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Campbell County Judge Dismisses Felony Charge for Mother of Abused Infant

in Crime/News
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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A Campbell County judge ruled Friday afternoon to dismiss a felony charge for Keasha Bullinger, 28, the mother of an allegedly abused 4-month-old infant that suffered 31 broken bones.  

Circuit Court Judge Wendy Bartlett, of the Sixth Judicial District, said, as part of her ruling, that the State of Wyoming had not satisfied its burden of proof for an allegation claiming that Bullinger had taken steps to disrupt the pursuit of justice in a felony child abuse investigation into the alleged actions of Tyler Martinson, 28 (County 17, Jan. 5). 

Campbell County Attorney Mitch Damsky argued that Bullinger had coached her oldest son in preparation of a forensic interview in Rapid City, South Dakota, instructing him on what to say and how to respond to questions that could be asked regarding the potential abuse of her then 3-month-old son.  

Gillette Police Department (GPD) Detective Eric Small, lead investigator in the case against Martinson, told the court that Bullinger’s son was withdrawn and guarded during the forensic interview, informing investigators that his mother had told him that Martinson didn’t hurt the infant “that bad” and that babies’ bones break easy.  

Those statements are clear indications that Bullinger had prepared her 8-year-old son for the interview, according to Damsky.  

“Those were not the words of an 8-year-old child,” Damsky said about video footage of the forensic interview.  

Attorney Christina Williams, representing Bullinger, argued that the prosecution’s arguments lacked clear evidence that the alleged offense occurred and were based largely on speculation.   

“You’re just guessing that this happened, you can’t say for sure,” Williams told Small, dismissing the detective’s assertions that video evidence clearly showed Bullinger’s son was prepped for the interview.  

She noted that Bullinger’s son had given no indication that he had been specifically prepared for questions that could be asked during the interview.  

Williams further stated that the prosecution’s arguments against Bullinger didn’t match the definitions of the state statute she was charged under.  

Wyoming Statute § 6-5-202 states that a person is an accessory after the fact if, with intent to hinder, delay or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, detention, conviction, or punishment of another for the commission of a crime, he renders assistance to the person.   

Bullinger did not force her son, intimidate her son, or deceive her son into doing anything, Williams said, further noting the state’s inability to point out specific questions that Bullinger’s son had been prepared for.  

“It’s just speculation, your honor, it’s not supported by evidence or probable cause,” Williams said.  

Bartlett agreed with the defense and dismissed the felony charge against Bullinger but added that other misdemeanor charges related to the child abuse case still need to be addressed.  

Bullinger remains charged with seven counts of child endangerment for allegedly knowing about, and failing to act, on a string of abuse allegedly inflicted on her infant son by Martinson, who was arrested on 31 counts of felony aggravated child abuse Jan. 4 (County 17, Jan. 26). 

Affidavits of probable cause filed in the case state that Bullinger, accompanied by Martinson, took her infant son to the emergency room at Campbell County Memorial Hospital on Jan. 2.  

The infant was screaming, inconsolable, and his ribs popped and cracked with each breath, court documents say, which also note that his right leg was splayed to the side and not moving.  

Medical examinations revealed the infant had suffered 26 separate fractures to his ribs and five fractures to his legs, the worst of which was a fracture to his right femur.  

Small added during Bullinger’s preliminary hearing Feb. 26 that the baby also had three compression fractures, one in his neck and two in his back, according to additional medical examinations carried out in Denver, Colorado.  

“I might have been a little rough,” Martinson allegedly informed investigators Jan. 2, according to court documents, saying that he did not know how to pick up or handle an infant and believed he had injured the infant several times in the last three months.  

Bullinger is believed to have known about Martinson’s actions; on one occasion she walked in a room while Martinson had been changing the infant’s diaper to find her infant son bleeding from his nose and mouth, according to court documents.  

On other occasions, Bullinger noted that Martinson had allegedly been showing signs of resentment towards his son and had been picking him up so abruptly that the infant would scream in pain, according to court documents.   

Williams stated Feb. 26 that Bullinger had not been idle regarding the abuse; she had sought medical attention for the infant on several occasions and had collaborated with Martinson’s parents to put their son in counseling.  

Several times, she told investigators, Bullinger would “get up in Martinson’s face about it,” court documents state.  

But despite knowing of the danger Martinson posed to her infant son, court documents say, Bullinger repeatedly left the baby in his charge.  

