Tag archive

Crime

Gillette Mother ‘Disgusted’ That Little League Treasurer Who Stole $30k Only Sentenced To 30 Days In Jail

in News/Crime
21544

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette mother and former Gillette Little League board member is “disgusted” with the 30-day jail sentence recommended for the league’s former treasurer after he was caught stealing almost $30,000 from the organization.

Melissa Blankenship told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that she thinks Rory Geis should serve prison time or be forced to work off his debt in public through community service.

“As soon as we figured out what was going on, we turned it in,” Blankenship said, noting she was speaking as an individual, not as a board member. “We were all really angry, because we trusted him. We were friends.”

Geis pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft as part of a plea agreement on June 16. A second felony theft count was dismissed. The state recommended a suspended sentence of four to six years in prison with five years of supervised probation and a 30-day jail sentence.

The plea agreement also required Geis to pay $2,300.75 in restitution to the Gillette Little League.

In 2020, Geis was found to have stolen nearly $30,000 from the league between 2019 and 2020.

According to court documents, Troy Stevens, the league’s president called local police in June 2020 after discovering suspicious transactions on the organization’s bank account.

At the time, four board members had credit or debit cards tied to the account which were meant to be used for official Little League business and not personal use.

Blankenship said she felt disgusted that Geis would put himself in a situation where he not only ruined his reputation in the community, he put his family through such a stressful situation, as well.

“I feel like the amount of money that was taken, that wasn’t an accident. It was done very decisively, like he had a plan,” she said. “I feel like giving somebody a 30-day sentence, it definitely isn’t teaching them anything. When you take from a nonprofit organization that’s pretty much funded itself for 50 years, you take money from 800 children.”

She added that if Geis was in need of money, the league’s board would have found ways to help him out, either through fundraising or their own personal revenue streams.

Blankenship said Geis’ theft destroyed a little bit of her faith in humanity, but she also noted it set a bad example for a group of children learning integrity, teamwork and a sense of belonging.

However, she added the team’s new treasurer has been great to work with and new checks and balances have been adopted to keep theft from happening again.

“I think, despite the situation, things have turned out great,” Blankenship said. “But I think he should have to work down at the ballfields, keeping score and taking out the trash at night or putting dirt down, all things the board members do on a daily basis. I think that would teach him a better lesson than 30 days in jail.”

Gillette Little League officials declined to comment for this story, citing ongoing litigation.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Woman Sentenced To Prison For Helping Boyfriend Sexually Abuse Son

in News/Crime
21526

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper woman was sentenced last week to a decade in prison for conspiring to help her boyfriend sexually abuse her young son, court records showed.

Zabrina Thornton was sentenced on June 22 to five to 10 years in prison on two counts of third-degree conspiracy to commit sexual abuse of a minor.

Thornton entered an Alford plea in the case, meaning she did not admit wrongdoing in the case, but acknowledged prosecutors have enough evidence to find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to court documents and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, investigators were contacted in late June 2021 regarding a cybertip received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The tip was in reference to several videos found online which depicted a man sexually assaulting a prepubescent child. The child at one point asked if the man will be done soon, because the child has to go to the bathroom. An identifiable tattoo could be seen on the man’s arm.

Based on information provided in the cybertip and a local law enforcement database, the videos were believed to have originated from 49-year-old Natrona County resident Samuel Rosamond.

Rosamond was living with Thornton and her two young children, an older girl and younger boy.

On June 25, 2021, Rosamond and Thornton were interviewed at the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. During the interview, Rosamond confessed to sexually assaulting the boy on at least one occasion and recording several videos on his phone during that time.

He said Thornton did not know about and was not involved in the abuse. Thornton also denied knowledge of any abuse being committed by Rosamond.

Based on the evidence and confession, Rosamond was then placed under arrest.

During the investigation, officers found four cameras disguised to look like clock radios which were placed in four different rooms of the residence, three of which were bedrooms.

On July 15, 2021, sheriff’s investigators were contacted by Homeland Security regarding several images of concern captured by the clock cameras in the house. The images depicted Thornton and Rosamond engaged in sexual acts and intercourse with juveniles present.

The two children in the home were immediately placed into protective custody.

Thornton was again interviewed and confessed to participating in sex acts with Rosamond and juveniles in the home on multiple occasions. She was ultimately arrested.

In November 2021, Rosamond pleaded guilty in Natrona County District Court to one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in accordance with a plea agreement. He was sentenced in March to 38 to 50 years in prison.

Court records also showed Thornton relinquished her parental rights to at least one of her children earlier this year.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Police: Green River Double Murder Suspect Dead Of Self-Inflicted Gunshot

in News/Crime
Courtesy, Lynne Sharrock.
21380

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man sought in connection with two killings in a Green River bar fatally shot himself on Friday as police were attempting to take him into custody, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s officials announced.

Police said Friday that Douglas Wolf, 51, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as law enforcement tried to apprehend him at an occupied industrial building in Rock Springs.

Authorities had been trying to find Wolf since an incident that left two people dead and one wounded at the Embassy Tavern on Thursday night. Rock Springs police and Sweetwater County Sheriff’s deputies found him early Friday in the building in northern Rock Springs with a firearm pressed to his head. As officers tried to take Wolf into custody, he shot himself.

Police attempted life-saving measures and took Wolf into custody. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 11 a.m. Friday.

During the standoff, residents of the area were told to remain in their homes.

Texas resident Lynne Sharrock, who is visiting Rock Springs, had earlier told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that she and her family had been confined to their home Friday morning, which sits in the area where Wolf took refuge.

“We know that he is in this shop building…they haven’t heard a gunshot, so they do not know if he’s dead or alive,” Sharrock said. “He threatened there would be a shootout, apparently, if he came out. I think they are waiting it out, it’s been hours and those of us close by are now [allowed] to come out of the house until further notice.”



After the standoff ended, Sharrock said she saw authorities leave the area with Wolf.

Sharrock said she and her family began hearing noises in the area at around 3 a.m.

She said she was not necessarily worried about Wolf breaking loose from the building, but was concerned about being struck by a stray bullet should a shootout occur.

“I’m assuming that’s why they won’t let us go outside,” she said. “I’m not [worried] with all the law enforcement and everyone in this house is a hunter.”

Sharrock said there was a command center established at the local fairgrounds for law enforcement and emergency services.

The Green River Police Department announced on Friday that multiple law enforcement agencies in Sweetwater County were investigating the double homicide at the Embassy Tavern.

According to Green River Police Chief Thomas Jarvie, Green River police were called to the an area near the tavern on Thursday night when a reporting party told dispatchers a person had pointed a pistol at them.

As officers were responding to the call, another came in reporting an active shooter at the bar.

Officers arrived on scene to find two people dead and one wounded. The wounded person was taken to the Green River hospital, but the person’s condition was not disclosed.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former Gillette Officer Pleads ‘No Contest’ In Sex With Inmate Case

in News/Crime
21391

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Campbell County jail officer accused of having sex with an inmate recently pleaded no contest to to a felony charge of sexual assault, court filings showed.

Sean Isaac Allen, 31, pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree sexual assault and saw a charge of third-degree sexual assault dismissed, recent court filings show. He will be sentenced in late July.

“No contest” means Allen did not admit that he committed the crime, but that he did agree prosecutors could obtain a conviction in court on the charges filed against him.

According to a probable cause affidavit, an inmate at the jail reported to Campbell County Sheriff’s Department officials on June 6, 2021, that a relationship was occurring between Allen and a female inmate, identified only as S.R.

The reporting inmate said Allen and S.R. would openly flirt with each other in common areas of the jail block and were having a sexual relationship.

Allen would frequently go into S.R.’s cell with her alone and out of the view of the surveillance cameras when he was working, the reporting inmate said, and S.R. openly bragged about their relationship in the jail block.

The reporting inmate said on several occasions, she heard what sounded like “sexual noises” coming from S.R.’s cell while Allen was alone with her in it.

The jail captain reviewed video footage from the last shift Allen worked and saw he went into S.R.’s cell and out of camera view for several minutes at a time.

The reporting inmate was later interviewed by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents, when she reiterated her story, saying she noticed something odd between Allen and S.R. such as the flirtatious behavior.

She also said S.R. claimed Allen would bring items to her cell and openly talked about “hooking up” with the officer.

The reporting inmate said the relationship between the two was “obvious” and that she had never seen another detention officer enter an inmate’s cell for the length of time Allen was in S.R.’s.

S.R. allegedly said she was “working on him,” meaning she was trying to get him to do what she wanted, the affidavit said.

Another inmate, K.H., was also interviewed by DCI and told agents that she noticed something “weird” between S.R. and Allen the first day she arrived at the jail, a month earlier.

“There is no way he should be in her cell that long,” K.H. told agents. “There is no way he should have been constantly going in and out of her cell.”

K.H. also said that S.R. was “asking for it” and she would regularly walk around the jail block half-dressed.

The inmates interviewed also told agents S.R. was receiving certain benefits from Allen that the rest of them were not, such as contraband or extra items from the commissary.

When interviewed by agents, S.R. said the relationship began in April, when Allen sneaked into her cell and kissed her in the middle of the night. She said she woke up confused and did not know what the officer was doing in her cell.

He continued kissing the inmate and touched her under her cell jumpsuit, she said, and she performed oral sex on him.

After the first incident, Allen continued coming into S.R.’s cell and kissing her, frequently during the daytime, she said. Allen apparently told the woman he liked the “thrill” of their illicit relationship.

In June, S.R. messaged a man who she had been in a relationship with to end it, noting she would be giving herself “fully to a real man who has his [expletive] together, who’s in the Army…someone who likes me a lot and would never do anything to hurt me and he’d give everything just to make me smile.”

Allen was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves at the time of the message’s writing. He had also been an employee of the jail since August 2018.

He was interviewed in late July by DCI agents and acknowledged he had sneaked into S.R.’s cell in April, but asserted nothing happened between the two. He claimed he did it to feel “an adrenaline rush” and there was no particular reason he selected her cell.

Agents showed Allen the message S.R. sent to her former boyfriend and while he acknowledged the description sounded like him and added he had been monitoring the woman’s calls and messages because of what she said.

