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Man Leads Multiple Wyo Police Departments On Crazy Hour-Long High Speed Chase

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man was arrested Sunday after leading officers from multiple Wyoming police departments on a high-speed chase in the middle of the night through parts of Natrona and Converse counties.

Louis Walker was booked into jail Sunday on multiple charges, including eluding police officers, reckless endangerment, possession of a controlled substance and more after leading authorities on a chase reaching speeds of up to 120 mph, according to Evansville Police Chief Mike Thompson.

According to the Evansville Police Department, at around 2:40 a.m. Sunday officers were on a routine patrol when one observed a white Chevy SUV go through a red light without attempting to stop.

The SUV then jumped the curve as it headed eastbound, then went across the barrow ditch and proceeded through a car wash

The car then pulled into the parking lot of the local Comfort Inn and stopped. While officers were giving commands for the car’s occupants to exit the vehicle, a passenger exited on the rear passenger side.

The vehicle’s driver then drove off with two occupants and police began a chase.

The pursuit went east and then south into Casper. There was little to no traffic on the roads, so officers continued the chase as the SUV went on Highway 20/26 and headed east.

As the pursuit neared Glenrock, officers from the Glenrock Police Department deployed tire deflation equipment. The SUV ran over a spike strip and continued east through Glenrock at a high rate of speed.

As the SUV neared Interstate 25 to go east, the driver side front tire came off of the rim. The SUV then got on the interstate heading south in the northbound lane, traveling at speeds of around 90 mph.

Wyoming Highway Patrol and Converse County Sheriff’s officers were notified and requested to assist along with the Douglas Police Department.

Between Glenrock and Douglas, the SUV came to a stop and officers could sparks coming from the wheel without a tire. A man exited the SUV, at which point the vehicle took off again.

The man who got out of the vehicle was detained by one officer as the others continued to pursue the SUV. The man told the officer that there were weapons in the vehicle and that the two occupants “would not go down without a fight.” the Evansville Police Department release said.

As the pursuit neared Douglas, officers again deployed spike strips, which the SUV ran over. It continued south in the northbound lane until it went off the road.

The SUV came to a complete stop after going over some rocks that were on the bank of a drainage ditch. The driver and passenger were then taken into custody.

Officers found a loaded handgun in the vehicle after the driver and occupant were removed at gunpoint from the vehicle.

The driver indicated there were drugs in the car and other information was given about the men using cocaine earlier in the evening at a local establishment.

Two of the men in the car are not allowed to have firearms by law.

The pursuit went for approximately 58 miles and several times reached speeds of 120 mph.

Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that usually when people run from the police for minor traffic violations, that is a sign that there is a worse crime taking place.

“You shouldn’t run from the police, it’s a huge safety issue for yourself and the vehicle’s occupants,” he said. “As a driver, if anything happens to them, you can be liable. It also leads to significant charges, which can affect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

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Canadians Charged After Evanston Bust Uncovers 750 Pounds Of Meth, Coke

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two Canadian men are facing federal charges after being caught with almost 750 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine during a Uinta County traffic stop last month.

Darren Kareem Hall and Brandon Layton Rampersaud each are charged with one count of intent to distribute methamphetamine, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison if found. They could also be fined $10 million.

According to court documents, around 10 a.m. on Oct. 24, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper Scott Neilson was patrolling eastbound Interstate 80 near Evanston when he saw a red Dodge Caravan with Florida license plates traveling east and speeding at a rate of 84 mph in a 75 mph zone.

Neilson conducted a traffic stop and made contact with the two men, both of whom had Canadian drivers licenses. Rampersaud, the driver, apologized for speeding.

Court documents said Neilson could smell marijuana in the vehicle and saw two multi-colored backpacks, two elongated cardboard boxes and black bags inside.

Neilson brought Hall to his Highway Patrol vehicle, where the trooper’s K-9 partner Max alerted to some type of odor on Hall.

Hall told the trooper he and Rampersaud were on a road trip back to Canada, saying they had been in Las Vegas for two days for a concert. Upon inspecting the vehicle’s rental agreement, Neilson saw that the car had been rented in Los Angeles and was scheduled for drop-off in Chicago.

Hall returned to the Dodge and sent Rampersaud back to Neilson’s patrol car, where the K-9 again alerted to some type of odor.

When asked about their travel plans, Rampersaud said the men had been in Los Angeles and were headed to Denver, and then they would go to Chicago.

After giving Rampersaud a ticket for speeding, Neilson informed the man of his right to remain silent and mentioned the marijuana odor. Rampersaud said the marijuana belonged to Hall and had been purchased in Las Vegas.

Rampersaud did say that the marijuana was gone, but that an empty bag may still be in the car. In response to further questions from Neilson, Rampersaud denied transporting large amounts of drugs across the country.

According to Neilson’s affidavit, he went back to the Dodge and mentioned the marijuana smell to Hall and Hall produced a dispensary-style plastic tube used for storing pre-rolled joints from the passenger door pocket. He was then placed in the backseat of the patrol car, while Rampersaud was in the front seat.

While in the car, the vehicle’s camera recorded Rampersaud asking Hall what the trooper was doing and Hall informed him that Neilson was going to search the vehicle. Rampersaud told Hall that they were in trouble, albeit in different words.

Max the K-9 was deployed to sniff around the vehicle, while Hall punched the metal cage of the car and Rampersaud expressed concern.

Neilson unzipped a large black bag and found several large, clear plastic bags containing a white substance later identified as meth. A thorough search of the vehicle uncovered 635 pounds of methamphetamine and 112 pounds of cocaine.

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Wild High-Speed Chase Ends With Three Cars Destroyed & Consumed in Flames

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man was arrested Thursday after allegedly leading Cheyenne police officers on a chase through the city that ended when all of the vehicles involved were destroyed in a grass fire.

No one was injured in the fire that broke out after police pursued Jason Nelson, 50, into a field, where the heat from the car he was driving and from the two police cars ignited a fire that consumed all three vehicles.

According to the Cheyenne Police Department, police received a call Thursday afternoon of a vehicle theft on Cheyenne’s south side. The department said Nelson allegedly stole a Buick Envision that was left unattended and running outside of a residence.

Using a cell phone inside the vehicle and its OnStar security system, officers were able to locate the Buick and began their pursuit about 15 minutes after receiving the report.

According to department reports, officers began pursuing the Buick about 15 minutes later, following it onto an on-ramp for Interstate 80.

OnStar was then used to remotely slow the vehicle and it swerved off of the on-ramp and into a field, where Nelson exited the car.

The two police cars in pursuit followed the Buick and the heat from all three vehicles ignited the fire.

Nelson was captured about 15 minutes after the chase began.

Cheyenne police in the pursuit probably called OnStar to ask for its assistance in stopping the vehicle, Scott Roybal, a Cheyenne city councilman and car salesman, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

“If the dispatcher has a partial (vehicle identification number) of the vehicle they’re chasing, OnStar can look it up on the GPS and then they can disable the engine,” he said.

Roybal said that at the dealership he works at, the employees can make a similar call to OnStar to have the cars shut down when they are stolen.

“It’s been happening a lot lately,” he said. “In the last year, we’ve lost more cars in Cheyenne than we probably have in the last 10 years.”

The case remains under investigation by the Cheyenne Police Department.

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Laramie Man Sentenced To Prison For Threatening Lummis, Barrasso, Bouchard

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Laramie man was sentenced this week to prison for threatening four state and national political figures earlier this year.

Christopher Kent Podlesnik, 52, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. The sentence also includes three years of supervised release, a fine of $10,000 and special assessments totaling $400.

A federal grand jury charged Podlesnik with leaving voicemail messages threatening various elected officials on Jan. 28, including U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Wyoming Sen. Anthony  Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

His messages included profanity-laced and threatening language constituting true threats. As defined by the Supreme Court, true threats are “statements where the speaker means to  communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular  individual or group of individuals.” 

