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Wamsutter Man Will Serve 75-100 Years For Sexually Abusing Grandchildren

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wamsutter man will serve the next 74 to 100 years in prison for creating child pornography, in some cases filming the abuse of his own grandchildren, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.

Russell Jay Byrne, 49, was sentenced Monday in state district court in Sweetwater County after pleading guilty to 58 criminal charges, which include the possession, manufacturing and distribution of child pornography, as well as the sexual abuse of three minor children ages 2, 3 and 8.

Charges against Byrne were the result of a joint investigation by the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce. The investigation began almost two years ago after a sheriff’s deputy and DCI special agents assigned to the Rock Springs regional office of the DCI received tips about Byrne’s alleged activity.

Investigators learned that Byrne was using a number of social media platforms to access and distribute child pornography.

Through the course of the investigation, officers discovered Byrne was sexually abusing three of his grandchildren, recording the assaults and distributing some of those recordings as part of his growing collection of child pornography.

During an undercover operation in November 2021, task force members lured Byrne to a location where he was detained without incident.

Investigators then served multiple search warrants to secure a large amount of electronic and forensic evidence crucial to the investigation before also shutting down Byrne’s child pornography operation.

“It’s sad that this kind of thing is something that we face in this day and age, but that’s why adding one of our own detectives as a dedicated member of this important regional task force was a priority for me and our team so that we can better serve the community and protect our children from predators who choose to exploit the relative anonymity of modern technology in order to hurt innocent people in this disgusting way,” Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle said.

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Platte County Inmates Sue For $2 Million, Claim Confidential Mail Was Opened

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Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A group of Platte County Detention Center inmates is suing the jail, the county, and its commissioners, claiming some of their confidential mail was opened in violation of their constitutional rights.

The inmates are seeking more than $2 million in damages for the jail’s adoption of a policy under which they said mail to and from them from various courts was opened and scanned into a computer system.

“The plaintiffs have a constitutional right to communicate with the court freely and unobstructed,” said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District court on Friday. “Defendants’ conduct of inspecting and reading both incoming and outgoing court mail outside of plaintiffs’ presence creates a chilling effect and is a violation of plaintiffs’ rights.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in state district court by David Jackson-Mackay, Arthur Penrod, Tyler McCurdy, Austin Anderson and Preston Wisenbaker, all identified as inmates at the jail when the policy was adopted.

According to the lawsuit, until mid-February, mail to and from inmates from local, state, tribal and federal courts was treated as “legal mail” and given to inmates without being opened.

After Feb. 23, however, the policy was changed and mail from courts was opened and scanned into the computer system. The mail includes pleadings, worksheets and related documents, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the inmates were told that the detention center would no longer consider mail to and from courts “legal mail” and would handle the mail as it did any other piece of mail. 

The policy violates the inmates constitutionally guaranteed rights to Freedom of Speech, to protection as criminal defendants and to equal protection of the law.

The lawsuit names as defendants Platte County Sheriff Clyde Harris, two Platte County Detention Center officers, Platte County itself, its commissioners, sheriff’s department and detention center and asks for damages of $300,000 from each.

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Pinedale Special Ed Teacher Fired, Appears In Child Predator Sting Video

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Pinedale teacher has been dismissed after being accused of trying to arrange a clandestine meeting with an underage boy while in California, officials announced Friday.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and Sublette County School District No. 1, in a joint statement, announced district trustees voted Thursday to dismiss David Shaw over allegations of misconduct that occurred in San Diego.

The statement did not specify the nature of the misconduct.

However, a video from the YouTube series “People v. Preds,” shows a man the show’s producers identified only as “David” and who appears to be Shaw involved in a confrontation with a second man who said he posed online as a 14-year-old boy as part of a sting to identify potential child predators.

According to the statement from the school district and sheriff’s office, an unidentified man contacted school district Superintendent Shannon Harris and two school resource officers to allege misconduct on the part of a Pinedale teacher while he was in San Diego.

After school officials made contact with the caller, the man sent an email which included a video of Shaw, who was immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, the statement said.

The school district provided no further information on the incident.

People v. Preds

“People v. Preds” is a series compiled by people who run internet stings in order to catch online predators.

In the 30-minute video posted Wednesday, the man identified as “David” is confronted by the host of the show in a parking lot in San Diego.

There, the anonymous host, while filming, claims David set up a meeting with a 14-year-old boy after chatting with the boy on Grindr, a gay dating app. The “boy” was actually the host.

The host, using his own phone, shows David photos that were allegedly sent to the boy.

Confirmed Photo

“Why do I have your picture on my phone at the spot you were coming to meet me?” the cameraman asked David. “Make that add up for me.”

David admitted the picture was of him, but said he did not know how the host got it.

The host follows David through the parking lot, asking him why he was in the area at that time. He refers to David as a “pedo” and screams at him during the confrontation.

David calls 911 during the confrontation to report harassment by the host and repeatedly denies allegations that he was in the parking lot to meet a boy.

Text Messages

Screenshots said to be from the Grindr conversation between David and the host are shown on the video.

The text exchanges show David asking the host if he is interested in older men. Once the host announces he is only 14, David asks if the “boy” has had sex. David also alludes to being sexually aroused, but offers to meet the boy in public to just talk.

David, who identifies himself as “Edward” in the course of the texts, also asks if the “boy” is interested in bondage.

Police Arrive

Later, police arrive and speak to David. No audio of the exchange between the two men and the officers can be heard, but Shaw is seen getting a ride from officers at the end of the video.

A “People v. Preds” volunteer who declined to identify himself told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he was glad to see Shaw dismissed from his job at the school district and hoped that the former educator would be prosecuted in some way.

“I don’t think people who are trying to meet up with minors for an alleged sexual encounter should get to teach children,” he said. “The overall goal is to protect children, so when somebody is a position of authority like that, working directly with children, there is a sense of concern.”

The volunteer confirmed that the YouTube video was the same one sent to Sublette County school officials this week.

The San Diego Police Department is currently investigating the allegations and did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s multiple requests for comment on Friday.

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Gillette Officers Were Justified In Deadly January Shooting, According To Review

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Two police officers were justified in a shooting that left a Gillette man dead last January, according to review conducted by a prosecuting attorney.

An independent review conducted by Park County and Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric found that Gillette Police Officer Patrick Totzke and Lt. Jason Marcus were justified in shooting Ismael Trinidad Montes who approached the officers while wielding a large machete-style knife.

“After multiple attempts to disarm the suspect with less than lethal force, the suspect charged the officers,” said a release from the City of Gillette. “Both officers discharged their duty weapons, striking the suspect.”

“Lifesaving measures were initiated; Montes was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS,” it said.

Skoric found the officers’ actions “justified,” and no criminal charges will be pursued.

“Any sudden loss of life is a tragedy for our community. Sadly, this is a tragic example of the very serious dangers of illegal drug use,” Police Chief Chuck Deaton said. “We are grateful that our officers were not seriously injured. We are thankful for the dedicated men and women who choose to put their lives on the line every day for the safety of our community.”

The city announced it had released bodycam footage of the incident in Montes’ home because of its commitment to transparency.

Due to the graphic nature of the content, viewer discretion is highly advised, the release warned.

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Riverton School Officials Warning Parents About Violent Video Threatening To Kill Children

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Officials with a school in Riverton are warning parents about videos featuring a violent furry blue character from a video game accompanied by music about hugging people to death.

Aspen Early Learning Center, a kindergarten and preschool in Riverton, posted a warning to the school’s social media page warning parents to keep their children away from videos featuring the character “Huggy Wuggy.”

“This is Huggy Wuggy,” reads the post, noting that children may be exposed to the character if they have access to YouTube. “His happy upbeat child-like nursery rhyme melody/theme song interests our kids.” 

But, the post continues, Huggy Wuggy has “razor-sharp teeth” and “sings songs about hugging and killing. Please be aware.”  

“Huggy Wuggy” is a deadly character in the game “Poppy Playtime,” which is described as a “horror/puzzle adventure.”

According to descriptions, Huggy Wuggy does not sing in the game, but excerpts from the game have been set to music by some fans and posted on YouTube and TikTok. Other fans have animated their own versions of Huggy Wuggy.

In one video featuring Huggy Wuggy — a large blue animated plush toy with jagged teeth — the character is seen constantly pacing through a hall ending in a dark void. Children’s faces and colorful handprints cover the walls. 

Huggy Wuggy sings that he is your “fuzzy buddy” and that he is offering “free hugs.”  

“I could just hug you here forever, ‘til you breathe your last breath,” sings the character. In another line he sings “my teeth sharp and ready, yeah my grasps, yeah they’re deadly.”  

“Plastic eyes but they’re watching you,” the song continues. “I will be there soon – sink my teeth in and you’re consumed.”  

Other Huggy Wuggy songs feature additional, murder-themed content.  

Aspen Park principal Sheryl Esposito was not available for comment early Thursday morning, according to school staff.  

“My two little ones do not like this character and it pops up all over YouTube,” wrote one commenter below the school’s post. Other commenters pegged the video as “freaky,” “creepy,” and “pure evil.”  

Police across the country have issued warnings about Huggy Wuggy, telling parents the character’s innocent name may lead young children to view frightening videos 

Not the First 

Huggy Wuggy is not the first video to trouble local schools, according to Wes Barry, public information officer at Riverton Police Department 

“A few years ago there was a character called Momo, that was online, really easy for kids to find,” said Barry. “It looked like a kids’ video. Once they got into it, Momo would pop up and say something crazy, like ‘burn your house down,’ or ‘kill somebody.’” 

“Huggy Wuggy is along those same lines,” he added.  

Barry said parents can take a vital role in protecting children’s innocence by using content-blocking software, monitoring phone and computer usage, and putting streaming devices in a general household area, rather than in a child’s room.  

“You could have (the device) in a kitchen, or living room, where it’s under the supervision of a parent,” said Barry.  

No Crime Epidemic Linked 

Direct juvenile crime or mental-health ramifications from sinister videos like Huggy Wuggy are not yet evident, said Barry.  

“(There are) none that we’re tracking right now,” he said. “It’s not like there’s a (crime) epidemic” linked to the videos.  

Still, he added, “it’s important for parents to be aware of what their kids are looking at online – to be involved in that process and always be supervising.”  

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‘Murder-For-Hire’ Case Transferred From Wyoming To Vermont

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The case of a Colorado man accused of disguising himself as a U.S. Marshal to kidnap and kill a Vermont man four years ago is being transferred from Wyoming to Vermont.

Documents filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday show the case of Jerry Banks, who was arrested in Yellowstone National Park and charged with kidnapping in the 2018 death of Greg Davis, has been assigned to the federal court in Vermont.

Davis’ body was found partially covered in snow in northern Vermont in January 2018. He had been handcuffed and shot six times.

Davis was last been seen alive the previous night, when a person identifying himself as a U.S. Marshal visited Davis’ home in Danville, Vermont, and said he had a warrant for Davis’ arrest on a charge of racketeering.

An affidavit filed in support of Banks’ arrest in Wyoming said Banks had obtained items related to a U.S. Marshal’s uniform and vehicle online. 

The affidavit also said that a few minutes before Davis was kidnapped, a cell phone call was made to 911 services from a location a short distance from Davis’ home. The caller told police he had shot his wife and planned to kill himself.

Investigators determined the cell phone used to make the call to 911 belonged to Banks.

“I believe Banks used the … phone to facilitate the victim’s kidnapping and murder,” said the affidavit, written by FBI Special Agent Patrick Hanna.

Hanna also concluded that since Banks had no connection with Davis, he had been hired to kidnap and kill the man.

Since Davis’ death, records surrounding the case have been sealed by court officials in Vermont.

Banks’ arrest last week in Yellowstone, where he was working, followed an exhaustive investigation by FBI agents and detectives with the Vermont State Police, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Vermont.

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Casper Women Catches Man In Act Of Abandoning Dog; Man Speeds Away When Questioned

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Photo by Matthew Idler

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Amanda Waldron was taking her daughter and friend to feed their livestock near the Casper Events Center early Monday morning when she saw a dark pickup truck with Nebraska license plates pull to the side of the empty road, open his door and let a skinny, medium-sized dog with a red collar jump out.

The dog took off running across the field but the driver, an older man with gray hair and glasses, stayed put.

Waldron drove her vehicle up to the truck and asked the man if he needed help retrieving his dog. He declined, explaining he was simply leaving her.

Waldron asked for clarification. Like dumping her?

“Yeah, so what?” Waldron recalled the man saying. “You want to buy her?”

Waldron told the man she would buy the dog if it meant keeping her safe. Then she asked him if he knew that abandoning dogs was against the law — a misdemeanor in Wyoming.

That was when he told her to mind her own business and fled in his vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road to get away.

As a souvenir of the meeting, though, Waldron was able to get a photo of the man’s license plate, which she turned over to police.

Waldron and her daughter and friend stayed and looked for the dog for about an hour, but the dog wouldn’t come to them and was too hard to track in the dark.

What Waldron saw was the rarely witnessed abandoning of a pet that results varying levels of problems with stray pets in Wyoming communities.

Rare Spotting

What surprised Shannon Sanderson, animal control officer for the Riverton Police Department, about Waldron’s experience wasn’t that the dog involved was abandoned, but that Waldron saw it happen.

Sanderson saw Waldron’s post about the incident on social media and was shocked that she was actually on hand to see the man ditch the dog.

In Sanderson’s experience, that never happens, which makes it hard to guess how many dogs are abandoned in Wyoming. However, she said given the number of stray dogs she rounds up every day, it is clear that abandonment is happening.

“We have a terrible problem on the (Wind River Indian Reservation) of dogs being dumped,” she said.

She didn’t have exact numbers off the top of her head, but Sanderson estimated she has rounded up a couple of dozen dogs – if not more – in the past six months alone.

“There’s too many,” she said, “and you don’t know if someone is abandoning them unless you caught them in the act. People aren’t getting caught, but we have a ton of strays.”

When a dog or other animal is picked up, Sanderson takes it to the Paws for Life Animal Shelter where the animal’s picture is posted for five days. If no one claims the animal by then it is put up for adoption.

Most of the dogs Sanderson picks up are not reclaimed by their owners but are instead adopted out.

In Gillette, animal control officers do not typically have a problem with stray dogs running in the streets, though they do take custody of unwanted animals turned in by their owners, according to Gillette Animal Control Officer Teresa Mills.

Last year, the department received 190 unwanted cats and dogs. The year before, it was 225. For the most part, Mills said people surrender their animals because they are moving and can’t take the pet.

More Than 17,000

According to Best Friends, a national animal sanctuary nonprofit organization, Wyoming shelters reported taking in 17,044 cats and dogs in 2021. It’s not clear how many of those were abandoned or left by their owners.