When asked what it would have taken for her to do something about the abuse, Bullinger allegedly told investigators that the baby would have to be screaming in pain, according to the affidavit.  

Bullinger was arrested on the charges Jan. 25 but has since posted bail and has been released from the Campbell County Detention Center.  

Bartlett ordered that a criminal case be scheduled for a ruling on the child endangerment charges against Bullinger.  

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Wyo Supreme Court: Swinger Can Seek Court Action To Determine Who Fathered Child

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man who claimed to have fathered a child while involved in an “open relationship” can seek court action to determine whether he is the child’s father, Wyoming’s Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Justices overturned a lower court’s ruling that the man, identified only as BJ, lacked standing to bring paternity action in an effort to prove the child is his.

According to the ruling, the man and his wife were involved in an “open relationship” with a man identified as “CM” and his wife.

CM’s wife, identified as “Mother,” became pregnant and gave birth to a child in 2019. In May of 2019, BJ filed a petition to establish that he was the child’s father.

However, the mother asked that the petition be dismissed, saying her husband, CM, was the presumed father of her child.

The state district court in Cheyenne ruled that because the child already had a presumed father, CM, then BJ was a “stranger to the relationship” and was not entitled to seek a paternity order.

But justices said state law clearly allows “a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated” the right to seek a court ruling on the issue.

“The language in (state law) is clear and unambiguous,” said the ruling, written by Justice Kari Gray. “BJ qualifies as ‘a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated.’ He has standing under the plain meaning of the statute.”

The state district court was ordered to conduct new proceedings in the case.

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Wyoming Could Receive 47K Vaccine Doses in March

in Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is expected to receive 47,370 doses of the coronavirus vaccine next month, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

That amounts to approximately 5,000 doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines every week, although there will be a total of 7,020 doses delivered to a handful of counties around the state in the first week of the month.

The totals reported are only for the first doses of the two vaccines, the department said. It also noted the numbers could change and are only an estimate at this time.

Fremont County is receiving only the Pfizer vaccine every week, with 4,680 expected to arrive by the end of the month. Laramie County is receiving more of the Pfizer vaccine, with only 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to be delivered for the entirety of March.

Laramie and Natrona counties are expected to receive the largest number of doses of the vaccine next month, with each county getting a total of 5,280 of the two vaccines.

Laramie County has received the most doses of the vaccine since they began shipping out in December, with 12,570 doses. Natrona County followed with 11,970.

More than 82,000 Wyoming residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, while 41,906 have received their second dose as of Friday.

This week, officials announced that Johnson and Johnson had produced a safe and 72% effective vaccine that only requires one dose, but it wasn’t clear when that vaccine might become available. According to USA Today, the vaccine is being reviewed by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

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Casper Man Arrested for Murder Told Church About Crime

in Crime/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper man arrested for second-degree murder on Friday allegedly announced to his church that he had committed the crime, according to authorities.

Casper police arrested Olinza Headd, 53, without incident Friday following a suspicious death investigation that began on Jan. 13.

The investigation began after police were called to an apartment complex in Casper on a report of a suicide attempt. The reporting party heard a gunshot from her apartment and her boyfriend, Eugene Hogan III, was inside of the apartment alone.

Upon arrival on the scene, first responders found Hogan from with several apparent gunshot wounds.

During what was Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters called a very complex investigation, officers began to develop theories on what happened.

McPheeters said a witness account of Headd publicly announcing at his church on Jan. 17 that he had shot another man “greatly assisted” in the investigation.

Armed with that information and evidence they had gathered themselves, investigators determined Headd, a member of Hogan’s family, entered Hogan’s apartment on the evening of Jan. 13 with a firearm and shot the victim multiple times before leaving the scene.

“This investigation yielded the highest level of professionalism in police services out of our extremely skilled team here at the Casper Police Department,” McPheeters said. “Many areas of the Department were used as integral resources in gathering information and evidence to reach a conclusion in this case. This investigation highlights the importance of our community’s role in helping to solve and prevent crimes. It is all of our responsibility to do our part to keep Casper the safe community we know and love.

“We commend the brave individuals who came forward to assist us with this case and thank the hard-working men and women of the Casper Police Department who put in countless hours – working all day and all night – to ensure those responsible would be brought to justice,” McPheeters continued. “Any loss of life in our community is tragic and our condolences are with the family of the deceased.”