However, he also said he never spoke with S.R. about what she wrote or told a supervisor about it.

Surveillance footage showed incidents where Allen could be seen walking toward or away from S.R.’s cell, lining up with claims that the two had been intimate on multiple occasions over the three-month period.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Downtown Laramie Evacuated After Man Said He Planted Bombs And Was Going To Shoot People

in News/Crime
Photo by Matt Idler
21305

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An anonymous man who claimed to be armed with a large rifle announced he had planted bombs in downtown Laramie on Tuesday forcing evacuation of downtown Laramie.

But local police believe the suspect was involved in a bad prank.

Downtown Laramie was evacuated on Tuesday evening after a man called police dispatch around 5 p.m., claiming he was armed with a large rifle and was wanting to shoot people at a business downtown, according to Laramie Police Department spokesman Lt. Ryan Thompson.

The suspect also claimed to have planted an explosive device in a vehicle in the area. Officers responded and secured the area, evacuating several businesses and residences.

Bomb technicians responded and cleared the suspected vehicle, finding no evidence of any threats. The vehicle which was alleged to have the explosive device was not related to the suspect in any way.

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he did not believe the suspect even lived in Wyoming and was just doing the prank to see how police would respond.

“It could be someone trying to gauge our response to try and carry something similar out in the future, but I get the feeling this is more of a prank,” Thompson said. “It’s somebody that needs something to do, unfortunately.”

It took about two hours to clear the scene on Tuesday.

Thompson defined this incident as “swatting,” a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending police or emergency services to another person’s address, most often with a false report of a serious emergency such as a murder, hostage situation or mental health emergency.

Swatting is considered a terroristic threat in Wyoming and is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

Thompson said this is not the first time the police department has encountered swatting, but said this incident was more serious, as it included a bomb threat.

Anyone with information related to this crime is encouraged to call CrimeStoppers at 307-742-2273. They could earn a cash reward of up to $1,000 and do not have to give their name. All information is kept strictly confidential.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Drunken Cheyenne School Bus Driver Charged With 19 Counts, Trial Set For August

in News/Crime
21142

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne school bus driver who was arrested earlier this year for driving a bus full of students while intoxicated is facing 19 misdemeanor charges and will go to trial in August, court filings show.

David Richard Williams, 60, faces one charge of driving under the influence, 11 reckless endangering charges and seven charges of endangering children.

He will go to trial on Aug. 18 in Goshen County Circuit Court, a delay from the original trial date of Thursday. The delay was to allow prosecutors to share their evidence against Williams with his attorneys, according to court documents.

Williams was arrested by a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper in February while transporting Laramie County School District No. 1 students to a speech and debate tournament in Spearfish, South Dakota.

After he was stopped, he failed a field sobriety test and was then arrested.

His breath test showed Williams had a blood-alcohol concentration of around 0.15%, significantly higher than the level of 0.04% allowed for a commercial motor vehicle driver and almost twice the level of 0.08% at which the driver of a regular vehicle is considered intoxicated.

In-vehicle video showed Williams to be drinking alcohol both before and while driving the students, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA revoked Williams’ commercial driver’s license in March.

Prior to the February arrest, Williams had no violations on his driving record, the Wyoming Department of Transportation previously told Cowboy State Daily.

LCSD1 officials have declined to comment on the situation with Williams, citing personnel reasons. However, the district has implemented new mandatory drug and alcohol awareness training following Williams’ arrest.

The annual recertification class will become part of the training that existing bus drivers are required to take every August during their three-day in-service training prior to the start of the school year.

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, drivers with a commercial driver’s license are subject to a variety of prohibitions on the use of alcohol prior to and while driving CMVs, including a prohibition on using any alcohol within four hours of driving and a prohibition on driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater.    

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Has Had More Police Shootings This Year Than Usually Happens In Full Year

in News/Crime
21027

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As of mid-June, Wyoming has had more police-involved shootings than usually occur in a full year.

Forrest Williams, director of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that so far in 2022, there have been seven police-involved shootings.

From 2013 through 2021, the state averaged anywhere from four to six officer-involved shootings per year.

Williams said Wyoming is not alone in this trend, as there have been more and more officer-involved shootings taking place across the country.

“I think this is very concerning from a safety standpoint, both for officers and citizens,” he said.

Campbell, Natrona and Laramie counties have each had at least two officer-involved shootings this year, Williams said. In all the investigations investigations completed so far, the officers have been cleared of wrongdoing.

The most recent officer-involved shooting took place on May 28, when Cheyenne law enforcement shot and killed Davin Darayle Saunders, a Nebraska man sought in connection with a murder that took place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, earlier that week.

Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas declined to comment further on the shooting on Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation.

The police department this week released dash camera footage of the confrontation, but it was unclear if there was available body camera footage. The dash camera footage showed only officers gathered near a house where Saunders had been hiding.

Williams said because every officer-involved shooting is a unique and complex situation, he did not have a timeline on when the Saunders shooting investigation would be completed.

Cheyennne Shooting

According to the Cheyenne Police Department, officers went to a Cheyenne home on May 28 to conduct surveillance and later entered the home in search of Saunders.

While on the scene, officers attempted to communicate with Saunders and asked him to leave the residence, but he refused.

Officers deployed gas in an attempt to force Saunders out of the home, but he pulled out a firearm. Officers saw this and fired on him, killing him.

Saunders was wanted in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for multiple homicide-related charges. He had a history of violence. Saunders’ alleged victim was identified as Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds in late May in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

According to The Washington Post, around 1,000 people are killed every year by police. An “overwhelming” majority of the people killed are young men between the ages of 20 and 40, the newspaper said.

The outlet reported that the states with the highest rates of officer-involved shootings are New Mexico, Alaska and Oklahoma.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former State of Wyoming Employee Arrested For Riot Charges With White Supremacists In Idaho

in News/Crime
20911

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A former Wyoming Department of Audit employee is the second person with Wyoming connections to be arrested as part of a white supremacist group on Saturday accused of conspiring to riot at a gay Pride event in Idaho, law enforcement authorities said.

James Michael Johnson, 40, who worked as a senior auditor for the Wyoming Department of Audit as of late 2020, was charged with conspiracy to riot along with 30 other members of the group “Patriot Front.”

Johnson now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Also among the 31 arrested Saturday was Dylan Carter Corio, 21, who, according to the police report, resides in Cheyenne. 

The group of 31 Patriot Front members, wearing riot gear, were arrested in the back of a U-Haul truck near a park in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday afternoon.

A tipster told police he saw the group of men, who looked like a “little army,” get into the U-Haul in a hotel parking lot.

Police said the group was planning on rioting. Smoke grenades, shin guards and shields were found in the U-Haul van. 

Police pulled the truck over before it could get to the park. As dozens of officers surrounding the U-Haul, the men were escorted out at gunpoint. Their hands were then zip-tied and they were put on their knees before being arrested.

Active In Local Politics

Johnson was active in politics during the 2020 campaign season. Originally, he planned to run for mayor and was often involved in conflict with a former Cheyenne mayor on social media and at city council meetings.

Johnson was asked to leave one city council meeting in 2019 because he ran over his allotted time to speak and started yelling at the mayor and the council members when told his time had expired.

Johnson dropped his bid for mayor and decided to run for city council instead. It was then that he described his political ideology, expressing fears of Cheyenne turning into Denver or Portland with “Black Lives Matter riots and Antifa riots every night.”

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said he was confrontational in his dealings with him and others.

“It’s not surprising that Mr. Johnson was arrested for his part in the planned attack in Idaho,” Brown said. “He displayed very poor judgment and uncivil dialogue with many others during his time in Cheyenne.”

“His group of friends in Cheyenne should take note that this type of “political discourse” is not only highly frowned upon but down right illegal,” Brown said.

Sara Burlingame, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality and former state legislator, told Cowboy State Daily she was not surprised to see that Johnson was arrested on Saturday.

“Was I shocked to see a local darling of the alt-right show up in a lineup of thugs? Of course not,” Burlingame said.

“One word describes it: predictable. This guy harassed our office, made a public spectacle of maligning LGBTQ advocates and was embraced by the state party. Of course he’s hiding out in a U-Haul in Idaho, of course he’s looking to attack defenseless people out celebrating PRIDE,” she said.

Rod Miller, former gubernatorial advisor to two Wyoming governors and now a political columnist for Cowboy State Daily, wrote a letter to the editor in 2020 to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle expressing his concern over Johnson’s use of “divisiveness, fear, hate, and extreme right-wing zealotry” in his bid for city council.

“Johnson marches around downtown armed with a gun or a baseball bat, claiming to be keeping us safe,” Miller wrote. “Johnson’s campaign social media pages are chocked full of hyperbole and right-wing fear.”

Johnson and Corio, along with the other 29 men arrested on Saturday, posted bond on Sunday and are expected to be arraigned on Monday.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Idaho Police Were Surprised At White Supremacist Group’s Preparation, Equipment

in News/Crime
20930

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The amount of preparation a white supremacist group put into starting a riot at a LGBT Pride event in Idaho this weekend shocked law enforcement, the local police chief said on Monday.

One current and one former Cheyenne resident were two of 31 men, identified as members of the white supremacist group “Patriot Front,” who were arrested in Couer d’Alene on Saturday and accused of conspiring to riot at the event.

The 31 were riding in a U-Haul van that was stopped by police because of a tip a person had seen an “army” loading up in the vehicle. When they were arrested, the men were wearing what was described as riot gear and a smoke grenade and riot shields were found in the vehicle.

Couer d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a news conference on Monday that while law enforcement knew after receiving the tip they would be stepping into a dangerous situation, they were surprised they were surprised at how well-prepared the men were.



“We knew that we would be facing a crowd of people who might pose some difficulty for us,” White said. “I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment that was carried and worn by those individuals, along with the large amount of equipment that was left in the van when the stop happened.

“That level of preparation is not something you see every day…it was clear to us there was some ill intent there,” he continued.

He said that all 31 of the involved men are currently charged with conspiring to riot, a misdemeanor. If they do not arrive for their scheduled court dates, a warrant will be issued for their arrests.