Cheyenne has a bigger problem with cats being abandoned rather than dogs, said Heidi Teasley, animal control dispatcher for Cheyenne Animal Control.

Like others in her position, Teasley said there’s no way to know how many of the strays they find were willingly deserted by owners.

“It’s really hard to tell because people will call and say that they think (an animal has) been abandoned, but it doesn’t seem to be,” she said, noting that she’s talked to several police officers who said they didn’t consider dogs being willingly released by owners a problem. 

More often, police capture runaways escaping through fence gates, particularly on windy days.

“It’s more common with cats,” she said. “People will move and leave their cats.”

Regardless of the animal, Teasley agreed that catching someone in the act is very rare.

“You never see that,” she said.

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California Man Faces Life In Prison, $10M Fine For Possessing 1,100 Fentanyl Pills

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California man faces up to life in prison after being arrested with almost eight pounds of methamphetamine in Campbell County.

Rondell Yokenya Baker, 30, of Bakersfield, has been charged in federal court with possessing more than 500 grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. He faces 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine if found guilty.

Although he was initially charged in Campbell County last month, Baker’s charges were moved to U.S. District Court late last week.

According to court documents, Baker and a woman previously identified in police reports as Amelia Raymonique Adams, 24, were pulled over by a Campbell County sheriff’s deputy on the night of March 2 for speeding. Baker, the driver, was given a warning for the traffic stop and released.

However, the deputy suspected Baker and Adams were involved in criminal activity, specifically drug trafficking. He followed their vehicle for about 2 miles.

Around 30 minutes later on Highway 59, the couple was again stopped for speeding by the same deputy, who was joined by another officer and his K-9.

The dog circled the car and indicated to its handlers it could detect the odor of controlled substances inside.

Adams admitted to possessing a small amount of marijuana, which she turned over to the deputies.

During a resulting search of the vehicle, the deputies found a blue duffle bag, which contained two vacuum-sealed packages of crystal methamphetamine, one sealed package of cocaine and one sealed package of fentanyl pills.

Both Baker and Adams were arrested and charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, along with charges of intent to distribute. Adams was also charged with the misdemeanor of marijuana possession.

The two bags of meth weighed almost eight pounds, the cocaine weighed 2.3 ounces and there were 1,093 fentanyl pills inside of the sealed bag, according to an affidavit filed in support of charges against Baker.

During an interview with police, Baker denied any knowledge of controlled substances being in the vehicle.

Adams told police she and Baker were on their way to North Dakota, but denied knowledge of any controlled substances in the car. However, many of the details to her story did not add up so agents questioned her further.

She also claimed she did not know where in North Dakota they were going, but a check of her cell phone’s map application showed they were headed for Minot, North Dakota.

Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent Louey Williams told Cowboy State Daily last month the street value of the drugs seized would be about $50,000 per pound of methamphetamine, totaling $400,000, while the fentanyl pills would be worth about $27,000.

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AMBER Alert: What Happens Before & After The Wyoming Highway Patrol Issues An Alert

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Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

When two small children were taken by their non-custodial parent from Buffalo on April 3, an AMBER Alert blasted out that evening on cell phones, televisions and digital highway signs throughout the state.

The following day, the children were recovered safely by authorities in Texas and the suspect was taken into custody.

In between, the six-person team at the Wyoming Highway Patrol responsible for issuing the AMBER Alert were on pins and needles waiting to learn the children’s fate. 

That’s how it always is, according to Crystal “Chris” McGuire, Wyoming AMBER Alert coordinator, from the moment the call comes in from law enforcement to the point the missing child or children are found.

“Basically, you have two to four hours to save a child after they’ve been abducted,” she said. “For me, it’s about children and making sure we get the alert out in time.”

It’s a stressful process for McGuire and members of her “code red” team who are charged with making sure that all the criteria are met to warrant issuing a statewide alert.

“We have to be able to react quickly because every second counts,” she said.

How It Works

The AMBER Alert System – which stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response – was a joint effort initiated in 1996 by Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters and the Dallas-Fort Worth police in the wake of the kidnapping and subsequent brutal murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.

Later, with the passage of the federal Protect Act in 2003, an alert coordinator was designated within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) who set four guidelines for issuing AMBER Alerts that states can voluntarily choose to adopt.

Wyoming was late in the game, joining about four other states in establishing an alert program in 2004.

The program initially fell to the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI). However, due to budget cuts at DCI, the program was handed over to the Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) in 2016.

WHP has never had a budget for the program, according to Col. Kebin Haller, who oversees the program, but the agency has always found a way to absorb the cost by taking it on as an additional duty.

“I believed it was vital and important,” he said. “We take missing kids very seriously.”

That’s true for McGuire too, who assumes the post as an additional duty simply because she’s passionate about the cause.

“Since the beginning of Amber Alert, I’ve had an interest in it because children are involved,” she said, “and we want to keep them safe.”

Avoiding “Car Alarm” Syndrome

To work, the program has to avoid letting itself be watered down to what Haller called the “car alarm” syndrome. While the first car alarms raised hackles when anyone heard one going off in a parking lot, today that same sound barely registers because of the number of false alarms.

“We didn’t want that to happen with AMBER alerts,” he said.

This is why the DOJ established four guidelines that have to be met before an alert can go out.

For starters, law enforcement has to have reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred and that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. Sometimes this means being taken by a non-custodial parent with a record of violence or substance abuse or a child being taken and not having access to a life-saving medication, Haller said. 

There also has to be an adequate enough description about the victim(s) or vehicle for law enforcement to be able to assist. Lastly, the child has to under 18.

Often the hardest part for law enforcement is providing evidence that the child was abducted and is in serious danger.

This is also the step in the process that typically takes the longest, McGuire said.

“A lot of people don’t understand the delay,” she said.

In the recent case involving the Buffalo children, the children were reported missing around 10 a.m. However, McGuire and her team did not get the call from Buffalo police until around 6 p.m. because it took that long to do the investigation.

Once the call came in, McGuire said she and her team immediately went to work to verify all the criteria were met and then activate the alert though the integrated public alert and warning system (IPAWS) run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The alert is also transmitted via wireless emergency alerts (WEA) for mobile devices and social media.

“We have it down to less than 30 minutes,” she said, noting that half-hour is filled with the stress of getting the job done as quickly as possible.

Wyoming also has reciprocity with other states. Once an alert is issued, states can share the notification to help nab perpetrators crossing state lines, as in the most recent case with the non-custodial parent in Buffalo.

Authorities were told that the woman might be heading to Texas, so they were able to activate the alert there also, where she was eventually caught. It’s an effective tool, Haller said.

“Any time an officer hears an AMBER alert, the stakes go up,” he said. “They know every second counts.”

Winning Record

So far, McGuire and her team have recovered every single child whose abduction has been the subject of an AMBER alert in Wyoming.

Since 2016, WHP has activated the alarm – either for in-state law enforcement agencies, the Wind River Indian Reservation or other states – roughly 15 times, according to records provided by WHP, for a total of around a dozen Wyoming children recovered safely.

This year so far, the department has only one activation with two children saved.

Nationally, as of Dec. 31, 2021, AMBER Alerts have led to recovery of 1,111 children, with wireless emergency alerts resulting in the rescue of an additional 120 children, according to the DOJ.

Endangered Alerts

Along with AMBER Alerts, the state also issues endangered person advisories (EPAs) for anyone older than 18 or for missing children who don’t meet all the criteria for AMBER Alerts, as well as for elderly people.

In 2005, Haller said WHP recognized it needed a broader system. The EPA alerts are more localized and not blasted through IPAWs or as WEAs, but instead are shared on social media, with law enforcement agencies and with the media.

Historically, these alerts have been for elderly people with dementia or other disabilities who have walked out of assisted living facilities or homes, as well as for elderly people who have gotten stuck or lost in inclement weather, Haller said.

Wyoming is among the few states that don’t have specific “Silver” alerts for the elderly and disabled. Haller said those populations seem to be served well under the current system.

Currently, the WHP is working with the Wind River Indian Reservation to help it get its system up and running, an effort that temporarily stalled during the pandemic.


In the meantime, McGuire and crew celebrated the recent rescue of the two children from Buffalo.

Despite the stress, the victories make the job worthwhile for McGuire.

As a coordinator, she’s on call 24/7 and every alert has to be approved by her. Typically, she is on hand in the interim after the alert has been issued as officers wait for updates from law enforcement.

It can be difficult, she said, but always well worth it when she and her team see children come home.

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Gillette Woman Who “Supplied The Whole State” With Meth Faces Life in Prison

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Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman accused of running a major methamphetamine distribution operation in northeastern Wyoming faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Wendy Kaufman has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, accused of bringing up to 25 pounds of the drug into the state every two weeks. At least twice, the affidavit said, a shipping company delivered a vehicle carrying meth to Kaufman.

In an affidavit filed in federal court, Derek Brazelton, a special agent with the state Division of Criminal Investigation, reported on an investigation into Kaufman that continued for more than a year.

During the investigation, which began in August 2020, a confidential informant told investigators he believed Kaufman was “supplying the whole state” with meth, bringing 25-pound packages of the drug into Wyoming from Arizona every two weeks.

Various informants told the DCI that Kaufman would drive from Gillette to Arizona with an individual identified only as “C.H.” to obtain methamphetamine.

On at least two occasions, informants said, vehicles containing methamphetamine were shipped to Kaufman.

The informants said they bought varying amounts of Kaufman, with one saying he bought 36 pounds of meth during a 1-year period.

The affidavit said one informant told investigators Kaufman had earlier obtained the meth from Colorado, but a price increase blamed on coronavirus prompted her to seek a new supplier.

“Due to Covid, the prices from that (supplier) went from $300 per ounce to $1,200 per ounce,” the affidavit said. “Due to the increase in price, Kaufman stopped using that (supplier).”

The affidavit also noted that Kaufman was identified in February as having dropped a clear plastic baggie containing about four-tenths of an ounce of meth inside a Gillette bank.

According to documents filed in federal court, Kaufman could face a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and fines of up to $10 million.

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Man Arrested In Yellowstone In Vermont ‘Murder For Hire’ Plot

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Colorado man has been arrested in Yellowstone National Park in connection with what an FBI agent described as a 2018 “murder for hire” plot in Vermont.

Federal documents filed in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne show Jerry Banks was arrested Wednesday in Yellowstone National Park and charged with kidnapping in the death of a man identified in court documents only as “GD.”

The Caledonian-Record, a Vermont newspaper, identified “GD” as  Greg Davis, 49, whose body was found partially covered in snow in northern Vermont in early January 2018. He had been shot six times.

Davis was last seen alive the night before his death, when a man identifying himself as a U.S. Marshal visited Davis’ home in Danville, Vermont, and said he had a warrant for Davis’ arrest on racketeering charges. Davis left with the man.

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant for Banks, the U.S. Marshal’s Service confirmed it had not arrested Davis and had no active warrant for his arrest.

The Caledonian-Record reported that after Davis’ body was found, all court records related to his death were sealed.

The affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Patrick Hanna on March 30 said an investigation into the murder by multiple law enforcement agencies led to the identification of Banks as a suspect.

About 15 minutes before Davis was kidnapped, a phone call was made to 911 services from a location a short distance from his home. The caller reported he had shot his wife and planned to kill himself.

Police were unable to find the person making the call, but investigators eventually determined the phone used to make the call was purchased by Banks.

“I believe Banks used the … phone to facilitate the victim’s kidnapping and murder,” Hanna wrote.

The affidavit also detailed work by investigators to trace Banks’ movements in the days leading up to the murder.

Also examined were Banks’ purchases in the weeks before the murder, which included a marshal’s badge, a U.S. Marshal shoulder patch, handcuffs and emergency lights for a vehicle.

Hanna concluded that since Banks had no contact with Davis, he must have been hired to kidnap and kill the man.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin ordered Banks held pending a bail hearing on Tuesday.

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Cheyenne Man Will Spend At Least 25 Years In Prison For Meth Distribution

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man arrested after an investigation into a Casper meth dealing operation was found guilty last week of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and will serve at least 25 years in prison for his crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced this week.

Daniel Patrick Gutierrez, 36, was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy to distribute meth, distributing meth, using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Gutierrez’ trial was held over five days, from March 21 to March 25, in Cheyenne and he will be sentenced in June.

Because Gutierrez was convicted twice in the past on charges of distribution of controlled substances, he faces an enhanced mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for the meth distribution charges, which will be served in addition to a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence for using firearms during and in relation to a federal drug crime.

In addition, Gutierrez could be ordered to pay up to $10 million in fines.

According to court documents, Gutierrez was arrested as the result of a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation into the use and distribution of meth in Natrona County that began in December 2020.

The investigation identified Joseph Hooker as a source for the drug in Natrona County and agents determined he was getting the drugs in Cheyenne and Colorado.

In January 2021, a DCI agent received a search warrant to begin tracking Hooker’s cell phone GPS data, which showed he traveled to Cheyenne and returned the next day to Casper. He was arrested that same day and was found with almost one-half pound of methamphetamine and two semi-automatic pistols.

Agents then obtained a search warrant for Hooker’s phone, which revealed numerous conversations between Hooker and Gutierrez related to the use and distribution of controlled substances, as well as the collection of money.

The investigation indicated Hooker and Gutierrez worked together to obtain meth on six separate occasions, obtaining six to nine pounds of meth during that time.

In August, police searched Gutierrez’s home in Cheyenne and he was taken into custody on a warrant from Natrona County.

After Gutierrez was taken into custody, he told agents he did not want to speak with them, but also questioned how he could be charged in Casper for a crime, as he claimed he had not “stepped foot” in the city and did not live there.

An agent told Gutierrez that he did not have to live in the city to be charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs. Gutierrez said he hadn’t “sold” to anyone in the city, but then recanted and admitted to selling to “a couple” of people in Casper.

During the search of Gutierrez’s home, agents found two rifles, various ammunition, small quantities of suspected meth, suspected fentanyl pills and drug paraphernalia.

An informant told police he or she traveled with Gutierrez and Ashley Gutierrez to the Thornton, Colorado, area to obtain meth from a source. The informant said the first time they went to Colorado, Daniel Gutierrez took an AR-15 and two pistols with him to trade for the drugs.

The informant said Gutierrez “ran a gun ring” in Cheyenne and explained that he would trade meth or fentanyl pills to juveniles and adults in the city in exchange for firearms, including stolen ones.

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Illegal Dumping Continues Near Riverton; Six Tons Of Garbage Removed Last Week

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Three dump trucks hauling more than six tons of garbage cleared a stretch of road east of Riverton last week, cleaning up an area where illegally-dumped trash is so prolific, it’s part of the landscape.  

Wyoming Department of Transportation maintenance crews from Riverton removed the trash from the portion of Gas Hills Road that’s under state jurisdiction – that is, the road and its shoulders leading up to the fence.  

