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UW Employee Receives Threatening Email, Police Investigating

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Police are investigating the delivery of threatening, anti-Semitic email to a University of Wyoming employee last week.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that an employee received an anti-Semitic email that threatened him with death and the incident is under investigation.

The email did not come from a university account, Baldwin said, but a Yahoo account. It was sent to Ben Herdt, the university’s manager of academic advising and a racial justice activist, according to the Laramie Boomerang.

The sender was identified as “Miley Lucas,” a person who does not have any affiliation with UW.

This incident comes just a few months after UW was a target of a racist attack on Zoom during a Black History Month event in February.

On Feb. 15, the five people sent racist and pornographic messages during a Zoom-hosted UW event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events disrupted by such attacks. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey were “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images.

Baldwin said it wasn’t known whether there was connection between the threatening email sent last week and the racist Zoom attack.

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Park County: ‘Largest Theft In 30 Years’ Nets Guns, Cash Worth More Than $250K

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Well over a quarter of a million dollars worth of cash, collectibles and firearms have been stolen from a rural home south of Cody in what one law enforcement official is calling the largest Park County theft in 30 years.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office announced the burglary Tuedsay, although the it was reported Feb. 28. 

Because of the magnitude of the theft, agents of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation were immediately asked to assist in the investigation.

“The theft is believed to be a very deliberate and targeted burglary,” said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward. “For these reasons, and to not jeopardize the investigation, we chose not to go public with the information as we did not feel there was a risk of further burglaries.”

“This is by far the largest theft in my 30 years with the Park County Sheriff’s Office,” Steward said.

The burglary is believed to have occurred between late January and the end of February and items stolen included more than 90 firearms, many of them very valuable, according to a press release from the Department. 

Sometime between late January and the end of February, two Abbiatico & Salvinelli engraved shotguns worth more than $10,000 each; three Fratelli Poli, hand engraved, side by side shotguns worth in excess of $15,000 each; and numerous other shotguns worth over $5,000 each were stolen. Additionally, approximately ten AR15 and M4 type weapons were taken, th release said.

Other items stolen were a large quantity of gold and silver eagle coins worth well over $60,000, a very large amount of cash estimated at more than $200,000, a Rolex watch, range finders, thermal and night vision scopes, spotting scopes, crossbows and much more.

The victim is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of those involved – but there’s a time limit. The reward offer is only valid until July 1, 2021. 

Any person with information about the theft is asked to call the Park County Sheriff’s Office and speak with Investigator Jed Ehlers. 

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Man Charged In Torrington Murder Case Had Criminal History In Park County

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman in Torrington late last month.

Sean Logan Pettus has been charged with murder and arson in the April 20 death of 20-year-old Madison Cook. Pettus and Cook identified themselves as being in a relationship on their individual Facebook pages.

Police discovered the murder after the Torrington Fire Department responded to a report of a fire early on the morning of April 20. The investigation of the fire led officers to another Torrington location, where Cook’s body was found.

While investigating the murder, officers were alerted to the theft of a vehicle nearby. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department and Pettus was taken into custody shortly thereafter.

In addition to the murder and first-degree arson charges, Pettus is charged with felony theft of a vehicle and burglary.

The Torrington Police Department, in a statement on its Facebook page, reminded readers that Pettus is considered innocent of the charges until proven guilty.

“The events of the past ten days have been incredibly traumatic for Madison’s family, her friends, and our entire community,” the Department wrote. “As we work to learn the truth and take this first step towards justice, we ask for continued support for the Cook family in their healing process.”

Court records obtained by Cowboy State Daily from the Park County court system show that Pettus has been connected to other crimes dating back more than a decade.

In 2014, he was convicted of battery of a household member and in 2013, he was convicted on charges of destruction of property valued at under $1,000 and breach of the peace. In 2016, he was convicted on a charge of criminal entry.

The Torrington Police Department continues to investigate the incident and is asking that anyone with information contact its offices.

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Former Sweetwater County Senator Arrested In Prostitution Sting

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Wyoming legislator was arrested this week in a sting operation focusing on human trafficking in Sweetwater County.

Former state Sen. John Martin Hastert was arrested Thursday, according to the roster from the Sweetwater County Detention Center, and charged with soliciting an act of prostitution and interference with a police officer.

Jason Mower, public information officer for the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Hastert was one of four men arrested in a prostitution sting in Rock Springs.

The sting was the culmination of a weeklong training session involving multiple organizations, including the SCSO, Uprising Wyoming and Sweetwater Against Trafficking, Mower said.

During the sessions, an expert taught the officers and volunteers about human and sex trafficking.

“The way that the training is set up, they will conduct a live trafficking operation that targets buyers,” Mower said.

He compared the sting to the operation run in “To Catch a Predator,” the former “Dateline NBC” segment that saw police and volunteers engage in chats with men who were looking for sex with underage teens.

“Even prior to the arrests on Thursday, there were officers in class who were in contact with people who were potentially not good,” Mower said.

He added that Hastert’s charge for interference with a police officer stemmed from his resisting arrest when officers attempted to take him into custody.

As of Friday morning, it appeared Hastert remained in the detention center, awaiting an appearance in circuit court in Sweetwater County.

The Rock Springs Democrat served four years in the state House, from 2003-2006, and for 12 years in the Senate, from 2009 through 2018, where he rose to the position of Senate Minority Whip.

Hastert was defeated in his 2018 re-election campaign by Republican Tom James.

Wyo Health Department Data Breach Leads to Fraudulent Calls Across State

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health is warning residents about fraudulent calls from people taking advantage of the department’s recent data breach in an effort to obtain personal information.

WDH recently announced a mistaken exposure of laboratory test result data involving more than 164,000 Wyoming residents and others including hundreds from Colorado. The incident involved coronavirus and influenza test result data and breath alcohol test result files mistakenly uploaded by an employee to private and public online storage locations on servers belonging to GitHub.com.

Jeri Hendricks, Office of Privacy, Security and Contracts administrator with WDH, said the department is hearing reports of Wyoming residents receiving fraudulent calls from people claiming to represent the department. The callers say they are calling about the breach, but then try to obtain personal information, Hendricks said.

“The callers falsely claim to represent us, say they are calling about the breach and then ask the individuals they’ve reached for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other financial information. In some instances, it seems they have been able to make it appear as if the calls are coming from state government phone numbers,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks emphasized the affected files did not contain Social Security numbers, or banking, financial, health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid information, but did include name or patient ID, address, date of birth, test results and dates of service.

“No one representing the department will ask you for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or personal financial information. No one representing the department will call you about the breach unless they are returning a call you made to us first,” she said.

A special WDH information line dedicated to the breach has been established at 1-833-847-5916. The phone line is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

WDH has advised Wyoming residents who received coronavirus or influenza tests anywhere in the United States between January 2020 and March 9, 2021 but who have not been alerted by a letter to a possible leak of their personal information to call the information line to learn if their information was involved.

In addition, anyone who received a breath alcohol test performed by law enforcement in Wyoming between April 19, 2012 and Jan. 27 who doesn’t receive a letter should also call.

A year of free IdentityForce protection has been offered by WDH to people affected by the breach. IdentityForce provides advanced credit and dark web monitoring, along with identity theft insurance and medical identity theft coverage. Affected individuals can call the WDH information line at 1(833) 847-5916 for an IdentityForce verification code to allow online enrollment for the service.

Scams related to the health information breach should be reported to the Consumer Protection Unit in the Wyoming Attorney General’s office by calling 307-777-6397, by emailing ag.consumer@wyo.gov or by submitting formal complaints online.

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Man Who Hit Golf Balls in Yellowstone Committed Illegal Act; Park Service Investigating

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

There are places where you can legally hit a golf ball and there are places where legally you cannot. 

Put Yellowstone National Park in the latter category.

And now a man who is attempting to hit a golf ball in every state is in trouble for trying to turn the country’s first national park into a driving range.

Jake Adams, a self-described standup comedian and golfer, was nearing the end of his quest (state number 45) when he decided to choose Yellowstone National Park as the place for his golf shot in Wyoming.

Unfortunately, hitting a golf ball in a national park is not allowed. In fact, it’s illegal.

When criticized — repeatedly by people on his Instagram account for his shot selection — Adams defended it by saying his golf balls were biodegradable.

Makes no difference. It was an irresponsible and illegal decision, according to the National Park Service.

“The individual who recently was captured on video hitting golf balls in Yellowstone National Park showed a lack of judgment and common sense,” Linda Veress, public affairs specialist with Yellowstone National Park, told Cowboy State Daily. “He violated regulations designed to preserve Yellowstone and protect the experience of other visitors.”

“The National Park Service is investigating this illegal act, and we ask that visitors assist us by following park regulations and notifying park rangers of any illegal behavior they observe,” she added.

Veress was quite polite compared to many of the commenters on his Instagram page.

“Wow good job littering a-hole. Hope you get banned from Yellowstone,” wrote ZimKnives.

This isn’t the first time people have gotten in trouble for treating a national park like a golf course.

Just last year, the former head of concessions at Yosemite National Park was fired immediately after a video surfaced of him hitting balls in a meadow at Yosemite.

As for the incident in Yellowstone, park officials are urging visitors heed the law.

“Since we expect record levels of visitation in 2021, following park regulations is more important than ever,” Veress said.

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Man Arrested After Falling Through Ceiling at Flying J Truck Stop in Gillette

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A 32-year-old male was arrested after he went exploring in the Flying J ceiling Saturday afternoon and broke through, Gillette Police Department officials said Monday.

Officers were notified around 2:48 p.m. on April 24, after Flying J employees reported shoes and legs had busted through the ceiling tiles and were seen dangling in midair, GPD Lt. Brent Wasson said April 26.

Officers did not locate the perpetrator initially, though employees suspected a 32-year-old male – also a Flying J employee and who was last seen on the second floor – was responsible. Officers were unable to search the ceiling due to safety concerns and departed the scene, Wasson said.

An hour later, officers were called back when the incident happened again, resulting in $300 worth of damage to the establishment’s ceiling tiles. This time, officers were able to contact the 32-year-old male in the Flying J parking lot, who was seen walking away covered in dirt and insulation, according to Wasson.

The male reportedly admitted to exploring the ceiling tiles because he “wanted to see what was in there,” Wasson said, adding that the male also admitted that he used methamphetamine the previous day.

The 32-year-old was arrested for use of a controlled substance and cited for misdemeanor destruction of property, according to Wasson.

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Rocky Mountain Power Warns of Phone Scams In Casper Area

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Rocky Mountain Power is warning customers in the Casper area to be wary of callers claiming the company is about to disconnect their electricity.

Company spokesman David Eskelsen told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that there has been an uptick in scam phone calls in the Casper area this month where callers pretend to be a staffer from the “Rocky Mountain Power disconnection department.”

Rocky Mountain Power has no “disconnection department.”

“These things come and go in spates,” Eskelsen said. “Around the beginning of the month, we had a number of these calls in the Casper area, and we’ve been getting more reports about the calls again in the last few days.”

The caller will insist the customer is behind on their bill and threatens to disconnect service unless a payment is made immediately.

Lately, the calls have been targeting both business customers and those who do not speak fluent English, Eskelsen said. Some scammers will tell the victim to get a prepaid credit card and share the code with them, while others will ask the customer for credit card information.

One victim was even asked to meet the scammer at a specific location.

Eskelsen noted that the company would never call a customer and threaten immediate disconnection to their service.