White could not comment on whether the men would see federal charges from the incident or whether the Patriot Front had connections to other far right groups.

White said the Saturday arrest was an example of one person speaking up when seeing something suspicious, preventing a potentially dangerous situation.

“One concerned citizen can prevent something horrible from happening,” he said.

James Michael Johnson, 40, who worked as a senior auditor for the Wyoming Department of Audit as of late 2021, was one of the men charged. Johnson now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to police records.

Also among the 31 arrested was Dylan Carter Corio, 21, who resides in Cheyenne.

Both Johnson and Corio posted bond on Sunday.

Rumors began circulating online over the weekend after the arrests that the men were not actually Patriot Front members, but part of “Antifa,” a left-wing political movement that denounces fascism and has become known for violent confrontations.

White confronted the claims head-on during the news conference, telling reporters that he would be transparent about whatever group the men were members of, no matter the political ideology.

“We’re required to remain completely apolitical and neutral, and that’s what we do in our jobs,” he said. “That’s what we did in this enforcement action. Whether the van was loaded with people who are part of that far right group or Antifa, it would be handled exactly the same.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Cheyenne Man Arrested In Hate Group Conspiracy To Riot At Gay Pride Event In Idaho

in News/Crime
20896

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man has been identified as one of 31 alleged members of a white supremacist group arrested Saturday and accused of conspiring to riot at an Idaho gay pride event.

Dylan Carter Corio, 21, was charged with criminal conspiracy, accused of being a part of the far right group “Patriot Front” that was planning to riot at the event in Coeur d’Alene, according to arrest records from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s office.

Corio posted bail on Sunday morning, according to Kaye Thornbrugh from the Coeur d’Alene Press. The men arrested were scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.


Mug shot of Dylan Carter Corio

“They came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said at a press conference following the arrests. 

According to law enforcement officials, the men were inside a U-Haul truck which was detained after authorities received a tip that the group was heading to a park where the event was to be held.

A citizen called the police to report he saw dozens of men wearing masks and carrying shields get inside a U-Haul at a hotel.

A video shared on Twitter which has been viewed more than 10 million times shows police officers with their guns trained on the U-Haul truck as as one officer opens up the back door.

The men inside the truck, wearing masks, sunglasses and hats all have their hands up, surrendering.

The men were then taken out of the truck one-by-one, their hands were zip-tied and they were put on their knees.

Authorities said they found evidence that showed the group was planning to riot throughout the community, not just the park.

The Anti-Defamation League told the New York Times that Patriot Front often stages in “flash demonstrations” where the group disrupts events with smoke bombs in order to make social media content.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Florida Man Pleads Not Guilty To Transporting Utah Teen To Wyoming For Sex

in News/Crime
20839

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man accused of picking up a 13-year-old girl in Utah with plans of taking her to Florida recently pleaded not guilty to a charge of transporting a minor across state lines with the intent of having sex with her, according to federal court filings.

Christopher S. Evans, 25, of Fort Pierce, Florida pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming on May 31 to the charge of transporting a minor across state lines with intent to commit sexual contact and sexual intrusion.

His trial is set for July 7. He faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge.

Evans was arrested at a Cheyenne truck stop in March and the girl was found inside of his vehicle.

According to court documents, the 13-year-girl was reported missing from her Roosevelt, Utah, home by her parents on the morning of March 8. The girl’s phone was discovered in her bedroom, along with her Oculus virtual reality gaming headset.

It was reported that the girl had been in contact with Evans through the video game platform and a message that said “Waiting,” sent by him, was discovered on the headset, indicating that he was the one who picked up the girl.

The two had been communicating for more than a month.

Using his online accounts, police were able to track Evans’ location through his cell phone. Around 3 p.m. on March 10, he and the girl were found to be at a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne inside of his semi-truck.

Evans was taken to the Laramie County Detention Center after his arrest, where he admitted to police that he was aware the girl was 13.

He also said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that their plan was to go to Florida to live together and pursue a relationship.

The girl told police she and Evans communicated these plans to friends on the Oculus platform.

During their two nights in the truck, the two slept in the bottom bunk of Evans’ semi-truck. He admitted to touching her bare breast and over the clothes in her vaginal area.

The girl said Evans asked to have sex with her, but it was not clear from court documents whether they did.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Jackson Woman Banned From Grand Teton For Lying About Missing Irish Hiker

in News/Crime
20796

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service has banned a former Jackson woman from Grand Teton National Park for five years for knowingly providing false information to law enforcement about a missing Irish hiker, officials said Thursday.

The park service said Heather Mycoskie, 40, knowingly provided false information and a false report in the search for missing hiker Cian McLaughlin, who was last seen on June 8, 2021. In addition to her park ban, Mycoskie was ordered to pay $17,600 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

An investigation revealed that on June 21, 2021, Mycoskie provided false information to investigators about seeing an individual matching the description of McLaughlin.

As a direct result of Mycoskie’s false report, approximately 532 hours were spent conducting searches, managing search efforts, conducting follow up investigations and completing associated reports.

This wasted valuable time that could have been focused on searching areas of higher probability, according to park officials.

McLaughlin is still missing.

Mycoskie reported she saw McLaughlin in the late afternoon/early evening of June 8, 2021, the day of McLaughlin’s disappearance.

She also told investigators the missing man was hiking on the south side of the Bradley-Taggart moraine in Grand Teton National Park and was headed south towards Taggart Lake where he planned to jump off his favorite rock into the water.

Officials said Mycoskie provided a “very detailed” description of McLaughlin and stated she had a discussion with him in which he shared where he lived, where he was from and his place of employment.

The subsequent investigation revealed Mycoskie never saw anyone matching McLaughlin’s description on June 8, 2021 in Grand Teton National Park. Witnesses reported Mycoskie fabricated the sighting to ensure search efforts continued.

All other reported sightings of McLaughlin were on the trail system that leads towards Garnet Canyon, Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes and Delta Lake, according to NPS officials.

In September 2021, computer forensics revealed McLaughlin had conducted several internet searches focused on Delta Lake just prior to his hike.

Backcountry users in Grand Teton National Park are encouraged to contact the tip line, 888-653-0009, if they locate any of the items that McLaughlin was suspected to have had with him at the time of his disappearance.

These include a red Apple watch, a red iPhone 12 mini, gold wire-rimmed sunglasses, a silver U shaped pendant and a white t-shirt.

According to an article by the Irish Times, McLaughlin is a Dublin native who works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson. The newspaper also noted his Facebook page said he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in December 2020 and that he previously lived in the French ski resort town of Chamonix.

McLaughlin’s mother visited the park last fall and told an Irish news outlet she was prepared to recover, not rescue, her son.

McLaughlin was the only person who disappeared in the park last summer to not yet be found. Gabby Petito was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest, not far from the park, in mid-September and her death has been ruled a homicide.

Robert Lowery also was last seen in Grand Teton last August, and his body was found in September, as well. His death was ruled a suicide.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Mills Police Capture Missouri Fugitive Who Cut Hole In Jail Ceiling To Escape

in News/Crime
20790

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@Cowboystatedaily.com

Mills police officers on Wednesday apprehended a fugitive from southwestern Missouri who managed to escape from his jail cell by cutting a hole in the ceiling, law enforcement officials announced.

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Marshal’s Office notified Natrona County law personnel that Christopher Blevins, 37, was possibly in the area.

Blevins and two other inmates were discovered missing from their cell in Barry County, Missouri on June 3. Police believe the inmates escaped the night prior by cutting a hole in the cell’s ceiling to enter a water heater storage room.

The U.S. Marshal’s Office took charge of the search after the inmates’ escape.

Mills police received information that Blevins, who was reported to be armed and dangerous and driving a gold Dodge Ram with a female passenger, was possibly at the Ghost Town truck stop in Casper.

Police arrived at the gas station about 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday and observed a gold Dodge Ram with a male driver and female passenger. Once the driver saw the police, he drove off.

A chase reaching speeds of up to 80 MPH ensued for about two minutes before the driver pulled to the side of the road. He was identified as Blevins and taken into custody, more than 900 miles away from the jail he escaped.

The female passenger was not identified and was released by police, pending further investigation.

Lance Stephens and Matthew Crawford, the men who escaped with Blevins, had not yet been found by authorities as of Thursday.

According to Barry County Jail records, Blevins was booked into jail on April 4 on a litany of drug and firearm charges.

Cheyenne’s longest-serving police chief Brian Kozak, who is now running for Laramie County Sheriff, said he was surprised to hear of the escape from the Missouri jail.

“I’m shocked to hear that,” Kozak told Cowboy State Daily. “Jails need to be constructed in a manner where that can’t happen.”

Even at the newly-constructed police station in Cheyenne, where inmates are not held, the detaining and interview rooms have hardened ceilings and walls so escapes aren’t possible, he said.

“If it’s an older jail, it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to have it inspected to ensure escapes cannot occur,” he said.

If money is an issue so repairs can’t be made, Kozak said inmates need to be watched constantly.

The problem, according to Barry County Sheriff Danny Boyd, is understaffing.

“Nobody can go in the back to deal with the inmates,” Boyd told Springfield, Missouri’s KY3 TV station. “You can’t go back there by yourself. You always have to have somebody with you, which would leave the front booking office open. It’s a safety issue all the way around, and if we don’t have enough people to staff it, we have to go with what we’ve got and do it the best we can.”

The inmates were at large for more than 12 hours before the escape was discovered, according to media reports.

Mills police did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Police Release Information On Abortion Clinic Fire Suspect As Video Footage Emerges

in News/Crime
20725

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@cowboystatedaily.com

A white female has been identified as a suspect who started a fire in late May that caused significant damage to an abortion clinic in Casper, according to the city’s police department.

Casper police officials on Tuesday released information about the arson suspect, asking the public to help identify her. She is believed to be of medium build and stands between 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches.

The fire at Wellspring Health Access on May 25 caused “significant” damage, according to previous Cowboy State Daily reporting.

The suspect was wearing a surgical mask for the majority of the time she was captured on surveillance footage, except for one moment when she pulled the mask down.

Police believe the suspect acted alone in the arson. She entered the building around 2:30 a.m. on May 25 and was inside for around 15 minutes, according to Casper police.