Beyond the fence line lay tribal lands of the Wind River Indian Reservation, plus public lands – and a lot more garbage.  

Six men packed three eight-yard dump trucks with 12,280 pounds of washers, dryers, furniture, and other household trash over the course of one workday, according to Cody Beers, a senior public relations specialist with WYDOT.  

Beyond labor and equipment costs, the fees to dump the trash totaled $308, an expense paid with tax funds – diverting money that would ordinarily be spent on snowplowing, highway patching, fence mending, and other highway maintenance functions, Beers said.  

“We need more help, and this is a chronic problem east of Riverton,” said Beers, although he added that illegal dumping is also a problem elsewhere in the state.  

While adopt-a-highway programs are available to groups for large fall and spring cleanups, Beers said a simpler approach — and one that is just as important — is for people not to litter in the first place.  

“What do we do when nobody’s looking?” Beers asked. “Do we open the window and pitch that garbage out the window, or do we drive to the next town and put it in a trash bin? 

“If you love Wyoming,” he said, “you’re doing the latter.”  

At nearly any campsite, public road or trail, said Beers, people likely can find garbage to pick up and take to a trash bin.  


State Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, has addressed the topic of illegal dumping on the Wind River Indian Reservation repeatedly as co-chair of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations. 

Conversations between state, county, tribal and federal solid waste entities on the reservation garbage problem have been ongoing for roughly a decade, according to news archives. 

Ellis suggested during an August meeting of the committee that the state look at blacklisting from state projects any contractors who dump work waste illegally.

“If we… (created) a list of vendors who, if they’re discovered to have illegally dumped in Wyoming – anywhere – including the reservation, they’re ineligible and precluded from ever getting a state contract,” began Ellis, “(would) something like that be helpful?” 

Jordan Dresser, who chairs the Northern Arapaho portion of the Wind River Intertribal Council, said that “would be a really good thing.”  

Ellis could not be reached by phone to comment further Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.  

Household or Industrial 

Beers noted that all of the six tons of trash WYDOT crews found along the Gas Hills Road, was household trash, such as appliances. He did not discover evidence at the site of industrial debris such as what might be left by contractors.  

“I’m not aware of any contractor stuff,” said Beers, adding that from what he’s seen, “I believe our contractors are very responsible in this state.”  

In his own brief interview Verlin Timbana, director of Wind River Intertribal Solid Waste, said he’s caught contractors red-handed dumping their trash on the reservation, which is outside WYDOT’s purview.  

Andy Frey, Fremont County Solid Waste director, confirmed that like Beers, he hasn’t seen industrial dumping in the Gas Hills area. But Frey added he’s heard of industrial and household dumping alike in more isolated portions of the reservation.  

Frey noted that Ellis’ committee has been working on project to finance cleanup crews on the reservation.  

“I would hope that this project comes together,” Frey said. “It’s much needed. I hope, further, that there is a plan put into place to ensure these kinds of illegal dumping activities do not continue into the future, post-cleanup.”

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Gillette Cops Bust Speeding Californian With 300 Pounds Of Weed Worth $1.2 Million

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California man is in custody at the Campbell County jail after almost 300 pounds of marijuana was found last week in the car he was driving.

Leng See Chang, 33, of Sacramento, was arrested Thursday morning on Wyoming Highway 50 outside of Gillette and faces numerous charges, including possession with intent to deliver. He remained in custody as of Monday, Campbell County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Seeman told Cowboy State Daily.

“The stop was pretty quick,” Seeman said. “He was going around nine miles (per hour) above the speed limit and the officer just noticed there was something in the back of the vehicle.”

Cheng was driving a 2008 Toyota RAV4 and concealed the drugs in the backseat and the rear portion of the vehicle, according to arrest reports. The drugs were concealed under a sleeping bag, but Seeman said the officer could see Cheng was hauling something that was loading the car down.

Cheng quickly admitted to having the drugs in the vehicle, Seeman said. The street value of the drugs is estimated to be around $1.2 million.

“I’d personally rather have the $1.2 million than the drugs, but that’s just me,” he said.

Cheng did say where he was heading, but Seeman said that information was not being released. He was not sure where Cheng had been driving from when he was arrested outside of Gillette.

The captain added that this was one of the larger drug busts the sheriff’s department has seen in recent years. While the department might see people get arrested for marijuana possession, they usually do not have hundreds of pounds with them.

“At the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, we have a zero tolerance policy, so it doesn’t matter what the amount of drugs could be in the car, if you’re caught with any controlled substance, you will be arrested and go to jail,” Seeman said.

Louey Williams, a special agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent, told Cowboy State Daily that drug trafficking on Wyoming’s highwways is nothing new.

However, the increase of K-9 partners used by local law enforcement agencies has been a major help in cutting down on drugs being hauled through Wyoming, he said.

“If you have guys that are working the interstate and have a K-9, that increases the chance of them catching the load,” he said.

Williams knew there had been larger busts of drugs and marijuana during Wyoming traffic stops in recent years, but could not recall the numbers or when.

“This is a pretty large load, but there have definitely been bigger,” Williams said.

In February, the Pine Bluffs police department conducted a traffic stop for someone speeding and discovered nearly 350 pounds of marijuana inside of the vehicle, a historic bust for the department.

In April 2021, a traffic stop near Evanston led to the discovery of 300 pounds of marijuana.

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Laramie County Sheriff’s Deputy In Intensive Care Following Deadly Shootout

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

One man is dead and a Laramie County Sheriff’s Deputy is in the intensive care unit of Cheyenne’s hospital following a shootout in Cheyenne on Saturday afternoon.

The Laramie County Sheriff’s office announced on Saturday evening that deputies had made contact with a suspect in the area of Cahill Park in northern Cheyenne at 2:25 p.m. Saturday following an assault call at Laramie County Community College.

Authorities said a slow-speed pursuit of the suspect’s vehicle ensued and ended about one-half mile north in the Miles Court neighborhood off of Ridge Road in north Cheyenne, where the shootout between the officer and the suspect occurred.

“One of our patrol deputies was shot and is currently in the Intensive Care Unit at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in stable condition,” a spokesman said. “The suspect is deceased and there is no further risk to public safety.” 

The incident has been turned-over to the Department of Criminal Investigation.

An emergency dispatcher at the Laramie County Combined Communication Center, said she was working in the dispatch center at the time of the shooting.

“One of the hardest shifts I’ve worked,” the dispatcher wrote on Facebook. “The officer is in dispatch’s prayers.”

“We’re just glad the deputy is stable. Felt like for a minute the world just stopped,” she said.

Laramie County Commissioner Linda Heath was quick to wish the deputy well and to thank first responders in the community.

“Prayers for all involved: the Sheriff Deputies, their famlies, the officer who was shot, his family, our dispatchers, and AMR responders,” Heath said. “May each of you find peace and strength in our heavenly Fathers’ love.”

Other law enforcement agencies from across the state offered their support as well.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters at Laramie County Sheriff’s Office and those involved in yesterday’s tragedy in Cheyenne,” said Sweetwater County Sheriff Sheriff John Grossnickle.

“We have to continue to work together as friends and neighbors to ensure things like this never become an everyday headline here in Wyoming,” he said.

“Help us send good vibes to this deputy from a fellow agency in Laramie County! Prayers for them and their family, both blood and blue,” the Douglas Police Department wrote.

Former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak, who is running for Laramie County Sheriff, announced he was suspending his campaign in order to “focus on the deputy and the members of the Sheriff’s Office.”

No other details have been made public.

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Driver Being Pursued Out of Wyoming Killed in High Speed Chase in Northern Colorado

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Minnesota man is dead following a high speed chase that started in Wyoming but ended in a crash on Highway 85 near Ault, Colorado.

The man, who according to the Colorado State Patrol originally went to jail for murder, was wanted for a parole violation out of Minnesota and was being chased by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

Numerous Colorado State Patrol officers joined the chase as the suspect crossed the state line at around 2:45pm.

After a Colorado State Patrol trooper and an Ault police officer deployed “stop sticks”on the highway, the suspect lost control of his vehicle when he attempted to avoid the apparatus.

“The suspect vehicle continued south and swerved into another Colorado State Patrol vehicle causing the State Patrol vehicle to roll and become disabled,” a spokesman for the patrol said. “The suspect vehicle also became disabled and the pursuit came to an end.”

Authorities say the trooper sustained minor injuries from the collision and was taken to the hospital.

The suspect, who was not wearing his seatbelt, crashed into a drainage ditch and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Highway 85, near the incident, was shut down for several hours.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol has not returned a call for comment.

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Sundance Tow Truck Owner Accused Of Stealing Dead Man’s Belongings Following Fatal Accident

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A Sundance tow truck owner has been charged with theft, accused of taking tools and other items from the wreckage of a pickup truck belonging to a man killed in an accident.

Norman “Gus” Sampson of Iron Horse Towing has been issued a citation for theft in connection with allegations he stole items from the pickup truck of Shon Engel after Engel was killed Aug. 1 in a single-car accident near Sundance.

For Shon’s brother Jim, it wasn’t the alleged theft of his brother’s belongings that mattered to him as much as efforts to keep those items from being returned to his grieving family.

“You just don’t do that,” the Gillette resident told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s not right, and I’m going to keep fighting.”

Jim Engel had been at a rodeo in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, when he got the call from his father that his younger brother, 41-year-old Shon, had been killed.

Engel immediately headed to Sundance to meet with law enforcement officers and make funeral and other arrangements, including recovering Shon’s possessions from his badly damaged pickup truck. 

Engel said his brother was a mechanic who kept hundreds of dollars in tools in his truck along with other valuables.

Took Photos

A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper responded to the crash site and called Sampson of Iron Horse Towing in Sundance to come tow the vehicle. 

As part of his investigation, the trooper took photographs of the crash site where Shon’s possessions had been thrown from the vehicle, documenting a $200 pair Maui Jim sunglasses, a red Yeti cup Shon’s parents had just purchased for him, a large knife that Jim Engel said his brother had been proud of, a chair and lots tools and loose change scattered around the scene.

A couple of days later, Engel said he called Sampson to ask about the towing bill and about retrieving his brother’s possessions. Engel was told the bill was $750 for the tow and the three hours it took Sampson to collect all of the belongings from the field. Engel said that Sampson told him that all of Shon’s possessions would be placed in the back of his pickup truck.

Engel said he would stop by on Aug. 6, the day of his brother’s memorial service, to pay the bill and get the belongings.

“I really wanted to locate the Yeti cup and the knife for my parents to have a memory,” he said.

Nothing In The Truck

When Engel and his 15-year-old daughter stopped by to pay Sampson, he said they noticed there was nothing in the back of the truck. Engel drove up to Sampson’s shop, handed him the cash, and asked about his brother’s belongings.

Engel said Sampson then told him he hadn’t been able to find anything. 

Engle told investigators that when he went into the shop, he saw the Red Yeti cup sitting on a table and spotted a large pile of tools and Shon’s knife sticking out of a red toolbox. 

When questioned, Engel said Sampson reported he had forgotten about the items and Engel could take them.

When Engel continued looking around the shop, he found more of his brother’s belongings. 

He told investigators he asked Sampson to gather up all the tools belonging to his brother, but Sampson continued to say that there were no other items and that he’d put everything belonging to Shon in the back of the truck, according to the incident report by the Crook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

According to the report, when questioned by Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Kaminski, Sampson said he had placed everything belonging to Shon in the back of the vehicle. He added that Engel and Watt had repeatedly harassed him and threatened to beat him up if they didn’t get the possessions back.

Photographic Evidence

Kaminski informed Sampson there was photographic evidence of the accident site showing all of Shon’s possessions.

Sampson said he didn’t know where the items were and that maybe Engel had taken them when he was rummaging around in the truck, the report said.

He then went to his wrecker and lifted the drop deck where Shon Engel’s Maui Jim sunglasses were found sitting in a bed box underneath the deck, the report said, along with a hammer also belonging to Shon.

Sampson said that the items must have just been placed in the box during the cleanup on scene, according to the report.

The report said about 20 minutes later, Sampson contacted the CCSO to report finding a few more of Shon’s items, including several sockets, a hammer, crescent wrench and other tools.

According to an email provided by Engel from the Crook County Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys have requested a jury trial which is scheduled for June 24.

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Wyoming Man Pleads Guilty To Beating Up, Carjacking Elderly Man On Thanksgiving

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man has pleaded guilty to beating up an elderly man on Thanksgiving and stealing his car, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Shane Duane Blackburn, 33, pleaded guilty to carjacking and assaulting a federal officer on March 8 during a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl. His sentencing has been set for May 27.

Blackburn could face a maximum sentence of up to 23 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

According to court documents, an elderly man, identified as G.J., went to Hines General Store in Fort Washakie on Nov. 24 to pick up supplies for Thanksgiving.

When he left the store, he saw Blackburn asking for a ride. Since it was cold and the day before Thanksgiving, G.J. agreed to give Blackburn a ride in his 2014 Toyota Sienna minivan.

The victim said they had not been driving long when Blackburn got a “mean look” on his face, reached into the back seat and began throwing things around.

G.J. told Blackburn to “knock it off” and then lied to the man, saying he had a weapon under his seat and saying he would use it if Blackburn did not stop throwing things. This did not help, as Blackburn “looked even more terrible and mean,” the documents said.

As the victim continued driving, Blackburn “lunged” at him, pinning him between the seat and car door. He then started to “beat the hell” out of the victim.

Fearful they would crash into oncoming traffic and unable to defend himself while struggling to keep the vehicle under control, the victim pulled over and stopped the car.

Before G.J. could get the keys out of the ignition, Blackburn opened the driver door and pushed the victim to the ground. Blackburn followed, landing on top of the victim.

While on top of G.J., Blackburn continued to hit the man. While trying to get up, the victim rolled onto his stomach, but Blackburn repeatedly slammed the man’s head into the ground.

A woman driving north on U.S. Highway 287 witnessed the assault and pulled her car over to help. At that point, Blackburn got into G.J.’s car and drove away, heading south.

Blackburn was later arrested in the parking lot of the Shoshone Rose Hotel and Casino by Wind River police. Before booking him into jail, the officer drove Blackburn to the area where G.J. was waiting for emergency medical services.

The man identified Blackburn as his attacker and the man who stole his minivan.

Blackburn was interviewed on Nov. 30 and said he had taken methamphetamine for the first time on Nov. 24 and was “freaking out” that morning. He recalled asking for a ride at the general store until someone finally offered him one, but Blackburn could not remember what the man looked like or what he drove.

Blackburn said he did not recall being violent with the van’s owner.

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Former Wyoming Catholic College CFO Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man found guilty of bilking a financial firm out of almost $15 million pleaded guilty this week to allegations that he committed wire fraud in connection with the crimes.

Paul McCown, former chief financial officer for Wyoming Catholic College pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three federal charges filed in connection with the crimes against Ria R Squared. He also pleaded guilty to four more wire fraud charges filed in connection with allegations he sent false claims to the Wyoming Business Council to obtain more than $800,000 in federal funds.

McCown was ordered released on a $10,000 bond and sentencing was scheduled for June 17, when he could face a prison term of up to 140 years.

A federal judge earlier this month ruled in a civil lawsuit filed against McCown by Ria R Squared that McCown defrauded the company of $14.8 million in May 18.

According to the lawsuit filed by Ria R Squared, McCoon falsified financial documents and even posed as a bank official to convince the company to loan him $15 million in May 2021.

McCown transferred the bulk of the money to other people, including relatives, associates and Wyoming Catholic College, which received a $10 million anonymous donation that was later returned.

On Tuesday, McCown pleaded guilty to allegations he sent emails to Ria R Squared to transmit loan documents and then used wire transfers to take possession of the loan.

He also pleaded guilty to allegations he transmitted false information to the Wyoming Business Council to obtain $841,863 in federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act funding, claiming his company lost money because of the coronavirus.

The money has since been returned.

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Driver Plows Into Downtown Building in Gillette, Leaves Vehicle as Evidence

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The first rule of a successful hit-and-run accident? Don’t leave evidence behind at the scene of the hit that will help authorities find you after you run.

This hit-and-run driver left lots of evidence. A car full, to be exact.

A vehicle registration, an insurance card and a row of family photos lining the cloth interior above both the passenger and driver’s side doors were found in the SUV left in a canal Thursday morning after hitting a business in downtown Gillette.

The SUV was found rammed nose first into the drainage canal after smashing into the wall of the Enterprise rental car building in downtown Gillette around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

Building owner Jim Engel said he was feeling “bamboozled” when he showed up at around 7 a.m. Thursday and saw the structural damage one corner of the building and the abandoned vehicle in the ditch.

Surveillance footage from the four video cameras captured the 2009 grayish-blue Chrysler Aspen fly through the south end of the business’ parking lot at a rapid clip. Subsequent footage on an indoor camera showed a figure walking past the front window.

The Gillette Police Department is in the process of pulling other surveillance video from nearby businesses to piece together a clearer picture of the events that unfolded in the early morning.

Tow truck driver Josh Day of M.A.D. Towing made quick work of removing the vehicle from the canal.

“It was simple,” he said, pointing to the chunks of concrete that remained in the canal from the impact of the crash into the corner of the building.

The GPD officer on scene could not provide any details on the crash but confirmed police knew the identity of the vehicle’s owner and that it had not been reported stolen.

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Home Security Cameras Solving Wyoming Crimes; Police Say Cams Are “Incredible Tool”

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By Jimmy Orr and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

It took the Gillette Police Department less than a day to track down the hit-and-run driver who plowed into a Gillette woman’s house last Thursday.

Within less than 36 hours, the 23-year-old female driver was issued citations for failing to report the accident and driving with a suspended driver’s license.

It was the video footage from a neighbor’s security cameras, the police department said, that made the difference in tracking the individual down.

A couple eyewitnesses were able to provide vague but somewhat conflicting descriptions of both the car and driver. But the footage erased all doubt. The vehicle, the coloring, the mismatched wheels all made the car simple to identify as the one that came across a road, into a driveway and then a garage door.

Once the video made its way to social media, people stepped up and told the police where the car was parked and where the driver lived.

Technology Changed Everything

There was a time when police had to rely solely on eyewitness testimony or a person’s accounting of events in a crime. Today, surveillance cameras are filling in those holes and helping law enforcement solve crimes much more efficiently and faster.

“Before cameras you just took people at their word and there was never any way to back that up,” Riverton Police Captain Wes Romero said. “They’ve been an incredible help in solving crimes and identifying victims.”

For this reason, it’s become standard practice for law enforcement to look for cameras and seek surveillance footage whenever possible.

Video cameras don’t always capture everything, Romero noted, but they can provide vital clues in a crime scene and help overcome human error and mistakes in memory or perception.

“Sometimes it (cameras) produces something, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said, “and it doesn’t show you everything that happened but just a slice of the larger story.”

Surveillance footage is a tremendous help in recording what may have happened when a business gets broken into.

It is also very valuble when police are trying to identify a suspect, Romero noted, because they can share an image the public on social media.

“We get a lot of tips this way,” he said.

Booming Business

Marc Thayer, a former Cheyenne cop and now owner of Corporate Protective Services in Cheyenne, has seen a significant increase in his business since going into business in 1999.

“A lot of crimes actually nowadays are getting solved by security cameras,” Thayer said.

Improvements in video quality with the move from analog to digital recording have greatly enhanced the ability of such devices to record details that may not have been visible with earlier recorders. Advancing technology has also allowed users to download videos and post them on social media for more people to see.

“Then you’ve got thousands of eyes looking at the incident and solving it really quickly,” he said.

In the past two years, Thayer said his company had seen a boom in camera sales. His company also sells alarms, access control devices and fire systems, but cameras are his biggest seller.

“We get calls for camera systems every day,” he said.

He also gets on average about three calls a week from customers or law enforcement officers requesting video footage from a particular incident.

And though cameras are a great tool, Thayer said people should remain just as vigilant as ever when it comes to being aware of their surroundings and protecting their belongings.

“People don’t realize that even somebody just dumpster diving or something else is something to pay attention to because you never know who is committing a crime,” he said. “And I hate to say it, but canvas cameras definitely helped and social security systems are really the world we live in today.”

Ted Johnson, a technical sales associate with Collins Communications in Gillette, agreed that security systems and surveillance cameras are definitely a part of the new world order when it comes to protecting one’s livelihood and possessions.

There has been more than one occasion when a customer – individuals and businesses – have been able to provide law enforcement with surveillance footage to help solve a crime. Johnson can’t provide any particulars, he said, only that it happens frequently.

In many cases, he said, he’s contacted by customers who are adding surveillance after becoming the victims of a crime.

Along with providing law enforcement with evidence after the fact, security cameras can also be great deterrents, according to Byron Oedekoven, executive director for the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.

He suggests ranchers and residents in rural areas consider using cameras as both a crime prevention and deterrent which work well both in larger and smaller communities.

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Idaho Man Leads Grand Teton Police On 132 MPH Chase Sunday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Idaho man was arrested on Sunday after leading multiple police officers on a high-speed chase through Grand Teton National Park and being caught on radar traveling 132 mph.

The man faces multiple counts, including driving under the influence, fleeing police officers, having an open container of alcohol, reckless driving and more. He received 10 citations, park spokesman CJ Adams told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Although the man’s identity was not immediately released by park officials, U.S. District court filings showed a man identified as Jessie Perry was arrested on Sunday and charged with a variety of same state and federal counts as reported by Adams.

Adams said that the arrest capped an incident that began at around 3 p.m. Sunday, when an officer saw a 2015 gray Dodge truck at a high rate of speed, 108 mph, south on U.S. Highway 89 in the park, near Teton Point Turnout.

“Our law enforcement officer turned on their lights and sirens, but the vehicle did not pull over and continued at a high rate of speed, going even faster,” Adams said.

The truck continued further south, near the airport junction, when it was caught on radar traveling at 132 mph.

“The driver did come upon some traffic at the Gros Venture roundabout, but did not hit anyone,” Adams said. “The drivers in that area saw the police lights and all of them pulled over to the side of the road.”

Adams was unsure of how many cars were in the area when the driver came upon them. He pulled the vehicle over, which Adams said was likely in attempt to evade police, but he was caught and arrested by five law enforcement officers.

No one was hurt in the chase or arrest. The driver was the only person in his vehicle, and Adams confirmed he was ticketed for driving under the influence.

Adams said that while speeding is a fairly common occurrence in the park, a 132 mph chase is a very unique situation.

“These rates of speed are always dangerous, but especially this time of year and in a national park,” Adams said. “We do have migratory elk and moose in that area, and those are the animals people are coming here to see. There could be people pulled over to the side of the road to look, so it’s not only a danger to the person driving, but also a danger to other visitors and the wildlife.”

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Busted: Hit & Run Driver Who Plowed Through Cowboy State Daily Reporter’s House Caught

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It took the Gillette Police Department less than a day to track down the hit-and-run driver who plowed into Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher’s house on Thursday.

A 23-year-old female driver was issued citations Friday evening for failing to report the accident and driving with a suspended driver’s license.

Kocher refused to name the driver or her passenger.

“I’m not into public shaming,” Kocher said. “She knows who she is, and I sincerely hope she uses this as an opportunity to take her life more seriously and be a more responsible human.”

The accident happened Thursday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. when Kocher was working in her basement office and was startled by a loud crashing sound upstairs that she described as sounding like a large semi-truck crashing through the house.

When she ran upstairs to investigate, she saw the back of blue-green older model SUV speeding away, leaving skids marks in the driveway as the driver attempted to flee the scene.

Kocher didn’t get a look at the license plate and couldn’t see driver or passenger behind the tinted black windows.

Video Footage

Immediately, neighbors in her cul-de-sac of condominium homes ran out to see what had happened. A couple of eyewitnesses were able to provide vague descriptions of both the car and driver.

Kocher’s next-door neighbor, however, had video footage from his new security cameras he’d installed just the previous week.

The neighbor and his partner, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, were able to provide clear video showing an older model SUV barreling down a grassy hill in the middle of the cul-de-sac, smashing into Kocher’s garage, then doing a swift three-point turn before exiting the area.

Authorities cited the video footage many times in the police report, noting they were able to get a positive confirmation of the suspect’s vehicle by comparing it to the vehicle in the video.

“Of particular interest was the fact that the front and rear rims were different on the passenger side, with the rear tire potentially being a smaller ‘spare’ tire, and the front being a chrome looking ‘five spoke’ style wheel,” the report reads.

“The vehicle matched the description, including having an off-colored (blue) front passenger side fender, and rims on the passenger side matched the rims in the video,” it said.

Kocher said watching the video made her “blood boil.”

“It’s not the hit, it’s the run that bothers me,” she said. “Accidents happen, but who just takes off like that? “Total loser move.”

The driver, however, also had her own story to tell.

Police Report

Apparently, the 23-year-old had been driving with her boyfriend, who was also in the car at the time of the accident, after getting into an altercation with a 17-year-old girl. The younger girl was reportedly trying to get the driver to fight her, so the driver fled, chased by the juvenile in her own car.

The driver was angry and “running away,” she later told police, because she did not want to get into trouble for hitting a “girl.”

In her case, “running” meant barreling down Gillette’s Ninth Street in her Ford Explorer as the juvenile chased behind. When the 23-year-old attempted to duck the younger girl by darting into the eastern entrance of Kocher’s street, she lost control and flew over the grass into the condo.

After fleeing the scene of the accident, the driver then transported her boyfriend to the Campbell County Probation and Parole office for his scheduled urinalysis. 

According to the police report, Kocher’s neighbor was not the only person to catch the accident on video. After being contacted by police on Friday, the 23-year-old showed them a text from the younger girl. The text included a photo of the 23-year-old sitting in her vehicle at the probation and parole office along with a short video of the accident that the younger driver had taken herself.

The juvenile had been right behind her when she crashed into the garage, but she, too, fled without telling anyone.

The boyfriend confirmed the 23-year-old driver’s story.

Anonymous Tip And Not-Anonymous Cookies

No one was hurt in the accident and the driver appears to have current insurance.

Apart from her damaged vehicle, which took the brunt of the impact, Kocher said she is most upset that her favorite bicycle that got squashed between the wall of the garage and the bumper of her car, cracking the frame.

Despite the annoyance and cost of the event, she said a lot of good came out of it, including the support of her “awesome” neighbors who even delivered a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a hand-drawn card with a smiley face to her the next evening to make up for her “bad day.” 

She also wanted to thank the Gillette Police Department, all her neighbors and people who contacted her in the wake of the accident to see if she was okay.

“When this happened I said they wouldn’t get away with it because there’s no finer police department than Gillette’s,” she said. “I was 100 percent right.”

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Two Arrested Near Gillette With 1,100 Fentanyl Pills, 8 Pounds Of Meth

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man and woman were arrested earlier this month after a Campbell County sheriff’s deputy found them in possession of more than 1,000 fentanyl pills and eight pounds of methamphetamine outside of Gillette.

Rondell Yokenya Baker, 30, of Bakersfield, California, and Amelia Raymonique Adams, 24, of Las Vegas, Nevada were arrested on March 2 and were charged with three counts of possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl with intent to deliver and three counts of possession of a controlled substance for the three drugs.

The two were formally charged in state district court in Campbell County on March 11.

Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Louey Williams told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that it was estimated Baker and Adams had almost 1,100 fentanyl pills inside of the vehicle.

“From what they told officers at the time, they were traveling to North Dakota,” Williams said. “I think a lot of the reason they were going up there was because of the big oil patch up in North Dakota.”

According to court documents, a Campbell County sheriff’s deputy pulled over the vehicle Baker was driving the night of March 2 after he saw them speeding in 45 mph zone. He approached the vehicle on the passenger side and saw Baker as the driver and Adams in the passenger seat.

The deputy had Baker step out of the 2020 Dodge Journey and get into his patrol car while he wrote a warning for speeding. Another deputy, along with his K9 partner, arrived on scene and the dog indicated there was something of interest inside the vehicle.

Adams “immediately” attempted to exit the car several times, but was told to remain inside. When she exited the vehicle, she handed a deputy a small dispensary container with a small amount of marijuana inside.

Both Baker and Adams were searched and placed into separate patrol cars.

While searching the vehicle, a deputy found a floral-patterned backpack inside of a large blue duffel bag in the trunk of the car. Inside of the backpack were two vacuum-sealed packages of meth.

Another backpack inside of the trunk contained a black bank cash money bag, which contained a vacuum-sealed package of cocaine and a vacuum-sealed bag containing a large quantity of small blue pills with the stamp “M30” on them. The pills were identified as fentanyl.

Williams said while the number of pills seized represented a significant amount of fentanyl, there was a case in Sheridan where someone was found with more than 10,000 pills.

“I would say we have seen more fentanyl cases in the last three years,” Williams said.

He said that the street value of the drugs seized in early March would be about $50,000 per pound of methamphetamine, totaling $400,000, and about $27,000 for the bag of fentanyl pills.

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Wright Woman Loses $800 In Facebook Puppy Scam

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wright woman who thought she was buying a puppy from Colorado and having it delivered to her home ended up losing $800 in a scam.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the department received a call on Wednesday morning from a woman who reported that someone had stolen money from her through a puppy purchase scam.

The 37-year-old Wright resident told police that she found a woman who said she was in Colorado selling puppies on Facebook. Matheny said the scammer identified herself as Sheena Meyers, although he added that name is likely fictitious.