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Wyoming Drought: Winter Storms Helping But Most of State in Severe Drought

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By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily

Recent winter storms have had a positive impact on the snow-water content in sites measured around the state of Wyoming.  

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, accumulations were highest in the Yellowstone Headwaters area where the snow water equivalent was 110% of normal as of Thursday. 

The Madison Headwaters on the west side of Yellowstone National Park reported 89% of normal. The Shoshone River Basin east of the park measured 109% and the Snake River Basin reporting stations revealed 101% of normal. 

To the south, the upper Green River Basin posted 95% of normal. 

The other side of the state however is still experiencing drought, with the South Platte River Basin reporting 26% of normal snow water equivalent. 

Statewide, Wyoming currently has a snow-water equivalent of nearly 96%.

Despite the extra moisture, however, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that much of the state is in a drought.

As of Tuesday, drought conditions around the state ranged from “abnormally dry” in the state’s northwestern coroner to “extreme drought” in central Wyoming, including parts of Natrona, Fremont, Hot Springs, Washakie, Big Horn, Johnson, Converse and Carbon counties.

According to the Drought Monitor, 22.71% of the state is in extreme drought. Most of the state, 38.25%, is under what the monitor calls a “severe drought. Only 2.2% of the state is not considered to be in a drought.

The Drought Monitor is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Wyoming COVID Hospitalizations Drop to 20

in Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations have dropped again steadily in the past week, falling from 31 to 20.

According to the Wyoming hospitalization tracker, there has been a slight uptick in cases this week, with a low of 19 coronavirus patients as of Monday increasing to 25 as of Wednesday.

However, the number dipped by five in one day on Thursday, declining to 20.

The Wyoming Medical Center in Casper had the most patients, with seven. The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, Cody Regional Health and Platte County Memorial Hospital followed, with each having two coronavirus patients.

Nearly 50 intensive care unit beds across the state were in use, 11 each at the Wyoming Medical Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. But just because someone is in the ICU doesn’t mean they are a coronavirus patient.

Of Wyoming’s available 264 ventilators, only 15 were in use, six at the Wyoming Medical Center, five at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, three at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie and one at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County.

However, just because someone is on a ventilator doesn’t mean they are a coronavirus patient.

Wyoming hospitals have conducted 86,077 coronavirus tests since the beginning of the pandemic one year ago. The average seven-day positivity rate is now 3.36%.

Among Wyoming residents, there have now been 671 coronavirus-related deaths, 45,780 lab-confirmed cases and 8,164 probable cases reported since the pandemic began.

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Teton County Search and Rescue Saves Eight Stranded Snowmobilers

in Accident/Good news/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eight snowmobilers were saved on Thursday by Teton County Search and Rescue after becoming lost on Beartooth Pass.

According to the SAR team, it was contacted Thursday morning by Park County to do an aerial search for the group of snowmobilers that were reportedly lost on the pass.

The group hadn’t been seen or heard from since Wednesday and spent the night out in the elements.

Park County’s Search and Rescue team determined the group’s location, about six miles from the nearest trailhead, and requested a helicopter evacuation.

The aircraft loaded up two Teton County SAR volunteers and a ranger from Grand Teton National Park and flew to Cody to refuel. The team then flew to the site and successfully transported all eight snowmobilers to safety.

In the past few weeks, the team has responded to incidents in Fremont, Lincoln, and Park counties, as well as Grand Teton National Park. The team has been called out more this year than all of last season.

“We still have very motivated rescuers who are eager to help out in any way they can,” said Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr. “We have this amazing resource available and if another county needs it, we’re absolutely happy to help out.”

Since the beginning of the year, the team has been called out 31 times — responding to events including five fatalities, three involving avalanches. Of the 31 responses, 24 resulted in active missions, more than during the entire previous winter season.

Three people have died in avalanches in northwestern Wyoming since mid-February, two snowboarders and one snowmobiler.

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Wyoming Couple Killed By Nebraska Police Also Stole Propane Tanks In Mills

in Crime/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper woman and Evansville man who died as a result of a shootout with Nebraska law enforcement last weekend also stole more than $800 worth of propane tanks in Mills in the days leading up to their deaths, according to authorities.

According to the Mills Police Department, a theft occurred at the Salt Creek Homax in Mills on Feb. 17. When employees reported the theft later that day, they provided officers with surveillance camera footage.