Police and fire services arrived to the clinic around 4 a.m. A witness reported the suspect was reported running away from the site – carrying a gas can and a black bag.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to an arrest of the suspect. Those with information are encouraged to call the ATF at 307-633-9400.

The FBI is also investigating the arson, as is the bureau’s policy to investigate whenever there is a violent crime that has happened at an abortion provider. The clinic will provide other services in addition to abortion.

Wellspring owner Julie Burkhart did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Burkhart previously said the fire would not prevent the clinic from opening.

“This is something I’ve been afraid of happening,” she said after the fire. “I’ve worked in this field for a long time and I’ve seen vandalism, flooding, defacing property and buildings, but never arson.”

The clinic has drawn much controversy since its opening was announced last month.

The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Wellspring, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart previously said. These include faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Police Found Justified In Fatal Shooting Evansville Man In March

in News/Crime
Photo courtesy: Curtis Forntin
20711

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Natrona County District Attorney has found that four Casper police officers were justified in shooting and killing an Evansville man during an 18-hour standoff with police in March.

Casper police officials announced the findings on Tuesday. Department spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd declined to provide additional comment to Cowboy State Daily.

“The question to be answered is did law enforcement use reasonable self-defense,” Natrona County DA Daniel Itzen wrote in a June 3 letter to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. “In this case, it was Clutter who shot first each and every time the officers responded.”

“Officers talked about how close the bullets were. In fact, one person’s boots had bullet holes in them. It was painfully obvious that Clutter wanted to kill police officers,” Itzen continued. “All alternatives to end this situation peacefully were tried. It was Clutter’s actions, and his actions alone, that led to this result. Each of these officers have a legitimate self-defense claim or a defense of another claim.”

Police became involved in a stand-off with Blaine Clutter, 29, on March 18 after Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents attempted to serve the man with an arrest warrant.

Clutter shot at the agents then barricaded himself in his Evansville home.

Several nearby law enforcement agencies responded to assist the DCI team as the situation grew increasingly dangerous. Clutter was firing at the officers and into the surrounding neighborhood.

The standoff between Clutter and police lasted about 18 hours as officers negotiated with him and used non-lethal tactics in attempt to get him to leave the residence.

In the early hours of March 19, four Casper officers returned fire at Clutter after he shot at them, again. It was during these final shots that Clutter was believed to have been fatally wounded by an officer’s bullet.

An autopsy investigation by the Natrona County Coroner’s Office later confirmed this.

No body camera footage of the final shootout between police and Clutter was captured, due to the officers’ camera batteries wearing down during the 18-hour standoff, according to the police department.

The four officers involved in the standoff have since returned to duty.

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Another Gillette Resident Out Thousands After Bitcoin Scam

in News/Crime
20680

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Another Gillette resident has reportedly lost tens of thousands of dollars to a Bitcoin scam, Gillette Police told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Gillette Deputy Police Chief Brent Wasson said that an unidentified 62-year-old man reported to Gillette police on Friday that he had been scammed out of around $20,000. The man said a woman convinced him to participate in Bitcoin investments.

“Starting in May, he’d been in contact with a woman claiming to be from Greenhouse Investment Group,” Wasson said. “She offered to help him invest and he’d been investing with her. The exact amount hasn’t been determined, but it’s estimated by around $20,000.”

He could not say how the woman initially contacted the victim.

Greenhouse Investment Group is an Ireland-based investment firm focused on European enterprises.

Laura Baker, executive director of cybersecurity group CyberWyoming, told Cowboy State Daily that unfortunately, Bitcoin scams were becoming all too common in the state.

“Hackers are actually targeting Wyomingites about cryptocurrency scams because we pride ourselves in being a leader in blockchain,” she said. “There was a huge spike in cryptocurrency investment scams last year.”

Wasson said the police have requested bank statements and are investigating the man’s claims. He said officers will look into the man’s communications with the woman and attempt to track IP addresses and identify the suspect.

Scams in the Gillette area are not uncommon lately.

Just two weeks ago, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office told Cowboy State Daily that a local woman had been scammed out of $30,000 through a Bitcoin scam.

The woman was contacted by a man identified as “Stephen Weiner,” who claimed he worked with the Bush Foundation and was offering her a grant, but required a small investment first.

Over a two-month period, the 56-year-old victim made several transactions, converting cash into Bitcoin through an ATM at a local convenience store.

In March, a woman lost $800 in a puppy scam through Facebook when a person posing as someone selling a puppy requested funds for an animal that did not exist. The buyer sent the money, believing the animal to be real.

That same month, a Gillette man reported being scammed out of $15,000 by a woman he had never met face-to-face.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

$50K Worth Of Copper Stolen From Sheridan College

in News/Crime
20688

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

About $50,000 worth of copper construction materials was stolen on Sunday from the Sheridan College campus, a Sheridan Police spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Sheridan police investigated a reported theft and determined a 26 foot double-axel enclosed trailer belonging to Powder River Heating and Cooling had been stolen, along with the materials inside.

The suspect forced their way onto the job site by cutting the locks on a gate, according to department spokesman Captain Tom Ringley.

“This would be industrial-level stuff, which is what we usually see when we do have copper thefts in Sheridan, which is not that often,” Ringley said. “This is the first one we’ve seen in several years.”

Police currently have no description of the thief or thieves.

The trailer was recovered Monday morning at another location on campus, but the construction materials inside were gone. The estimated value of the copper materials is at least $50,000.

Ringley said that copper thieves will usually take their stolen goods to scrap metal dealers or recyclers, hoping to score big money for their wares. As of Monday, the price of copper was $4.36 per pound.

The Sheridan Police Department has been in touch with neighboring cities and metal recyclers, asking them to be on the lookout for large amounts of copper construction materials coming through.

Copper thefts are common, but according to the FBI, copper thieves threaten the nation’s infrastructure.

The FBI said that copper thefts disrupt the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, security and emergency services and present a risk to both public safety and national security.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Douglas Couple Arrested For Embezzling From Glendo Church They Pastored

in News/Crime
20562

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Douglas couple has been arrested and charged for allegedly embezzling more than $200,000 from a Glendo church in which they pastored.

Lynda and Martin “Marty” Roark both have been charged with misdemeanor and felony theft and each had preliminary hearings in Platte County Circuit Court on Tuesday, although it was not immediately clear if they submitted any plea.

According to the Platte County Record-Times, the couple was arrested as they arrived from a flight from Belize and then taken to the Colfax Detention Center in Denver. 

According to court documents, the Roarks made unauthorized purchases with the Circle G Cowboy Church accounts between August 2015 and January 2022.

Two church officials made Platte County authorities aware that the Roarks had been misusing the accounts. They and another witness provided verbal statements and financial documents showing the Roarks were using funds for personal use.

After officials began investigating all of the bank accounts, they found nearly $210,000 had been stolen or misused by the Roarks.

According to court documents, the Roarks used some of the money to fund “several” trips to Belize, which one church member confirmed were not for missionary purposes.

On Lynda Roark’s Facebook page, she describes herself as a “Jesus lovin’ Mama/Gigi who happens to be married to my very best friend! I love Belize!”

Additionally, some of the funds were used to purchase Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunting or fishing licenses and “large” cash withdrawals.

Each of the Roarks posted $5,000 bond at the end of April and have been free since.

The couple has also pastored at Crossroads Baptist Church in Douglas, but none of their charges were related to their involvement at that church.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Gillette Man Sentenced To Prison For Stealing $200K From Boss To Pay For Taxi Business

in News/Crime
20572

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man last week was sentenced in U.S. District Court to federal prison and ordered to pay back more than $200,000 he stole through tax violations and wire fraud to pay for his taxi business.

David A. Jackson, 37, was sentenced on May 24 for wire fraud, willful failure to collect or pay over tax and filing a false tax return. He was also ordered to pay $203,251 in restitution.

He received just under four years imprisonment for the wire fraud and willful failure charges and just over three for filing a false tax return. The prison sentences will run concurrently.

Last fall, Jackson initially pleaded not guilty to 11 charges, but instead changed this after striking a plea agreement.

According to court documents, from October 2017 to April 2019, Jackson worked as the office manager for some Gillette businesses, all owned by a person identified as “T.K.”

Jackson was responsible for handling financial aspects of his employer’s businesses, including complying with IRS requirements.

During this time period, Jackson owned and operated a taxi business in Gillette and Casper under the names Need a Ride Transportation, All Star Transportation and WYRide LLC.

From February 2018 to May 2019, Jackson committed wire fraud by embezzling money from his employer, diverting money from the employer’s bank account and misusing a company credit card for his own personal expenditures, including expenses associated with his taxi business. 

He used at least three business credit cards to pay for personal charges.

As part of his scheme to defraud his employer, Jackson also failed to account for and pay over to the IRS the employer’s trust fund taxes.

He instead diverted these funds to pay for expenses associated with his taxi business, such as shipping charges, fuel for the vehicles, automobile repairs and more.  

In January 2019, Jackson filed a 2018 individual income tax return with the IRS in which he failed to report $136,008 in income from several sources, particularly the money he embezzled from his employer and other income he earned that year.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Men Charged With Harboring Alaskan Fugitive, Alleged Kidnapper In Gillette

in News/Crime
20497

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two Gillette men have been charged with harboring an Alaskan fugitive who was accused of kidnapping her daughter, recent court filings showed.

Joshua L. Richardson and Clayton R. Salyer were each charged with one count of being an accessory after the fact to kidnapping, a felony. The charge comes with a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $3,000.

The men are accused of hiding Alaskan resident Autumn Wilson, who was arrested on April 19 on charges of kidnapping her 2-year-old daughter and fleeing the state. She did not have custody of the girl prior to leaving Alaska.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Wilson and Salyer were reported to police in the early hours of April 19 as fugitives from Alaska. An Alaska arrest warrant had been issued for Wilson on the kidnapping charges and a second warrant was issued for her arrest in Gillette on charges of destruction of property, breach of peace and shoplifting.

While Campbell County Sheriff’s deputies were on their way to the apartment they were told Wilson and Salyer could be found, the caller told dispatchers the two suspects had left and gone into another apartment next door.

Deputies knocked on the door of the second apartment, which was answered by Richardson, who said that his “Uncle Clay” and his daughter were in the apartment.

Richardson denied the deputies entry into his apartment, saying that law enforcement had already been to his apartment to search for Wilson, but she was not there, the affidavit said. He also claimed he and his uncle “pull women like dime” and that women were at his apartment regularly.

Richardson also told deputies to get off of his property and informed them they were trespassing.

The caller who reported Salyer and Wilson as fugitives then met with deputies and told them the two had been at her residence drinking earlier.

Richardson ultimately left to go to work while deputies were still outside of his apartment and he again told them they were trespassing. Deputies told him they were working on getting a search warrant, to which he responded that if they “touch his door while he is not there, he will have our [expletive] and it is a $400 door,” the affidavit said.

While deputies were waiting to hear about a warrant, they saw someone dressed in a hoodie step out onto the front porch, then go back inside. A few minutes later, they saw a similarly dressed person step out onto the back porch and take a few steps down the stairs.

Around this time, Richardson called police and informed them Salyer would let them search the apartment.

Deputies found this strange, so they checked the back of the residence, where they found Wilson hiding in a fenced yard by a barbecue grill, the affidavit said. She was arrested and transported to the local jail. She declined to tell officers where she lived.

Deputies believe Richardson and Salyer were harboring Wilson in attempt to keep her from being arrested for kidnapping. Her child was not with her when she was arrested.

Gillette police and the U.S. Marshal’s office recovered the child in early May. She had been staying with a relative of Wilson’s.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

85-Year-Old Greybull Man Faces 50 Years In Jail For Impersonating A Dead Person From Idaho

in News/Crime
Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images
20501

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Greybull man has pleaded guilty to charges filed in connection with allegations he posed as a dead Idaho man for more than 50 years.

During his initial appearance in U.S. District Court earlier this month, Peter Jeremy Martin pleaded guilty to a charge of making false statements in a passport application. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

He will be sentenced in August. He was initially facing up to 50 years in prison and a fine of nearly $1 million.

According to court documents, Martin applied for a passport in January 2021 under the name of James Delbert Libbey.

But an investigation into Martin revealed that in 1970, he had assumed the identity of Libbey, who was born in 1941 and died in Idaho in 1964. It was also discovered that Martin had a driver’s license under Libbey’s name.

In November 2021, two Diplomatic Security Service special agents interviewed Martin at his home in Greybull. His wife, Heather Libbey, was present during the discussion.

One agent told Martin that in order to complete his passport application, he needed to confirm the information on his application and answer some biographical questions. Martin said this was unusual, as he had received two other passports in the past.

Martin was presented a copy of his application, which he verified was an accurate copy. He was asked what his parents’ names were, but took some time answering. He also hesitated when giving his birthdate and could not tell the agents what high school he went to.

One of the agents observed Heather Libbey quietly attempting to coach her husband on the answers.

Martin again asked why the agent was questioning him and the agent responded that it was because his two previous passports and current application were issued under a dead man’s name.

The investigation revealed Martin was actually born in 1937 and had been convicted of and incarcerated for numerous crimes between 1956 and 1967, including theft, armed robbery, burglary, attempted murder and prison escape in Arkansas and Wyoming.

Martin was paroled from the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1967 but disappeared from public record around 1970. That same year, the Social Security Administration issued a new social security number for the deceased Libbey.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Explainer: Why Are The Feds Involved In The Casper Abortion Clinic Fire?

in News/Crime
Photo by Desirée Tinoco
20493

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two federal agencies have been brought in to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire at a Casper abortion clinic last week.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are both now involved with the investigation into the May 25 fire at the Wellspring Health Access clinic, which local law enforcement officers believe was intentionally set.

Casper Police Department spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday that the federal investigators are being asked to look at the incident because of the nature of the fire and where it occurred.

“The FBI was brought in to consult on any potential federal charges due it being a health care facility, but at this time we do not have a determination on that,” Ladd said. “The ATF was brought in to assist in the arson investigation. That is pretty normal practice for us when we have larger potential arson investigations.”

The fire caused what has been described as “extensive” damage at the Wellspring Health Access facility early the morning of May 25. While investigators told Cowboy State Daily last week they had found the point of origin for the fire, they have not yet reported where it began.

According to the FBI, the department investigates violent crimes committed against reproductive health care providers and facilities in accordance with the the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994.

The FACE Act made it a federal crime to injure, intimidate or interfere with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services, including through assault, murder, burglary, physical blockade or making threatening phone calls and mailings.

The law also prohibits damaging or destroying any facility because reproductive health services are provided within.

Wellspring clinic owner Julie Burkhart told Cowboy State Daily last week that the fire would not prevent the clinic from opening.

“This is something I’ve been afraid of happening,” she said at the time. “I’ve worked in this field for a long time and I’ve seen vandalism, flooding, defacing property and buildings, but never arson.”

Burkhart said she had received threatening letters and emails prior to the fire, but none specifically threatening arson.

The ATF is involved in the investigation as it is the federal agency primarily responsible for administering and enforcing the criminal and regulatory provisions of federal laws pertaining to bombs, explosives and arson.

According to the Casper Police Department, police officers arrived at the clinic just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in response to a report of a business burglary.

When they arrived, they saw smoke rolling out of the clinic’s windows. The Casper Fire Department arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire.

The caller who reported the burglary said a person was seen running away from the building carrying a gas can and a black bag.

The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Wellspring, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

Currently, Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Nebraska Murder Suspect On The Loose, Last Seen In Cheyenne

in News/Crime
20168

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A Nebraska man sought in connection with a murder in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was last spotted in the Cheyenne area this week, Cheyenne Police Department officials said Thursday.

Davin Darayle Saunders was last seen in Cheyenne at the Walmart on Livingston Avenue on Tuesday night, according the Cheyenne Police Department.

Cheyenne police officers were called to the Walmart to respond to a report of a domestic disturbance with a firearm.

During the investigation, officers found that the suspect, Saunders, was wanted in Scottsbluff on multiple homicide-related charges.

Saunders fled the scene on foot prior to officers arriving, however.

Law enforcement officers conducted an extensive search of the area, including adjacent neighborhoods, surrounding businesses and the interstate highways.

Saunders is wanted in Scottsbluff on a charge of second-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

Scottsbluff Police Capt. Brian Wasson identified the murder victim as Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds early Tuesday evening in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

The victim was identified as a female relative of Saunders.

Saunders fled in his vehicle, which was recovered in Cheyenne after he abandoned it.

The suspect was still at large Thursday afternoon and had not been arrested on any other charges to Wasson’s knowledge.

Saunders is described as a Black male, who is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighs around 200 pounds and has brown eyes and black hair. He has numerous tattoos, including ones on both inner forearms, a script tattoo across his upper chest, a script on the right side of his neck with stars at the beginning and end of the text and a flaming skull tattoo above his navel.

Saunders has an extensive history of violence and should be considered armed and dangerous, Scottsbluff police said.

Anyone seeing Saunders is asked to call the Cheyenne police at 307-637-6525. Anyone with information on the case is encouraged to call the Scottsbluff Police Department at 308-632-7176 or Crime Stoppers at 308-632-7867.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Fire At Abortion Clinic in Casper on Wednesday Morning; Police Believe It Was Intentionally Set

in News/Crime
Photo by Desirée Tinoco
20102

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An abortion clinic slated to open this summer in Casper was set ablaze Wednesday morning and law enforcement officials believe the fire was intentionally set.

While the clinic’s founder said the damage from the fire appeared to be extensive, it would not prevent the clinic from opening.

“This is something I’ve been afraid of happening,” Julie Burkhart, founder of Wellspring Health Access, told Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve worked in this field for a long time and I’ve seen vandalism, flooding, defacing property and buildings, but never arson.”

According to the Casper Police Department, police officers arrived to the clinic just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in response to a report of a business burglary.

When they arrived, they saw smoke rolling out of the clinic’s windows. The Casper Fire Department arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire.

The caller who reported the burglary said a person was seen running away from the building carrying a gas can and a black bag.

Investigators believe the fire to be intentional at this time. They are currently reviewing footage from the area to provide a description of the suspect.

Burkhart said from the outside, it appears there is “extensive” damage done to the inside of the building.

However, the fire will not stop her from opening the clinic, she said. She added that increased security measures will be added to the clinic once the damages are assessed.



Burkhart pointed to increasing violence across the country, such as the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York last week and the one at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, as examples of why she was not surprised the clinic was attacked.

“This is, unfortunately, a field fraught with trauma,” she said. “My former boss was murdered. So I’m just living through another traumatic moment. Violence against providers is not going to stop abortions. It’s a universal known that people have abortions and this isn’t going to stop anything.”

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

Casper Police spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd and Casper Fire spokesman Dane Anderson did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.

The clinic has drawn much controversy since its opening was announced last month.

The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Wellspring, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart previously said, including faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

Currently, Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

Right to Life of Wyoming President Marti Halverson previously told Cowboy State Daily that the clinic is an “abomination” and that her organization was already looking at several avenues to thwart its completion and opening.

Sheila Leach, president of the Park County chapter of Right to Life of Wyoming, also expressed dismay at the news of a clinic in Casper and said that there is an ongoing grassroots effort involving pro-life activists across the state who are galvanizing in opposition to new clinic.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Florida Man Faces Life In Prison After Kidnapping Utah Teen, Being Discovered In Cheyenne

in News/Crime
20054

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man is facing life in prison on allegations he took a 13-year-old teenager from her home in Utah and brought her to Wyoming with the intent of having sex with her.

Christopher S. Evans, 25, faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for transporting a minor across state lines “with intent to commit sexual contact and commit sexual intrusion.” Evans was arrested in Cheyenne in March indicted on the charge by a federal grand jury last week.

According to court documents, the 13-year-girl was reported missing from her Roosevelt, Utah, home by her parents on the morning of March 8. The girl’s phone was discovered in her bedroom, along with her Oculus virtual reality gaming headset.

It was reported that the girl had been in contact with Evans through the video game platform and a message that said “Waiting,” sent by him, was discovered on the headset, indicating that he was the one who picked up the girl.

The two had been communicating for more than a month.

Using his online accounts, police were able to track Evans’ location through his cell phone. Around 3 p.m. on March 10, he and the girl were found to be at a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne inside of his semi-truck.

Evans was taken to the Laramie County Detention Center after his arrest, where he admitted to police that he was aware the girl was 13. He also said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that their plan was to go to Florida to live together and pursue a relationship.

The girl told police she and Evans communicated these plans to friends on the Oculus platform.

During their two nights in the truck, the two slept in the bottom bunk of Evans’ semi-truck. He admitted to touching her bare breast and over the clothes in her vaginal area. The girl said Evans asked to have sex with her, but it was not clear from court documents whether they had.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Gillette Woman Who Defrauded People Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars From Cheyenne Hotel Room Gets Prison

in News/Crime
20016

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from various individuals and the Internal Revenue Service through three separate schemes, including one run while she was staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn, has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

Alexa Kinney was sentenced to 33 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud, using an unauthorized access device and making false claims to the Internal Revenue Service. She was also ordered to pay restitution in total of $172,400 to her victims.

“Alexa Kinney’s sentence shows attempts to defraud individuals and the federal government for one’s own personal gain will not be tolerated,” said Andy Tsui, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge for Wyoming.  “IRS:CI will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who try to take from others what they are not rightfully entitled to.”

She initially faced 45 years in prison for on charges filed in connection with allegations she scammed one Cheyenne woman of $165,000, used a man’s credit card to pay for a rental car and lodging and improperly applied for a coronavirus stimulus payment with the IRS.

She pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

Kinney was accused of living in various hotels across Wyoming, often using money raised fraudulently to pay her bills.

According to court documents, Kinney, while staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn in 2019, defrauded a Cheyenne woman of $165,000. Kinney told the woman she would invest the money, but she kept it for herself, documents said.

An investigation revealed Kinney used the money for her personal expenses and to pay off creditors.

M.F. was not Kinney’s only victim in 2019, however, according to court documents.

In March 2019, Kinney met T.S. on a dating website, where she claimed she was a legal consultant. In May 2019, T.S. contacted Kinney regarding a legal matter and agreed to pay her $1,800 to act as his legal consultant.

T.S. provided Kinney with his credit card to make the payment, the only time he authorized her to use his card. A few weeks later, Kinney began charging food and hotel expenses to the card.

Text messages between the two showed Kinney claimed there was a merchant mix-up and that whenever she used her company credit card, T.S.’s card was mistakenly charged.

Additionally, in April 2020, Kinney applied to receive a stimulus check for $1,200 through the IRS’ website. She had not filed a 2019 tax return and was required to submit tax return and income information.

However, Kinney claimed that she was not required to file a 2019 tax return form because her gross income for the year was less than $12,200, which was a false statement, since she’d received at least $165,000 in taxable income from M.F. in 2019.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

90-Year-Old Gillette Woman Charged Again; This Time For Using A Whip On Son & Wife Over Chickens

in News/Crime
19915

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An elderly Gillette woman who was ticketed last week for smearing honey on her son’s door was cited again just two days later for hitting her son and his wife with a buggy whip.

Lt. Paul Pownall with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the unidentified 90-year-old woman was ticketed on Friday evening for unlawful touching after her son reported her hitting him and his wife with the whip.

“It appears this was over a dispute about a gate that leads to the common property they share,” Pownall said. “The son and his wife opened the gate to drive out to leave the property and the 90-year-old female got upset, because she closes the gate to keep her chickens in.”

An altercation resulted, which led to her hitting her son and daughter-in-law with the whip.

The woman and son live in separate houses on the same property.

Pownall said he believed the victims were only hit once apiece and the whip left “faint” imprints on them both. There was cell phone video of the altercation, which officers viewed while on the scene.

No chickens escaped during the altercation.

The woman will have to go to court for the unlawful touching charge, which is a misdemeanor.

Pownall said her court appearance is not slated until late June, when she will also have to answer for the destruction of property charge she received last week for smearing honey on her son’s door.

On May 11, the woman was cited after her son discovered a substance slathered on his doorknob.

When a sheriff’s deputy arrived, he observed a honey-like substance on the doorknob. After speaking with the mother, she confirmed she had smeared honey on the doorknob in attempt to “sweeten her son up,” Pownall said at the time.

He added that the sheriff’s department was hesitant to ticket the elderly woman for any crime, but her son was “adamant” that something be done about her action.

While the mother and son are relatively familiar to sheriff’s deputies, Pownall said this is the first time either of them have ever been ticketed for crimes in the same week.

There had been no calls about either the mother or son as of Wednesday, though, Pownall said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former Saratoga Cop Pleads Guilty After Threatening Officers Who Tried To Take Dog

in News/Crime
19836

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Saratoga police officer accused of threatening Carbon County Sheriff’s officers who tried to take his dog pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with a peace officer last week.

Documents filed in Carbon County Circuit Court showed that three other charges against Justin Brown filed in connection with a New Year’s Eve incident were dropped.

Justin Brown pleaded guilty on May 10 to one count of interfering with a peace officer, a misdemeanor charge. He will have to pay a $420 fine and received a suspended 180-day jail sentence.

Three other charges, one of influencing, intimidating or impeding jurors, witnesses and officers and two of allowing a large dog to attack a person, were dropped by the Carbon County District Attorney.

Brown was arrested and charged in February in connection with an incident that occurred on New Year’s Eve, when sheriff’s officers tried to seize one of Brown’s dogs, Shaw, that Brown said he was training as a K9 officer.

Shaw was accused last year of biting individuals including Brown’s wife and young daughter.

When police attempted to seize the dog, Brown said that would not be happening and claimed the dog had been taken to Colorado.

Brown then threatened all of the law enforcement personnel on scene, telling them that if they attempted to take his dog, he would “break [their] necks.” He also claimed no one in Carbon County could “take” him.

Police left Brown’s residence following the threat of violence.

Brown was fired in early March from his position at a Saratoga police officer, one of three full-time people in the department.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

90-Year-Old Gillette Woman Charged $5 For Destruction Of Property After Smearing Honey On Doorknob

in News/Crime
19775

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman was ticketed this week after she smeared honey on her son’s front doorknob in an attempt to “sweeten him up,” a Campbell County sheriff’s lieutenant told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

The unidentified 90-year-old woman and her 59-year-old son have regularly been in conflict in recent years, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Paul Pownall. The two live in different houses on the same property.

“We were called on Wednesday by the son, who wanted to report his mother had come onto his part of the property and slathered something on his doorknob,” he said. “He has cameras on portions of the property, so he could identify that it was his mother.”

When a sheriff’s deputy arrived, he observed a honey-like substance on the doorknob. After speaking with the mother, she confirmed she had smeared honey on the doorknob in attempt to “sweeten her son up,” Pownall said.

He added that the sheriff’s department was hesitant to ticket the elderly woman for any crime, but her son was “adamant” that something be done about her action.

“She was issued a citation for destruction of property and the value was $5 for the clean-up,” Pownall said. “He was insistent that she be cited.”

The son cleaned the honey off of the doorknob.

While the sheriff’s office is familiar with both the mother and son, Pownall declined to address the potential root cause of their conlict.

“I believe that like any family dynamics, there’s always going to be the potential for conflict,” he said. “I think a lot of it is they’re in such close proximity to each other that if one does something that agitates or irritates the other, then it just goes from there.”

Pownall added that in his 21 years in law enforcement, this is the first-ever honey-related situation he has seen.

“I would hope that folks would be able to figure out a way to interact with one another in a peaceful manner,” he said. “That would be the best case scenario for everyone involved.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Laramie Defense Attorney Explains Washington Man’s 6-Year Sentence For $150M Fentanyl Bust

in News/Crime
19746

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A lack of criminal history and for sentencing guidelines for possessing fentanyl were the two main factors behind a Washington man’s relatively light prison sentence for carrying $150 million in fentanyl, his Laramie defense attorney told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Diego Aguilar-Valdovinos was sentenced late last month to just over six years in prison for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, with around three years of supervised release to follow. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.

His defense attorney, Tom Fleener, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that federal sentencing guidelines for fentanyl, coupled with Aguilar-Valdovinos’ lack of criminal history, led to a lower sentence than his client could have faced.

“The court also took into consideration my client’s background, since his parents were deported when he was a child,” Fleener said. “He’s a U.S. citizen, but they were taken away and he bounced around some foster homes before his grandmother took him in and raised him.”

Fleener added that his client was not aware that he was hauling fentanyl last summer when he arrested just outside of Cheyenne with the drugs.

“There is no evidence to suggest he was aware of it, either,” the attorney said. “But frankly, he received a sentence of 65 months because that’s what the sentencing guidelines call for.”

Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested last July when a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped him for speeding east of Cheyenne on Interstate 80.

The trooper became suspicious of Aguilar-Valdovinos, who was driving a 2021 Hyundai Kona, when the man provided inconsistent and implausible travel plans.

The trooper detained the driver and deployed a drug-sniffing dog around the exterior of the car. The dog indicated it smelled drugs inside the vehicle.

A search of the car revealed approximately 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, inside the vehicle, according to court records.

Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested and charged with felony transportation, distribution and possession of narcotics at the time.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the average sentence for fentanyl trafficking offenders was 75 months as of 2018. More than half of the offenders, 55%, were sentenced under federal guidelines.

Sentences were usually increased when the offender was in possession of a weapon or for having demonstrated a leadership role in trafficking operations.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Greybull Man Charged With Pretending To Be Dead Man For 50 Years

in News/Crime
Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images
19633

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Greybull man is facing 20 years in prison and a fine of nearly $1 million for posing as a dead Idaho man for the last 50 years in a ruse that was uncovered only when he was unable to answer questions about himself.

Peter Jeremy Martin is accused of assuming the identity of James Delbert Libbey in 1970, who died in Idaho in 1964.

Martin is charged in U.S. District Court with making false statements, aggravated identity theft and making false statements in a passport application.

According to court documents, Martin applied for a passport in January 2021 under Libbey’s name. He previously was issued a passport under the same name in 2007.

But an investigation into Martin revealed that he had assumed the identity of Libbey, who was born in 1941 and died in 1964. It was also discovered that Martin had a driver’s license under Libbey’s name.

In November 2021, two Diplomatic Security Service special agents interviewed Martin at his home in Greybull. His wife, Heather Libbey, was present during the discussion.

Upon initial contact, Martin appeared at the door armed with a large revolver in a sling holster on his hip. He complained to the agents about the long delay in receiving his passport.

One agent told Martin that in order to complete his passport application, he needed to confirm the information on his application and answer some biographical questions. Martin said this was unusual, as he had received two other passports in the past.

Martin was presented a copy of his application, which he verified was an accurate copy. He was asked what his parents’ names were, but took some time answering. He also hesitated when giving his birthdate and could not tell the agents what high school he went to.

One of the agents observed Heather Libbey quietly attempting to coach her husband on the answers.

Martin again asked why the agent was questioning him and the agent responded that it was because his two previous passports and current application were issued under a dead man’s name.

Martin asked if he had to continue answering questions and again said he had already been issued two passports. He also asked what kind of trouble he was in and whether he should talk to an attorney.

The agent said if Martin lied on his passport application, then he would have committed fraud. Martin asked how long he could go to prison for, but the agent said he could not provide legal advice.

“Well, I think this interview is over,” Martin said. “I shouldn’t answer any other questions.”

The investigation revealed Martin was actually born in 1937 and had been convicted of and incarcerated for numerous crimes between 1956 and 1967, including theft, armed robbery, burglary, attempted murder and prison escape in Arkansas and Wyoming.

Martin was paroled from the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1967 but disappeared from public record around 1970. That same year, the Social Security Administration issued a new social security number for the deceased Libbey.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Missing Alaskan Girl Found In Gillette, Mother Charged

in News/Crime
19576

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A missing girl from Alaska was recovered on Friday afternoon by U.S. Marshals and Gillette police officers, the Marshal’s office announced.

The girl was kidnapped from her home state of Alaska in the spring by her non-custodial mother, Autumn Wilson.

Wilson was arrested April 19 on charges of custodial interference and kidnapping, but the child was not recovered at the time of Wilson’s arrest. Wilson is being housed at the Campbell County Detention Center, pending extradition back to Alaska.

“This case is a great example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement agencies work together,” said Randall Huff, U.S. Marshal for the District of Wyoming. “We are very thankful this child was rescued unharmed and will soon be returned to the family.”

The Gillette Police Department and Huff’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday. More information was not immediately available.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Kinnear Couple Fined $60,000 For Deer Baiting; “Not Nearly Enough” Says Wyo Hunting Group

in News/wildlife/Crime
19514

 ***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Kinnear couple fined $60,000 for using bait to lure deer to hunters is being condemned by the head of the southwestern Wyoming chapter of the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

Josh Coursey, president of the chapter, welcomed the news Wednesday that Michael and Teresa Rinehart had reached a federal plea deal in a wildlife baiting case that has been going on for more than a decade.

The Rineharts have been ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for the value of illegally-killed wildlife. The Rineharts were also placed on one year of unsupervised probation and had their hunting privileges suspended worldwide for one year.

Coursey told Cowboy State Daily that he felt the couple should have their hunting privileges revoked for life, not just a year.

“They’re obviously criminals and knew what they were doing,” he said. “If we really want to make these types of situations go away, I believe that the deterrent is that these penalties should be as stiff as they can be.”

The couple pleaded guilty in federal court to violating a federal wildlife trafficking law last year.

More Than A Decade

This case has been going on for more than a decade, according to the Game and Fish Department.

In 2011, the Shosone and Arapaho Fish and Game Department seized a trail camera on tribal lands near the boundary of the Rineharts’ Wind River Whitetail Ranch. The Rineharts were non-native private landowners.

The camera photos showed the Rineharts putting out large piles of corn during the fall hunting season to lure deer into shooting lanes directly in front of large, elevated permanent hunting blinds located on the couple’s property.

The Shoshone and Arapaho Game Department asked for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to assist with the case, as it appeared the Rineharts were illegally hunting deer using bait, both on the reservation and on private lands, as part of their outfitting business.

The Rineharts’ business catered to both resident and non-resident white-tailed deer hunters. Over the next year, the Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collected evidence for the case.

The investigation confirmed the Rineharts placed bait so their clients could kill deer, a violation of Wyoming hunting regulations.

The Rinhearts charged hunters up to $3,000 for each deer hunt. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement contacted clients in 11 states.

The investigation led to the Rineharts being charged with violations of the with a federal Lacey Act, which bans the transport of illegally killed animals.

In addition to the baiting violations, some clients also took more deer than allowed under state law and harvested deer without a license, among other crimes.

More To Come

Following the settlement of the federal case against the Rineharts, the Fremont County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case and could charge up to 30 clients with various wildlife violations in Wyoming state court.

Coursey called the couple’s use of bait “cheating” and said that what they were allowing hunters to do was not actually hunting.

“The aspect of the hunt is never the reward of the kill,” Coursey said. “It’s the entire process, like the stalk, being in nature, following the animal’s tracks. It’s matching your natural wits against an animal’s and this case certainly undermines all of that.”

Coursey said that it is a hunter’s responsibility to know the laws in the spot being hunted and to make sure those rules are being followed.

“This just comes down to personal responsibility and accountability,” he said. “Everybody that was involved in this knew that it wasn’t upfront and honest. If you continue to engage in activity like that, you have to recognize that you will be held accountable.”

 ***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Powell Teacher’s Assistant Fired, Charged With Abusing Student

in News/Crime
19428

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A teacher’s assistant from Powell has been fired and charged with the abuse of a vulnerable adult after allegedly beating a special education student with an ice scraper last fall.

Brandy Wetherbee, 40, is charged with the abuse of a vulnerable adult, a felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and two counts interference with a peace officer, a misdemeanor that comes with a maximum penalty of one year in prison per count.

Wetherbee was charged on April 18 with the offenses and was fired just days later by Park County School District No. 1 officials in a move approved by the district’s board of trustees last week.

According to court documents, PCSD1 Superintendent Jay Curtis contacted Park County Sheriff’s officials in January about an alleged assault that took place in October 2021. The victim is a 21-year-old PCSD1 student with a cognitive disability.

According to Curtis, his office received a phone call two days earlier from a woman who only identified herself as “Mary,” who was later identified as a witness to the incident. During the call, she described the assault that took place on a road near Cody.

“Mary” told Curtis’ office that the victim was being transported in a car from an appointment in Cody when she experienced a “meltdown” and began hitting and kicking. The victim was accompanied by paraeducators Wetherbee and Sue Swistak and another special needs student.

“Mary” described Wetherbee yelling “shut up” at the victim and hitting the student with an ice scraper.

Police contacted the victim’s father, who said that because of the victim’s disability, bruises are common. However, he did remember a bruise occurring around the time of the alleged assault on the victim’s thigh that was the size of a racquetball and a “dark…angry color.”

The victim’s mother recalled a bruise on the girl’s chest near her armpit that the mother thought was odd. However, she noted that the girl regularly is bruised due to participating in outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, so the victim’s parents thought the bruises were common injuries, but were somewhat suspicious, court documents said.

Swistak, when speaking with investigators about the incident, said on the afternoon the alleged assault occurred, she and Wetherbee were contacted by Northern Inc., a social services organization in Cody, to pick up the victim.

The girl was crying when she was picked up by the paraeducators. Wetherbee tossed Swistak the keys and said she would “handle” the victim, documents said.

The victim was sitting directly behind Wetherbee in the vehicle. Swistak told investigators the girl was grabbing at both Wetherbee and the other student in the car something she does regularly when upset.

The girl was also throwing books around the car. According to Swistak, Wetherbee was holding an ice scraper and told the victim to “shut the [expletive] up” and hit her with the scraper around five or six times.

Swistak told investigators she offered to switch places with Weatherbee, but Wetherbee declined and told her colleague “You saw nothing.”

When asked why she did not report the incident, Swistak said it was because of the people she worked with and that she felt guilty for not sharing the information earlier.

“I don’t know why [Wetherbee] felt she had to physically harm her,” Swistak told police.

Wetherbee was interviewed by police at her home the day after Swistak. She confirmed that the victim was being restless in the car and was kicking, hitting and spitting at the other student.

Wetherbee told investigators the victim was throwing things in the car, which caused Swistak to stop the vehicle multiple times so the items could be secured.

At one point, Wetherbee sat next to the victim, who then spat on the paraeducator, she said. Wetherbee said she held the victim’s arms down and also was on the phone with the school, asking for additional help once they arrived.

She denied hitting the girl with an ice scraper, but she did say that the victim had hit her several times during the car ride, court documents said.

Wetherbee contradicted Swistak during some of her interview regarding a restraint used while the victim was in the car, police found.

Wetherbee has been released on bond and her preliminary hearing is set for June 1.

PCSD1 posted a job advertisement for two special education resource teachers last week after Wehterbee’s firing.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former Attorney General Says Firing Of Pinedale Teacher ‘Disturbing’ Since No Due Process

in News/Crime
19015

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Wyoming Attorney General is questioning the legality of a school board’s decision to fire a teacher because he was featured in a child predator “sting” operation.

Gay Woodhouse, who served as Wyoming’s Attorney General from 1998 – 2001, said she also questioned whether the activities of the producers of the YouTube channel “People v. Preds” were proper.

David Shaw was fired by the Sublette County School District No. 1 board of trustees last week after the channel’s operators, who have remained anonymous, posted a video showing a man who appeared to be Shaw involved in a confrontation with a man filming him.

The man filming Shaw said they had been exchanging messages on Grindr, a dating app for gay men. The man filming said he had posed as a 14-year-old boy to engage Shaw in discussion. He then said Shaw arranged for the two to meet in the parking lot of a drug store in San Diego.

Much of the video focuses on Shaw being followed by the man with the camera, who accuses Shaw of being a child molester.

Woodhouse, who is now partner in the Cheyenne firm Woodhouse, Roden, Ames & Brennan, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that while she understood the allegations against Shaw were serious, they were also just allegations.

“Normally in the process of termination, you would give somebody their due process, which usually means you’re placed on administrative leave while they conduct an independent investigation,” she said.

Shaw has not been arrested for any crime, but he is being investigated by the San Diego Police Department.

SCSD1 administrators were notified of the video on April 11 and Shaw was fired just days later.

The attorney would not speculate on whether Shaw gave a confession to SCSD1 administrators, leading to his firing, but she did note that even people who confess during police investigations are still allowed a trial by jury.

“Sometimes people do confess, even if they’re not guilty, but it doesn’t relieve everyone else of their duty to allow for due process to occur for him,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said it was “worrisome” that Shaw could be accused of something so heinous with only loose evidence tying him to a crime, and that people readily believed the allegations against him without any “real verification.”

In the event that Shaw is cleared of any wrongdoing, Woodhouse said he could theoretically sue the producers behind “People v. Preds” for defamation per se, but the host’s anonymity makes this difficult to do so.

While one of the “People v. Preds” volunteers told Cowboy State Daily last week they are not vigilantes, Woodhouse was not so certain of this.

“It is certainly people who are not in a government position to make a determination about whether or not somebody committed a crime just undertaking their own investigation, without any type of real responsibility or accountability for their actions,” she said.

As of Wednesday, the “People v. Preds” episode allegedly featuring Shaw has garnered more than 43,000 views. The channel has around 51,500 subscribers.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18934

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Education/Crime
18858

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

The statement did not specify the nature of the misconduct.

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

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

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

The school district provided no further information on the incident.

People v. Preds

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

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

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

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

Confirmed Photo



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

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

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

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

Text Messages



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

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

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

Police Arrive



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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18771

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18690

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18515

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18406

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Idaho Man Leads Grand Teton Police On 132 MPH Chase Sunday

in News/Crime
18318

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18280

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Gillette Police Kill Man After He Points Gun At Them

in News/Crime
18117

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Coroner Identifies Man In Deadly Evansville Standoff From Weekend

in News/Crime
Photo courtesy: Curtis Forntin
18073

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
18026

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
17982

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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

in News/Crime
17829

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

Within an hour, police found Evans and the girl.

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Soot-Covered Man Arrested For Starting Fires In Downtown Cheyenne

in News/Crime
17627

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Gillette Man Scammed Out Of Thousands In Online Dating Fraud

in News/Crime
17546

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Police Searching For Woman Possibly Involved In Hiland Murder

in News/Crime
17498

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Lander Man Sentenced To 20 Years For Producing Child Porn, Despite Government Requesting Longer Sentence

in News/Crime
17337

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander man convicted of producing child pornography and traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct has been sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the government’s request for a longer sentence.

Garret Thomas Findlay, 24, was sentenced on one count of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and four counts of production of child pornography on Feb. 17.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for each count, to be served at the same time. imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently. He will also serve 15 years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution.

The government requested a prison sentence of 25 years.

Findlay was indicted on the charges by a federal grand jury on July 20, 2021, and he pleaded guilty to the charges in November. He initially faced 40 years in prison for the charges.

Forensic analysis of his devices revealed that Findlay had been enticing minor girls from around the country to produce child pornography and send it to him and that he had also traveled to meet or have sexual encounters with some of his victims.

According to court documents, in October, a tip was submitted to the CyberTip Report — a service that collects tips about possible crimes against children — about a user on the social messaging app Kik who shared 14 files of suspected child pornography with another user or group of users sometime between Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, 2020. All of the files depicted prepubescent girls being made to participate in sexually explicit activity.

Kik and Verizon both provided documentation that pointed to Findlay being the user of the account and phone that uploaded the pornography.

Police executed a search warrant for Findlay’s parents’ home in early March 2021, where investigators obtained Findlay’s cellphone and detained the man. He was transported to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, where he made several admissions to possessing child pornography on his phone, using Kik to send and receive child pornography and ultimately admitting the account under investigation was his.

When accessing his phone, investigators found 22 images and 10 videos of child pornography. Findlay told officers the last time he had viewed the material was the previous night, when he’d received “some” images via the social media app Whisper.

He told agents he’d used Whisper numerous times to send and receive child pornography. In March 2021, Findlay used Whisper to send 18 images of child pornography to another user on the app.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Mothers Demand Child Endangerment Charges Against Drunk Cheyenne Bus Driver

in News/Crime
17199

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mothers of several Cheyenne students whose bus driver was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants are encouraging parents of other students to call the Goshen County District Attorney’s office and press charges against the driver.

David Richard Williams, 60, was booked into the Goshen County Detention Center around 7 p.m. Wednesday for driving under the influence and possession of open container while operating a moving vehicle. He was given warnings for improper lane usage and following too closely.

Williams had been transporting students from Cheyenne’s South High School to Spearfish, South Dakota, to a regional speech and debate tournament. Although it was earlier reported that students from Cheyenne’s East High were also on the bus, they were in fact on another bus. The two buses were traveling together.

He was pulled over after a person driving in a vehicle behind the bus called the police to report the bus was being driven eratically. Once pulled over, Williams was given a field sobriety test, which he failed, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

A number of mothers and family members of children on the trip told Cowboy State Daily they were frustrated with the lack of transparency about why Williams was pulled over, since Laramie County School District No. 1 officials have declined to give a specific reason, citing personnel policies.

“This was a very traumatic experience for my son,” Jessica Lyday, whose son is a freshman at East High, said. “He’s only 14 and he was accelerated into the varsity program, so this was his first long trip like this. Even though the principal at East said the kids are being troopers about this situation, I know my son was affected by this. He had to see somebody get arrested for the first time ever.”

Lyday intends to press charges against Williams for child endangerment, as does Johanna Thomas, whose daughter was on the bus with South High students.

“I think he needs to have a child endangerment charge for every kid that was on the bus,” Thomas said.

Thomas said her daughter did not notice Williams was intoxicated, but did report that the bus kept hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road that are intended to alert distracted drivers they are close to the road’s edge.

Lyday said she would pick up her son up from Spearfish on Friday for the return trip to Cheyenne on Saturday and added she would be pushing for parents to be allowed to transport their children to and from events.

Both Thomas and Lyday said they had never had issues with LCSD1 bus drivers before Wednesday.

Going forward, they suggested breathalyzers could be installed in the buses, although Lyday expressed disappointment in having to go so far.

“How sad is it that we would even have to think of them having to use a breathalyzer to start the bus to drive our children?” she said. “But maybe that does need to be the case. Because obviously, somewhere, somebody dropped the ball and allowed this to happen. And I want to know what they’re going to do to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

The mothers said they did not blame the speech and debate coaches for the situation and actually praised them for being supportive of their children in such a traumatic and bizarre situation.

On Thursday morning, LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo addressed an incident regarding a bus driver being pulled over for a traffic stop on Wednesday, but said that since the situation was a personnel issue, the district could not comment as to the nature of the traffic stop.

“At Laramie County School District 1 student safety is our priority,” Crespo said Thursday. “In every instance, while we have  students in our care and a situation occurs, we will act first to ensure our kids remain safe. After this occurs, we switch to communication mode.”

Crespo also said the district would follow LCSD1 board policy as it pertains to the situation, and would be readdressing the importance of student safety with all of its transportation personnel.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Cheyenne Bus Driver Arrested For Alleged DUI, Open Container

in News/Crime
17156

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne bus driver driving a busload of students to South Dakota was arrested Wednesday evening on charges of driving under the influence.

David Richard Williams, 60, was booked into the Goshen County Detention Center around 7 p.m. Wednesday for driving under the influence and possession of open container while operating a moving vehicle, according to Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. He was still in custody as of Thursday morning.

He was given warnings for improper lane usage and following too closely.

Beck told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that a bus driver was stopped Wednesday just before 5 p.m. south of Hawk Springs after the driver of a vehicle behind the bus called in a complaint.

Williams was stopped by a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper, given a field sobriety test, which he failed and then was arrested.

Williams was transporting a busload of Cheyenne East and Cheyenne South high school students to a speech and debate competition in Spearfish, South Dakota when he was pulled over.

As soon as Laramie County School District No. 1 administrators were notified about the stop, officials got to work making sure the students were safe.

A substitute bus driver was sent to finish the trip to Spearfish. Activity sponsors ensured students were warm and safe on the bus while waiting for the new driver, and they also began to contact parents about the situation.

During this time, students with cell phones were also in contact with their parents about what happened during the traffic stop.

Gina Hughes, a mother of one of the Cheyenne South High School students on the bus, said she was angry about the situation when she spoke with Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

“My son called me around 5:30 p.m. (Wednesday) and said, ‘Mom, I’m just calling to let you know our bus was pulled over. Our driver failed a field sobriety test. They put him in the back of a cop car,'” she said. “I thought it was a joke.”

Hughes and her husband were prepared to drive to Hawk Springs to pick up their son, but were hesitant to do so, as it would cost the Cheyenne schools their chance to compete in South Dakota and a possible appearance at national speech and debate competition.

Hughes did note that she received two phone calls on Wednesday evening from the South High principal, who did tell her and her husband that the bus driver was being replaced with a substitute, but did not elaborate as to why.

“If people don’t press charges for this, they’re stupid,” she said. “This is a failure on the school district. This is a failure on the bus garage. This is a failure on our state education system for not ensuring there is a way for kids to be on a bus without a drunk driver driving.”

On Thursday morning, LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo addressed an incident regarding a bus driver being pulled over for a traffic stop on Wednesday, but said that since the situation was a personnel issue, the district could not comment as to the nature of the traffic stop.

“At Laramie County School District 1 student safety is our priority,” Crespo said Thursday. “In every instance, while we have  students in our care and a situation occurs, we will act first to ensure our kids remain safe. After this occurs, we switch to communication mode.”

Crespo also said the district would follow LCSD1 board policy as it pertains to the situation, and would be readdressing the importance of student safety with all of its transportation personnel.

The incident with the driver caused a social media frenzy on Wednesday evening, particularly in the “Cheyenne and Wyoming News” Facebook group run by Joe Shogrin. Shogrin made posts in the group Wednesday about the arrest, trying to keep parents and community members up to date as the situation unfolded.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***