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

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

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

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

In a voicemail to Bouchard, Podlesnik said, among other things, “You’re a [expletive] traitor, and you deserve to be shot” and saying that he would take Bouchard down.

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

“As Americans, we cherish the freedoms secured by our Bill of Rights, including our freedom of  speech,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “However, the criminal threats Christopher Podlesnik made with the intent to place multiple victims in fear of injury or death are not free  speech protected by the Constitution. Rather, those threats cost him a hefty fine and 18 months in  federal prison.” 

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Szott. 

“The FBI vigorously pursues all credible threats directed at our elected officials,” said Michael Schneider, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Denver Division. “I am extremely proud of our  Wyoming agents who successfully investigated this case and worked within the justice system to hold Mr. Podlesnik accountable for his actions. I want to thank our law enforcement partners who also worked on this matter to include the U.S. Capitol Police, Wyoming Highway Patrol and the  Laramie Police Department.” 

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Casper Man Arrested For Shooting, Killing Relative

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper man has been arrested in connection with the shooting and killing of another man on Friday morning, the Casper Police Department announced Monday.

Vincent Daniel Hayes, 38, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of second-degree murder, the department said on social media.

Around 5:45 a.m. on Friday, Casper police responded to a report of a shooting at a residence on East 12th Street. Upon arrival to the scene, officers found a dead adult male inside the house.

Officers believe the incident is isolated, as Hayes and the victim were related. The investigation is ongoing and more information will be released as it becomes available.

“The Casper Police Department extends our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victim and our entire community as we mourn the loss of one of our citizens,” the department said on social media.

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Man Facing Charges For Trespassing Onto Cheyenne Air Force Base

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man is facing two charges in federal court for allegedly trespassing onto the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne last week and getting into an altercation with security personnel.

Kelly Wind Harris, 33, is charged with entering a military base for unlawful reasons and assaulting Air Force security forces. If convicted of both counts, he could serve one year and six months in prison and faces $105,000 in fines.

According to court documents, on Nov. 4, F.E. Warren security forces responded to a report of an unknown person walking through the air base’s housing area, looking through windows.

A staff sergeant made made contact with Harris, who told the officer that he went through a fence to the base as a shortcut to a Cheyenne liquor store.

Harris was escorted inside of a building on the base, where the staff sergeant continued the interview. While talking, Harris said he was going to leave and stood up.

When told to sit down, Harris said “I’m going to [expletive] leave now” and tucked his shoulder down while running toward the sergeant, who was standing in the doorway of the room.

The sergeant braced himself for impact and when Harris hit him, he wrapped his arms around Harris and took him to the ground.

While officers attempted to detain him, Harris resisted, but they eventually got him in handcuffs.

Harris also told officers his name was Kevin Harrison and that his birthdate was Oct. 31, 1988. He reiterated this name and birth date, even after being told it was unlawful to lie to a federal agent.

He ended up giving a different birth date, Oct. 31, 1984, but again, officials could find no record of him.

Harris allegedly became combative again, resisting and throwing himself into the security forces. He had to be held on the ground for the remainder of the investigation.

He finally gave his lawful name and birth date.

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Two Teens Struck By Car In Cheyenne On Monday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two children were struck by a car while crossing a Cheyenne street on Monday, the city’s police department announced.

Around 7 a.m. Monday, Cheyenne police officers responded to a report of two teenagers being hit by a car. An investigation revealed the two boys, ages 13 and 15, were attempting to cross the street at a crosswalk near Cheyenne’s East High School.

While crossing, both boys were struck by an oncoming GMC Acadia. They both sustained minor injuries and were transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

The driver of the vehicle stayed on scene and was issued a citation for failure to yield.

“The Cheyenne Police Department is extremely concerned about safety on our roads,” said Cheyenne Police Chief Mark Francisco. “Pick-up and drop-off times are especially dangerous for both students and drivers near school zones.”

The department shared that 238 traffic incidents have occurred in that area in 2021. Of those incidents, 50 have occurred at the scene of Monday’s accident.

“Safety is a shared responsibility; we ask our citizens to help keep everyone safe by slowing down, limiting distractions, and being courteous to others on our roadways – especially in school zones,” said Francisco.

This incident occurred just days after a teen was struck and killed by a driver in Cheyenne while crossing the street last week.

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Man Killed In High Speed Chase With Wyoming Highway Patrol, 80 Pounds Of Weed Found In Car

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was killed on Wednesday during a high speed pursuit he initiated with the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

On Wednesday, Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers stopped a 2021 Chrysler van on Interstate 80 near Green River for a traffic infraction.

During the stop, the driver, who was standing outside, attempted to jump back into the van and drive away after speaking with the troopers for a short time.

Troopers attempted to stop him, but were unsuccessful. They pursued the vehicle as the driver fled east on I-80 headed toward Rock Springs.

The pursuit reached speeds of over 120 miles per hour. Law enforcement successfully deployed spike strips on the interstate to deflate the vehicle’s tires.

The driver continued to evade troopers, but collided with the back of a belly dump combination commercial vehicle at a high rate of speed after exiting the interstate at an exit ramp.

The driver was killed due to injuries sustained in the crash, although the commercial vehicle driver was unharmed. Troopers found approximately 83 pounds of suspected marijuana in the vehicle.

The driver’s identification is being withheld until their next of kin is notified, the WHP noted in a release.

The investigation is ongoing.

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Man Convicted Of Living In National Forest In Garbage-Strewn Mess

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man has been found guilty in federal court in Wyoming of living in a national forest that borders the state.

In August, the U.S. Forest Service received multiple complaints regarding a long-term campsite managed by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho.

Law enforcement investigated the complaint and found an unattended campfire, several dilapidated vehicles, trailer homes and extensive garbage scattered throughout the area.

“The trailers were parked haphazardly throughout the trees and brush, causing extensive resource damage,” said Rayce Angell, USFS Patrol Captain.

USFS officers were able to contact an adult male at the campsite, who admitted to living in the forest and acknowledged all the items were his. He was issued three federal citations.

Two weeks later, the officers came across the same man at a different location in the forest. He acknowledged that he was continuing to live in the forest and was trying to sell his belongings.

An officer issued additional federal citations to the man.

In October, the man, who was not identified by the Forest Service, was found guilty of three misdemeanor citations: residing on forest lands, leaving a campfire unattended and leaving a campsite in unsanitary conditions.

The man was banned from being on or engaging in any activity on both Caribou-Targhee National Forest and Bridger-Teton National Forest for five years.

He was also placed on probation for a length of five years and fined $800. 

Federal violations are pending for an adult female who was with the male at one of the campsites.

Taking up residence on national forest system lands and/or facilities is illegal. The USFS appreciates members of the public for reporting violations and urges individuals to continue to report any suspicious or illegal activity on their public lands. 

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Gillette Man Arrested By Feds In Underage Sex Sting

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette man was arrested last week in a federal investigation into men allegedly seeking underage girls for sex.

James David Moore has not yet pleaded to the charge of attempting to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. If convicted, he faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Last week, Wyoming Homeland Security agents took part in an investigation with other agencies targeting men who were seeking sex with children online.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the charges, prior to the sting, an advertisement was posted on an adult escort website for the Billings, Montana, area that included photos of two petite adult women and listed their ages as 19. A phone number was given for men to text the girls.

On Wednesday afternoon, Moore texted the number, inquiring if the girls were in Billings and if they took cash. A Homeland Security agent responded, saying cash was great and that the girls were actually 12 and 14.

Moore and the agent texted for about seven hours on Wednesday. He questioned the agent’s age, if she was available for services, if she and the kids were traveling to Wyoming and demanded to know if the agent was actually a law enforcement officer.

Later that evening, the agent and Moore spoke over the phone for about 20 minutes, during which he asked what the “rules” for the girls were and said he wanted to see both of them. He also said he would “take it slow and easy” with the younger girl.

Moore asked the agent to meet him “halfway” in Sheridan, and that he would pay for a hotel room for her and the girls. He did say he was nervous because he had “never done this young thing.”

On Thursday, Moore and the agent continued discuss the logistics of planning a sexual encounter with the girls.

On Friday, Moore got a hotel room in Sheridan with the intent of meeting a woman with the girls and spoke with a Homeland Security agent in the parking lot at one point. He asked if she and the girls would join him while registering for the hotel room, if she would stay “during” and flashed a wad of cash at her.

Upon exiting his vehicle, Moore was arrested and $1,200 was found on his person.

Moore admitted to speaking with the agent about the sexual encounter and told police that he should have reported the woman he encountered online about selling her daughters for sex.

When asked directly about the ages of the girls and the sex acts discussed, Moore stated all of the information would be on his phone. Following his interview with police, he was taken to the Johnson County Detention Center.

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Man Pleads Not Guilty To Possessing $150M Worth Of Fentanyl

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court last week to a charge of possessing fentanyl with an intent to distribute filed in his arrest this summer with an estimated $150 million worth of the drug in his vehicle.

Diego J. Aguilar-Valdovinos entered his plea Oct. 25 during his initial appearance in federal court. His trial is set for Jan. 3.

Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested in 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 gave an alert to an odor inside the vehicle.

A search of the car was conducted and the trooper found approximately 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, inside the vehicle.

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

“Fentanyl has become more of a prevalent drug in recent years and can be lethal for law enforcement and first responders who come in contact with it,” the WHP said in a social media post at the time of the arrest. “Individuals can experience potentially fatal effects from minimal amounts of the drug. If Fentanyl is taken in conjunction with other opiates, its lethal dose is even smaller. To put it into perspective, two milligrams of Fentanyl can be deadly to a human.”

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Dead Man Found Near Remote Town of Hiland, Wyoming Was Murdered Cops Say

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man whose body was found in rural Natrona County last month has been identified as a Wyoming resident who was a murder victim, according to Natrona County law enforcement officials.

The body found Sept. 15, a body near Hiland, an unincorporated community about 55 miles west of Casper with a population of 10, has been identified as that of Jay Carlos Montoya, 36, officials announced Tuesday.

The cause of death was determined to be a homicide, according to the Natrona County Coroner James Whipps.

Cowboy State Daily called the only business located in Hiland — Steelman’s Bright Spot — to ask if anyone recognized the name of the deceased.

The person who answered the phone said she did not.

Anyone with information related to Montoya’s death is encouraged to contact the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office investigations division at 307-235-9282.

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Woman Who Allegedly Murdered Brother In Oklahoma Texted Victim Before Death

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A woman arrested in Sweetwater County in connection with an Oklahoma murder sent multiple texts to the murder victim before his death, investigators have announced.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on Friday released more details from its investigation into the murder of 56-year-old Michael “Andy” McGuffee in Blanchard, Oklahoma earlier this month.

Debbie Senft, 47, and Zachary Mussett, 26, both of Texarkana, Texas, are currently in custody at the Sweetwater County Detention Center and are awaiting extradition to Oklahoma to face charges related to the murder.

An affidavit filed in support of charges said a family member went to McGuffee’s home after he did not show up for work on Oct. 15. The front door of his residence was “scorched,” according to the Chickasha, Oklahoma News-Express.

The family member found McGuffee’s body wrapped in a blanket and investigators found he had multiple stab wounds to his chest and neck.

An OSBI agent reported it was likely McGuffee was killed in the living room and moved to his bedroom. It was reported it would have taken two people to move his body. 

The inside of McGuffee’s residence had been burned and OSBI found that multiple types of accelerant had been used to set the fire.

OSBI obtained a search warrant for McGuffee’s cell phone and found multiple texts exchanged between McGuffee and Senft, the victim’s half-sister.

“You have always been one of the two most important people in the world to me and I love you so much,” one message Senft sent to her half-brother said. “I would really like to be able to see you and spend some time with you.”

Several items had also been stolen from the home, including multiple guns and the man’s pickup truck, the affidavit said. 

Last week, agents discovered that items stolen from McGuffee were pawned in Salina, Kansas.

A few days later, agents recovered the pickup truck at a car wash in Oklahoma City.

The investigation then led agents to Wyoming.

Senft and Mussett were located 15 miles east of Rock Springs on Interstate 80 last week. The Wyoming Highway Patrol pulled over the moving truck Senft and Mussett were driving and agents with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation took the pair into custody.

In an interview with OSBI, Mussett allegedly said he had gone to McGuffee’s house with his mother. The three talked, ate and watched movies.

Mussett told the OSBI agent that at one point, things became “fuzzy” and that he remembered leaving the residence in the car he and his mother had driven to McGuffee’s house.

He also said his mother may have left in McGuffee’s pickup, according to the affidavit.

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Mother, Son Arrested Near Rock Springs In Oklahoma Murder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A mother and son sought in connection with an Oklahoma murder were arrested near Rock Springs this week, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Debbie Senft, 47, and Zachary Mussett, 26, both of Texarkana, Texas, are currently in custody at the Sweetwater County Detention Center and are awaiting extradition to Oklahoma to face charges related to the murder of 56-year-old Michael “Andy” McGuffee, the OSBI announced Friday.

Both the mother and son have been charged with one count of first-degree murder. Senft, who is McGuffee’s half-sister, and Mussett are being held without bond.

On Oct. 15, McGuffee’s wife was contacted when he did not show up for work in Blanchard, Oklahoma. She sent a family member to check on him.

When that family member arrived at the residence and saw signs of a fire, he contacted the Blanchard Police Department. After officers arrived at the scene and found McGuffee’s body, the Blanchard Police Department asked for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s assistance with the investigation.

When OSBI agents arrived on the scene, they determined McGuffee was the victim of a homicide.

While agents processed the crime scene, it was discovered that a fire had been started intentionally and many items were stolen from the residence, including McGuffee’s pickup truck.  

Early this week, agents discovered that items stolen from McGuffee were pawned in Salina, Kansas. At that point, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation went and collected the evidence from the pawn shop.

A few days later, agents recovered the pickup truck at a car wash in Oklahoma City.

The investigation then led agents to Wyoming.

Senft and Mussett were located 15 miles east of Rock Springs on Interstate 80 this week. The Wyoming Highway Patrol pulled over the moving truck Senft and Mussett were driving and agents with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation took the pair into custody.

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Attorney Believes Human Remains Found In Florida Are Brian Laundrie’s

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The attorney for the family of Brian Laundrie believes that the partial human remains found in a Florida park this week are likely those of the former fiance of murder victim Gabby Petito.

Attorney Steve Bertolino told CNN late Wednesday that “the probability is strong that it is Brian’s remains.”

“It’s quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son’s belongings alongside some remains. That’s got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken,” Bertolino said Wednesday night.

CNN reported this week that after a brief search Wednesday of a trail Laundrie frequented, the Laundrie family and law enforcement found “some articles” belonging to him.

According to the FBI, which gave a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, the items found were a notebook and a backpack belonging to Laundrie. During the news conference, officials said they could not confirm if the remains found were Laundrie’s.

The notebook and backpack were first signs of Laundrie since he disappeared in mid-September after Petito was reported missing. Laundrie has never been named a suspect in Petito’s death, but is considered a person of interest.

Petito’s body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the cause of Petito’s death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

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Gabby Petito’s Mother Calls Brian Laundrie A “Coward” In Interview

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mother of murder victim Gabby Petito, speaking during a recent appearance on “60 Minutes Australia,” called the man being sought in connection with her daughter’s death a coward.

Nicole Schmidt, who appeared on the show over the weekend with Petito’s father and stepfather, was explicit in her thoughts about Brian Laundrie, who disappeared shortly before Petito’s body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest.

“He’s a coward,” she said. “He consciously knows what he’s doing.”

Petito’s body was found in the forest in northwest Wyoming last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie, her fiance, had been traveling the country in a van. On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

Nicole Schmidt did say she was concerned about her daughter going on the road trip, but felt more secure due to the fact that she would be with Laundrie. The mother and daughter spoke regularly, about every other day, while Petito and Laundrie were out seeing the country.

Schmidt and Petito last spoke by video conference on Aug. 24. Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 and her body was found on Sept. 19. Laundrie was reported missing in Florida on Sept. 17.

Laundrie has yet to be found, despite extensive searches by law enforcement agencies, along with Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman. A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Nicole Schmidt told “60 Minutes Australia” that Laundrie had always been polite, but quiet whenever he was around Petito’s family. However, she said he got along well with Petito’s younger siblings.

“He just seemed like a nice guy,” she said.

Nicole Schmidt said she did not even know Laundrie had been home with his family for nearly two weeks until she reported her daughter missing.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Petito’s cause and manner of death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

“I just hope she didn’t suffer and that she wasn’t in any pain, that she was in a place she wanted to be, looking at the beautiful mountains,” Nicole Schmidt said.

The Schmidts believed Laundrie is hiding from police to escape justice.

“We were up every day and every night until we found Gabby,” said stepfather Jim Schmidt. “Are the people that love him doing the same for him? And why not?”

Joe Petito, Gabby’s father, echoed similar sentiments, questioning why Laundrie’s parents have refused to speak with police about the incident.

During their appearance, the family members expressed frustration.

“Gabby was 22-years-old. Her life was stolen from her,” Jim Schmidt said. “She was taken from us. This was evil.”

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Three Men Found Guilty For Defrauding Investors In Wyoming Natural Gas Schemes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three men were found guilty by a federal jury in Cheyenne this week stemming from two schemes to defraud investors in Wyoming and elsewhere in the United States.

Justin Herman, 50, of Pennsylvania and Charles Winters Jr., 61, of Florida were convicted of fraud and identity theft crimes. Ian Horn, 67, of Florida was acquitted of the charged fraud crimes, but convicted of making a false statement to the grand jury.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Herman and Winters conspired with  Robert “Bob” Mitchell, who pleaded guilty earlier this year, to “pump and dump” NuTech Energy Resources Inc. stock.

A “pump and dump” scheme is a form of securities fraud where the conspirators manipulate demand for a stock and the stock’s price, and then sell their worthless shares of the stock to the public at the artificially high price.

In this case, the conspirators bought control of a publicly traded shell company called EcoEmissions Solutions Inc. and changed the company’s name to NuTech Energy Resources, whose stock was sold under the ticker symbol NERG.

The conspirators released information online to create a false image for NuTech as a company located in Gillette that was operating gas wells in Wyoming using a patented technology. In reality, NuTech had no business, no revenue and no paid employees in Wyoming or elsewhere.  

As part of the conspiracy, Herman and Winters used altered, backdated and forged documents to acquire 13 billion free-trading shares of NuTech common stock.

The conspirators then artificially inflated the market price of NuTech common stock by manipulative trading and releasing to the public false and misleading information about NuTech’s business prospects.

When the market price increased based on this false information, the conspirators turned around and sold their worthless NuTech shares to unwitting investors in the public market, including people in Wyoming and around the world. 

According to the indictment, more than $1.3 million was stolen from about three dozen investors, most of whome lived in and around Gillette.

Horn is a Florida-licensed attorney. As part of the investigation, he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in January 2019 because his name appeared on documents related to NuTech and because the money used by Mitchell and Herman to buy control of EcoEmissions was transferred through Horn’s bank accounts.

The jury found that Horn lied during his grand jury testimony about NuTech-related email communications that he falsely claimed he lost and could not access despite having access to his email and was forwarding relevant messages to Herman in December 2018.  

Herman and Winters were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of aggravated identity theft.

Herman faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence and could be sentenced to a maximum of 53 years in prison.

Winters also faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence and could be sentenced to a  maximum of 49 years in prison.

Horn was found guilty of making a false statement to the grand  jury and could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced  on Jan. 5, 2022.  

Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday and could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison.  

“These convictions are the direct result of a diligent investigation by a hardworking Postal  Inspector and our partners at the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming,” said Ruth Mendonça, Inspector in Charge of the Denver Division, which includes Wyoming. “Working together, their perseverance unraveled the  defendants’ complex scheme to defraud over 2,300 victims and delivered the justice that each  victim deserved. We are proud of the efforts to uphold the mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to protect postal customers and consumers from fraudsters.”

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Wyoming Man Who Shot Other Man Over Song On Radio Pleads Guilty

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man accused of shooting another over a song on the radio in a pickup truck changed his plea to guilty this week.

Ronald Blaise Jenkins, 25, pleaded guilty to using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence this week. He will be sentenced on Dec. 20.

Jenkins was initially charged in May in U.S. District Court with assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

According to an affidavit filed by Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent Michael Shockley, his investigation into the shooting of a man identified only as “W.S.” revealed that the shooting occurred as the result of a disagreement over a song on the radio while he and Jenkins were in a truck.

W.S. had been riding in a pickup truck with three other men, including Jenkins, drinking alcohol and listening to music on the radio.

Two of the men in the truck said W.S. and Jenkins began arguing about a song on the radio and then prepared to fight over the issue.

At that point, Jenkins shot W.S. over the argument.

Jenkins told investigators W.S. had played a song on the radio he did not like and the two began arguing.

He said W.S. got out of the back seat of the pickup truck, opened the door to the seat where Jenkins was sitting and punched him in the face.

Jenkins said he had broken his neck several years earlier and the attack made him afraid for his life. He said he found a gun on the floor of the pickup truck and was pointing it at W.S. when “it just went off.”

W.S., meanwhile, told investigators he did not remember what the argument was about, but that both he and Jenkins got out of the truck and were preparing to fight when Jenkins pulled a pistol out.

The victim said he charged Jenkins in an attempt to take the pistol away from him, but was unsuccessful and Jenkins fired.

The affidavit said W.S. was helped into the emergency room at SageWest Hospital in Riverton by two men who left him there.

The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Wind River Police Department,  with assistance from the Riverton Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kerry J.  Jacobson prosecuted the case.

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Coroner: Gabby Petito Died By Strangulation, Body Left In Woods For Weeks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gabby Petito died by strangulation and her body was left in Bridger-Teton National Park for three to four weeks before police found her, the Teton County coroner announced on Tuesday.

Dr. Brent Blue held a news conference to announce the manner and cause of death for Petito, whose body was found in the woods almost one month ago. Her death was ruled a homicide not long after she was found, but Blue officially announced the cause this week.

He could not reveal much information about how his office determined the manner of death or how they knew Petito had been in the woods for as long as she had, due to a Wyoming state statute. He also could not say whether Petito was killed in the woods and left there or if she had been killed elsewhere and her body was left in the park.

Blue also could not reveal an approximate date of death, but confirmed Petito’s remains have been released to a local mortuary, which will work with her family to return her to them.

Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie, is a person of interest in the investigation into her death, but has been missing since Sept. 17.

John Walsh, former host of “America’s Most Wanted,” questioned Blue about his thoughts on whether or not Laundrie was Petito’s killer.

“I think everybody in the world believes that Brian Laundrie killed Gabby,” he said.

Blue could not attest to who killed Petito, and continued to affirm her manner and cause of death only.

One reporter questioned Blue about why it took so long to get the autopsy results.

“The reason was that we were very exacting on our examination and the detail by which the examination was done,” Blue said. “It was just a matter of making sure we had everything right.”

Blue also confirmed that law enforcement took DNA samples from Petito’s remains.

Petito and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van. On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the fan and without Petito. She was reported missing on Sept. 11.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Police from various departments are searching for Laundrie. The case has also attracted national attention, meaning that the FBI and even reality star Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman have gotten involved in the search for Laundrie.

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Man Faces Life In Prison For Kidnapping Another Man In Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man is facing life in prison for holding another man at knifepoint in Yellowstone National Park last week.

Gregory Michael Samuel Toth was charged this week in federal court with assault with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping, both felonies. The kidnapping charge comes with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

He was also charged with: misappropriation of property, possession of marijuana, driving under the influence and having an open container of an alcoholic beverage.

In total, Toth faces up to life in prison, up to $520,000 in fines, up to five years of supervised release and $240 in special assessment fees.

According to court documents, around 6:20 a.m. on Oct. 1, law enforcement officers were dispatched by Yellowstone staff for a report of an assault. The victim called dispatch from the Fishing Bridge RV Park (where the assault occurred), and was told to drive to the West Thumb Junction along the Grand Loop Road.

The victim, who was with a co-worker, was worried the assailant (later identified as Toth) was following them and would confront them before law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Park ranger Jill Paxton arrived the on the scene and met with the victim and his co-worker. The victim told the ranger that he had known Toth for about 32 years and that Toth had recently been released from prison for assaulting and kidnapping an ex-girlfriend.

The victim had vouched for Toth to get a job at Triple A Construction Company and the two men shared a trailer at the RV park in Yellowstone.

The victim noted that Toth was normally talkative, but on the afternoon of Sept. 30, he’d become quiet and was watching the victim “unusually” close. When the victim would ask Toth questions, he would reply with one-word answers, which was abnormal.

That evening, the victim and another co-worker drove to Cody to go to the Walmart there. While at the store, Toth called the victim and began to accuse him of sleeping with Toth’s ex-girlfriend.

Toth told the victim that he knew where he was and that he would come to Cody to “find the car and deal with [them] properly.”

As the victim and his co-worker drove home, they encountered Toth parked in a travel lane going toward Cody with his bright headlights on. The victim and his co-worker avoided the truck and drove back to the trailer at a high rate of speed to avoid Toth.

The victim got home and fell asleep. He was awoken around 5:20 a.m. to Toth calling his cell phone. The victim did not answer, but soon after hear someone banging on the door of the trailer. This alternated with Toth calling the victim’s phone.

As the victim went to open the door of the trailer, Toth pushed on the door and rushed into the building. Toth threw the victim down to the ground and wrapped his hands around the man’s neck, choking him.

While doing this, Toth took out a knife and pressed it against the victim’s neck and told him he would kill him “for what [the victim’s] done.” Toth did this several times, calling the victim a liar and saying he knew the truth, meaning that he knew the victim was sleeping with Toth’s ex-girlfriend.

It should be noted that the victim said he has never met Toth’s ex-girlfriend.

After a few minutes, Toth let the victim up and made him sit in the victim’s room and said “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a chance before I kill you. I’ll let you try and fight me, then I’ll shoot you in the head.”

Toth went through an old phone of the victim’s to find evidence of a relationship between him and the ex-girlfriend, but was unable to do so. He then accused the victim of deleting all messages between him and the ex-girlfriend.

The victim said Toth drank a large amount of vodka that night and that he used marijuana. He noted that Toth’s most recent arrest included a charge for methamphetamine, but couldn’t say whether or not he had taken any of that drug that night.

Toth also accused everyone at their construction company with helping the victim to cover up the relationship between him and the ex-girlfriend.

Toth began grabbing items belonging to the victim and an old roommate, telling the victim to get into Toth’s truck.

Once allowed outside of the trailer, the victim ran toward a co-worker who was driving to work at Old Faithful. The co-worker did not see Toth, but confirmed the victim told him he’d been strangled and that Toth threatened to kill him.

During this time, other park rangers located Toth, who was driving his truck in the RV park. He was detained around 8 a.m., but tried to tell police that he saw his “girl’s” number in the victim’s phone and that he did not hurt the victim, but that the two had an argument.

He also said he did not hold the victim at knifepoint, but affirmed he pushed the victim onto the couch. He insisted he did not hold a knife to the victim or choke him.

While talking with law enforcement, Toth did admit to probably being guilty of battery, but that he didn’t go to an extreme.

“It’s my bad,” he told police.

Toth consented to a blood draw, but told police that his blood would be “hot” and that he had “used dope,” but did not specify as to what that meant. Police could smell alcohol on Toth’s breath and noted his eyes were glassy and bloodshot.

Police later found three marijuana joints on Toth’s person.

While searching his truck, police found a black folding knife that matched the victim’s description, a nearly empty vodka bottle and a metal baton.

The co-worker that took the victim to Walmart the night prior overhead a conversation between the two men in which the victim asked Toth why he was behaving in such a strange way and that they had been friends for 30 years.

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Sheridan Man Pleads Guilty To Exploiting 8-Year-Old In Idaho

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Sheridan man pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor child in U.S. District Court in Idaho this week in connection with allegations he asked another man to produce child pornography for him.

James Colton Giannell, 23, of Sheridan, pleaded guilty to the charge Monday after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Pocatello, Idaho, on Aug. 25, 2020.

According to court records, Giannell admitted that he asked Andrew John Jemmett, over the Internet, to produce child pornography for him in April 2019, while Jemmett was in Idaho.

Jemmett used an 8-year-old child to create pornographic videos that he sold online to Giannell for $150. The videos were produced in a public restroom in Pocatello.

Jemmett later used Snapchat to share the videos with Giannell.

Law enforcement interviewed Giannell following his arrest and Giannell admitted to requesting and paying for the videos to be produced.

Giannell will be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2022 and faces anywhere between 15 and 30 years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to a lifetime of supervised release. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other factors.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr., of the District of Idaho made the announcement and commended the cooperative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations in Idaho Falls, the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Pocatello Police Department, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which led to charges.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.

As part of Project Safe Childhood, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office partner to marshal federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

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Remains Confirmed As Petito’s; Officials Say She Was Murdered

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
The remains of a body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest have been identified as those of the 22-year-old Florida woman who disappeared in western Wyoming in late August, officials said Tuesday.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue also said officials made an official determination that Gabby Petito murdered, however, officials are waiting for the results of an autopsy before announcing the cause of death.

In the meantime, authorities in Florida continued searching Sunday for Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie, who still has not been identified as a suspect, only a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance.  

Law enforcement officers from several different agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Forest Service and Teton County Sheriff’s Office, closed a campground on the forest’s eastern edge over the weekend while searching for Petito, who was reported missing on Sept. 11.

Petito and Laundrie had been traveling together in a van converted so they could live in it. The two had an encounter with police in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, where officers described them as having “engaged in some sort of altercation.”

Petito spoke with her mother by video on Aug. 24 and her family did not hear from her after that. Laundrie returned to his home in Florida on Sept. 1 in the couple’s van and without Petito.

Laundrie has not cooperated with authorities in their investigation into Petito’s disappearance. He was reported missing on Friday by members of his family, who said they had last seen him on the previous Tuesday.

On Monday morning, FBI investigators surrounded and entered Laundrie’s parents’ home in North Port, Florida as part of a “court-authorized search warrant,” according to CNN. His parents were escorted out of the house during the search, but later brought back inside for questioning.

Laundrie has not been identified as a suspect, only a person of interest, in Petito’s disappearance.

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Suspect Arrested In Connection To Casper Man’s Murder

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A man was arrested Friday in connection with a Casper resident’s death.

Justin Armando Marquez, 42 of Casper, was arrested Friday as part of the two-month investigation into the whereabouts and death of Ryan Schroeder, who was found dead this week after disappearing earlier in the summer.

Marquez was arrested for one charge of second degree murder, according to the Casper Police Department.

Ryan Schroeder’s body was discovered in rural Natrona County this week, according to the Casper Police Department. He was 36, a father and grandfather.

“The Casper Police Department extends our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Ryan Schroeder and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure justice is served,” the department said in a statement.

Schroeder was last heard from on June 26 after reportedly being dropped off a convenience store in the Denver area by a friend.

Schroeder’s sisters, Allyson Schroeder and Cassidy Dieguez, told Cowboy State Daily in August they believe their brother actually returned to Wyoming after the second of two trips to Colorado.

However, officers had said they did not believe Schroeder returned to Wyoming.

Anyone with information on Schroeder’s death can call the Casper Police Department at 307-235-8278. Tips can also be reported anonymously and that person may be eligible for a monetary reward by reporting through Crime Stoppers of Central Wyoming by calling (307) 577-8477 or online at crime-stoppers.com. 

Schroeder’s case has also been taken up by private investigator Amanda Waldron of “We Help the Missing,” a nonprofit organization founded in Utah with volunteers all over the country, CSD previously reported.

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Man Accused Of Threatening Forest Service Employee Could Get 11 Years in Prison

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man accused of threatening to kill a U.S. Forest Service employee in the Shoshone National Forest and tearing the door handle off of the man’s vehicle could face up to 11 years in prison.

Josiah Jurich, who was arrested by Park County officials on Aug. 20 on the Beartooth Highway, has been charged in federal court with threatening a federal law enforcement officer and damaging federal property.

According to an affidavit by an investigator, a Forest Service employee, identified only as D.S., was driving a U.S. Forest Service truck and was stopped at construction on U.S. Highway 212 near Cody. Jurich’s pickup truck was stopped behind the truck driven by D.S.

When D.S. reached out of the vehicle to move a traffic cone out of the lane of traffic, Jurich jumped out of his pickup, walked up to the Forest Service vehicle and accused D.S. of making “hand gestures.”

“Jurich continued to yell and approach the truck,” the affidavit said. “D.S. locked the doors and rolled up the window because Jurich attempted to open his door by pulling on the handle.”

D.S. drove about 30 yards away from the area and was followed by Jurich, who then got out of his pickup truck and tried to open the passenger door to the truck driven by D.S.

“Jurich pulled with such force that the exterior passenger door handle came off the door,” the affidavit said.

Jurich then used the door handle to hit the vehicle’s windows, yelling “I’ll kill you next time” and “I’ll f——g kill you,” according to witnesses.“When he said he wanted to kill me, I believed it,” D.S. told investigators.

As bystanders calmed Jurich, he told them he was “sick of the government shooting bullets over his head.”

After getting back into his truck and driving away from the scene, Jurich was arrested by a Park County Sheriff’s deputy.

If convicted, Jurich faces a sentence of up to 10 years on the charge of threatening a federal law enforcement officer and another year for damaging U.S. property.

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South Dakota Woman Ordered To Pay $76K In Wyoming Medicaid Fraud

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After being convicted in May of defrauding the Wyoming Medicaid program of tens of thousands of dollars, a South Dakota woman was sentenced late last week to prison in the incident.

Holli Telford Lundahl, 64, of Oelrichs, South Dakota, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal to two years and three months in prison, with three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $76,626.65 in restitution to the Wyoming Medicaid program and a $500 supervised release.

“Lundahl deserves every bit of that sentence. She robbed Wyomingites of receiving legitimate funds for necessary care through Wyoming’s Medicaid System,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “The sentence speaks to the hard work put into investigating and prosecuting the case, and we thank the Wyoming Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and our prosecution team for putting a stop to this injustice.”

A jury found Lundahl guilty on three counts of health care fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft after a one-week trial held in April.

In March 2020, Lundahl was indicted on allegations that she ran three overlapping schemes to defraud Wyoming Medicaid by submitting false claims for long-term care provided to her sibling and the unlawful possession and use of identity information of two individuals, including Lundahl’s niece, in furtherance of two of the charged schemes.

The evidence at trial showed that Wyoming Medicaid operates a long-term care program designed to keep beneficiaries out of nursing homes and other institutional settings. This program provides limited payments for certain direct support services provided to beneficiaries by properly qualified and enrolled workers.

Lundahl, using her niece’s name, Social Security number and other identifying information, enrolled her niece in this program as a caregiver for Lundahl’s sister.

Lundahl then submitted claims to Wyoming Medicaid for direct support work she said was done by the niece when in fact the niece had not provided any services. Lundahl’s niece did not know her identity was being used and had never been to Wyoming before testifying at her aunt’s trial.

The false information provided by Lundahl caused Wyoming Medicaid money to be paid in the niece’s name into a credit union account controlled by Lundahl.

Evidence at trial also proved that Lundahl advertised for a direct support worker in Lusk. When a young woman responded to the ad, Lundahl convinced the woman to share her social security number and other identification information with Lundahl in order to be hired.

The woman worked one day, was paid cash for her time and was not asked to return.

Lundahl then used the young woman’s information to submit false claims to Wyoming Medicaid for direct support work that the woman did not perform.

As a result, Wyoming Medicaid money was paid in the young woman’s name into a credit union account controlled by Lundahl.

Finally, evidence at trial proved that Lundahl enrolled herself as a direct support worker However, she had the power of attorney for her sister and therefore could not be enrolled under Medicaid’s long-term care rules.

Lundahl then submitted claims to Wyoming Medicaid for direct support work when she was not eligible to be paid for this work and she received Wyoming Medicaid money when she was not eligible to receive such payments.

“It was nice to have the opportunity to partner together to root out Medicaid fraud and protect the Medicaid program from these sorts of abuses,” Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill said. “This is important work as it helps assure that the Medicaid program is available to provide medical care for those citizens who truly need it.”

The case was investigated by the Wyoming Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and prosecuted by Senior Assistant Attorney General Travis Kirchhefer of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and Assistant United States Attorney Eric Heimann.

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Three Men Sentenced For 2019 Kidnapping, Murder On Wind River Reservation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three men were sentenced this week in the 2019 kidnapping and murder of a man on the Wind River Reservation.

Seth Thomas Blackburn, 31 of Arapahoe, Wyoming, Peter “Homer” Joseph Blackburn, 34 of Riverton and Brent Jordan Gould, 30, also of Riverton, were all sentenced this week by Chief U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl.

The three were charged in the murder of Victor Dale Addison, whose body was found along the banks of the Little Wind River on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Seth Blackburn pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 60 years in prision, followed by five years of supervised release. Peter Blackburn pleaded guilty to unlawful seizure resulting in death and received a 12-year prison sentence, followed by five years of supervised release.

Gould also pleaded guilty to unlawful seizure and received a 15-year prison sentence, followed by five years of supervised release. All three offenders are jointly responsible for restitution in the amount of $4,946. 

According to officials, on the afternoon of Aug. 4, 2019, the body of a Native American man, later identifed as Addison, was discovered lying face-up on the bank of the Little Wind River, beneath the Sharp Nose Road Bridge on the Wind River Reservation.

The victim’s hands were bound behind his back by an electrical cord and there was obvious trauma to his face and head. Upon close inspection, it was apparent the victim, while on the bridge, had been shot at close range in the back of the head before his body was dumped off of the bridge.

The incident was investigated by law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Riverton Police Department and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, with substantial assistance from the  Casper Police Department.

Investigators determined that Seth Blackburn was the individual who shot and killed Addison.

The investigation also revealed that Seth Blackburn’s half-brother, Peter Blackburn, and Peter Blackburn’s half-brother, Brent Gould, aided and abetted in Addison’s assault, kidnapping, and murder by helping restrain the victim at a residence in Riverton, and in transporting Addison to the bridge where he was ultimately murdered.

“When a murder is committed execution-style, the only motive is pure evil,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “My office takes seriously its special responsibility to prosecute violent crimes on the Wind River Reservation and to hold these men accountable for the murder of this young man.  I’m extremely proud of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for their tireless, collaborative investigation which resulted in the successful prosecution of these violent and dangerous  criminals.”  

Investigators determined the murder was motivated by the defendants’ belief in unfounded rumors that Addison was responsible for the death of Martika Spoonhunter. Spoonhunter died in a single-vehicle car crash the day before Addison’s murder.

Spoonhunter was alone in the vehicle, and a FBI investigation into the circumstances of her death found no evidence to suggest that her death was anything other than an accident. 

“The sentences today should be a warning that anyone who takes matters into their own hands instead  of relying on the justice system, will themselves be investigated and prosecuted. The subjects’ horrific  and misguided vigilantism resulted in the assault, torture, and execution of an innocent individual in the  name of revenge,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We thank the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Riverton Police  Department, the Casper Police Department, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, and the  U.S. Attorney’s Office for their dedication to protect our communities while seeking lawful justice.” 

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Casper Man Sentenced To 10 Years For Possessing Child Pornography

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper man was sentenced to prison this week after being caught with child pornography while serving his sentence on another child pornography charge.

Kyle Doussett, 49, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee and may be ordered to pay restitution, which will be determined at a later date.

In June, Doussett appeared before Johnson and pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing child pornography.

According to court records, Doussett earlier this year was serving his sentence at the Casper Re-Entry Center on a previous federal conviction on a charge of interstate distribution of child pornography. A manager at the facility found a cell phone belonging to Doussett that contained images and videos of girls under 12 in provocative poses and performing sexual acts.

“Doussett has clearly demonstrated his inability to stop this type of predatorial sexual behavior so 10 years in prison is a just sentence. His actions contribute to an ongoing problem of child exploitation where children are enticed into producing sexually explicit material. Our office is grateful that our federal law enforcement partners dedicate resources to identifying the victims of sexual predators,” Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray said.

This crime was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Nicole Bailey. Doussett was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christyne M. Martens.

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Fort Washakie Man Sentenced To 2.5 Years For Shooting Cousin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man was sentenced to prison this week in the shooting his cousin late last year.

Victor Ynostrosa, 21, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skadahl to two and one-half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release with special conditions, after being convictd of assaulting an individual with a firearm, resulting in serious bodily injury.

Ynostrosa was also ordered to pay $26,557.28 in restitution, along with a $100 special assessment fee.

“These types of cases must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law to provide justice for the victim and reassure the public that we hold any person who risks the lives of others accountable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “This was an unfortunate event but one that was preventable. It is never a good idea to mix alcohol and firearms.”

On Dec. 10, 2020, a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs officer was dispatched to a reported shooting in Fort Washakie.

Upon arrival, the officer witnessed a young man with a bullet wound, described to be Ynostrosa’s cousin.

According to reports, after a night of heavy drinking with his sister and cousin, Ynostrosa began arguing with the other two and an altercation ensued.

Ynostrosa brandished a .22 caliber firearm and shot his cousin in the upper torso. The bullet missed the man’s heart but hit his aorta. He was taken to Wyoming Medical Center with potentially life-threatening injuries where he underwent surgery.

Ynostrosa was located a short time later and arrested.

“Mr. Ynostrosa’s use of a weapon while intoxicated seriously endangered the life of another individual and the community at large. Today’s sentence sends a message that the FBI and our federal, tribal and local partners will serve justice on those who choose to put the lives of our citizens at risk,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “FBI Denver thanks the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Wind River Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligence in this investigation.”

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Wyoming Highway Patrol Busts Man With $150M Worth Of Fentanyl

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A car carrying 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl worth about $150 million was stopped east of Cheyenne last week by the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the patrol announced.

Patrol officials announced Tuesday the discovery was made after a man was stopped for speeding east of Cheyenne.

After stopping a 2021 Hyundai Kona on Friday east of Cheyenne on Interstate 80, a trooper became suspicious of criminal activity when the driver provided inconsistent and implausible travel plans.

The trooper detained the driver and deployed a K-9 around the exterior of the car. The dog gave an alert to an odor inside the vehicle.

A search inside the car was conducted, and the trooper found approximately 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, inside the vehicle. The estimated street value of the drug was $150 million.

The driver, Diego J. Aguilar-Valdovinos, was arrested and charged with felony transportation, distribution and possession of narcotics.

The seized fentanyl has been placed in a controlled environment pending laboratory testing due to health safety concerns.

“Fentanyl has become more of a prevalent drug in recent years and can be lethal for law enforcement and first responders who come in contact with it,” the WHP said in a social media post. “Individuals can experience potentially fatal effects from minimal amounts of the drug. If Fentanyl is taken in conjunction with other opiates, its lethal dose is even smaller. To put it into perspective, two milligrams of Fentanyl can be deadly to a human.”

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Illinois Woman Charged With Disturbing Wildlife At Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Illinois woman had been charged with disturbing wildlife this week after she was caught on video getting too close to bears in Yellowstone National Park in May.

Samantha R. Dehrin, 25 of Carol Stream, Illinois, was charged with one count of willfully remaining, approaching and photographing wildlife within 100 yards and one count of feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife. She faces up to one year in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Dehring is expected to appear in front of U.S. District Court Magistrate Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on Thursday, Aug. 26, for her arraignment.

According to the violation notices, Dehring was at Roaring Mountain within the park on May 10 when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs. Other visitors slowly backed away and got into their vehicles, but Dehring remained to take pictures.

The sow bluff charged Dehring, which was captured on video and in photos. This helped lead to her identification.

According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.

People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.

Yellowstone rangers shared the results of their investigation to rangers in Illinois, who served Dehring with the violation notices in person.

She is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

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Fort Washakie Man Indicted For Abusive Sexual Contact With Minor

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man was indicted in late July for abusive sexual contact with a minor, according to U.S. District Court.

Annin Damian Soldierwolf, 52, was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 22 on allegations of abusive sexual contact. The indictment alleged Soldierwolf knowingly engaged and attempted to engage in sexual contact with a minor.

Soldierwolf pleaded not guilty to the indictment on July 28 before U.S. Magistrate Kelly Rankin.

A jury trial is set for Sept. 20 in Casper before U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl. The maximum penalty is life in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Kerry J. Jacobson is prosecuting the case.

Soldierwolf has not been found guilty of this crime, so he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Teen Charged With Murder In Connection To Sheridan County Man’s Death

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A teen who claimed to have killed his father on Wednesday has been charged with one count of second-degree murder in connection to the death.

According to the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, the unnamed 15-year-old youth was charged Thursday and a warrant was granted for his arrest.

On Wednesday morning, the sheriff’s office received a call that law enforcement officers near Hardin, Montana, were in contact with the teen, who’d been involved in a rollover accident. The teen told a Montana Highway Patrol trooper that he had killed his father in Dayton, about 20 miles from Sheridan.

Sheridan County Sheriff’s officers responded to the home and found a dead male inside, who was apparently killed by a single gunshot wound. The victim was identified at 47-year-old Edgar Jones.

The teen was taken into custody by Montana law enforcement.

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Teen Kills Father In Sheridan County, Being Held In Montana

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 15-year-old Wyoming youth is being held in Montana after telling police early Tuesday morning that he killed his father in Dayton, about 20 miles north of Sheridan.

According to the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, dispatchers received a call around 4 a.m. Tuesday from a teenage boy near Hardin, Montana, who said he killed his father in Dayton.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the home in Dayton and found a dead man inside the home.

“We would like to ensure the residents of Dayton and Sheridan County that there is no threat to the community,” Sheridan County Undersheriff Levi Dominguez said. “In order for our deputies and DCI to conduct a thorough investigation, we ask the community to stay away from the area.”

The Sheridan County Sheriff and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation are currently investigating.

The teen is being held in Montana and formal charges to be filed at a later date.

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Police Looking For Evanston Man Who Allegedly Abandoned Truck On Railroad Tracks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Uinta County Sheriff’s Office is currently seeking information on who may have left a pickup truck on some railroad tracks near Evanston that forced a stop to rail traffic in the area.

The maroon Ford F-150 truck was found abandoned and stuck on the railroad tracks Sunday afternoon in the area of the Aspen Tunnels.

Train traffic in the area was shut down for six hours while the vehicle was removed from the tracks and inspected for damage.

Deputies believe Robert Finney of Evanston was the driver of the vehicle. Finney is also wanted on a warrant for felony probation revocation.