“The important thing to remember is that disconnection for any payment problems is a very deliberate process,” he said. “We usually give 30 and 60 days’ notice through a customer’s bill, but we also make substantial attempts to contact a customer. We have a specific dialogue over any kind of payment issues and we offer resources to help customers if they fall behind.”

Eskelsen said anyone receiving such a call should immediately hang up and call the Rocky Mountain Power customer service line, 1-888-221-7070, to find out more information.

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Green River Man Pleads No Contest To Murder Of 5-Year-Old-Boy

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By the Rock Springs Rocket Miner

Christopher James Nielsen pleaded no contest Thursday morning to first-degree murder charges for the death of a 5-year-old boy in his care.

Nielsen, 27, entered his plea via video before Judge Suzannah Robinson in Sweetwater County Third District Court. Thursday morning’s hearing was originally scheduled to be a pretrial conference for the trial set to begin in May.

Argued sentencing will be conducted at a later date.

By pleading no contest, Nielsen faces the same penalties as a guilty plea. He is facing up to life in prison without parole and a fine of up to $10,000 for the first-degree murder charge.

There is no plea agreement in the case, and the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty. Nielsen will be held without bond at the Sweetwater County Detention Center while awaiting sentencing.

Nielsen originally pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in January of 2020 in District Court.

He was arrested Nov. 14, 2019 for alleged aggravated child abuse with serious bodily injury. The Green River Police Department responded to a medical call at an apartment on Bridger Drive on Nov. 11, 2019, about a 5-year-old boy suffering from what appeared to be a seizure. Nielsen had been babysitting the boy at the time, according to court documents.

The boy was transported to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and then flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. The 5-year-old died on Nov. 28, 2019, due to excessive brain trauma, according to court documents. The aggravated child abuse charge was dismissed and the first-degree murder charge filed after the boy died.

Nielsen had lived in Sweetwater County for just short of a week before the boy was hospitalized. He was staying with Vanessa Kidner, the mother of the boy who died, and her fiance, Stacy Willeitner, in exchange for babysitting Kidner’s two children.

During Thursday’s change of plea hearing, Nielsen agreed to go under oath to answer questions about the crime. He told Judge Robinson that he lost his temper with the boy and shook him by the shoulders. When the boy began to have a seizure, Nielsen said he shook him again to try and get him to wake up. When the boy did not regain consciousness, Nielsen sought help.

When asked why he lost his temper, Nielsen said the boy would not eat when he was told to and kept saying he wanted to watch TV. Nielsen also told the judge that on the day of the incident he had been feeling stressed from a lack of sleep and other problems in his life.

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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 – 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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Man Charged With Agg Assault After Standoff With Casper Police

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man has been charged with three counts of felony aggravated assault after being involved in a standoff with Casper police.

Kevin Deschneau was arrested Thursday evening after an hours-long standoff with police.

“In dealing with an armed and potentially dangerous individual refusing to come out of a residence, these officers exercised patience, professionalism and expertise,” the Casper Police Department said on its social media on Friday. “That is evident by the outcome, the suspect exiting peacefully and the community and the officers being able to go home safely.”

On Thursday afternoon, Casper police officers responded to the report of a disturbance. The reporting party informed them a man had threatened them with a gun.

The reporting party and several other people were gathered on the side of the street, talking, when the suspect approached the group and allegedly pointed a rifle at them and threatened to shoot because he wanted them to leave.

Upon officers’ arrival to the scene, they found a male matching the description given by the reporting party. The man ignored officers’ commanders and entered a residence.

The man refused to leave the home, and due to his potentially dangerous nature, officers setup up a perimeter around the house and continue to issue commands to the man to leave the house unarmed.

For nearly two hours, officers continued to issue commands to the man in the house, asking him to leave. Officers believed the man was alone, but also armed.

Ultimately, Casper police and crisis intervention officials were able to speak with the man over the phone, which led to his eventual peaceful and voluntary exit from the house.

Officers found a loaded rifle matching the one from the report inside of the home.

The Casper Police Department was assisted by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and Special Response Team, the Casper-Natrona County Public Safety Communication Center and the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

#OurCommunity can be proud of how these officers responded to this situation,” CPD said.

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Cheney, Barrasso Mourn Slain U.S. Capitol Officer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso mourned the loss of a U.S. Capitol police officer who was killed in the line of duty on Friday.

A person rammed a vehicle into a police barricade on Friday, killing one officer and injuring another. The names of the officers and the suspect have not yet been released.

“Our deepest condolences to the family of the @CapitolPolice officer who was killed today defending our Capitol,” Cheney wrote on Twitter Friday. “US Capitol Police put their lives on the line to protect us and our republic. They deserve our unwavering support.”

The suspect was killed by police after exiting the vehicle and brandishing a knife at officers. One officer was reportedly stabbed in the incident.

“Bobbi and I are heartbroken to hear that one of the Capitol Police officers protecting the US Capitol today has passed away. Praying that the other officer injured recovers,” Sen. John Barrasso said.

The National Guard was also deployed to the Capitol on Friday.

This is the second attack this year on U.S. Capitol police, the first being the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 in the wake of Congress counting the Electoral College votes that would solidify President Joe Biden as the victor over former President Donald Trump.

One officer was killed in the attack, and multiple others died.

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Farson Man Indicted On Multiple Counts of Tax Fraud, Evasion

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Farson man was indicted Friday and charged with multiple counts of tax evasion and failure to file federal income tax returns.

Sean D. Thomas, 49, had his initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Friday.

According to the charges outlined in the indictment, it is alleged that between June 2014 through at least 2018, Thomas was employed and filed a form W-4 falsely claiming withholding allowances which caused his employer to not withhold federal income taxes from Thomas’ wages.

Thomas then failed to file an Internal Revenue Service form 1040 tax return reporting his income for each of the years alleged in the indictment.  

Each count of tax evasion carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Each count of failure to file tax returns carries a penalty of up to one year in prison, up to one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $100,000. 

Thomas is scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing on Thursday, in front of Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin. A jury trial will be scheduled at the arraignment.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eric Heimann.

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Eight People Sentenced To Prison In Gillette Drug Ring Case

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eight people were sentenced to prison terms of 8 to 17 years in federal court this week in relation to a drug ring in Gillette.

Raymond Arthur Carnahan, Kelly Miles Finnessey, Terry William Clifford, Cody Lee Shuck, Antonio Cortes Saez, Heather Rae Thomas, Quinton Michael Case and Jennifer Ann Moss were all convicted and sentenced in connection with what state Division of Criminal Investigation investigators called a meth distribution conspiracy.

Around September 2019, the DCI began receiving intelligence that Carnahan was distributing methamphetamine in the Gillette area.

DCI agents learned Carnahan’s source of supply was in either Colorado or Arizona. Based on this information, agents determined Carnahan would travel to Denver or Phoenix to meet with his methamphetamine source.

Carnahan would then bring the methamphetamine back to Gillette for distribution. 

To carry out distribution, Carnahan relied on other individuals, including all of his co-defendants — except Finnessey — to sell smaller quantities of methamphetamine throughout the community.

Carnahan then used the proceeds of these smaller sales to purchase additional methamphetamine from his supply source, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

On Jan. 28, 2019, after a high-speed chase with Carnahan, law enforcement recovered 12 1-pound bricks of methamphetamine. 

Through further investigation, DCI identified Carnahan’s source of supply as Finnessey, a Colorado resident.

Ultimately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne prosecuted all eight, who were sentenced in U.S. District Court.

The sentences handed down were:

  • Carnahan, sentenced to 200 months imprisonment;
  • Finnessey, sentenced to 168 months imprisonment;
  • Clifford, sentenced to 200 months imprisonment;
  • Shuck, sentenced to 120 months imprisonment;
  • Saez, sentenced to 121 months imprisonment;
  • Thomas, sentenced to 97 months imprisonment;
  • Case, sentenced to 130 months imprisonment;
  • and Moss, sentenced to 169 months imprisonment. 

“Methamphetamine continues to be Wyoming’s number one drug problem. This office’s concern  is not only for the users who struggle daily with addiction, but also for their family and friends. Especially children living with a meth-addicted parent who are often neglected and subjected to  dangerous, unpredictable conditions,” said acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Our strategy is to reduce the availability of methamphetamine throughout Wyoming by using a  prosecutor-led, multi-agency approach to combat drug trafficking. We do this by targeting  suspicious activity, using top-notch investigative work and tips from the local community.” 

“The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) uses the force multiplier of the statewide  drug task forces to combat illegal narcotics distribution in our local communities. This case is a  prime example of how effective these task forces can be when local, state, and federal partners  work together towards a common goal,” said Matt Waldock, DCI Region 1 Commander.

This crime was investigated by DCI, Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, and Gillette Police  Department.

The United States was represented initially by Assistant United States Attorney Stuart Healy, who left the case after receiving a Wyoming judicial appointment, and later by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Coppom.

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Fenn Treasure Hunter Gets 6 Months In Jail, $31K Fine

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man found digging in a cemetery inside Yellowstone National Park while hunting for treasure ended up with a jail sentence this week instead of the chest full of gold and jewels he was looking for.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, was sentenced in federal court this week to six months in jail plus six months of home arrest, along with two years of supervised probation, for excavating and damaging archeological resources in the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark.

“This is the most significant investigation of damage to archaeological resources in Yellowstone National Park’s recent history,” said park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “I want to sincerely thank law  enforcement officers, special agents, archaeological staff, the Department of Justice District of  Wyoming and the U.S. District Court Judge for their outstanding work on this complex case.” 

Craythorn was also ordered to pay $31,566 in restitution.

The sentence handed down in U.S. District Court in Casper followed Craythorn’s guilty plea in January to the charges outlined in a federal indictment.

The indictment alleged that Craythorn was found digging in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery inside the national park in late 2019 and again in early 2020 while looking for a treasure hidden by author Forrest Fenn, which was reportedly worth millions.

The indictment said rangers and special agents detected 17 sites of illegal excavation in the cemetery, including work that damaged a historic grave.

“This is an example of a highly egregious resource violation stemming from the Forrest Fenn  treasure hunt saga,” said Yellowstone National Park Chief Ranger Sarah Davis. “Today’s action  by the (federal Department of Justice) sends a clear message that these types of transgressions will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.” 

“Yellowstone is one of the country’s most popular national parks and we must do everything in  our power to investigate and prosecute those who damage and destroy its natural and cultural  resources. A national park is no place to stage an adult treasure hunt motivated by greed. The  harmful actions of Mr. Craythorn, no matter the reason or intent, destroyed valuable archaeological  resources that cannot be undone,” stated acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Craythorn deserves time in a federal prison, no matter the length. Yet this case really serves to remind those  enjoying our national parks the importance of respecting and preserving it for the whole of  America.”

The treasure was found earlier this year by a Michigan man. Fenn died a few months after it was discovered.

poem in Fenn’s book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Fenn said the treasure was contained in a 12th-century bronze chest that weighed 20 pounds by itself and was filled with 22 pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.

Jack Stuef said he found the chest in early June somewhere in Wyoming (he did not reveal the location), and drove down to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet with Fenn and prove he discovered the chest.

At least four people died in search of Fenn’s treasure over the years.

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Gillette Man Accused Of Attacking, Threatening To Kill Woman

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A Gillette man wanted on charges consisting of kidnapping, aggravated assault and battery, and false imprisonment was found and arrested earlier this week, Gillette Police Lt. Brent Wasson said Tuesday.

Landon Hayes, 36, who is also known by the alias Jonathan Carl Anderson, was located in the parking lot at Walgreens March 29, following an anonymous tip from a resident who recognized him, according to Wasson.

Hayes has been sought after on charges stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident Feb. 20 during which he reportedly attacked a woman, dragged her by the hair and threatened several times to kill her, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Prosecutors allege Hayes confronted the woman in her bedroom shortly after 9 p.m. that Saturday, accusing her of calling the police to a residence moments before the assault took place and began throwing items in agitation.

He took the woman’s phone away when she attempted to contact police, saying he would give her 30 minutes to “get out of here,” according to the affidavit, which further states Hayes ripped a travel bag off the woman’s shoulder when she tried to leave, pulling her to the ground.

Another resident attempted to intervene as the woman fled the room, but was threatened by Hayes not to interfere, the affidavit states. Hayes told the resident “I’m going to [f—-] kill her. I’m going to kick her and I’m going to [f—-] kill her.”

Hayes allegedly grabbed the woman by the hair as she attempted to flee, dragged her into the kitchen, and armed himself with a knife, according to the affidavit, which adds that Hayes proceeded to kick the woman on the ground several times.

“I’m going to bury you,” Hayes reportedly told her, the affidavit states, making several more threats that he was going to cut off her hair and kill her.

The woman reported that she was in fear of her life from the moment Hayes confronted her in the bedroom to the point she was dragged by her hair into the kitchen.

A child resident attempted to shield the woman from Hayes, which she believes is the reason Hayes released her and departed the residence, throwing the knife over a fence in the back yard, according to the affidavit, which was later recovered by police.

Hayes, who has a track record of violent crimes occurring outside of Campbell County in Arizona, was arraigned before Circuit Court Judge Paul Phillips March 30 on two counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault and battery, domestic battery and false imprisonment.

He was granted a $100,000 cash or surety bond and remains confined within the Campbell County Detention Center as of March 31, per Campbell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

His preliminary trial is set for April 7.

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Laramie Man Charged With Threatening to Kill Lummis, Barrasso, Bouchard, Gaetz

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Laramie man faces multiple charges after allegedly threatening to kill several state and national political figures.

Christopher Kent Podlesnik, 51, was charged last week in U.S. District Court with seven counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce.

A federal grand jury charged Podlesnik with leaving voicemail messages on the phones of several elected officials on Jan. 28, including U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, in which he threatened to them with violence.

According to the indictment, Podlesnik left three voicemails for Lummis on different contact numbers, threatening to shoot her in the head.

“I will [expletive] kill you. I will,” he said in one voicemail.

He left two voicemails on phones connected to U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, threatening him in regards to a recent to Wyoming visit by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was in the state to criticize U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s impeachment vote against former President Donald Trump.

“You let Gaetz step into the state of Wyoming, not only is he going to be dead…you’re going to be dead,” Podlesnik told Barrasso, according to the indictment.

He left Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, two voicemails, calling the state senator a traitor and saying that he would take Bouchard down.

Finally, the indictment said, Podlesnik left a voicemail with a contact number for Gaetz, saying he would put two bullets in the congressman’s head.

“As Americans, we cherish the freedoms secured by our Bill of Rights, including our freedom of speech,” Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said. “However, true threats of violence are not protected by the Constitution. Working with the FBI and other partners, the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate such threats and seek charges in appropriate cases.”

“The FBI remains committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans to include First Amendment protected speech. We are equally committed to investigating violations of federal law when speech threatens violence and physical harm to others,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider.

A person convicted of one charge of transmitting threats in interstate commerce faces a sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release. If convicted, Podlesnik could face that punishment for each of the seven counts against him.

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Two Arrested For Endangering Children With Drugs At Gillette Hotel

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Two hotel guests were arrested Monday morning at the Days Inn after methamphetamine was found in a room where young children resided, Gillette Police Lt. Brent Wasson said Tuesday.

Police had been dispatched to the hotel shortly after 11 a.m., March 29, amid reports from hotel staff that several hotel guests were acting strangely in a first-floor room.

Staff requested police deploy a K9 on the door to the room. The K9 did not indicate, but officers knocked anyway and contacted a 50-year-old male and a 49-year-old female with two small children, who were not identified.

Officers were granted consent to search the room by the 50-year-old male.

The female requested to go to the bathroom after the K9 indicated on a fishing tacklebox, according to Wasson, and attempted to take a coffee mug with her, but it was confiscated by officers who located approximately 1.5 grams of suspected meth inside.

Both adults were arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and felony drug endangered child. The two children were taken and transferred into the custody of the Department of Family Services.

While police were on scene, the K9 indicated on another door down the hallway rented to a 30-year-old male, who was contacted and gave his consent for officers to search the room.

In the male’s room, police seized approximately nine grams of marijuana. He was cited for possession, Wasson said.

The events at the Days Inn follow a similar call to the National 9 Motel on Highway 14-16, where police were asked by staff to conduct a sweep of the hallway with a K9.

The K9 indicated on the door to a room occupied by two males, 33 and 29, and two females, 28 and 36. No controlled substances were found and no citations were issued, though police did find marijuana and meth paraphernalia, per Wasson.

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Missing People of Wyoming: Part II

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By Jennifer Kocher, County 17

Dave Wolfskill is a guy who lives up to his name. A former policeman/detective turned private investigator, Wolfskill has devoted the latter part of his career to tracking down missing people. Now retired, he does it on his own time.

Old habits die hard, he joked, and now, he continues working with a dedicated group of private investigators, volunteers and bikers at We Help the Missing, a non-profit that he co-founded with Utah detective, Marki Davis.

Sitting at the Red Rock Café in downtown Hulett, Wolfskill sipped his coffee as he squinted  under the brim of his ball cap, talking about the work that drives him. He’s got a real heart for teenagers, particularly the troubled ones in foster care and those who run away from home.

He said he wanted to remain vague about some of these past cases, which involved tracking down teens in California, locating a kidnapped toddler as well as helping bring home a 15-year-old girl who ran away from home and inadvertently found herself caught up in a sex trafficking ring.

And though technically retired, Wolfskill still spends a lot of time on social media both as a volunteer with We Help the Missing and doing whatever he can to connect resources both in Wyoming and throughout the West.

He’s seen far too many teens with trouble at home reach out to strangers on the internet to fill the emotional void. Many of the missing cases seem to start this way, he noted, and many times kids or adults are suffering from substance abuse problems or navigating thorny psychological or emotional problems or suffering abuse at home.

In runaway cases, the first 48 hours are key, Wolfskill said. After which, runaways are likely to be targeted by a predator who is on the lookout for such vulnerability.

Wolfskill has become skilled at locating predators on sight, he said.

“It’s a look in their eye,” he said. “The way they watch or touch someone. It’s pretty easy to spot.”

And for all the cases he has solved, it’s the ones he didn’t that plague him, namely the 16-year-old Moorcroft teen, Shayna Ritthaler, who ran away to be with 17-year-old Michael Gavin Campbell of Sturgis, whom she met on a dating site. Campbell shot her in the basement of his mother’s home on their second day together after the two got into an argument.

It’s that second day that sticks with Wolfskill, who’d been one of the PIs on the case.

They had been close.

“I cried like a baby at her funeral,” he said, along with fellow Moorcroft detective Ed Ray who had also helped on the case. “Several of us did. It was awful. It’s hard on your emotions.”

Every missing person has a story, he said. They’re so much more than just a face on a poster.

Implementing protocol

Contrary to popular belief, there is no 48-hour mandatory waiting period within law enforcement agencies before a person can be declared missing.

Every agency has their own policy, including the Gillette Police Department (GPD), which does not dictate that officers have to wait any set amount of time prior to investigating, according to GPD Police Detective Christine Winterholler.

“Instead, the policy states once the officer determines the child is a runaway, the officer will take action such as completing a report, obtaining a signature from the reporting parent stating the parent agrees to arrange the return of the juvenile if located outside Gillette, and entering the child into the national crime database as a runaway,” Winterholler wrote in an email to County 17. “The policy continues on to state officers [who] will assist in attempting to locate the child.”

Some, like Woifskill, would like to see protocols put into place to create a standardized policy when it comes to runaways and those who go missing.

The lack of continuity with law enforcement and their protocol on missing cases is definitely a stumbling block from his perspective, Wolfskill said.

Feet on the ground

Everyone drawn to this work seems to have their own story. Amanda Waldron is no exception. For the 33-year-old Casper woman, it’s personal. Her younger sister ran away just before her 18th birthday with her then-boyfriend with whom she thought she was in love.

Fortunately, her sister’s story ended happily, Waldron said, with her returning a couple weeks after she left when she found out her family was looking for her.

This is another lesson that Waldron took to heart. After her sister left, the family had no idea where to turn. Once they filed a police report, Waldron and her family and friends unleashed their own search party, including scouring the internet for any traces of her sister as well as plastering missing person flyers all over town and on social media.

It worked. In fact, it was the online attention that ultimately drove her sister home as everywhere she went people started to notice her.

“She hadn’t thought much of it at the time,” Waldron said. “She just thought she was taking a little vacation with him and that nobody would really mind.”

Her sister’s disappearance left a lasting impression on her, and perhaps not surprisingly, Waldron now heads up the middle school expulsion program for Natrona County and also works as a PI with a paralegal certificate and a degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on juvenile delinquents.

Waldron is a volunteer at We Help the Missing where she’s known as the ‘bulldog’ or MAO (Most Awesome One). These are not nicknames she’s earned lightly. Along with a bloodhound’s ability to track down teens who go missing, this winter she also busted a pair of porch pirates attempting to lift Christmas packages and thwarted a robbery at the hotel where her sister works by stabbing the would-be-thief in the thigh with scissors.

She laughed off some of the more chaotic events in her life as all in a day’s work. Or night, depending, which is when most of the teens seem to go missing. One night at 8:30, Waldron processed an intake form for a missing teen right before heading out into the frosty night on foot to try to track him down. By 10 p.m., the teen had been found and she was back in bed.

She’s not above going into known drug houses or prowling dark streets and corners looking for missing kids. Once, she did a 36-hour, around-the-clock surveillance. She also has two blue tick coon hounds who she’s training to help her work missing person cases.

“I find them and bring them back,” she said modestly. “The boots hit the ground, and I go out and get them. You’d be surprised what happens when adrenaline takes over and you do what you have to do to get a kid home safe.”

The rate of missing kids in Casper is extremely high, she said, which she finds frustrating in that she feels law enforcement doesn’t always take cases of runaways seriously, particularly those with records or repeat offenders, who in many cases are running away from abusive homes or youth shelters.

A lot of the teens she tracks down are current or former students, most of whom stay in touch with her.

She also is seeing a disturbing trend among teenage girls connecting with older guys online.

“They think it’s cool to have an older boyfriend,” she said, “and don’t see it as people trying to take advantage of them.”

It’s a problem, she noted. Also, a problem is the number of women and teens caught up in drugs and prostitution between Casper, Gillette, and Sheridan.

Apart from teens, Waldron helps find people of all ages and helps work cold cases.

“There are a lot of people who are still missing,” Waldron said, “and it’s important these people aren’t forgotten.”

The found

Like the others who do this type of work, Marki Davis, who founded and now runs the non-profit We Help the Missing, is tireless in her pursuit and runs the group on top of her full-time job as a private investigator in Salt Lake City.

We Help the Missing is a non-profit run solely by volunteers dedicated to the cause.

We Help the Missing is a non-profit run solely by volunteers dedicated to the cause.

She personally got involved with finding missing persons as an apprentice working under a detective. It was this boss who gave her the hypothetical task of tracking down her husband’s grandmother who had gone missing in 1939.

The task was meant to be a practice run for the cub detective who attacked it like a dog with a sock.

Given the many years that had gone by, finding the missing German woman, who had immigrated to the U.S. during WW II, become a nurse and later left her family, presumably for California, seemed a bit daunting at first.

If finding a missing person in this day in the age of the internet isn’t hard enough, Davis was tasked with the old-school mission of tracking down documents and relatives, which included her going to Germany. After a long roundabout journey, Davis found a newspaper story about a red-headed woman who had been found by mushroom pickers somewhere in West Virginia. The photo of the woman matched her bosses’ grandmother.

Mission complete. From then on, Davis was hooked and continues her passion to track down missing people and cold cases.

It’s a small, dedicated group, many of whom run into each other on the ground such as she and Wolfskill, who met on a case in Utah and became fast friends.

To date, she thinks she’s easily worked around 100 cases, most of which don’t end happily, but like Waldron and Wolfskill, “it gets in your blood and there’s no letting go.”

The trouble is finding people to help them, and she continues to look for more private investigators and volunteers, because given the constraints on law enforcement resources, most of the cases go cold.

Each week, there are an average of four new missing people reported nationwide on We Help the Missing, with volunteers working non-stop to create posters, plaster them in an area or town as well as work the case on the ground.

“There’s not enough help,” Davis said, “but we are doing all we can for these families. The big thing is to let them know that they’re not forgotten, and somebody is still holding out hope they’re found.”

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Meth Party Busted At Gillette Motel

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Three individuals were arrested for drug use and possession after police reportedly found methamphetamine and marijuana at a local motel Sunday morning, according to Corporal Dan Stroup with the Gillette Police Department (GPD).

Police reportedly found the drugs while investigating a call to the Super 8 Motel March 28, where motel staff reported that some of their guests were acting strange.

Stroup stated the motel staff requested that police deploy a GPD K9 inside the motel around 10:30 a.m. and the K9 indicated on a door to a room occupied by a 40-year-old female, a 29-year-old female and a 33-year-old male.

Upon further investigation, police also located a 44-year-old male hiding in the bathtub behind a shower curtain, according to Stroup.

Police sought and were granted a search warrant. In the room, police allegedly found a combined total of 2.1 grams of suspected methamphetamine.

The K9 was also deployed in the parking lot, Stroup noted, and gave a positive indication on a 2007 Jeep, belonging to the 33-year-old male. Inside the jeep, police reportedly located one gram of suspected marijuana.

The 29-year-old female and the 44-year-old male were both arrested for possession of meth. The 44-year-old male was also charged with using meth and interference, Stroup said.

The 33-year-old male was arrested for possession of marijuana.

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Green River Man Arrested After Going on Two-Hour Crime Spree

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man was arrested in Rock Springs this week, accused of going on an evening crime spree.

Steven Rice, 41, was arrested Monday and charged with felony property destruction and five misdemeanors, including battery, theft of less than $1,000, criminal entry and three counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle.

According to Rock Springs Police Department reports, at around 9 p.m. Monday, Rice was identified driving a vehicle into a parking lot. Witnesses said he jumped out of the car, allowing it to crash into other parked vehicles. He left the scene on foot.

Soon after, two other vehicles were found on Skyline Drive in Rock Springs, both with their doors left open.

Around 9:30 p.m., officers were dispatched to the scene of an assault and vehicle theft, in which Rice allegedly tried to steal a vehicle. When the owner jumped inside the car and hit the emergency brake, Rice hit the man in the head with the car door and then drove off in the vehicle, hitting a pole, reports said.

He later abandoned the car on Ninth Street in Rock Springs.

While investigating the abandoned car, officers located a a white Toyota passenger vehicle abandoned by Rice in the parking lot. This vehicle was later found to be stolen.

Rice was then accused of going to a convenience and stealing a Kia that was running unlocked and unoccupied in the parking lot. The victim’s cell phone was in the car, which allowed the Rock Springs Police Department to track it.

Officers found the vehicle abandoned and occupied on the north side of town, but Rice had taken the cell phone and other valuable items from the car.

Around 11:20 p.m., deputies found Rice hiding in a Bronco in the parking area at Morcon Specialty. He was taken into custody without incident.

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Cheyenne Man Arrested for Vehicular Homicide, DUI After Killing Woman In Hit and Run

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man was arrested this week in connection with a hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of a woman.

Kyle Ziemer, 32, was arrested late Wednesday on felony charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and for driving under the influence.

Police responded to a fatal hit-and-run accident Wednesday evening in Cheyenne near the intersection of Nationway and Hot Springs Avenue. The incident occurred as a woman was walking in the median on Nationway, according to reports.

Ziemer, while driving a 2014 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, swerved into the median, struck the woman and fled the scene prior to police arriving, according to police reports.

Ziemer was later located, arrested and booked.

The woman was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where she succumbed to her injuries.

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Wyoming Police Send Messages of Love, Support to Family of Slain Boulder Officer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Various Wyoming law enforcement agencies have sent messages of love and support to the family of the Boulder police officer killed in a shooting Monday.

Officers from all over the state have posted messages to social media expressing sympathy for the death of Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley. Talley was killed in the line of duty Monday during a shooting a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, along with nine other victims.

“The men and women of the Laramie Police Department carry heaviness in our hearts for the death of Officer Eric Talley of the Boulder Police Department,” the Laramie Police Department said Tuesday. “Our thoughts are especially with his seven children, his wife and his family. Our thoughts are also with his extended Public Safety Family, who are will carry on. Please know that you are not alone.”

The victims in Monday’s shooting ranged in age from 20 to 65. The shooter, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, Colorado, was apprehended on Monday, but taken to the hospital due to a wound to his leg, according to NPR.

Alissa has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

Talley was the first officer to respond to the shooting Monday afternoon. He was a veteran of more than 10 years with the Boulder Police Department.

“Our thoughts are with the Boulder, CO community as they bravely face an unspeakable tragedy,” the Cheyenne Police Department wrote Monday night. “Many lives were lost during the course of today’s events and we extend our deepest condolences during this difficult time.”

“Our heartfelt prayers go out to our neighbors to the south, and especially to the family of Officer Eric Talley,” the Douglas Police Department said. “Family both blood, and blue…. Our hearts are heavy for you…..God Speed Officer. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, even though those thanks will never mean enough.”

“Our thoughts are with the Boulder, CO community,” the Green River Police Department said. “We extend our deepest condolences during this difficult time.”

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 79 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, 13 by gunfire.

Gov. Mark Gordon and President Joe Biden each declared that the Wyoming and U.S. flags, respectively, would be flown at half-staff until March 27 to honor the victims.

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Wyoming One Step Closer to Making Bestiality A Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would make bestiality a crime was sent to the floor of the Senate for debate on Friday by a legislative committee.

Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday morning in support of a bill submitted in response to a Sweetwater County incident and told members Wyoming is only one of only four states in the country that doesn’t have a bestiality law on its books.

“I don’t necessarily consider it a widespread or growing problem but in my county, we did have an incident last year where the matter was investigated, it was actually on video, there was no question about the facts,” Stith said. “Law enforcement investigated it. They were able to prosecute for trespass, but not anything more. The community felt trespass didn’t quite capture the justice in this matter.”

Stith is sponsoring House Bill 46, which has already been approved by the House, which would make bestiality a misdemeanor in the state and a maximum sentence of one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.

This incident to which he was referring occurred last summer when a man in Sweetwater County was found to have trespassed onto private property to engage in sexual activity with horses.

The property owner told the deputy that they chained and locked the gate a certain way when leaving the corral at night. When they returned to the corral the next day, it was chained differently.

“While shocking, this is actually a very difficult case,” Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jason Mower said at the time of the crime. “Wyoming is only one of a handful of states without a bestiality statute on the books.”

Mower also explained that for an animal cruelty charge to hold up in court, it would have to be proven that the man actually injured the horses.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, also testified in support of the bill, but also the committee to consider making bestiality a felony, not just a misdemeanor.

“The good bringer of the bill has taken the first step, but when you look at other states that have similar laws in place … perhaps in this case it would be appropriate with a second or subsequent conviction to make it a felony-level offense,” Zwonitzer said.

Tara Muir, public policy director for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, also testified in support of the bill, whether the crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony.

However, she said the bill didn’t include any provisions for victims who might be forced into bestiality, so she asked for an amendment consideration for their defense.

“I think [being forced into bestiality] happens more than we know,” Muir said.

Committee members agreed they would consider an amendment during a second reading of the bill.

Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police spokesman Bryon Oedekoven also testified in support of the bill.

“This bill came out of an incident in Sweetwater County but unfortunately, I can tell you this happens all over the state,” Oedekoven said.

The committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the Senate for consideration on “general file,” when the amendments would be offered. “General file” refers to the consideration by the full Senate of a bill approved by a committee.

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Man Arrested After Standoff With Police at Evanston Hotel

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By Uinta County Herald

A standoff situation with law enforcement on Harrison Drive in Evanston has been resolved. The Evanston Police Department reported that the suspect has been apprehended and transported to the Uinta County Jail.

Harrison Drive and nearby streets were closed earlier this afternoon after officers were dispatched to the Super 8 Motel for a report of a man who had been shot in the head. Responding officers secured the scene and provided security while ambulance crews cared for the victim.

It was initially believed the suspect, who had barricaded himself in a motel room, had some type of long rifle and numerous shots were reported. Officers were able to break out a window to the room and begin face-to-face negotiations. Ultimately, officers gained entry to the room and arrested the suspect.

The victim was transported to Evanston Regional Hospital and, despite social media reports indicating he had perhaps been flown to another hospital, was treated and released. After further investigation and an interview with the victim, officers believe the weapon was actually some type of pellet rifle.

Both Clark Elementary and Davis Middle School were briefly locked down as the situation unfolded; however, the lockdowns were lifted and both schools were released at the normal release time.

The names of the suspect and the victim have not been released.

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Death Row Exoneree Testifies In Support of Wyoming Repealing Death Penalty

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who once sat on death row for a crime he did not commit recently testified in support of Wyoming repealing its death penalty.

Ray Krone testified before the Senate Revenue Committee last week, telling the story of how he was wrongly accused in 1991 of killing a woman who was found dead in a Phoenix bar he frequented.

“I used to support the death penalty, since it wouldn’t affect me and my family, so what do I care about it?” Krone said in his testimony. “I found out how wrong I was when I was 35 years old and got sentenced to death in Phoenix, Arizona.”

Krone was convicted one year after his arrest due to dental impressions found on the victim’s body that supposedly matched his. Ten years later, Krone was exonerated when it was discovered the woman was actually killed by another man who was also known for being a violent sexual predator.

The Wyoming Legislature is considering Senate File 150 (sponsored by Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas), which would repeal the state’s death penalty. The Senate was to debate the bill on Wednesday, but its discussion was held back for a day because of weekend blizzard that halted activity in southeastern Wyoming for two days.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the last person executed in Wyoming was Mark Hopkinson in 1992.

During a Senate Revenue Committee meeting on March 4, Boner explained his reasoning behind the bill.

“It’s during time of fiscal constraint that it’s more important than ever we reassess state government and maybe some things that used to work in the past are no longer relevant,” the senator said.

He described the death penalty as a rusty old tool on the shelf that didn’t work and was expensive.

There is only one person on death row in Wyoming, Dale Eaton, convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a Montana teenager in 1988 and then throwing her body into the North Platte River. His death sentence was overturned by a federal judge in 2014 although prosecutors said they would continue to seek his execution.

Wyoming’s Legislature passed a bill in 2004 banning the death penalty for juveniles.

Krone’s testimony to the committee was part of partnership between his organization of death row exonerees, “Witness to Innocence,” and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming.

The ACLU of Wyoming has been a major proponent behind repealing the death penalty in the state, arguing it is costly and ineffective.

The ACLU believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law.

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, who is a co-sponsor of the bill (along with 12 other legislators, both Democrat and Republican), shared a video of the March 4 meeting with an impassioned plea.

“Let’s end the death penalty once and for all. Let’s end it now!” he wrote on social media.

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Shooting in Cheyenne Leaves 14-Year-Old Dead and 13-Year-Old Arrested

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Few details are known about a shooting in Cheyenne early Monday morning which left a 14-year-old male dead and a 13-year-old male under arrest.

The Cheyenne Police Department is reporting that upon responding to the 1200 block of East 10th Street at 3:00 a.m., Monday, the 14-year-old was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound.

A 13-year-old was arrested later in the day Monday and booked into the Laramie County Juvenile Detention Center on manslaughter and theft charges.

The case is under investigation by the Cheyenne Police Department.

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Sheriffs Say Gun Rights Bill Will Make Crime Fighting Tougher

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s sheriffs are objecting to a portion of a bill designed to limit the ability of the federal government to regulate firearms.

The Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, in a letter to legislators, said as it is currently written, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” could leave its members in an “impossible dilemma” as they try to enforce the law.

“The … Act, while well intentioned to prohibit firearms confiscation by federal entities to unknown future laws, could actually inhibit Wyoming peace officers from enforcing certain Wyoming statutes, conducting complete investigations and ensuring successful prosecution,” said the letter, signed by all 23 of Wyoming’s sheriffs.

Two bills have been filed for consideration during the Legislature’s general session, Senate File 81 and House Bill 124, that would declare federal laws they identify as “infringements on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” as invalid.

The bill would also declare invalid any federal law “ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law abiding citizens.”

The bills would also bar any Wyoming law enforcement officers from enforcing any federal laws ruled an infringement on the Second Amendment.

However, the letter said the law would leave law enforcement unable to seize weapons from people accused of serious crimes.

“For example, we could normally seize a firearm as part of a local case and turn the firearm over to federal entities for prosecution,” he wrote. “These cases run the gamut of aggravated robbery, child pornography and various dangerous drug investigations.”

Another section of the bill would allow people whose weapons have been seized to sue the officer involved, who would have no immunity from damages, even if acting within the scope of his duties.

“To punish and hold liable a peace officer who seizes a weapon which is later returned, is wrong,” the letter said. “It is already difficult to recruit and retain quality peace officers.”

The letter stressed the association and its members are supporters of the Second Amendment, but that they cannot support the current version of the bill.

“The Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, collectively and individually, hold the United States and Wyoming Constitutions in the highest regard,” it said. “We, the Wyoming Sheriffs, respectfully request that the Wyoming Legislature seek laws that allow us to perform our duties while still protecting the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, which we hold as an absolute.”

The federal actions the two bills identify as infringements on the Second Amendment include any tax or fee imposed on firearms and accessories “that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items,” the registration or tracking of firearms or ammunition and any act forbidding the possession, ownership or transfer of a firearm.

The law would apply to federal rules and laws already in place as well as any passed in the future.

The Senate verision of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, is awaiting a review in the House Judiciary Committee, where it as referred in February. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, is awaiting introduction in the House.

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Rock Springs Man Arrested By SWAT After Allegedly Attacking Girlfriend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs man was in custody Friday afternoon after a tactical team was sent to his home to respond to a report of a domestic disturbance.

Richard Gamble, 41, was arrested by SWAT officers without incident on Friday on suspicion of multiple charges in connection with a domestic disturbance that occurred overnight, according to the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.

At around 5 a.m. Friday, sheriff’s deputies responded to Gamble’s residence after his girlfriend, Cindy Liston, 38, also of Rock Springs, called to report that she awoke in the early morning to Gamble allegedly spitting in her face and screaming obscenities at her. 

Gamble then retreated to his bedroom, where he retrieved a handgun before returning to the living room. He allegedly pinned Liston to the ground with his knees on her chest, cutting off her airway so she couldn’t breathe.

After Liston broke free, Gamble then retreated to the bedroom again and began grabbing Liston’s clothes, putting them into bags and throwing them around the room, according to reports. He then demanded she leave the home.

According to reports, Gamble also shattered his girlfriend’s cell phone and then went back into the bedroom again with a rubber mat.

He swung the mat toward Liston, hitting a picture on the wall, reports said. The picture frame broke, shattering the glass and peppering Liston with shards.

Gamble then grabbed a piece of glass and began cutting himself.

Liston escaped to the bathroom and locked the door. Gamble then broke into the bathroom by knocking a hole in the door, according to police reports.

While in the bathroom, Gamble allegedly threw blood on Liston from his self-inflicted wound. 

After throwing Liston outside of the house and onto the porch, Gamble inadvertently locked both of them out of the  house. He then broke through the locked door, armed himself with the handgun and came back outside with the handgun, pointing it at Liston and threatening to kill her if she came back onto the property, reports said.

The woman ran to a neighbor’s house to call police. 

On deputies’ arrival, Liston was transported to the hospital where she was treated for the injuries she sustained. Deputies were unable to make contact with Gamble.

Given the severity of  the allegations and the involvement of a firearm, the Sweetwater County Joint Tactical Response Team was mobilized in an effort to safely apprehend Gamble at his home.

Gamble has been booked into the Sweetwater County Detention Center where he awaits formal charges and his initial appearance in court. 

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Man Arrested in Cody For Stealing Four Cars & Leading Police on Multiple High Speed Chases

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming law enforcement officers got a hand from Mother Nature in apprehending a car thief.

Ending a multi-state crime spree, a young man from Montana was finally captured when his stolen vehicle (suspected to be the fourth that he had swiped in a two-week period) was disabled by spike strips after a high-speed chase with law enforcement officers in Park County.

Wyoming authorities first became aware that a car thief was on the loose when an abandoned 2004 Ford Ranger with New Mexico plates was found stuck in a drift by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

They and other first responders had been helping motorists dig out from the snow that had been piled up by high winds on Monday, February 22.

According to affidavits filed by  Wyoming Highway Patrol Troopers, the pickup had been reported missing in Harding County, New Mexico.

The alleged culprit, 27 year old Garret Bailey of Butte, Montana, led Highway Patrol troopers and Park County Sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed chase Tuesday night, the 23rd, before he was apprehended in yet another stolen vehicle.

Court documents allege that Bailey had lifted an SUV that was left running in the Blair’s parking lot in Powell; then he attempted to elude the police in the stolen Ford Edge at speeds of up to 122 miles per hour. The chase only ended after Sheriff’s Deputies deployed spike strips which flattened the vehicle’s tires south of Cody.

Bailey’s crime spree actually began, according to Highway Patrol Lieutenant Lee Pence, in Montana – he drove a stolen vehicle from that state to New Mexico, where he was initially apprehended.

However, the vehicle’s owner decided not to press charges, and Bailey walked free. But another vehicle was loaned to him, which he ran off with and wrecked; and then decided that his next hot ride would be in a government vehicle from Harding County.

He headed north in that Ford pickup, and was home free – until that Wyoming blizzard stopped him in his tracks.

After his arrest, Bailey told Powell Police Investigator Chris Wallace that a “friend of a friend” in New Mexico let him “borrow” the truck to go see his kids in Butte, Montana (later admitting that he stole the pickup, which had the keys in it, from outside a building) – but he was forced to abandon the vehicle when he hit the snowbank on February 21st.

He was given a ride – and a room at the Cody Legacy Inn – by a concerned citizen, who picked him up the next day and gave him a ride to Powell, where he acquired lodging at the Super 8. Bailey said he needed a ride to Cody, and when he saw the Ford Edge idling in the parking lot at Blair’s, he took it.

After being tipped off about the stolen Ford Edge, an officer from the Cody Police Department, several Park County Sheriff’s Deputies, and two Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers caught up with Bailey just northeast of Cody.

Law Enforcement vehicles boxed him in just outside the Cody city limits, but Bailey charged forward, almost hitting Deputy Ethan Robinson head-on before swerving, and leading multiple units on a high speed chase (at one point clocking 122 miles per hour) into and out of the Oregon Basin oil field. The chase finally ended when deputies laid out spike strips to flatten the tires of the stolen vehicle. 

Deputy Robinson says when they finally apprehended him, Bailey at first told authorities that another person was driving, but ran away – but he couldn’t provide a description of the fictitious driver, and no sign of another suspect was found.

Bailey did try to alter his physical appearance by stripping down to his long johns and taking off the sweatshirt and coat that he had been wearing when security cameras caught him driving off in the Ford Edge, but those items were found in the stolen car.

Bailey’s blood alcohol content was over three times the legal limit at the time of his arrest – it was recorded at .27 when he was booked into the Park County Detention Center.

As of Monday, March 1st, Bailey is being held in the Park County Detention Center in Cody on a $75,000 cash-only bond, on five different charges: two counts of theft ($1000 in value or more); one count of property destruction; one count of fleeing or eluding police; one count of reckless endangering; and one count of driving while under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances. He was seen by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters on Friday, February 26, and will have his preliminary hearing on Friday, March 5th.

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Cheyenne Police: Autopsy Report Not Completed In Toddler’s Death Investigation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Cheyenne Police Department is clarifying the status of its investigation into a toddler’s death after an error made during a phone interview.

Lt. Rob Dafoe of the department’s detective bureau, in a Facebook post, corrected a statement made earlier that an autopsy of Athian Rivera, a Cheyenne toddler whose body was found in a dumpster in later February, revealed nothing conclusive about his cause of death.

Dafoe’s posting said the department has not yet received the autopsy report on Rivera, 2.

“An error was made during a phone interview, as we have not received the full autopsy report. We maintain good working relations with our partner agencies and our focus is where it should be, on investigating this case,” Dafoe said.

Cheyenne radio station KGAB reported this week that there wasn’t a conclusive cause of death in Rivera’s case. The report was based on an interview with a department spokeswoman who said the autopsy results had been delivered to the department.

Wyatt Lamb, the boyfriend of Rivera’s mother, was arrested on unrelated charges but investigators are recommending he be charged with murder and aggravated child abuse. However, he has yet to be officially charged and it was unclear if he is still being held in custody.

“As the mother of this missing boy … I have alot to say … especially about all the horrible things people are saying but I wont … cause deep down I know my baby was happy here and never abused,” Kassy Orona, Rivera’s mother, said on the Cheyenne Police Department’s Facebook page the weekend after her son’s death.

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Cheyenne Man Leads Police On Crazy Car Chase; Heads Wrong Direction on I-25

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man is in custody after leading police on a chase early Monday morning that included driving against traffic on Interstate 25 near Cheyenne.

Nickolas David Jones, 33, faces charges of with fleeing to elude, interference with a peace officer, careless driving, driving without lighted lamps, driving a vehicle with metal rims in contact with the roadway, driving without a seatbelt and driving the wrong way on the interstate in connection with the chase.

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol reports, around 12:04 a.m. Monday, troopers were notified of a vehicle driving erratically on Interstate 25, with and the driver turning the car’s headlights on and off.

Around 12:18 a.m., a trooper attempted to stop the vehicle, a 2014 Subaru, south of the port of entry on Interstate 25 in Laramie County, but the driver didn’t stop.

Jones initially fled south before crossing the interstate and driving northbound. He displayed reckless behavior by driving with the vehicle’s headlights off, leaving the driver’s seat and crawling into the backseat while the car was still moving and driving the wrong way on the interstate.

Jones continued to elude officers even after they made several attempts to use spike strips and perform tactical vehicle intervention maneuvers.

The pursuit changed travel directions multiple times on the interstate, with Jones continuing to exhibit erratic behavior and causing imminent danger to the public, according to patrol reports.

Outside of Cheyenne on the interstate, pursuing law enforcement units were able to use their patrol vehicles to pin the Subaru to the side of the road as Jones started driving south in highway’s northbound lanes toward stopped traffic.

Jones failed to comply with orders from the troopers, but the officers were able to use less-than-lethal force to take him into custody.

Once Jones was detained, officers observed he had self-inflicted cuts on his arm. Troopers administered first aid to control the bleeding and he was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

The Cheyenne Police Department and Laramie County Sheriff’s Office helped in apprehending Jones.

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Laramie Murder: Ramirez’s Mother Seeks To Make Grand Jury Proceeding Public

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By Andrew Graham, WyoFile

Attorneys for the mother of a Laramie man slain by an Albany County Sheriff’s deputy opened a new front in their legal battle this week, asking a judge to release records from a grand jury investigation of the shooting.

The lawyers suggest in the newest filing that Albany County officials, worried about a future lawsuit, presented biased experts to the grand jury that cleared deputy Derek Colling for the killing of Robbie Ramirez. Colling shot and killed Ramirez during a November 2018 confrontation. 

Ramirez’s mother, Debra Hinkel, seeks as much as $20 million in damages for what she alleges was the wrongful death of her son and a miscarriage of justice. The newest motion was filed Feb. 19 in Albany County District Court and paired with a series of new filings in the federal court where Hinkel brought her lawsuit. 

Albany County officials have pointed to the grand jury proceedings as evidence the shooting was justified. Hinkel’s lawyers now suggest the grand jury was engineered to protect the county government from liability. The county attorney selected biased witnesses to make a case for clearing Colling, the lawyers wrote, and jury members as well as the public therefore deserve a chance to review the secret proceedings.

“The defendants in the federal action are defending that case under assumed regularity of the grand jury proceedings,” lawyers wrote in the county court filing, “when it appears in all likelihood the use of the grand jury was anything but regular.”

The Spence Law Firm, out of Jackson, is representing Hinkel.

With the new filings, the lawyers continue their argument that county officials covered for Colling after the shooting in order to avoid accountability for hiring the controversial deputy. Albany county has denied those charges. 

Investigation Integrity Questioned

Colling had previously shot and killed a 15-year-old boy while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was later fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work. 

Former Sheriff Dave O’Malley hired Colling — a Laramie native whose father is a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper — when other law enforcement agencies wouldn’t, Hinkel’s lawyers have alleged. They accused O’Malley of being “unduly influenced by his friendship with Defendant Colling’s father” in the original legal complaint. Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder chose not to hire Colling, he told WyoFile last summer.

Albany County prosecutor Peggy Trent (co.albany.wy.us)

In the months after Ramirez’s death, Albany County prosecutor Peggy Trent convened a grand jury to establish whether there was probable cause to charge Colling with a crime. Trent presented evidence to jurors for three days, after which the grand jury decided there was not probable cause, Trent said at a press conference in January 2019.

At that conference, Trent described the grand jury deliberation as a more thorough process than is typical of most Wyoming officer-involved shooting investigations. 

While Wyoming lacks clear statutory procedures for how such incidents are investigated, Wyoming’s statewide law enforcement agency, the Division of Criminal Investigation, has investigated in all apparent recent cases. The county attorney in the relevant county receives DCI’s report and then decides whether the shooting was justified or not. 

In Laramie, the group Albany County for Proper Policing, which sprung up in the wake of Ramirez’s death, called on Trent to recuse herself from the case. Trent did not. 

Prosecutors have broad control over a grand jury. They pick the evidence and set the arguments, all in secret. There was no opposing attorney making a case against Trent. 

Trent knew both Colling and Ramirez and their families, she said at the press conference. But with a grand jury, “I thought we could do it better” than other counties had done with police shootings, she said. Trent argued the grand jury created a more thorough and independent review of the evidence in the shooting. 

“I secured two experts to come into our community in order to provide insight as to national standards and how it should be done in the use of deadly force,” she said at the press conference. 

“It was more raw, more direct towards those witnesses than you would ever have in a courtroom with a jury present with a judge,” Trent said.

A Shield For Justice?

In the new filings, Hinkel’s attorneys allege the grand jury was a shield for justice, not a step toward it. Trent selected witnesses and presented evidence in a manner aimed at clearing Colling, aware that the county government she works for would likely end up in civil court, they allege. 

Trent called two expert witnesses during the grand jury, according to both her press conference and the latest filings from the Spence lawyers. One was Dave Dubay, a Casper-based consultant who previously worked for the company that manufactured the taser and body camera Colling used. The other was Connecticut-based attorney Eric Daigle.

Daigle “exclusively defends law enforcement officers in civil rights litigation,” the new filing alleges, implying he is not suitable as an impartial witness in the grand jury. Hinkel’s lawyers aren’t the first to accuse Daigle — whose website describes him as a law enforcement consultant and former police officer, still certified in Connecticut — of bias. 

Officials in Aurora, Colorado hired Daigle in June 2020 to investigate the high-profile death of Elijah McClain while the young Black man was in police custody. Daigle’s contract was cancelled after one day when a city councilmen raised concerns that the attorney was dedicated to defending police officers and their employers from civil liabilities. 

At the press conference, Trent said the grand jury’s purpose was to establish whether criminal charges should be filed. But the “county now admits – contrary to the statements of Attorney Trent – that these experts were also hired in anticipation of the forthcoming civil litigation,” the lawyers wrote.  

Their statement appears to refer to the county’s attorney’s resistance to subpoenas issued for the materials Daigle and Dubay used to prepare their testimony. The county’s attorney, John Bowers of the Bowers Law Firm in Rawlins, argues such materials, as well as communications between the expert witnesses and county officials, are protected under attorney-client privilege. 

“This admission may establish a preordained decision by the County to defend and condone Colling’s actions in the criminal investigation which it oversaw to affect the civil litigation,” Hinkel’s lawyers wrote. 

Bowers, the county’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment left with his office. 

“All of the material in both expert witness’s files was prepared for the Grand Jury and certainly it was not unexpected that civil litigation might result from the matter,” Bowers wrote in a Feb. 5 filing where he argued against releasing Daigle and Dubay’s investigative materials and communications with the county. “The impressions and opinions by the attorneys involved in the Grand Jury proceeding would be the same in the current civil litigation.”

Shooting Still Reverberates In Small Town

Colling and Ramirez were once high school classmates in Laramie. While Colling went on to a checkered career in law enforcement, Ramirez battled mental illness, alternating paranoid episodes with periods of stability, skateboarding and making music.

On the fatal day, Colling pulled Ramirez over after observing Ramirez drive slowly and fail to use his turn signal. A brief vehicle chase ended in front of Ramirez’s apartment, where the two men struggled before Colling shot Ramirez three times — once in the chest and twice in the back.

A protester carries a sign calling for “Justice for Robbie and George” — referring to Robbie Ramirez, who was killed by an Albany County sheriff’s deputy, and George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police — at a June 4, 2020 protest in Laramie. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

O’Malley has defended Colling’s use of force, and his hiring of the deputy. Ramirez’s mother has said the officer did “zero” to deescalate a situation that could have ended without tragedy. 

In Jan. 2019, the Laramie Boomerang reported O’Malley — now retired — was “currently working” with Daigle on a review of his department’s use-of-force policies. That review never occurred, according to emails included in the latest filings from The Spence Law Firm. 

“It is my understanding and belief from my clients that Sheriff O’Malley never followed through with having Mr. Daigle perform the review after the grand jury proceeding,” Bowers wrote in a Feb. 4 email to Hinkel’s lawyers. 

Colling continues to serve on the force, and O’Malley’s replacement has declined to comment on the case in two recent national news reports.

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Campbell County Judge Dismisses Felony Charge for Mother of Abused Infant

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Casper Man Arrested for Murder Told Church About Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

The vehicle owner also helped identify Alexander and Stainbrook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Green River Man Changes Plea In Terroristic Threats Case

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By Rock Springs Rocket Miner, Cowboy State Daily

GREEN RIVER — A Green River man changed his plea to guilty Wednesday afternoon for calling the Rock Springs Community Health Center and making death threats in January.

Wade Marin Prehn, 46, of Green River originally pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Sweetwater County Third District Court on Feb. 3 to the felony charge of terroristic threats.

As part of a plea agreement, Prehn changed his plea to guilty during a video hearing before Judge Suzannah Robinson on Feb. 24. He will be sentenced after a pre-sentence investigation is completed. Prehn also faces a misdemeanor charge in a separate case.

Under the agreement, Prehn would receive a suspended two- to three-year prison sentence and be placed on three years of supervised probation. The maximum penalty for terroristic threats is three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Prehn agreed with information read to him by Judge Robinson from court documents about a call he made around 6 p.m. on Jan. 20 to the Community Health Center on Commercial Way in Rock Springs. He admitted that the call was made by him.

The employee who answered said the caller refused to identify himself and at one point threatened to slaughter those at the clinic. She said the man was rude, hostile and cursing during the call.

He wanted Medicaid information and said that they had better have it, and that he was getting ready to come there and “take them all down.” He then said, “I’m about to slaughter all of you.” When asked if that was a threat, the caller replied that it was a promise, and he was on his way over.

There were nine employees and two patients in the clinic at the time. A call was made to the Rock Springs Police Department. When officers arrived, they stood by while everyone left the clinic. Prehn agreed that the statements he made in the call terrified people at the clinic and caused a serious public inconvenience by requiring an evacuation.

He admitted to the charge of “threatening to commit a violent felony in reckless disregard of the risk of causing serious public inconvenience.” He said that the call was made from Green River.

Prehn said he had moved to Green River from Cheyenne in December to live with his girlfriend.

On the day he made the threatening call, Prehn said he had just found out that his teenage son had committed suicide.

He said that after talking to Saratoga police about his son’s suicide, he made other calls to the numbers of physicians and medical providers given to him during an emergency room visit.

He said that he was very “frazzled” and “nasty on the phone” with all those he talked to. He apologized.

The defense said that even though Prehn’s behavior was spurred by tragic circumstances, Prehn knows that what he did was wrong, and he wants to take responsibility for his actions.

Judge Robinson agreed to release Prehn from the Sweetwater County Detention Center with bond lowered to “his own recognizance” in the case, based on the plea agreement, while he awaits sentencing.

The judge warned Prehn that if he doesn’t follow his bond conditions, his situation will be “precarious.”

His bond could be forfeited, and he would likely remain in jail until his sentencing. In addition, the plea agreement could be rejected and the maximum sentence imposed.

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Another Gillette Resident Falls Victim To Phone Scam

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By County 17, Cowboy State Daily

A 69-year-old Gillette man is out $1000, after falling prey to an international scammer claiming to be tech support.

This is the second such incident reported to the Gillette Police Department (GPD) this week.

The man reported that he’d received a call from someone claiming to be an Apple support person calling about disputed iTune charges, GPD Sgt. Eric Dearcorn said Thursday.

The man had been asked to purchase two eBay gift cards at Walgreens and an additional three gift cards from Smith’s Food and Drug for a total of $1,000.

After reading off the gift card numbers to the caller following his purchasing, the caller hung up at which point the man reported the scam to GPD.

This scam is part of a growing trend with 270% more Americans falling victim to phone scams in 2020 over the prior year, according to a December survey by First Orion, a communication solutions company.

in 2020, Americans reported paying out nearly $19.7 billion to scammers, per an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll.

According to the same poll, the amount of money lost by Americans last year increased by $9.2 billion from 2019.

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Green River Man Arrested For Cashing in Fake Gambling Tickets

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man was apprehended earlier this week after he was caught cashing in multiple fraudulent gambling tickets.

According to the Rock Springs Police Department, officers were sent to the Flying J Travel Plaza on the morning of Feb, 13 in response to a report of a man cashing multiple fake tickets.

Through further investigation, the suspect was identified as 31-year-old Nicholas Anderson.

On Sunday, Flying J staff called police to report Anderson returned to the store, but he left before officers managed to make it onto the scene.

Anderson’s vehicle was located and a traffic stop was conducted. He was subsequently placed under arrest and charged with two counts of possession of forged writings.

However, during the course of the traffic stop, a K-9 unit was deployed around the vehicle and alerted to something inside the car.

Officers found what was suspected to be methamphetamine and heroin inside the vehicle. In addition to Anderson, Jessica Lewis, 34, of Rock Springs was arrested for unlawful possession of less than three grams of a powder or crystalline substance.

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Wyoming’s Missing People: Part I

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By Jennifer Kocher, County 17

Imagine if your son left one day and never came home. Disappeared into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again. 

This is exactly what happened to Dawn Englebert. Her son Chance, who was 25 at the time, disappeared during a weekend trip to Nebraska with his wife Baylee and their infant son. It was July 6, 2019. The couple had driven from their home in Moorcroft to spend the 4th of July weekend with Baylee’s family in Gering.

It’s unclear exactly what transpired, but according to Chance’s friends, there was some type of misunderstanding or fight with his in-laws after a day of golfing and drinking, resulting in Chance telling Baylee he wanted to go home, and ultimately, walking away.

He called several friends and family to get a ride but wasn’t able to secure one immediately given the distance from home. Calls and texts to Chance’s phone went unanswered. The last correspondence sent from his phone was a text at 9:08 p.m. The text made no sense: just a bunch of numbers and emojis.

Chance never used emojis, Dawn said, so likely someone else had it.

He was last seen walking down the street a couple miles from his in-law’s house about 8 p.m.

His disappearance prompted multiple searches across 17 agencies and hundreds of volunteers, including divers searching the North Platte River as well as cadaver dogs, drones and searchers on horseback. Hundreds of tips turned up nothing, including a rumor that Baylee’s family might have been involved after it was reported they’d just poured fresh concrete.

“That was quickly debunked,” said Gering Police Department Investigator Brian Eads, who was with the Nebraska State Patrol at the time of Englebert’s disappearance but who has since joined the police department and has taken over the case.

As of Feb. 16, there have been no updates in the case, Eads said, though tips are still regularly coming in. On average, he and Gering Police officer Jordan McBride spend about 10-20 hours per week tracking down leads and tips.

“We don’t like to have unsolved cases,” Eads said, noting that he couldn’t comment about any current tips or speculations given that it’s an open case. “We’re still receiving calls about sightings and are looking into everything.”

He regularly consults with the FBI and continues to stay on the case, he said.

Dawn said appreciates their work as well as the cards and updates she receives from Eads and others involved, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the mom of three boys, who believes in her heart that somebody out there saw or heard something that could help locate her son.

No way he would have left on his own, Dawn said, a sentiment echoed by wife Baylee when interviewed by County 17 in the days following his disappearance.

Dawn believes her son walked into something, but doesn’t believe that Chance, who was an avid swimmer and bareback rodeo rider good enough to land a college scholarship to Laramie Community College as a teen, would have fallen into the river or injured himself enroute.

“He’s an athlete and cattleman,” she said, who grew up working on the family’s ranch in Burdock, South Dakota. “He’s a man who loves his family and son.”

Englebert’s disappearance has fueled heated debate and speculation by many on social media, which has worked to divide both families, including Dawn’s communication with Baylee and her grandson, which has since broken down in the ensuing months since he’s been gone.

Likewise, Baylee has stopped talking to reporters and told the Rapid City Journal that she no longer grants interviews because she and her family get death threats.

Friends like Matt Miller and Dustin Easton and other advocates have devoted FaceBook pages to help locate Chance, including Help Find Chance Englebert, Chance Englebert, Daddy where are you?, Chances Are…? The truth will come out as well as several other private pages. Others still, have picked up his case in podcasts and various missing person crime programs, but thus far, nothing has panned out or led to any arrests.

Despite all the help from law enforcement and others, Dawn can’t help thinking that there would be a lot more urgency to find a young woman or a child who had gone missing and that 25-year-old guys like Chance, particularly because he’d been drinking, don’t raise the same alarms.

There are others, too, who went missing within the same approximate timeframe and area as her son, Dawn noted.

In both cases, they were men in their 20s with a history of drinking or drug use and slight skirmishes with the law.

Similar cases

In February 2019, a Colorado-area man also vanished after crashing his pickup into a guardrail on Highway 285 in Indian Hills, outside Denver. Jacob Paddock-Weeks, now 27, was seen running from the accident after leaving both his cell phone and wallet in the car. Drug paraphernalia had been found in his vehicle, but the crash was thought to be the result of a mechanical problem with a tie rod, according to reporting by Fox 31/2 News Denver.

A Facebook page for Paddock-Weeks indicates he is still missing.

Prior to that, a Nebraska man, 28-year-old Christopher A. Loupin, also went missing under mysterious circumstances in mid-November 2019 from 4 Seasons Campground north of the Elm Creek interchange near Kearney. He, too, seemingly vanished into thin air after last being seen at the campground in shorts and a T-shirt.

According to Nebraska TV News, Loupin and his father Eddie were spending the night at the campground where they’d been contracted to work on a project.

Loupin had reportedly been acting erratic that night, his father told investigators, and he finally came out around 1 a.m. the morning of Nov. 17 and told his son he needed to get inside and get some sleep after he saw him outside smoking. In the morning, his son was gone.

Loupin, like Paddock-Weeks, was not dressed for the weather and disappeared without a cell phone or coat.

The list goes on, and some, like PJ Chavez, has taken an interest in these missing person stories in his podcast and Facebook page. Despite the attention on their behalf, the three men still remain missing.

Wyoming in top 10 states with missing people

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) database, there are more than 600,000 individuals who go missing in the United States each year with an estimated 4,400 unidentified bodies recovered. Tens of thousands of those missing individuals remain gone for more than one year, at which point many agencies consider them “cold cases.”

Of the people currently missing in the U.S., approximately 60% are male and 40% are female, per NAMUS data, with the average age being 34 at the time of their disappearence. As of January 2019, there were 106 children missing who were younger than a year when they disappeared.

A 2019 Vivint Source survey determined that Wyoming is the seventh state with the most missing people behind Alaska, which tops the list with a whopping 41.8 missing people per every 100,000. California, meanwhile, reported the largest number of missing people overall at 2,133. Conversely, Maine reported the fewest missing people at 1.8 per every 100,000.

Arizona ranked second with 13.0 missing people per every 100,000, followed by Oregon at 10.4 and Washington 8.7.

The more rural states seem to have this in common.

Currently, in Wyoming there are more than 50 open missing person cases, according to NAMUS datal, four of which include three men and one woman from Campbell County.  Given its wide-open spaces and relative low population, perhaps it’s not surprising that so many people go missing in Wyoming.

Finding the missing

For Casper resident Desiree Tinoco, it was the number of missing people that caught her attention, particularly men who she thinks don’t garner the same level of attention as children or women, especially those with substance abuse issues or criminal histories.

She remembers seeing a story about a missing man from Washington, D.C., who disappeared in Big Horn County this summer.

“How does that happen?” she said. “How do people just disappear?”

The question stuck with her, and despite having no experience in the field or any missing people in her own life, Tinoco took it upon herself to do something to help. After discovering that Wyoming doesn’t have a missing persons database, unlike many other states, Tinoco decided to start a page on Facebook called Missing People of Wyoming, which has been active for just about 18 months.

Her main motivation for starting the group was to spread awareness about missing people by sharing their flyers, she said, as well as drawing attention to the cases that don’t garner as much urgency, such as men with criminal pasts or addiction problems.

“Those people are someone’s son, father or brother,” Tinoco said. “Someone is worried about them.”

Now, in the nearly 18 months since starting the group, it’s grown to almost 8,600 members, and Tinoco is feeling a little bit out of her league. On average, the site has about 50 missing people they are tracing. As such, she spends a lot of time trying to follow each case and provide continual updates as well as take down the posters in cases where the missing individual has been found.

She said she’d also like to see the state step in and create its own database to help locate the missing.

“I find myself trying to give advice that I’m clearly not qualified to give,” she said, noting the clear need for such a resource in Wyoming.

In December, Tinoco was asked to give a presentation to the Casper City Council, which was her first public speaking appearance and admittedly a little daunting. Nonetheless, Tinoco held her own as she explained that the lack of a state-wide missing persons database leaves it up to private citizens such as herself.

“As private citizens, we are underqualified and underfunded in overseeing such a task,” she explained, noting her belief that it’s an issue chronically overlooked by both the general public as well as local and state government. The task shouldn’t fall on the hands of people like her, she said, though she felt extremely blessed to be able to do her part to help.

Nonetheless, she’s only one person.

There are others, too, who have devoted their lives to tracking down the missing. Stay tuned to Part II of the series on Sunday to read about how law enforcement and a cadre of private detectives are working to locate the missing in Wyoming as well as the protocols regarding runaways.

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International Scamming Operation Rips Off Gillette Woman

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A remote access application scam surfaced in Campbell County Monday with one resident losing nearly $1,600, Gillette Police Department officials said Tuesday.

The resident, a 61-year-old female, received a phone call shortly before 9:45 p.m. Feb. 22 and was told her identity had been compromised and that she needed to take several steps to prevent any further fraudulent activity, GPD Detective Sgt. Eric Dearcorn said Tuesday.

The caller, who remains unknown and used a text subscriber phone number, convinced the 61-year-old female to install AnyDesk, a remote desktop access application, on her home computer, Dearcorn said.

Once the app was installed, the caller was able to access the 61-year-old female’s bank account and PayPal information and removed the funds.

The 61-year-old female’s daughter, a 42-year-old female who initially reported the incident, said that she intended to freeze all her mother’s bank accounts to prevent further loss, but the 61-year-old female is still out nearly $1,600, according to Dearcorn.

As of Feb. 23, there are no suspects and no leads, Dearcorn said.

The AnyDesk application can be installed on any computer and can enable access to that device from anywhere in the world. Normally, the application is utilized by IT specialists in companies to remotely fix computer problems, according to the AnyDesk website.

The Economic Times reports that the application is used by millions of people, in thousands of companies, in hundreds of countries.

The creators of AnyDesk, however, recognize the potential for their application to be used for illicit purposes and have a standing warning on their website urging users not to grant device access to unfamiliar people.

The AnyDesk scam is a worldwide phenomenon where scammers reach out to their victims and, through various means, convince them to download and install the AnyDesk software.

The AnyDesk website warns of several past incidents and attempts including false emails from Microsoft impersonators offering to clean devices of malicious software as well as other “cold call” help offers.

Once the application is installed, the scammers can search their victims’ computers for sensitive documents, passwords, and personal details, according to a Sept. 2020 report by Bleeping Computer.

Scammers can then use the stolen information to access victim bank accounts and steal any available funds. Recently, a similar scam was used to deprive several citizens of Budapest of $350,000, according to the report.

According to Gadgets Now, scams involving remote access applications are so effective due to a general technological illiteracy among citizens worldwide. Most citizens don’t understand how AnyDesk, or similar applications like TeamViewer, work.

The most effective defense against remote access scam operations is to ensure users are informed and educated about the potentials of fraud, The Economic Times reports, which includes treating digital access the same as in-person access to confidential information.

Citizens are encouraged to carefully consider who the person asking for the information is, and, if it is a stranger, avoid granting access, according to the report.

Generally, specialists with mainstream service credentials will not cold call or reach out seeking access to confidential information by phone, according to the AnyDesk website.

The same goes for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who have a longstanding memo on their federal website stating they will never request personal or financial information by email, text, or social media.

The IRS also states that they never contact taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests.

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Nebraska Police Justified In Shooting, Killing of Casper Woman, Evansville Man

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Nebraska police officers were justified in the shootings of a Casper woman and Evansville man who later died from their injuries, a preliminary investigation has determined.

Hailey Stainbrook, 30, of Casper, and Christian Alexander, 26, of Evansville, were fleeing from officers in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday morning after allegedly stealing a man’s wallet at a hotel.

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

“The suspect pointing a weapon out the window at a trooper and at the officers when the vehicle came to rest is justifiable for use of deadly force,” Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said Wednesday during a news conference.

Officers negotiated with Stainbrook for around seven minutes before she pointed a gun at law enforcement, prompting them to shoot at her, the report said.

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

“Our preliminary investigation has determined that the officers were justified in using deadly force against both suspects,” Wagner said.

Stainbrook apparently met the man via a social media app on Friday evening and spent some time with him at his hotel.

“With regard to the proceeding days and weeks of the shooting, our condolences go out to both families over the tragic outcome of this event,” Wagner said.

Acting Lincoln Police Chief Brian Jackson said that a grand jury would also look into the officers’ actions during the confrontation with the couple.

“We are fortunate that no law enforcement officers or other members of the public were seriously injured and we’re profoundly grateful for the outpouring of community support,” Jackson said.

Stainbrook and Alexander were suspected in various crimes in the days leading up to their deaths, including stealing vehicles in both Cheyenne and Casper.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday for the pair to determine the cause of death.

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Mother of Murdered Toddler Defends Herself on Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mother of a murdered Cheyenne toddler spoke out over the weekend on social media about her grief and denied rumors she may have played a role in the crime.

“As the mother of this missing boy … I have alot to say … especially about all the horrible things people are saying but I wont … cause deep down I know my baby was happy here and never abused,” Kassy Orona said on the Cheyenne Police Department’s Facebook page on Sunday.

Orona’s 2-year-old son, Athian Rivera, was found dead in a dumpster on Friday afternoon after being reported missing. Her boyfriend, Wyatt Lamb, was arrested on unrelated charges, but detectives have since submitted an affidavit recommending he be charged with murder and aggravated child abuse.

CPD is continuing its investigation into the boy’s death, but many people on social media have questioned if Orona might have played a role in her son’s death.

“All you people prove that the world only tears people down when their hurting the most,” Orona said. “I know there’s plenty of people out there that say how do you not know that your kids in danger? How did u not see signs? You wanna know how I didnt know? Here’s an example! There’s been people sending me messages saying how they mourn for me and mourn my loss and tell me they wanna do all this stuff to help … but when I look on here … they are some of the ones commenting that my child was neglected, that I should be punished … that’s why I couldnt tell.”

Orona lashed back at those who criticized her.

“Now I know why our community is the way it is..it doesn’t even seem as though u guys actually care about my son..but only about spewing hate,” Orona concluded. “Maybe turn that hate into positive thoughts and prayers for my son…u people should be ashamed.”

She added no one would know how much she blamed herself for her son’s horrible death and that she wished it was her who died instead.

Orona’s Facebook page is now set to private, but her “about me” section at the top of her profile addresses her son’s death.

“RIP MY PERFECT INNOCENT SON, ATHIAN EMMANUEL RIVERA YOUR MY EVERYTHING AND IM LOST WITHOUT YOU😭💔” the section said.

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Cheyenne Man Held in Connection With Toddler’s Death

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man is being held in connection with the death of a 2-year-old boy whose body was found in a dumpster last week, the Cheyenne Police Department announced Tuesday.

The department announced that an affidavit supporting charges of murder and aggravated child abuse has been filed against Wyatt Lamb, 27.

The body of Athian Rivera was found Friday in a dumpster several hours after officers responded to a report that the boy was missing.

Lamb was contacted at Rivera’s home Friday evening and taken into custody on an unrelated felony warrant for failure to appear for a court hearing and a misdemeanor warrant for parole violation.

Police said on Tuesday, detectives filed an affidavit of probable cause with Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove supporting the filing of murder and aggravated child abuse charges against Lamb.

Manlove was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The department said it is still investigating the case.

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Noem Calls For South Dakota AG to Resign After Fatal Crash

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has asked state attorney general Jason Ravnsborg to resign after he killed a man in an accident last fall.

“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” Noem said in a statement. “I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.”

Some South Dakota lawmakers are looking into impeachment proceedings, should Ravnsborg decide to not resign. It would be the first formal impeachment proceedings in the state’s history.

“Rep. Will Mortenson is bringing the impeachment articles with support of House Majority Leader Kent Peterson and Minority Leader Jamie Smith. They’ll make themselves available to the press following the close of floor session today,” tweeted Argus Leader political reporter Joe Sneve.

Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanor offenses in the September death of Joseph Boever, who was walking along the shoulder of Highway 14 west of Highmore when authorities say Ravnsborg’s vehicle veered onto the shoulder and struck Boever.

Ravnsborg was charged with operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change and careless driving. Each carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and fines of $500 each.

In a 911 call made by Ravnsborg the night of the incident, the dispatcher asked him if he might have struck a deer and he responded that he did not know, later adding that it could have been a deer and that it was right in the roadway.

The Hyde County Sheriff arrived on scene to assess the damage to the AG’s vehicle and look for the “deer.”

Neither the sheriff nor Ravnsborg saw Boever’s body in the ditch, even though Ravnsborg used his cell phone flashlight to search the area.

Ravnsborg borrowed the sheriff’s personal vehicle to drive back to Pierre that night.

He returned to the scene of the crash the following morning on his way to return the sheriff’s vehicle. He and an employee stopped to look for the animal again, but instead found Boever’s body nearby.

Ravnsborg’s spokesman told the newspaper on Monday that the attorney general had no plans of resigning.

“The investigators have presented their findings and recommended misdemeanor infractions in a wholistic process they described as going ‘above and beyond,’ and we look forward to the continued due process of the law,” Mike Deaver said.

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Campbell County Man Charged With Attempted Murder After Stabbing Friend

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Campbell County resident Roger Gilmore, 59, has been charged with attempted murder and could face life imprisonment or death if convicted of stabbing a friend in the neck with a knife, officials said Friday.  

Gilmore was arraigned before Campbell County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Bartlett Feb. 12 on charges stemming from an incident in which he which occurred near Quincy Road north of Gillette, where he allegedly stabbed a 33-year-old male during an altercation Feb. 11, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.  

“This crime is about as serious as it gets without somebody actually having to die,” said Daniel Reade, deputy county and prosecuting attorney for Campbell County.  

The affidavit stated that Gilmore was intoxicated and argued with the victim, a 33-year-old male, regarding an ongoing relationship between the victim and an unidentified female.  

Gilmore allegedly stabbed the victim in the left side of his neck with a four-inch folding knife while the two were sitting in Gilmore’s vehicle in the driveway of a residence near Quincy Road. After stabbing the man, Gilmore reportedly went to a neighbor’s house to report the incident to law enforcement, according to the affidavit.  

When he arrived at the residence, Gilmore was in tears and asked over and over if the victim was okay, per the affidavit. 

Gilmore surrendered to Campbell County Sheriff Office (CCSO) deputies without incident at 5:15 p.m., the affidavit stated, though Gilmore became increasingly agitated when the unidentified female came out of the residence, saying “That’s why I did it” and calling the 33-year-old male a “child molester” that needed to go to prison for the rest of his life.  

Gilmore reportedly made several threats to stab the victim in the heart next time and would kill him when he got out of jail while seated in the back of a deputy’s patrol vehicle, according to the affidavit.  

During this tirade, Gilmore also attempted to shatter the rear window of the patrol car and destroyed a rear facing camera while demanding the deputy “shoot him in the head,” according to the affidavit.  

Witnesses at the scene informed deputies that the victim had gone to the hospital after witnesses declined to “stitch him up,” though they did assist with stopping the bleeding, court documents state. 

The 33-year-old male was later contacted but was not cooperative with the investigation. Witness statements allege the victim intended to attribute his neck injury to a grinder wheel and not to being stabbed when he got to the hospital, according to the affidavit.  

Gilmore was originally charged with attempted manslaughter following his arrest, but the charges were revised to reflect first degree attempted murder, given the fact that Gilmore showed premeditated malice and took substantial steps toward that end, according to charges read by Bartlett.  

As such, Bartlett said, attempted murder carries the same penalty as murder itself, meaning that Gilmore could face the death penalty, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and could be ordered to pay a $10,000 fine if convicted.  

Gilmore is also charged with misdemeanor destruction of property, punishable by six months in prison, a $750 fine, or both, and could be required to pay restitution, Bartlett said.  

Bond was set at the prosecution’s recommendation of $150,000 cash only given the seriousness of the offense and Gilmore’s criminal history stemming back to 1981 to include violating parole, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, forgery, among several others.   

Gilmore’s preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 18. 

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Rock Springs: Men Charged With Manufacturing Pipe Bombs, Possession Of Meth, Etc.

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Officers of the Rock Springs Police Department on Sunday initiated a traffic stop in the 1000 block of Walnut Street.

The driver of the vehicle, Spencer Cottrell attempted to elude officers but his vehicle became stuck in the snow and Cottrell fled on foot.  

Officers were able to catch Cottrell who was found to be in possession of 10 grams of methamphetamine. 

In addition to the methamphetamine, Cottrell’s vehicle contained a pipe bomb in the front passenger area.  

The Sweetwater County Bomb Squad was called to the scene and safely disarmed the pipe bomb.  

Cottrell was placed under arrest and charged with Driving While License Suspended, Failure to Maintain Insurance, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, Interference with a Peace Officer, and Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine.   

After several search warrants were executed officers located an additional pipe bomb that was safely disarmed by the Sweetwater County Bomb Squad. 

Spencer Cottrell and Bryan Foster have been charged with felony Possession, manufacture, transportation, sale of explosives-intent to unlawfully endanger per Wyoming State Statute 6-3-111(b).

This case still remains under investigation.

The Rock Springs Police Department reminds the community that all suspects are presumed innocent until their case has been adjudicated in a court of law.

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