The footage showed an adult male (later determined to be Christian Alexander) and an adult female (later determined to be Hailey Stainbrook) taking 14 Blue Rhino propane tanks, which were valued at $837.75.

The couple was seen arriving in a black GMC Yukon, loading the tanks into the vehicle and then leaving.

The Mills and Casper police departments collaborated together on this investigation, and the owner of the stolen GMC Yukon identified the vehicle after seeing stills of the footage on social media.

The vehicle owner also helped identify Alexander and Stainbrook.

The couple was killed while fleeing from officers in Lincoln, Nebraska, after allegedly stealing a man’s wallet at a hotel. Stainbrook apparently met the man via a social media app on Friday evening and spent some time with him at his hotel.

As the two were fleeing, an officer crashed his vehicle into theirs, stopping them. The officer then began exchanging gunfire with Alexander, according to police reports.

After Alexander was disabled, officers negotiated with Stainbrook for around seven minutes before she pointed a gun at law enforcement, prompting officers to shoot at her, reports said.

Stainbrook died at a hospital after surgery over the weekend and Alexander died Tuesday of his injuries. Officer Jesse Hilger, who shot the couple, will be placed on administrative leave until an internal investigation is completed.

The police have found to be justified in their shooting of Alexander and Stainbrook, however.

According to the Mills Police Department, a small portion of the stolen propane tanks have been located and the Yukon was returned to its owner after being found in Cheyenne.

No charges have been filed in the theft case, due to the investigation being in its preliminary stages.

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Barrasso: Trump Would Be Front-Runner If He Runs For President in 2024

in John Barrasso/News
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Unlike his House counterpart Liz Cheney who has said numerous times she doesn’t believe President Trump should have any future in the Republican Party or the country, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso seems to be enthusiastically welcoming the president back to politics.

Barrasso, appearing on the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s “The National Desk” on Thursday, said the former president would be the odds-on favorite to carry the mantle of the GOP if he chooses to run again.

“If President Trump runs for re-election which he is certainly able to do, I think that he would clearly be the frontrunner,” Barrasso said.

“You know there are a number of senators, former members of the cabinet, who are all interested in running in 2024, and you wonder if President Trump’s ultimate decision will determine what they do or don’t do in 2024,” he said.

Wyoming’s senior senator said Trump will be “clearly very well received” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday where he is slated to deliver a speech.

That type of reception, Barrasso said, is similar to how Wyoming residents regard the president.

“[Trump] is very popular in Wyoming, he got 72% of the votes in my state and I would say back home in Wyoming, people look to President Trump and are looking forward to his speech on Sunday,” he said.

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WYGO Director: Second Amendment Preservation Act Is ‘Must Have’

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By The Center Square, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming legislators are looking to strengthen the state’s Second Amendment laws in the wake of President Joe Biden’s policies on gun control.

Elected on a strong gun control platform, Biden supports a national prohibition on high-capacity magazines, restrictions on firearm sales and laws that would make firearms manufacturers civilly liable for guns used in certain crimes.

So far, several pro-gun rights bills are in the works in Wyoming, including bills to repeal gun-free zones and eliminate residency requirements for concealed carry permits.

Another is the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

A version of this bill was narrowly defeated last year, but the new version has teeth, said Aaron Dorr, director of Wyoming Gun Owners.

Dorr said Biden has declared open season on gun owners and the Second Amendment, and SAPA is the “must-have” legislation for gun owners.

“The Preservation Act would state that all federal gun control laws are null and void here in Wyoming, and it would do that by requiring that all Wyoming’s peace officers, whether it’s state troopers, county deputies or city officers, could only enforce state law passed by the state legislature when it comes to guns, ammunition or accessories,” Dorr told The Center Square. “So this is no feel-good bill, this is a very serious effort on our part to nullify federal gun control.”

It also would allow for civil lawsuits against any official who upholds a federal law in opposition to a state law, according to Dorr.

Dorr said he hasn’t heard any arguments against SAPA’s constitutionality.

“The whole concept behind SAPA legislation is the anti-commandeering doctrine, which has been around for hundreds of years,” he said. “The idea, very simply, is the states are independent sovereign entities and they have an absolute right to enforce the laws of their own making, and the federal government does not have, and has never had, the right to simply commandeer the states’ legislative process and order the states to enforce federal law.”

This doctrine is upheld by a litany of Supreme Court rulings from 1842 to 2013 during the Obama administration, according to Dorr.

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