The victim agreed to pay $600 for the puppy, as well as an additional $100 to have the puppy delivered to her in Wright, since she was unable to travel to pick it up.

“They told the victim they would be using a company called United Pet Emirates to transport the dog to Gillette, and I guess the plan was to fly it up here from Colorado,” Matheny told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “Then the victim got a call from someone representing United Pet Emirates, and said they would need an additional $100 for pet insurance, but if the flight was uneventful, she would get that money back.”

The victim agreed to pay the extra money, now having spent $800 on the puppy.

“Then, the victim gets a message saying they need another $500 to transport the dog in an airport-approved carrier,” Matheny said. “Now, she’s suspicious. She refused to pay.”

The victim was told the puppy would be held in quarantine until she paid the $500 for the “carrier.” She asked for her money back, but was refused.

The woman then called the Campbell County Sheriff’s office.

Matheny said police could not find any evidence of a company called United Pet Emirates, but did find a website warning people of similar puppy scams.

“With the popularity of buying things on Facebook, these types of scams are much more prevalent,” Matheny said. “If you’re buying something online like this, check a person’s seller’s rating and verify if they’re representing an actual company. Find out if there is a way to verify it is a real company.”

While scams have been frequent across the state in recent months, Matheny said the puppy scam was unique to the area and added he could not recall seeing similar cases in recent history.

Gillette Deputy Police Chief Brent Wasson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that while his department had seen a similar puppy scam months ago, it was an isolated and unrelated, incident.

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Laramie Landlords To Pay $7,000 Fine For Refusing To Rent Apartment To Woman With Emotional Support Dog

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Federal attorneys are recommending that a pair of Laramie landlords who have a “no pets” policy for one of their properties pay a woman $7,000 for refusing to rent her a unit because of her emotional support animal.

Karen and Douglas Miyamoto agreed to a consent decree submitted in U.S. District Court to settle a lawsuit that alleged their refusal to allow the emotional support animal in their unit amounted to discrimination against a person because of disabilities.

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl has yet to approve the order, which was submitted for consideration Thursday.

According to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Paulina Gurevich contacted the Miyamotos in June 2020 about a property they had advertised for rent. The advertisement stated that no pets were allowed.

The lawsuit said Gurevich suffers from depression and an anxiety disorder and “experiences crippling panic attacks which substantially limit one or more of her major life activities including her ability to care for herself, interact with others and communicate.”

The lawsuit added Gurevich has “an assistance animal which helps mitigate the symptoms of her disabilities.”

When going to inspect the property with Karen Miyamoto, Gurevich expressed an interest in renting the unit and told Miyamoto about her emotional support animal, a dog.

Miyamoto pointed out the “no pets” policy for the unit and asked Gurevich if the dog was a service animal.

Gurevich told her the dog was an emotional support animal and offered to provide a letter from her healthcare provider “verifying her disability status and disability-related need for an emotional support animal.”

After a discussion about the requirements of state and federal disability laws, the lawsuit said, Miyamoto did not offer Gurevich an application for the rental unit.

Miyamoto, in a later text exchange with Gurevich, said that under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law, “owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.”

Gurevich filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in September 2020 and lawsuit against the Miyamotos was filed on Thursday.

The lawsuit said the Miyamotos discriminated in the rental of property to Gurevich because of her disability and refused to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies or practices to “afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” which the U.S. Attorney’s office said was a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The consent decree, which has been agreed to by the Miyamotos, orders them to pay Gurevich $7,000. It also orders them not to discriminate in renting property on the basis of disabilities, requires that they take part in, at their own expense, a training program on the Fair Housing Act and that they provide the same training to their employees.

The decree also orders the Miyamotos to post a sign on their properties indicating the properties are available for rent or sale on a nondiscriminatory basis and to adjust future advertising to show they are an “equal housing opportunity provider.”

The decree also imposes record-keeping requirements on the Miyamotos, such as annual compliance reports.

In exchange for the $7,000, Gurevich will be barred from taking any other legal action against the Miyamotos stemming from the incident.

Car Bashes Into Cowboy State Daily Reporter’s House And Then Drives Away

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It was like any other day for Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher. 

The Gillette-based correspondent was working on a story in her home office on Thursday afternoon when she felt her house literally shake.

Her immediate thought was to run for cover thinking it was an earthquake, she said, but quickly gathered her thoughts when the shaking was short-lived.

Running out to the front yard, Kocher surveyed the cause of the incident.  Her garage door was completely smashed-in with tire tracks leading up to the damage on the driveway and lawn but there was nothing else.

No vehicle.  It was a hit and run.

Kocher quickly called the police while neighbors stopped by to see what had happened.

“It was a very loud crash,” Kocher said.  “It was quite annoying. I was writing a great story.”

Grateful no one was hurt inside but angered that the driver took off, Kocher asked her neighbors if anyone had security cameras.

At least one did and was able to provide footage of the incident from his Nest-Cam.

The camera captured what appears to be an older, green mid-size SUV.

The vehicle enters the screen at a high rate of speed, jumps the curb, onto the grass, and then out of sight.

Two seconds later, the vehicle backs up over the same path, drives back over the lawn, flips a u-turn and leaves the cul de sac.

The back passenger tire appears to be missing a hubcap and the back windows are tinted.

“Whoever it was is a crappy driver,” Kocher said. 

“I have full confidence in the Gillette Police Department,” she added.  “Mark my words, you can’t escape the Gillette PD. Then I’ll write a story on it.”

If anyone has any information on the hit and run, they are encouraged to call the Gillette Police Department at 307.682.5155.

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Casper Woman Seeking Justice For Murdered Sister By Strengthening Wyoming Stalking Laws

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Without realizing it, 58-year-old Yvonne “Vonnie” Flores caught the attention of her neighbor. The man, 58-year-old Anthony Medina, lived next door to Vonnie and her husband and two kids in Leadville, Colorado.

Medina and his elderly mother lived in a two-story home that gave Medina plenty of opportunities to spy on Vonnie. He’d watch her while she was working in the yard or sitting on her deck. Sometimes, he followed her through the neighborhood when she walked or went on bike rides.

Once, according to Vonnie’s younger sister, Casper resident Vicki Kadlick, Medina followed Vonnie and her husband Dave on a shopping trip to nearby Frisco, nearly 30 miles away.

Medina’s obsession with Vonnie went on for more than five years, Kadlick said. It ended with Vonnie’s death, a catalyst for Kadlick’s efforts to strengthen stalking laws in both Wyoming and Colorado.

The stalking started with a proposition to Vonnie, when Medina called her over to his yard one day to make his romantic interest clear. Vonnie rebuked his advances, explaining she was happily married and wanted nothing to do with him.

When Vonnie’s husband Dave got home later that day, he went over to tell his neighbor not to approach his wife again. Medina filed a police report after Dave’s visit, but no charges were filed.

Vonnie Flores was murdered in 2010 by a stalker in Leadville, Colorado

Vonnie, meanwhile, blew it all off, despite warnings from her husband and family. She joked about her crazy neighbor stalker, making light of the situation because she considered the whole thing annoying but harmless.

That changed for Vonnie one day while out on a bike ride on a quiet road outside of town. She was pushing her bike up a hill when she saw Medina ahead of her on the road, walking toward her. She immediately turned her bike around and pedaled straight to the police station to file a report.

Medina was arrested later that day and released within three hours on a $2,500 bond. A court also issued a temporary restraining order requiring him to stay at least 10 feet away from Vonnie, with a court date set for two weeks later.

This is when Vonnie began to understand the gravity of the situation. Kadlick flew from Casper to Leadville in an attempt to convince her terrified sister to visit Wyoming.

Kadlick remembered how terrified her sister was at that point. One night, when she suggested the pair sit in the back yard and enjoy the evening, Vonnie shook her head and nodded in Medina’s direction.

“She was terrorized,” Kadlick said. “She was afraid to even be in the house.”

That Thursday, four days before Medina was scheduled to appear in court, Vonnie decided to run a quick errand to the drug store. She’d only be a minute, she reasoned, and her family was home.

When Vonnie returned, she was not even out of her car when Medina met her in the driveway, shooting her in the head and chest before turning the gun on himself in a murder suicide.

Justice For Vonnie

Kadlick was devastated by her sister’s death and decided, with the help of her family, to find justice for Vonnie.

She talked to everyone involved in stalking cases from law enforcement officers and mental health experts to lawyers and judges to determine what could be legally done to prevent this from happening to anyone else’s loved one.

A few flaws in the system were immediately apparent, beginning with law enforcement’s response to Vonnie’s stalker. One police officer warned her to stay away from Medina, who he thought was a little crazy. But short of the family moving, police had little advice to give.

Vicki Kadlick (left) is honoring her sister Vonnie’s life by pursuing tighter stalking laws in Wyoming.

Also troubling to Kadlick was the fact that her sister blew off Medina’s behavior at first because she never imagined that he was so dangerous. 

Ultimately, the one variable that might have saved her sister, Kadlick found, was changing laws in Colorado to deter perpetrators from stalking their victims.

Two years later, “Vonnie’s Law” was passed in Colorado in 2012 making it mandatory for suspects arrested on stalking charges to appear before a judge prior to posting bail. During this period, the suspect has to remain in custody and stay away from the alleged victims.

Kadlick wanted to see the same changes made in Wyoming’s stalking laws, which back then had hole similar to Colorado’s.

Bulldogs For Justice

Using the Colorado bill as her guide, Kadlick began making contacts in Casper. She reached out to Lorrie Anderson, victim services coordinator for Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, who shared her passion for getting laws changed.

As Kadlick soon learned, there were more people supporting her cause, including Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, who sponsored the first and most recent bills tightening Wyoming’s stalking laws. 

Taylor Courtney, now investigations sergeant with Natrona County Sheriff, was compelled by Kadlick’s story and passion to help with the effort to draft the new laws.

Paramount to their efforts was strengthening protective orders to make them easier for police to enforce. Statistically speaking, Kadlick said that 60% of stalkers will stop if they get into trouble for it.

“They (protective orders) weren’t working,” Kadlick said. “They were just a piece of paper. We wanted something with some teeth in it.”

They also wanted a better definition of the nature of stalking as well as harsher penalties for repeat offenders, including possible felony charges filed in the case of repeated violations.

It took the group six years and a couple failed attempts to get stronger stalking legislation passed. In 2018, former Gov. Matt Mead signed House Bill 8 with several key elements that clarified the crime of stalking, increased jail time from six months to a year while also increasing probation from one to three years to allow for counseling if needed. 

The law also made subsequent stalking offenses a felony if an offender had a second violation within five years of the prior offense. It also extended the duration of protective orders.

Before the new law was passed, protective orders were only good for six months, at which point the victim had to go back in front of a judge and the perpetrator to get it renewed. This new law made the orders good for three years.

What Courtney liked about the new legislation, too, was that it is intended to help both the victim and the perpetrator by including a counseling component.

“The system has to be designed to provide relief to the victim, so they feel safe and can lead a normal life. Somebody has done this to them, and we’re going to help them make it right,” he said. “But, the beautiful part about this (law) is that it also addressed the offender as well through additional probation, which allows for more effective and longer treatment to change stalking behaviors and reduce reoffending.”

The other important aspect was a clarification of what constitutes stalking, an effort to make the victim more aware of what is happening, Courtney said.

Taylor Courtney, Investigation Sergeant, Natrona County Sheriff’s Office

“Stalking requires a course of conduct with the intent to harass, so being able to properly identify it, what it looks like and how it’s actually taking place was key in being able to hold offenders accountable,” he said.

Under Wyoming law, a person can be charged with stalking for harassing someone to the point where they feel emotional distress, fear for their safety or someone else’s safety or for the safety of their property. This might include verbally harassing them, following or watching them at home, school or work, or in more recent years, stalking them through electronic devices.

The issue of electronic stalking was not addressed in the 2018 bill and left a gaping hole for perpetrators to exploit, Courtney said, whether by hacking into email, social media and other accounts, monitoring a victim’s movement with global positioning software (GPS) or tracking “tiles” like Apple AirTags.

AirTags are typically used to help people track personal items such as keys, wallets, purses in backpacks. But stalkers are sticking them onto the victim’s car or other belongings and using them to track the victims from the comfort of their homes.

Stalkers are also using the internet as an educational tool, according to Rawlins-based clinical social worker and therapist Sheryl Foland. In her March 7 testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Foland said offenders are honing their tricks online from experts.

“They are assisted, as I learned last week, with some awesome Facebook groups, Instagram communications and some other dark web places on how to stalk, and that is literally the names of the groups,” she said.

The prevalence of stalkers operating in this venue, Courtney said, is why he, and Tara Muir, with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and others in the law enforcement, counseling and victims’ services community approached Landen with this new bill to address the new venue.

The bill, Senate File 100 was signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday with the new law to take effect on July 1, 2022.

Stalking Is Not Love

With new legislation in place, advocates like Kadlick continue pushing for accountability and helping victims understand the nature of stalking and its potential ramifications.

In this regard, Kadlick continues to be alarmed when she talks to victims – who are primarily female – who don’t consider themselves to be victims at the time the stalking occurs.

“These women don’t know what to do, and you don’t know how serious it is until it’s too late,” she said.

She recalled one young woman downplaying the fact her stalker — who had a protective order against him — brazenly left a bag of groceries on her front porch. The victim thought that was nice of him and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he had broken the law.

“It’s not a nice thing to do,” she said. “It’s not flattery, it’s stalking. Many young girls seem to think it’s cool that the guy really likes her.”

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), more than 6 million people are stalked every year, including one in six women and one in 19 men. This same data shows that 66% of female victims and 41% males are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

For Kadlick, the advocacy is personal and one way in which she deals with the grief of losing her older sister.

Vonnie worked as a teacher’s assistant at a Leadville elementary school after obtaining her GED and finishing subsequent college courses at age 40 and was an avid outdoors enthusiast with a big heart and contagious personality, she said.

“My sister was an absolute force and had such a light that attracted everyone, and he (Medina) saw that and wanted it,” Kadlick said. “Grief can eat you whole if you let it. This is my way of keeping my sister close.”

Vicki also administers the Vonnie’s Voice Facebook page

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Gillette Police Kill Man After He Points Gun At Them

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gillette police shot and killed a man on Monday after he pointed a gun at them, city officials announced.

According to city officials, Gillette police received a call Monday afternoon from a citizen who said a man was shooting a handgun in the middle of East Lincoln Street.

When officers arrived, they encountered a man armed with a gun. They attempted to subdue him with a taser, but were unsuccessful.

Officers ordered the man to drop his weapon and he then pointed the gun at them. At least one officer discharged his duty weapon, hitting the suspect.

Lifesaving measures were initiated and the man was transported to Campbell County Health, where he was pronounced dead.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the incident, and no further information will be released until the investigation is complete.

Gillette Police Chief Brent Wasson did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Per the Gillette Police Department’s policy, the officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending closure of the investigation.

This is the second man killed by Gillette police this year. Ismael Montes, 22, was shot by police in January after he swung a bladed weapon at them.

Montes was killed by police after officers were called by a person requesting assistance to remove Montes from their home. The caller indicated Montes made threats of violence to the occupants of the house and refused to leave.

When officers arrived at the house, they made contact with Montes, who was armed with a large edged weapon.

Montes refused multiple requests to drop the weapon. Officers deployed two forms of non-lethal weapons and Montes retreated further into the home.

The officers continued to attempt to disarm Montes through non-lethal means.

When Montes charged at the officers, swinging the weapon at them, both officers discharged their duty firearms, striking Montes and killing him.

The officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

In February, the Campbell County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution allowing the Park County prosecuting attorney to investigate the Montes shooting.

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Cheyenne Teacher Launches Wyo Crime Podcast To Give Voice To Victims That Media Ignores

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Renee Nelson had been kicking around the idea of launching a true crime and missing person podcast for years. The impulse became more intense in the wake of last year’s disappearance of Gabby Petito, the discovery of her body in Grand Teton National Park last summer and the subsequent revelation she had been murdered by her finance.

Like many others watching the case, Nelson was struck by the manner in which Petito’s name dominated national headlines as multiple agencies across the country sprang into action, leading to the discovery of the woman’s body days after the search was launched. 

Nelson decided it was time to do her part to make sure that every missing person case and murder in Wyoming gets the same level of attention. 

Media attention is pivotal in getting word out. And that is what Nelson hopes to do in Wyoming with the launch of her Unsolved Wyoming podcast that will air on Spotify’s Anchor platform this June.

Nelson described her podcast as a mechanism to highlight the person – not the crime – at the heart of the story.

“I don’t want to talk about their worst day,” Nelson told Cowboy State Daily. “I want to focus on the who the person is and give them a voice.”

In particular, she hopes to highlight cases of missing and murdered indigenous people as well as people from other marginalized communities.

Crime Junkie

Admittedly, Nelson, a Cheyenne native and English instructor at Laramie County Community College, was one of those “weird kids” who binged on crime shows with her mother. She remembers nights together watching “20/20,” “Dateline,” “America’s Most Wanted” and true crime series, which planted the seeds for her budding interest.

She also comes from a family of lawyers and her own mother escaped a domestic violence situation that also formed Nelson’s understanding that crime is indiscriminate and can happen to anyone.

“Some of the experiences I’ve had growing up are really positive in terms of the way that I saw the justice system working in some ways, and then not in other ways,” she said, “so, I guess it’s just all culminated into this aspect of wanting to make sure I’m bringing awareness and giving a voice to the family as a result of it being such a tragedy for them.”

When it came time for her to make a career choice, Nelson was torn between studying English or law and ultimately became a college English instructor. After attending college at University of Wyoming and commuting to graduate school in Colorado, Nelson and her husband, a Cheyenne firefighter, knew that they wanted to stay in Cheyenne to raise their two children.

She’s managed to work in her true crime interest by teaching a crime and media course that looks at the various ways that missing person cases, murders and other offenses are portrayed by news outlets.

To this end, Nelson found there’s great disparity between races and social class – particularly in cases involving Indigenous people – in which the language used to describe those events is much more graphic and violent. 

Missing White Woman Syndrome

This phenomena — the case of a missing white woman getting attention at the expense of other missing person cases — is often called the Missing White Woman Syndrome and is well documented by social scientists, Nelson noted.

This also holds true for those with criminal pasts or drug addictions.

“We need a wider lens and platform to highlight all missing people and victims of crime,” Nelson said. “I want to provide a voice and some context for cases to bring some awareness.”

Paramount to her interest is also using the podcast to go back and revisit cold cases, such as a double homicide in Cheyenne in 2015, or the Rawlins rodeo murders where four young women were killed in the summer of 1974. 

The Amy Bechtel missing person case is also of interest to Nelson. Bechtel disappeared while jogging in the Wind River Mountains in 1997 and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

There’s no shortage of current and past cases to delve into, Nelson said, and she also plans to explore some of the state’s haunted places as well.

Nelson is aiming for her first episode to launch in the beginning of June with weekly episodes to follow. Anyone with a case they’d like to share with Nelson can contact her at or (307) 631-8646.

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Man Pleads Innocent To Kidnapping Bloomberg Housekeeper in Colorado & Taking Her to Wyoming

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man accused of kidnapping a woman from a ranch in Colorado in February and taking her to Cheyenne has pleaded innocent to four federal charges filed in connection with the incident.

Joseph Beecher, during his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne on Monday, pleaded innocent to charges of kidnapping, carjacking, carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and transporting stolen firearms. 

Beecher, accompanied by a woman identified only as A.E., was arrested Feb. 3 by a special weapons and tactics team for the Cheyenne Police Department that broke into his motel room after spotting a fire in another room at the motel.

According to court documents, Beecher was a suspect in a burglary in Craig, Colorado. Later the same day, his pickup truck was spotted breaking through the main gate at a ranch in Rio Blanco County, Colorado.

A.E. told Cheyenne police she was working at a housekeeper at former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ranch and was abducted at gunpoint by Beecher, who got into her pickup truck and ordered her to drive to Denver.

“A.E., in fear for her life, did as he demanded,” the documents said.

The two stopped at two gas stations and an ATM and then Beecher told her to drive to Cheyenne, where he ordered her to rent a room at the Stagecoach Motel.

Police spotted the woman’s pickup truck in the motel parking lot and began surveillance at the motel when they spotted a fire in another part of the building.

“Cheyenne SWAT initiated their response due to the exigence circumstance and forced entry into (Beecher’s room),” the documents said. “Upon entry, SWAT operators detained Beecher and escorted A.E. from the room.”

Beecher was indicted on the federal charges by a grand jury on March 17 and faces a sentence of up to life in prison on the charge of kidnap. He also faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

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Coroner Identifies Man In Deadly Evansville Standoff From Weekend

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Photo courtesy: Curtis Forntin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The man involved in the deadly standoff with police in Evansville over the weekend was identified Monday by the Natrona County coroner.

Blaine Clutter, 29, died in the course of the 18-hour standoff with police over the weekend. His autopsy was scheduled for Monday, according to the county coroner.

According to a statement from the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, a special response team responded Friday evening to a report of shots fired at a home on Fifth Street on Evansville. Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the incident.

Over the next 18 hours, trained crisis negotiators used various tactics to draw Clutter out of the home he had barricaded himself in.

During this time, there was an exchange of gunfire between Clutter, who was barricaded inside the home, and four Casper Police Department officers.

Around 11 a.m. on Saturday, Clutter was discovered dead inside the home. According to Casper Police Department officials, Clutter’s cause of death has not yet been determined.

The Natrona County Sheriff’s Office is working in coordination with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations to investigate the incident.

“The Natrona County Sheriff’s Office extends its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased,” officials said Monday.

The Natrona County Sheriff’s Department declined requests for additional comment from Cowboy State Daily, citing the fact the investigation into the incident was ongoing.

A GoFundMe page was launched to raise funds for Clutter’s funeral, with around $1,800 raised as of Monday afternoon.

“We appreciate all of your condolences and words of love through this difficult time,” organizer Olivia Hernandez wrote. “Blaine’s mother is currently encarcerated [sic] and the arrangements for laying him to rest are all up to Anthony. We are organizing this fund to help ease a bit of the anxiety for Junior’s brother. Thank you so much for your help!”

Anthony Pete Hernandez identified himself on social media over the weekend as Clutter’s father and apologized to the law enforcement involved in the standoff over the weekend.

“I want to say sorry to all Law Enforcement Officers for my son actions during that stand off with him on Friday and Saturday,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m thankful to God he didn’t wound or kill any of you well you all where doing your job. I talked to some very good hearted people in the Natrona County Sheriff Department that feeled [sic] me in on how it when down and ended.

“I’m very grateful you all tried your hardest to have him give his self up and surrender even though he was trying to hurt you all. May God always protect you all sincerely!” Anthony Hernandez continued. “My son’s acting was way wrong no matter what mind set he was in. He was my son I will miss him. People that need help get it please.”

Hernandez did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

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Former Riverton Woman Who Gave Birth & Abandoned Baby On Sidewalk Faces Felony Charge

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A former Riverton resident accused of giving birth to a baby boy on the sidewalk of Omaha, Nebraska, and leaving him there in below-freezing temperatures has been transferred to a higher court for felony-level prosecution.  

Trinity Shakespeare was charged in February with felony child abuse, a charge punishable by up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Her case was sent Friday to the Douglas County District Court in Nebraska, after a first appearance Thursday in a lower court.

Shakespeare’s newborn son, who is identified in court documents as “B.S.” is being processed for care by the Wind River Intertribal Court in Fremont County, according to KETV News of Omaha.  

Both WRITC and the Northern Arapaho Department of Family Services declined Monday to comment on the boy’s status.   

Shakespeare and her son are of Northern Arapaho descent.  

Under federal law, American Indian babies removed from parental care are to be processed by tribal, not state, DFS organizations.  

Court Documents

Witnesses saw Shakespeare give birth on an Omaha sidewalk on Feb. 13, according to court documents released Monday to Cowboy State Daily.  

“The mother of the newborn infant left the baby on the sidewalk and ran away from the scene” in 15-degree weather, witnesses told police. The baby was found and taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center by Omaha fire medics after approximately five minutes.

Police found the mother, Shakespeare, hiding in the backyard of a nearby residence. She was taken to the same hospital as her son.  

“The defendant had a hard time keeping her eyes open,” during the ride to the hospital, court documents state, “and smelled strongly of alcoholic beverage.”  

Shakespeare told police during an in-hospital interview that she found out she was pregnant in September while incarcerated for a separate incident. She told investigators she drank alcohol at times during her pregnancy, court documents noted, because of “painful” cramps.  

Shakespeare also told reportedly told police that she’d smoked marijuana the night prior to her son’s birth, and drank vodka the day of the incident.  

She said she remembered “giving birth” and “walking away” from the boy, before being taken to the hospital, court documents state, adding that “she was aware of what was going on at the time and was able to recall specific details about the incident.” 

After her stay in the hospital, Shakespeare was booked into the Douglas County Corrections facility. 

Her prosecution is ongoing.  

Formerly Of Riverton

When Shakespeare lived in Riverton in 2014, she was cited at age 20 for underage consumption of alcohol. According to the Riverton Circuit Court database, she failed to appear for court proceedings. 

A warrant was issued, but Shakespeare never returned to court and the warrant – now eight years old – still stands.

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Judge Rules Former Wyoming Catholic College CFO Defrauded Firm Of Almost $15M

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The former chief financial officer of the Wyoming Catholic College defrauded a financial firm out of almost $15 million, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

In a ruling regarding a lawsuit filed against Paul McCown by Ria R Squared, a financial firm that alleged he defrauded it out of millions in 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl found that the former CFO was liable for the money he received and then dispersed among other people, including relatives, associates and the Catholic College, which received a $10 million anonymous donation that has since been returned.

The money has never been recovered, though, according to court documents.

“[Ria R Squared] has established its claim of fraud,” the judge wrote.

The company is also entitled to an award of $14.7 million, the amount McCown received from the company last year. According to the federal charges, McCown twice sent emails to Ria R Squared to transmit loan documents to the company and then used wire transfers to take possession of the loan.

In October, McCown requested to stop proceedings on the lawsuit, pending completion of an FBI investigation against him.

Last week, McCown was charged with wire fraud, in connection with allegations he improperly applied for and received more than $800,000 in federal coronavirus assistance. He could face up to 140 years in prison for the seven charges and a fine of almost $1.8 million.

According to the federal charges, McCown submitted false claims that his company, McCown Enterprises, lost money because of the coronavirus. He applied for a total of more than $800,000 in assistance from the programs. 

McCown did agree to return all the money given to him by the WBC, the documents said, totaling $841,863.

The documents ask that McCown be forced to forfeit to the United States “any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offenses.”

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Man Faces Prison, $25K Fine For Destroying Parts Of Grand Teton Natl Park With Illegal Motorcycle Event

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man identified as the organizer of an off-road vehicle event that damaged sensitive environment in Grand Teton National Park in 2020 is facing a series of federal charge.

Jacob “Jake” Hobbs was charged on Wednesday with unlawfully destroying and damaging property, unlawfully destroying and disturbing Grand Teton’s natural state plants and products, failing to report a property damage incident exceeding $300, destroying a monument and operating a motor vehicle in a restricted area.

He faces penalties of up to 27 months in prison, five years of probation and fines of up to $25,000.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, a park ranger was notified the night of July 18, 2020 of numerous motorized dirt bikes congregating in the Mormon Row area of the park.

A video showed around 30 to 40 people who appeared to be packing up and leaving the area. A ranger determined this event was an organized race among friends staying at the park’s Gros Ventre Campground as part of an annual party.

The race ultimately caused damage to 4,000 square feet of the Mormon Row.

Tips from the public showed multiple Instagram posts with the tag #boltsbday11 associated with videos and social posts showing pit bike races taking place along Mormon Row.

According to the state of Utah, Hobbs officially co-founded his business, BoltsAction LLC, in 2010, although it was unofficially founded in 2009, according to information contained in his internet blog. Hobbs was identified as a Salt Lake City resident in a statement accompanying the charges, but the report also said he was identified at the time of the incident from his Arizona driver’s license.

Rob Wallace, former U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while it was infrequent, he did see some “bad actors” who either ignorantly or maliciously desecrated park areas while in office.

“The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation have embarked on a $5 million, multi-year project to restore the historic character of Mormon Row,” he said. “To think that these vandals could undo in a matter of minutes what has taken years of diligent, hard work and money to put together is a pretty sad statement about the way these people view our public lands.”

A statement accompanying charges said the race had been occurring annually on Mormon Row since 2013, but the statement added photos posted to social media and blogs indicated the race had taken place as early as 2011.

The video of the races showed Hobbs in the middle of a racetrack marked out with white flags, speaking into a bullhorn. Several videos provided as evidence show damage to the area growing worse as the day goes on.

Hobbs’ lawyer told a park ranger in August 2020 that Hobbs and the group were only in the area for approximately one hour and that Hobbs believed they were on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. She also said there was no formal races, drug use or betting.

The ranger discovered at least two awards were given out during the race that July night, one for “most improved rider” and one for “run what ya brung.”

Grand Teton officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to a sagebrush steppe habitat. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.

The various agencies had invested several years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding the native species. The area damaged by the motorcycle riders had been reseeded just last year.

The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on the sagebrush steppe.

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Man Shot By Federal Agent On Reservation Recovering In Hospital

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wolfe Willow, the man shot by a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs officer Monday on the Wind River Indian Reservation, is recovering in a Riverton hospital from a gunshot wound.

Willow was shot during a domestic altercation that devolved into a knife fight, he told Cowboy State Daily.

Willow, 36, was in the intensive-care unit of SageWest Health Care in Riverton on Wednesday, where a Cowboy State Daily reporter surveyed his bandaged side and other bandaged areas Willow called “stab wounds” resulting from the family fight preceding the shooting.   

The FBI had confirmed Tuesday that a BIA officer “fired his weapon” on the reservation and the FBI is investigating the incident.  

The agency offered “no further information” from the investigation, but stated it would provide the “facts of the shooting” to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Wyoming for review.  

Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray, an appointed federal prosecutor, will have final discretion on whether the shooting was justified.  

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Willow said he and his girlfriend’s family had been drinking together since noon Monday, when “her cousins showed up.”   

Willow said a knife fight ensued, he gained control of one of the knives.

Police came to the scene just before 3 p.m., Willow said, and soon after, an agent shot him.  

Scanner traffic at the time indicated an officer had shot a man who was wielding a knife. 

Both Willow and his mother stated that Willow had served as a U.S. Marine. He also told Cowboy State Daily he suspected his girlfriend’s family disliked him “because I’m a sex offender.”  

Willow had been sentenced to 36 months of federal incarceration in 2011 for abusive sexual contact.  

He said that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and was suffering from flashbacks just prior to the incident.  

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Man Whose Paid Off Debt Was Bounced From Collector To Collector Sues

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man who worked for more than two years to convince various debt collectors that his debt was paid is suing the companies for violations of federal debt collection rules.

Bryan Vass, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, alleged the debt he had paid off in 2019 was passed around to different debt collectors for two years, resulting in a lawsuit being filed against him.

The companies have all violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, in 2018, Vass reached an agreement to settle a debt to Cach, LLC, with Frontline Asset Strategies for $5,000, to be paid in 12 installments.

The lawsuit said Vass paid off the debt in November 2019, but in April 2020, Frontline told him his debt had been transferred to Resurgent Capital Services, a consumer debt collection business, so Frontline could not provide a letter saying his debt was paid in full.

Resurgent placed the debt with yet another consumer debt collection service, Machol and Johannes, a Denver-based company.

In June 2020, Machol and Johannes sued Vass, seeking to collect almost $9,000. The company also refused to honor Vass’ agreement with the original debt collection company, Frontline Asset Strategies.

In November 2021, an attorney for Vass contacted Machol and Johannes and sent them proof that Vass’ debt had been paid. 

In January 2022, Machol and Johannes told the attorney that the account and the proof of his payments had been sent to another office.

The account was sent in February 2022 to Gurstel Law Firm, another debt collection service, but the company has yet to acknowledge the settlement of Vass’ debt, the lawsuit said.

“On numerous occasions, defendants, in spite of the proof that all 12 payments were made on this agreement, refuse to recognize that the account has been paid in full,” it said. “The conduct of defendants, as well as that of their agents, servants, and/or employees, was malicious, intentional, willful, reckless, negligent and in wanton disregard for federal law and the rights of (Vass) …”

The lawsuit accused all of the debt collectors of “abusive, deceptive and unfair collection practices.”

It also accused the companies of breach of contract for failing to honor the settlement deal Vass reached originally.

The lawsuit seeks damages in an amount to be determined in trial.

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Once-Deported Illegal Alien Caught In Rawlins With 150 Pounds Of Pot, Cocaine, Guns; Faces Weapons Charge

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man deported from the United States in 2018 who was arrested near Rawlins in January with more than 150 pounds of marijuana in his car is facing a federal weapons charge.

Pedro Navarrete-Gomez has been charged with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The charges filed in U.S. District Court on Monday stemmed from a traffic stop near Rawlins on Jan. 20, when the car Navarrette-Gomez was driving was stopped for speeding.

According to court documents, a search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of 158 pounds of marijuana, 12 grams of cocaine and two handguns.

According to an affidavit filed with charging documents, Navarrette-Gomez said he had been threatened and coerced into transporting the marijuana from California to Minnesota. He added he did not know who gave him the drugs in California or who he was to deliver them to in Minnesota.

According to arresting documents, Navarrette-Gomez was deported from the United States in 2018 and returned to the country illegally.

The marijuana seized from Navarrette-Gomez was not the largest amount taken in a Wyoming drug bust so far in 2022.

In February, the Pine Bluffs Police Department seized about 344 pounds of marijuana in a historic bust for the department.

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Cody Police On Holiday Inn Heist: “Was Not Like Ocean’s 11”; Less Than $1,000 Stolen

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Hotel heists such as the one reported at the Holiday Inn in Cody on Monday seem to be exceedingly rare, unless the target is a major casino or high-dollar property in a big city.

Apparently, the woman who robbed the Holiday Inn at gunpoint didn’t get that memo.

“There was less than $1,000 lost,” Det. Sgt. Trapp Heydenberk of the Cody Police Department told Cowboy State Daily. “It was not like an Ocean’s 11 (situation).” 

Brian Kozak, former police chief in Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily that hotel robberies have been almost unheard of in recent years.

“In my 35 years of law enforcement, I can’t even think of a hotel robbery happening,” he said. 

Heydenberk pointed out that felony crimes on the whole are a rarity in Cody.

“Violent felony street level crimes are certainly a rare occurrence in our town,” he said. “You know, it’s a safe place to live, and I think this is a rather unusual occurrence. I’m thinking it’s been in the neighborhood of 10 years, if not more, since we’ve had a crime like this.”

Heydenberk added that the desk clerk was unharmed. 

“He’s doing pretty well,” he said.

Kozak said that in the years he was the police chief in Cheyenne, there were very few armed robberies.

“I mean, occasionally we would have a criminal that would do some robberies in a pattern and it took a while for us to catch them, and then once we caught the suspect the robberies ended,” he said. “So from time to time, someone will move into your area and commit some robbery – but yeah, robberies are pretty rare in Wyoming.” 

Kozak theorized that the fact that a high number of Wyoming residents own firearms might be a deterrent to violent offenders.

“I believe suspects, bad guys, have that in the back of their mind at all times,” he said.

Heydenberk pointed out that while the person who robbed the Cody hotel has not been apprehended, tips have been coming in.

A citizen reported finding black gloves and black boots in a dumpster Monday evening. 

Heydenberk said Cody police are looking into all leads.

“We continue to canvass the area to try to locate other surveillance cameras and gain any footage of interest with other neighboring businesses,” he said. “If anyone has residential footage in the area that might be of interest, we would welcome that information as well.”

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Unlike Rest of Country, Wyoming Not Experiencing Gasoline Theft

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gas prices have not yet reached such a high point that Wyoming residents are resorting to theft, multiple police departments told Cowboy State Daily this week.

Of the four departments contacted across Wyoming, only one had seen a report of a gas theft, contrary to reports from major communities elsewhere in the country that the crime is becoming a problem.

Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Alex Farkas told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that officers had seen one report of gasoline theft, which came through Sunday.

“A hole was drilled into a resident’s gas tank,” Farkas said. “This does not appear to be a widespread issue in the community.”

The Casper, Gillette and Rock Springs police departments all told Cowboy State Daily they had not seen any reports of gas thefts from either residents or local gas stations in recent weeks, even though gas prices have continued to rise across Wyoming and the nation.

According to AAA, Wyoming’s average gas price on Tuesday was $4.02, while the national average was $4.31.

According to GasBuddy, a website that compiles gas prices across states, the cheapest price for regular unleaded gasoline in Wyoming was $3.60 per gallon in Buffalo.

Both Jackson and Evanston had some of the highest gas prices, around $4.29.

While Wyoming has not yet been hit by gas thieves, other states and large cities are seeing an increase of fuel-related thefts.

A family-owned gas station in Houston, Texas, lost out on nearly $5,000 after a thieves stole more than 1,000 gallons of fuel last week, according to the Daily Mail.

In Fresno, California, someone stole 20 gallons of gas out of a parked truck in a neighborhood.

A town in Washington has seen an increase in gas thefts over the last six months, with gas being stolen by being siphoned out of tanks or being drained through holes drilled into fuel tanks.

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Woman Sticks Up Cody Hotel, Stages Clean Getaway

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UPDATE: Police say less than $1,000 was taken in heist. [READ MORE]

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cody Police are on the lookout for a woman who robbed a hotel at gunpoint early Monday morning.

According to the Cody Police Department, the front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn called law enforcement around 5 a.m. Monday to report a robbery. 

The clerk told police a masked woman wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants, and a black gator-type face mask demanded money from the front desk clerk after lifting the side of her sweatshirt to expose a holstered pistol.

The clerk complied, placing money in a bag and giving to the suspect, who then walked out the door and disappeared. 

When police arrived and canvassed the area, there was no sign of the robber.

The Cody Police Department issued a statement Monday asking for the public’s help in tracking down the woman, who is described as being between 20 and 30 years old, between 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 5 feet, 7 inches tall.

The Department asks anyone who may have information on this case to contact Det. Sgt. Trapp Heydenberk at 307-527-8700.

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Colorado Woman Sues Cheyenne Doctor For Allegedly Leaving Sponge In Her Abdomen

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Colorado woman who claims a surgical sponge was left in her abdomen for 12 years is suing a Cheyenne doctor and the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

Rachel Hill, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, is suing Dr. Mary-Ellen Foley for negligence, alleging she left a sponge inside Hill after a cesarean section.

Hill is seeking damages of more than $75,000 in an amount to be determined by a jury.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday, Hill was admitted to the Cheyenne hospital on Dec. 18, 2008, and Foley delivered her baby by cesarean section the next day.

The lawsuit said Foley had performed surgery on Hill prior to the 2008 birth.

The lawsuit said Foley and the other staff assisting with the surgery in 2008 failed to properly keep count of surgical sponges and left one inside Hill’s abdomen after the surgery.

For the next 12 years, Hill experienced symptoms including abdominal discomfort and stomach pain.

In January 2021, a CT scan identified a foreign object in Hill’s abdomen and when she underwent surgery in March 2021, a surgical sponge was removed.

Hill is suing Foley, the hospital and Cheyenne OB/GYN, who Foley worked for at the time, alleging their negligence resulted in “years of abdominal pain, ill health, constipation and rectal bleeding.”

The error has resulted in past and future economic losses, medical expenses, pain, suffering, discomfort and a loss of enjoyment of life, the lawsuit said.

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Kidnapped Utah Teen Discovered In Back of Semi In Cheyenne Truck Stop

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Utah teenager who was kidnapped by a Florida man she met online was discovered by Cheyenne police on Thursday and rescued, officials announced.

The 13-year-old girl was reported missing earlier this week from her home in Roosevelt, Utah. An investigation by local, state and federal authorities revealed the girl had been communicating online with 25-year-old Chris Evans via the Oculus virtual reality headset for around a month.

Evans made contact with the girl in Utah and transported her to a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne.

Evans’ location was determined through cell phone data and communication applications. The Federal Bureau of Investigation alerted the Cheyenne Police Department that Evans and the girl were in the area.

Within an hour, police found Evans and the girl.

Around 2:45 p.m. Thursday, officers found a semi-truck at the Love’s truck stop matching the description of the truck driven by Evans. Officers knocked on the door and made contact with Evans, who exited the vehicle.

Evans told officers the girl was also in the truck. He was arrested without incident and transported to the Laramie County Detention Center.

He is in custody as of Friday afternoon on a warrant accusing him of kidnapping.

The girl was in good health and will soon be reunited with her family. The case remains under investigation by the FBI.

The Roosevelt City Police Department told several Utah news outlets that Evans will also face a charge of harboring a runaway. KOMO News in Utah initially reported that Evans and the girl were possibly headed either to Florida or Washington.

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Former CFO Of Wyo Catholic College Facing Federal Charges For Wire Fraud

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man accused of bilking an asset management firm out of $15 million now faces federal charges of wire fraud in connection with the scheme.

Paul McCown, former chief financial officer for Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, is also being charged with wire fraud in connection with allegations he improperly applied for and received more than $800,000 in federal coronavirus assistance.

Documents filed in U.S. District Court by federal prosecutors on Thursday charge McCown with seven counts of wire fraud, for which he could face up to 140 years in prison and a fine of almost $1.8 million.

McCown is already being sued by Ria R Squared on allegations he falsified financial documents and even posed as a bank official to convince the company to loan him $15 million in May 2021.

Immediately after receiving the loan, McCown transferred most of the money to other people, including relatives, associates and Wyoming Catholic College, which received a $10 million anonymous donation that has since been returned.

According to the federal charges, McCown twice sent emails to Ria R Squared to transmit loan documents to the company and then used wire transfers to take possession of the loan.

McCown is also charged with four counts of wire fraud for submitting electronic applications to the Wyoming Business Council in 2020 for federal funds made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Through the CARES Act, Wyoming received $1.25 billion in May 2020 that was applied to four programs designed to help Wyoming businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the federal charges, McCown submitted false claims that his company, McCown Enterprises, lost money because of the coronavirus. He applied for a total of more than $800,000 in assistance from the programs. 

McCown did agree to return all the money given to him by the WBC, the documents said, $841,863.

The documents ask that McCown be forced to forfeit to the United States “any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offenses.”

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Former Cody Resident Pleads Guilty To Participating In Capitol Riot

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Cody resident pleaded guilty late last month to participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Andrew James Galloway, who now lives in Tennessee, reached a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to demonstrating in a Capitol building, admitting to his role in attack on the Capitol.

Galloway was charged Jan. 4. He will be sentenced in July and faces up to six months in prison or five years of probation. He will also pay $500 in restitution toward the $1.5 million in damages caused at the Capitol.

According to court documents, after the Capitol attack, the FBI received an online tip concerning Galloway’s participation in the riot.

The tip referenced a TikTok video in which Galloway states “Yeah, that was us today. No, it wasn’t Antifa.” While the video has been deleted from TikTok, a similar one was uploaded to YouTube.

After receiving the tip, the FBI identified Galloway in Capitol surveillance footage. At 2:24 on Jan. 6, 2021, he entered the Capitol through a breached window. He walked around in the building and left through the same window about 10 minutes later, the affidavit said.

In the YouTube video, a man identified as Galloway is clearly visible due to his wool cap that had “TRUMP” written on it. The man is wearing the hat in the TikTok video.

After identifying Galloway in the video, the FBI interviewed him at his home in Cody. He positively identified himself in the video and did not dispute that he was at the Capitol. However, he said he did not enter the building, but only approached from the outside.

However, agents identified him in surveillance footage and also noted that his cell phone GPS pinged inside of the Capitol.

Former President Donald Trump was impeached following the Capitol attack for the alleged role he played in inciting it, although he was later acquitted.

The deaths of two people have been tied directly to the incident, a woman who was shot by a Capitol police officer and an officer who suffered a series of strokes in the hours following the invasion.

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Soot-Covered Man Arrested For Starting Fires In Downtown Cheyenne

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A soot-covered homeless man was arrested this week and accused of setting several fires in downtown Cheyenne, police announced Friday.

Daylan Medley, 41, was arrested Thursday after intentionally starting five fires over a two-day period.

Medley was apprehended and arrested at the scene of a fire set near downtown Cheyenne on Thursday. The Cheyenne Police Department’s Arson Unit assisted Cheyenne Fire and Rescue in responding to the fire.

In addition to the fire set Thursday, police said two fires were set on Tuesday, one that burned an acre of property and a grass fire that required the response of three fire engines from Cheyenne Fire Rescue and one from Laramie County Fire District 2.

Another fire was also set Wednesday, a trash fire that was left unattended and burned close to a grass field.

On Thursday, two fires were set, one that spread to a grass field and required the response of two fire engines.

Medley was arrested and booked into the Laramie County Jail on five counts of failure to extinguish or contain a fire in a prairie. He was also served an unrelated summons for failure to appear on charges of urinating in public and unlawful entry.

Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Alex Farkas told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Medley returned to the location where he’d set the fire on Wednesday and laid down where the fire had been extinguished, which contributed to the soot on his face when he was arrested.

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Gillette Man Scammed Out Of Thousands In Online Dating Fraud

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a person he was supposedly dating online for a year, according to police.

Gillette Deputy Police Chief Brent Wasson said an unidentified 54-year-old man reported sending a woman he had had never met face-to-face $15,000 over the course of the year.

Wesson told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the scam was discovered when the man went to the police department Tuesday to report that his girlfriend had been kidnapped.

“He had been talking with the woman for the previous year via text messages and video,” Wasson said. “She was supposed to be coming to Gillette [to meet the man] and sent a picture about 30 minutes before she was to arrive, saying she had been kidnapped.”

The picture showed a woman’s chest and chin covered in blood and appeared to have been taken in a well-furnished home. The woman’s face was not shown in the photo, but Wasson it appeared the woman was covered in fake blood used in theater productions.

“It was kind of peeling off,” he said.

The man told police he had paid the woman $10,000 in Google gift cards and $5,000 in Bitcoin throughout their relationship.

“A cursory investigation determined that the phone number [the woman was using] is fictitious,” Wasson said.

No suspect has been identified as of Thursday afternoon, Wasson said.

He added that people should avoid sending money through gift cards or other transactions unless they know the recipient personally.

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Supreme Court Says Wyo Man Must Pay Medical Costs Of Person He Stabbed During Drug Deal

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man must pay the medical bills of the man he was convicted of stabbing during a drug deal, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The court unanimously upheld an order for Alexander Vincent Ray Cave to pay more than $63,000 in restitution to the man he stabbed, rejecting his arguments that the victim was partially responsible for his own injuries.

Cave was arrested in Sweetwater County in January 2020 in connection with the stabbing of Rafael Magana.

The ruling said Magana was stabbed five times “during a drug transaction,” was treated at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and billed $74,678 for his treatment.

The state’s Division of Victim Services paid almost $11,250 of the bill. When Cave pleaded “no contest” to a charge of aggravated assault and battery in the incident, he was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $63,428 in restitution to Magana.

Cave appealed, saying the district court should have reduced the amount he was ordered to pay because Magana was responsible in part for his own injuries.

“(Cave argued) the court should consider Mr. Magana’s comparative fault in that he actively participated in a drug transaction where bodily harm can occur,” the ruling said.

But the Supreme Court, in the opinion written by Justice Keith Kautz, said the idea that a person can be partially responsible for his or her own injuries does not apply when another person has been convicted of intentional criminal activity that caused the victim’s injuries.

“In this case, Mr. Cave pled no contest to assault and battery, an intentional tort,” the ruling said. “We conclude it would be against public policy to allow an intentional tortfeasor like Mr. Cave to ‘escape liability for his wrongful conduct by shifting the responsibility to (his) victim.”

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Casper Police Searching For Woman Possibly Involved In Hiland Murder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A woman is being sought in connection with the death of a man whose body was found in the rural Natrona County community of Hiland last year.

Tiffany Madrid has been named as a “person of interest” in the murder of Jay Carlos Montoya, 36, whose body was found in September near Hiland, an unincorporated community of 10 about 55 miles west of Casper.

The Natrona County Sheriff’s office is asking for assistance in locating Madrid, who is described as a 39-year-old white woman about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing about 220 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

A warrant has been issued for Madrid’s arrest for failure to appear in court on a possession of methamphetamine charge.

Anyone with information about Madrid is encouraged to contact the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office investigations division at 307-235-9282. Information can also be reported anonymously.

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Company Accused Of Breaking Arms Sales Regulations Sued In Wyoming

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A company fined more than $5 million by the federal government on allegations it lied about the source of tungsten it sold to the government of Israel is now facing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Wyoming.

George Pazos is suing Tungsten Heavy Powder and its Laramie subsidiary, claiming he was fired when he refused to take part in efforts to relabel Chinese tungsten materials as having been made in the United States.

The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined in a jury trial.

The lawsuit, which was moved to U.S. District Court in Wyoming last week after having been filed in federal court in California, contains allegations similar to those raised in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by seven former employees of the company in April 2020 that was settled out-of-court in August 2020.

The federal government fined Tungsten Heavy Powder $5.6 million in April 2021, saying the company had submitted false certifications to United States officials regarding the source of the tungsten the company sold to the government of Israel in a deal financed through an American grant program.

Although the tungsten was required to come from the United States, it in fact came from China and was relabeled to make it appear American. Tungsten Heavy Powder also used Mexican companies to assemble equipment it sold to Israel and then said the equipment had been assembled in the United States, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

According to the lawsuit, Pazos was hired by THP in 2016 as an accounting manager who also worked as a quality manager and operations manager. In 2017, he was transferred to THP’s Laramie subsidiary, Tungsten Parts Wyoming. 

The lawsuit said Pazos was also responsible for monitoring the company’s compliance with federal regulations surrounding the sale of defense components.

Pazos reported violations of the rules to the company’s owners, the lawsuit said, but was told to “keep your mouth shut and just do your job” and would be threatened with the loss of his job.

He was also ordered on at least one occasion to submit documents stating tungsten that was to be used by Northrop Grumman was from the United States, when it came from China.

The alleged violations of federal rules also included one that the company allowed a foreign national, the brother of the company’s co-owner, access to information that should have been kept confidential under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Pazos was fired in 2019, the lawsuit said, and after his dismissal, the company falsely accused him of crimes, telling people he was a thief who had stolen company property.

The company also filed false reports with law enforcement agencies, the lawsuit said.

“To this day, (THP continues) to retaliate against and harass (Pazos) for reporting and attempting to remedy their statutory and regulatory violations,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit accuses the company of violating federal “whistleblower” laws by firing Pazos, wrongful termination “in violation of public policy” and defamation.

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Two Dogs Poisoned With Ibuprofen In Hot Dogs At Jackson Park; $5,500 Reward Offered

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

At least two dogs have been poisoned with ibuprofen hidden in hot dog slices in a Jackson park, according to the Jackson Police Department.

According to the department, an investigation began Friday morning after a call came in about a man walking his dog in May Park, on the east side of town, when he discovered his 3-year-old Golden Retriever consumed what appeared to be a hot dog which contained a 200-milligram ibuprofen tablet.

The dog was taken to a local veterinary clinic, where it was discovered it had actually consumed three ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs and can cause ulcers, kidney failure or even death.

The police walked through the park and discovered three more pieces of hot dog laced with ibuprofen tablets. Officers also canvassed other dog-friendly areas in Jackson in effort to prevent further incidents.

Around 11 a.m. Friday, the department announced that a second dog that was in May Park on Friday morning consumed pieces of a hot dog laced with ibuprofen.

Residents and visitors were recommended to not take their dogs to May Park.

PAWS of Jackson Hole, an animal welfare agency in the area, has offered a $5,500 reward for information leading to the arrest/prosecution of the person responsible.

No other evidence had been discovered outside of May Park as of Friday afternoon. Officers also reached out to local vet clinics and animal rescues to see if any other similar incidents occurred.

Numerous people contacted the department on Friday to provide donations to assist in identifying the person or people responsible, but Jackson police encouraged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers for a potential reward.

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Lander Man Sentenced To 20 Years For Producing Child Porn, Despite Government Requesting Longer Sentence

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander man convicted of producing child pornography and traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct has been sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the government’s request for a longer sentence.

Garret Thomas Findlay, 24, was sentenced on one count of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and four counts of production of child pornography on Feb. 17.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for each count, to be served at the same time. imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently. He will also serve 15 years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution.

The government requested a prison sentence of 25 years.

Findlay was indicted on the charges by a federal grand jury on July 20, 2021, and he pleaded guilty to the charges in November. He initially faced 40 years in prison for the charges.

Forensic analysis of his devices revealed that Findlay had been enticing minor girls from around the country to produce child pornography and send it to him and that he had also traveled to meet or have sexual encounters with some of his victims.

According to court documents, in October, a tip was submitted to the CyberTip Report — a service that collects tips about possible crimes against children — about a user on the social messaging app Kik who shared 14 files of suspected child pornography with another user or group of users sometime between Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, 2020. All of the files depicted prepubescent girls being made to participate in sexually explicit activity.

Kik and Verizon both provided documentation that pointed to Findlay being the user of the account and phone that uploaded the pornography.

Police executed a search warrant for Findlay’s parents’ home in early March 2021, where investigators obtained Findlay’s cellphone and detained the man. He was transported to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, where he made several admissions to possessing child pornography on his phone, using Kik to send and receive child pornography and ultimately admitting the account under investigation was his.

When accessing his phone, investigators found 22 images and 10 videos of child pornography. Findlay told officers the last time he had viewed the material was the previous night, when he’d received “some” images via the social media app Whisper.

He told agents he’d used Whisper numerous times to send and receive child pornography. In March 2021, Findlay used Whisper to send 18 images of child pornography to another user on the app.

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Mothers Demand Child Endangerment Charges Against Drunk Cheyenne Bus Driver

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mothers of several Cheyenne students whose bus driver was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants are encouraging parents of other students to call the Goshen County District Attorney’s office and press charges against the driver.

David Richard Williams, 60, was booked into the Goshen County Detention Center around 7 p.m. Wednesday for driving under the influence and possession of open container while operating a moving vehicle. He was given warnings for improper lane usage and following too closely.

Williams had been transporting students from Cheyenne’s South High School to Spearfish, South Dakota, to a regional speech and debate tournament. Although it was earlier reported that students from Cheyenne’s East High were also on the bus, they were in fact on another bus. The two buses were traveling together.

He was pulled over after a person driving in a vehicle behind the bus called the police to report the bus was being driven eratically. Once pulled over, Williams was given a field sobriety test, which he failed, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

A number of mothers and family members of children on the trip told Cowboy State Daily they were frustrated with the lack of transparency about why Williams was pulled over, since Laramie County School District No. 1 officials have declined to give a specific reason, citing personnel policies.

“This was a very traumatic experience for my son,” Jessica Lyday, whose son is a freshman at East High, said. “He’s only 14 and he was accelerated into the varsity program, so this was his first long trip like this. Even though the principal at East said the kids are being troopers about this situation, I know my son was affected by this. He had to see somebody get arrested for the first time ever.”

Lyday intends to press charges against Williams for child endangerment, as does Johanna Thomas, whose daughter was on the bus with South High students.

“I think he needs to have a child endangerment charge for every kid that was on the bus,” Thomas said.

Thomas said her daughter did not notice Williams was intoxicated, but did report that the bus kept hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road that are intended to alert distracted drivers they are close to the road’s edge.

Lyday said she would pick up her son up from Spearfish on Friday for the return trip to Cheyenne on Saturday and added she would be pushing for parents to be allowed to transport their children to and from events.

Both Thomas and Lyday said they had never had issues with LCSD1 bus drivers before Wednesday.

Going forward, they suggested breathalyzers could be installed in the buses, although Lyday expressed disappointment in having to go so far.

“How sad is it that we would even have to think of them having to use a breathalyzer to start the bus to drive our children?” she said. “But maybe that does need to be the case. Because obviously, somewhere, somebody dropped the ball and allowed this to happen. And I want to know what they’re going to do to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

The mothers said they did not blame the speech and debate coaches for the situation and actually praised them for being supportive of their children in such a traumatic and bizarre situation.

On Thursday morning, LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo addressed an incident regarding a bus driver being pulled over for a traffic stop on Wednesday, but said that since the situation was a personnel issue, the district could not comment as to the nature of the traffic stop.

“At Laramie County School District 1 student safety is our priority,” Crespo said Thursday. “In every instance, while we have  students in our care and a situation occurs, we will act first to ensure our kids remain safe. After this occurs, we switch to communication mode.”

Crespo also said the district would follow LCSD1 board policy as it pertains to the situation, and would be readdressing the importance of student safety with all of its transportation personnel.

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Thefts In Pinedale Blamed On Juveniles Who Have Hacked Smart Phone App

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

An app that allows users to “skip” the checkout line has been used in a number of thefts in Pinedale.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office released a statement earlier this week notifying residents that several businesses have recently reported items stolen, primarily by teenagers. The items ranged from snacks at convenience stores to higher-cost items, including hunting gear and shop equipment.

During the investigation, law enforcement officials found that many of the thefts were occurring through the use of the “SKIP” app at the local Ridley’s grocery store. 

“The Skip app, it’s kind of all over the place, but for us it’s in Ridley’s Family Market,” said Sgt. Travis Bingham with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office.

“It allows customers to go in, and if they only have a handful of items or whatever, if there’s a long line at the checkout line, you can use your phone to scan your items and pay,” he said. “And so the students are finding ways to manipulate that, or appear like they paid, or misrepresenting what they actually paid for.”

With the assistance of local businesses, Bingham said a number of students have been identified as being involved. But because the offenders are juveniles, limited information about the case is available to the public. 

However, Bingham said the sheriff’s office released the information to encourage discussion between parents and students on the consequences of taking part in these thefts.  

“There’s some talk that, you know how kids are – once one kid does it, there could be more,” Bingham said. “So it’s more to encourage a discussion at home about the dangers of thefts and shoplifting, and what that leads to. Because it wasn’t just one or two kids, we’re getting more and more.”

Bingham said most of the stolen items have been returned. 

“And businesses are watching closer, and changing their procedures, and how they use the app,” he said. “Even Obo’s (convenience store in Pinedale) has changed their policy during student lunch hours, how people enter the store, things like that.”

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