords stop communicating with her when they find out about her companion dog.

“Some landlords are great about communicating, but when I turn in the doctor's note to say I have a companion animal that I absolutely need to have, they either say absolutely not or there’s just no contact from them at all,” she said.

Emotional support animals (ESA) are covered under the Fair Housing Act in Wyoming. As long as a valid ESA letter can be provided that states a person needs an emotional support animal, a landlord cannot deny that person from having their animal living with them, even when pets are not normally allowed. 

Other landlords become wary when they find out she is planning to pay her rent with a section 8 housing voucher, Coombs said.

The federal housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. It allows participants to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program, and it is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Through this program, it is the federal government, not the renter, who pays the landlord.

“Some landlords love it because it’s guaranteed rent, some landlords tell me absolutely not,” Coombs said.

James O’Brien, chair of the Wyoming Advisory Committee, said housing discrimination based on disability has been a major problem in Wyoming in the past.

The Wyoming Advisory Committee plans to continue its work by next reaching out to members of the Legislature and various agencies in Wyoming. They specificallywant to work with state Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, who sponsored a law in 2015 that outlaws housing discrimination in Wyoming.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter