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Victim Identified In Torrington Murder Case

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The victim of a Tuesday murder in Torrington has been identified as a 20-year-old Torrington woman.

The Torrington Police Department announced Thursday that Madison Shana Cook was killed in what has been ruled a homicide.

“Madison’s loss is a blow to her family, her many friends, and our community. We ask for continued thoughts and prayers for those who have been impacted,” the department said.

The department is continuing to investigate the murder, arson and vehicle theft that occurred early Tuesday in Torrington. A suspect was taken into custody Tuesday, but had not been identified by Thursday.

Police discovered the murder after the Torrington Fire Department responded to a report of a fire early Tuesday morning.

While firefighters battled the fire, police officers received information that led them to suspect the fire was the result of arson. Based on the information received, officers conducted a follow-up investigation and discovered Cook’s body.

While officers were working the murder scene, a vehicle was reported stolen stolen vehicle was reported on East C Street. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department.

The arson, murder and vehicle theft are believed to be related and the crimes are associated with a single suspect, who was detained at the Goshen County Detention Center.

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Torrington Police Investigating Murder, Arson, Vehicle Theft

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A murder discovered in Torrington on Tuesday appears to be connected with an arson fire and vehicle theft that also occurred, according to the Torrington Police Department.

The department, in a posting on its Facebook page, said a suspect has been taken into custody in connection with the events that all occurred Tuesday morning.

According to the department, the the Torrington communications center for Torrington and Goshen County law enforcement was made aware of a fire on East Valley Road around 6 a.m. Tuesday.

While the Torrington Fire Department was working to combat the fire, officers received information that led them to suspect the fire was the result of arson.

Based on the information received, officers conducted a follow-up investigation and located a body on East 17th Avenue in Torrington. The death is suspicious in nature and is being investigated as a homicide.

While officers were working the murder scene, a stolen vehicle was reported on East C Street. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department.

The arson, murder and vehicle theft are believed to be related and the crimes are associated with a single suspect, who has been taken into custody and is currently being housed at the Goshen County Detention Center, the department said.

The suspect is being held on probable cause developed during the investigation, but no identities have been released.

Police do not believe there is any ongoing threat to the community.

The Torrington PD will work with the Goshen County Coroner and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations on this case, but the department said its staff would be strained during the investigation.

“We have officers available for emergent calls, but routine calls for service may be delayed. Please be patient with us as work through this challenging time,” the department said.

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WYDOT Cautions Not to Celebrate April 20 By Smoking Weed & Driving

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Weed mythology has it that in the 1970s, a group of California teens would use “420” as a code word to signal after-school smoke sessions.

And on this 4/20 day, the Wyoming Highway Patrol is cautioning motorists that people who choose to use both alcohol and cannabis are among the most dangerous drivers on the road.

Government data shows that alcohol and marijuana are the most widely used drugs in the United States – 139.8 million people aged 12 or older reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and 43.5 million reported using marijuana in the past year.

And even when they use the substances separately, the Wyoming Department of Transportation reports that people who drink and get high are more likely to speed, text, intentionally run red lights, and drive aggressively than those who don’t.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report just in time for 4/20 day that highlights the dangers of drinking and toking. The Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index found that drivers who use both marijuana and alcohol were significantly more prone to driving under the influence of alcohol versus those who only drink alcohol but do not use marijuana. 

Compared to alcohol-only users, AAA reports that drivers who admitted to using both were more likely to report such behaviors as:

Speeding on residential streets (55%) vs. alcohol-only (35%)

Aggressive driving (52%) vs. alcohol-only (28%)

Intentional red-light running (48%) vs alcohol-only (32%)

Texting while driving (40%) vs. alcohol-only (21%)

Cody Beers, public information specialist for WYDOT, pointed out to Cowboy State Daily that impairment of any kind increases risk factors on the road.

“When people are out driving impaired, they’re not wearing their seatbelts, or they’re driving too fast – and when you combine those factors together, you’re not buckled and you’re driving too fast and you’re drinking and driving, you’re gonna have a crash.”

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Teen Arrested For Murder of UW Football Recruit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An 18-year-old man has been arrested in connection with last weekend’s shooting death of a University of Wyoming football recruit.

Keyshawn Evanta Harris, 18, was arrested and charged Thursday with murder in the death of Tony Evans Jr., although his bond has not yet been set, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Harris is accused of killing the 17-year-old Evans, who signed to play football at the UW this fall. Evans was found shot early Sunday inside of a hotel room in Dallas.

Evans was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The motive is still unknown at this time. A second shooting victim was in stable condition Monday morning.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Harris was accused of shooting the second victim.

Evans’ death broke hearts in not only his home state of Texas, but Wyoming, as well.

“Our hearts are with the Evans family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” UW football coach Craig Bohl said. “We are so sad to hear of Tony’s passing.  We have been in contact with Tony’s family and are here to support them in anyway we can.”

Evans was signed by the university back in February. He was a native to Lancaster, Texas.

As a senior wide receiver, he had 13 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns for Lancaster High School last season.

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Following Death in Wyoming Prison, Feds To Drop Murder Case Against Taylor Leigh Plainbull

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Federal authorities are moving to dismiss the case against a Montana man convicted of killing his former girlfriend — because he died in a Wyoming jail while awaiting sentencing.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Billings, Montana, announced it would seek dismissal of the murder case against Taylor Leigh Plain Bull, 27, because he died in the Big Horn County, Wyoming, Detention Center in Basin.

Plain Bull pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder in the October shooting death of his former girlfriend on the Crow Indian Reservation near Billings.

He was being held in the Big Horn County facility pending a July sentencing hearing.

In a press release issued early Tuesday evening, Big Horn County Sheriff Kenneth Blackburn said Plain Bull was found unresponsive in his cell, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

“Foul play is not suspected,” Blackburn said. “However, investigators with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) were immediately contacted to conduct an independent investigation of the death.”

Plain Bull was identified as a transient who had previously lived in Pryor, Montana. He pleaded guilty to forcing a vehicle driven by his ex-girlfriend off of the highway and shooting her several times, also wounding a mail companion, before taking the woman’s child.

Plain Bull had been facing a maximum sentence life in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release. 

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Cody Couple To Face Murder Charges In Toddler’s Death

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Two Cody residents are now facing first-degree murder charges in the death of 2-year-old Paisleigh Williams.

Moshe Williams, 30, and 28-year-old Carolyn Aune are being held on $1 million bond each at the Park County Detention Center. The two were arrested March 31.  

Initial charges of felony aggravated child abuse were upgraded to first-degree murder Monday after Paisleigh died at the Children’s Hospital in Colorado on April 4.

According to court documents filed in connection with the charges, the Williams girl died from injuries she sustained as a result of abuse by her guardians.

Paisleigh was admitted to the emergency room of Cody’s West Park Hospital, in an unresponsive state, on March 27. Due to the seriousness of her injuries, Paisleigh was flown to Children’s Hospital in Denver on the same day. She died just over a week later.

Court documents allege that over a course of several months, Paisleigh sustained possible fractures to her left clavicle and ribs, two vertebrae, bruising and scraping on her head, a detached bowel, possible fractures to her hands, swelling of the brain, blunt force trauma, and slight malnourishment.

Moshe Williams has been living with Aune and her three children in a small three-bedroom apartment in Cody since last August. Aune has been the primary caretaker of her children and Williams’ two children. During police interviews, both adults said they did not recognize the seriousness of Paisleigh’s injuries.

Neither Williams nor Aune claimed responsibility for any of the injuries, instead explaining a few of them as accidental trauma inflicted by the girl’s 14-month-old brother. 

However, following an autopsy by the Adams County (Colorado) Coroner, officials said that the severity of the injuries, particularly the bowel which was detached in two places, were consistent with child abuse at the hands of adults. In particular, the intestinal injury is consistent with what law enforcement officials called a “gut-punch,” court documents said.

According to the documents, in separate interviews with law enforcement, Williams and Aune appeared to point the finger at each other, each claiming that they did not know the cause of the girl’s injuries, nor why the 2-year old had lost her appetite and began throwing up in the days leading up to her hospitalization. 

Williams told officers that he had reached out to friends for help in treating the child for stomach discomfort, purchasing over-the-counter remedies. Williams and Aune both told officers that they had removed one of the children from Paisleigh’s bedroom, thinking that the 9-year-old was accidentally injuring Paisleigh while sleepwalking.

However, each also indicated that the other could be abusing the child.

The two adults were arrested on Wednesday, March 31, and the charges against both were upgraded to first-degree murder on Monday.

Williams and Aune appeared in court before Judge Bruce Waters, who denied the Park County Attorney’s request for the defendants to be held without bail, choosing to maintain the original order for a $1 million cash bond each.

The two defendants will appear next on Friday, April 16th to enter a plea in the charges.

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Laramie County: Wyoming Investigators Reopen 1988 Dead Infant Case

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A cold case file might be warming up in Cheyenne.

The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office is hoping to use new technology to identify an infant whose lifeless body was found in February of 1988.

Law enforcement is partnering with the DNA laboratory Othram to identify the baby boy, whose body was discovered by a couple walking near Happy Jack Road and McKinney Drive in Cheyenne on February 28, 1988.

The infant, described as caucasian with brown hair and blue eyes, weighing 6.5 pounds, was wrapped in a blanket. 

An autopsy revealed that the child had air in his lungs at the time of his death, indicating that the had been born alive – so the death was ruled a homicide.

Despite pursuing all available leads at the time, including canvassing local hospitals and schools as well as the Air Force base, law enforcement was unable to locate the baby’s parents, and the case went cold.

But new technology could unveil the mystery – with help from the public.

The Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Othram, the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence.

According to their website, scientists at Othram are experts at recovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA, using only trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials.

But that kind of technology doesn’t come cheap – so a DNASolves fund has been created to cover the costs of testing and research for the case.

The fund is hoping to raise $5,000 to pay for the cutting edge laboratory techniques and computational algorithms to extract the most value from DNA evidence.

If anyone has information that could aid this investigation, they are encouraged to contact Detective Sergeant Curtis Burch at the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office at 307-633-4763. Here is the live link to the DNASolves.com page –https://dnasolves.com/articles/laramie_county_baby_john_doe/

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UW Football Recruit Killed In Dallas Shooting Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming football recruit was killed over the weekend at a hotel in Dallas.

Tony Evans Jr., 17, was shot sometime early Sunday inside a room at a Hawthorn Suites in Dallas, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Police responded to the shooting around 1:35 a.m. Sunday, finding Evans with a gunshot wound. According to the Dallas Morning News, another person was also shot.

Evans was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The motive is unknown at this time. The second shooting victim was in stable condition Monday morning.

No one has been taken into custody at this time.

Evans’ death broke hearts in not only his home state of Texas, but Wyoming, as well.

“Our hearts are with the Evans family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” UW football coach Craig Bohl said. “We are so sad to hear of Tony’s passing.  We have been in contact with Tony’s family and are here to support them in anyway we can.”

Evans was signed by the university back in February. He was a native to Lancaster, Texas.

As a senior wide receiver, he had 13 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns for Lancaster High School last season.

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Rock Springs Police: Wyoming Chase Ended When Driver Shot Himself

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Rock Springs Rocket Miner

ROCK SPRINGS – The Rock Springs Police Department said that Josiah Griffith, the man who died following a pursuit with law enforcement, fatally shot himself.

RSPD officers responded to Fifth Avenue West around 4:10 p.m. March 29 to assist the Department of Criminal Investigation Southwest Enforcement Team, International Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol with a vehicle pursuit involving a male subject.

The DCI Southwest Enforcement Team was attempting to execute a search warrant for child exploitation when the driver, 24-year-old Josiah Griffith, proceeded to elude officers, according to a press release. Griffith continued traveling inbound on the Blairtown Connector Road turning south onto Fifth Avenue West. The pursuit ended after Griffith rolled his SUV down an embankment and came to a stop.

Law enforcement officers moved toward the vehicle after Griffith failed to comply with numerous commands to exit. Officers approached the vehicle and discovered Griffith was dead.

During the investigation, Rock Springs Police Department detectives determined that no gunshots were fired by any law enforcement agencies during this incident. Griffith’s death was determined to be a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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White Supremacist With Wyoming Ties Sentenced to Life In Prison

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A white supremacist gang leader previously convicted of crimes in Wyoming was sentenced to life in federal prison this week.

Harlan Hale, 55, a leader of the Idaho prison gang known as the Aryan Knights, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy and one count of committing a violent crime in furtherance of racketeering activity.

Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Nye in Idaho ordered this life sentence be served after Hale finishes serving his sentences from cases in Idaho and Wyoming.

Hale was sentenced to 32 years in prison in connection with a car hijacking in Wyoming.

According to the Associated Press, in 2005, police in Idaho found Hale in possession of a gun, although he was barred from owning weapons due to a previous conviction. He fled in a vehicle before he could be apprehended, leading law enforcement on a chase.

He was captured and taken to a jail in Boise before escaping. Police said he hijacked a woman’s car and fled to Wyoming, later stealing a truck at gunpoint. He was pursued by Wyoming authorities until the truck crashed and he was arrested.

According to court records, Hale held a leadership role in the Aryan Knights and participated in drug trafficking and violent assaults. The drug trafficking was extensive and involved significant quantities of methamphetamine.

When debts went unpaid, the gang used violence to collect, according to records

For example, in 2015, Hale assaulted another inmate for failing to pay a drug debt, then provided that inmate with additional drugs and required he sell the drugs in order to pay back the debt.

In 2016, Hale and two other gang members assaulted a former Aryan Knights member with improvised knives, with Hale stabbing the victim repeatedly.

“The life sentence imposed on this defendant recognizes the devastating effects that prison gangs, and especially white supremacist prison gangs, have on the rehabilitative mission of correctional institutions and individual inmates who sincerely hope to use their period of incarceration to successfully reenter society,” said U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. “Violent crime will not be tolerated, whether out of prison or in prison, and I commend the FBI and investigators at the Idaho Department of Correction for creating an effective partnership to root out the type of racketeering activity uncovered through this investigation.”

According to an indictment, the Aryan Knights was formed in the mid-1990s within the Idaho prison system. The gang operates both within and outside of the Idaho Department of Corrections.

The gang was founded to organize criminal activity for a select group of white inmates within IDOC custody. The Aryan Knights have white supremacist and white separatist ideologies, and the group is believed to have more than 100 members.

The gang uses violence and threats to target non-white inmates and other marks. They also use drag trafficking, extortion and gambling to generate revenue, which is then shared among members.

“The crimes of organized prison gangs often go beyond the prison walls, bringing more drugs and violence into our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “This life sentence should be a message to others involved in violent gang crimes—regardless of where it takes place—that law enforcement will investigate and hold them accountable.”

Ten members of the AK were charged in this case. Seven of these defendants have pleaded guilty so far, with three being sentenced.

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