Anyone with information about the incident or Finney’s whereabouts should call the sheriff’s office at 307-783-1000.

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Riverton Man Sentenced To Jail For Assaulting Indian Affairs Officer At Casino

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Riverton man has been sentenced to a little more than a year in prison after being convicted of assaulting a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs officer earlier this year.

Leo Michael Duran, 26, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised released on his conviction on a charge of assaulting a federal law enforcement officer. The sentenced was imposed this week in U.S. District Court.

Duran pleaded guilty to the charge in May.

According to court information, during the early morning of Jan. 23, security staff at the Wind River Hotel and Casino were in the process of escorting Duran from the premises and a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer arrived to assist.

While the officer was placing handcuffs on him, Duran turned on him and began throwing punches and causing himself and the officer to fall to the ground, according to reports

Duran got up and ran away, heading down the highway toward Riverton.

The officer made it back to his patrol vehicle and pursued Duran, completing the arrest with the assistance of Fremont County Sheriff deputies.

“We are extremely proud of BIA Law Enforcement and recognize the dangers they face while protecting the citizens of the Wind River Reservation,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Duran’s actions show his complete disregard for law enforcement and a lack of good decision making. This type of assault is not something we take lightly, and such cases will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

This crime was investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance from Fremont County Sheriff’s Department.

“FBI Denver thanks our partners at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. Mr. Duran’s violent response to contact from a federal law enforcement officer jeopardized the officer’s safety and that of the community they serve,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “The FBI stands by our law enforcement partners against violent criminals who pose a threat to the community.”

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Fort Washakie Man Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison For Sexually Abusing Minors

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison this week for sexually abusing minors on the Wind River Indian Reservation for 14 years.

Avery Fitzgerald Brown, 27, was sentenced to 14.5 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised released this week in U.S. District Court.

In late April, Brown pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact of a minor.

“The FBI and our local, state, tribal and federal partners work tirelessly to investigate and bring to justice individuals engaged in the exploitation and sexual abuse of minors. With this sentence, a dangerous child predator has been removed from the community with a clear message that sexual abuse of our vulnerable youth will not be tolerated,” said Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We are grateful to the dedication of our partners at the Wind River Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case and our shared commitment to protecting children.”

According to court records, the abuse occurred on the Wind River Indian Reservation from March 2006 to October 2020, when one of the victims disclosed in a letter to a physician with the Indian Health Service that she had been sexually assaulted by Brown multiple times.

“This case demonstrates the incredible work performed by dedicated federal agents and community members who stood up for the victims and worked tirelessly to bring this abhorrent individual to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “It takes courage for any victim – especially child victims – to come forward and disclose sexual abuse.  We should all be thankful that a young girl bravely spoke up and helped stop this defendant from hurting any other children.”

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Adrianne N. Jahnke. Assistant United States Kerry J. Jacobson prosecuted the case.

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Cheyenne Airman Saves Kidnapped Child, Helps Capture Fugitive

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne airman has been hailed for her role in the apprehension of a fugitive and the return of a kidnapped child to his mother.

Suzanne Pedro, an installation entry controller at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, was recognized this week for her actions in late June.

According to records of the event, a man drove up to the Air Force base gate and handed Pedro, assigned to defend the gate, an unusual form of identification. The man and a boy in the vehicle refused to make eye contact with the airman, which made her suspect something was amiss.

“I had a feeling something wasn’t right,” said Pedro. “Neither the man or the child looked at me while I scanned the ID. When it flashed red for warrants, my heart began to race.”

Pedro quietly alerted her supervisors and fellow airmen on duty about the situation. She directed the vehicle out of the line of traffic at the gate to keep the man from fleeing.

Airman Frank Shaw relayed information to the base defense operations center, which verified warrants had been issued for the arrest of the man in the car and contacted local law enforcement to inform officers of the situation.

“We were told of a weapon in the car, so my heart was racing, but I wasn’t nervous,” said Pedro. “My main concern was keeping the child distracted and keeping him comfortable and happy.”

Although the investigation is ongoing, the airmen have been told the child had been missing from his biological mother since December.

Pedro and Shaw were recognized by multiple levels of leadership for their actions.

“Airman Pedro exemplifies what it means to be a Defender,” said Maj. Keil Luber, commander of the 90th Security Forces Squadron, which runs the air base. “While not yet qualified on her position, she followed her instincts and training, directly contributing to the capture of a wanted criminal and the recovery of a missing child.”

Pedro expressed excitement about her coming years in the military.

“I’ve wanted to be a police officer as long as I can remember,” said Pedro. “To have only been in the Air Force for 10 months and get this experience that most haven’t gotten in their whole careers – it’s been amazing. I am thankful for everyone on my flight who has helped teach me, and I’m also thankful to my parents for supporting me in my dreams.”

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Man Gets Drunk, Leads Yellowstone Park Rangers On 100mph+ Chase

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who led Yellowstone National Park rangers this week on a chase with speeds of more than 100 mph could face multiple years in prison or hefty fines.

Roderick B. Tillman Jr. has been charged with nine misdemeanor counts, including driving under the influence, fleeing a police officer and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Tillman made an appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, where he was advised of the charges against him.

According to court documents, officers were alerted to a collision between two vehicles near Yellowstone’s southern entry gate Monday morning. The reporting party said one of the drivers, later identified as Tillman, was belligerent and was suspected to be intoxicated.

The reporting woman also said Tillman was throwing “stuff” at her husband. Tillman reportedly left the scene in a red vehicle, traveling toward Grant Village inside the park.

An officer located Tillman’s vehicle and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but Tillman did not pull over. At one point, Tillman had to stop the vehicle due to traffic and officers commanded him to leave his car, even using a gun convince him to do so.

He refused and fled the scene again.

Tillman began to drive more than 100 mph in a 45 mph speed zone in the park. He frequently drove in the opposing lane of traffic with vehicles coming toward him — some even had to swerve off the road to avoid hitting him — and made erratic passing maneuvers with no use of turn signals, said an affidavit filed in the case.

He also would suddenly accelerate or brake, creating a dangerous and unpredictable environment.

After turning his vehicle around at one point to avoid apprehension, Tillman turned down the Mesa Pit Road, a gravel road with a “do not enter” sign posted near it. He lost control of his car and slid down a steep sandy hill.

A ranger told Tillman to exit his vehicle, but he didn’t comply. His speech was slurred and his responses were incoherent as he made references to items including the ranger’s ancestors, rape and Christopher Columbus and making comments such as “You did this to me” and “I’m drunk.”

In his vehicle, officers found two empty alcohol containers and a pill bottle.

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YouTube “Influencers” Arrested In Rawlins After Breaking Into Hotel, Harassing Wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Five men were arrested over the weekend in Rawlins after breaking into an abandoned hotel and recording footage while “on tour” for their YouTube channel.

Dmitri Sergei Martyanov, 31, of Tempe, Arizona is charged with felony theft of a firearm and Jorge Eduardo Mendoza Aguinaga, 22, of California, is charged with possession of a controlled substance (three ounces of marijuana), according to Cali O’Hare of Bigfoot99, who originally reported on the incident.

Both men are currently out on bond, while their companions were not charged.

The five men had more than a half dozen firearms when they broke into the hotel. They documented their escapades on Snapchat, referring to it as “the projects” and “a serial killer’s house.”

The men also filmed themselves breaking windows inside the hotel, which was condemned almost a decade ago.

They were also seen harassing a female mule deer, throwing bread rolls at the animal.

The group of men run a YouTube channel that is labeled as a “shocking reality/comedy show” that “aims to expose the problem” of drug addiction in the United States. They generally film drug addicted and homeless people.

The duo have racked up more than 7 million views on their channel, but they haven’t posted a video since April.

Martyanov and Aguinaga were supposed to appear in circuit court for preliminary hearings this week, but their court appearances will be rescheduled, according to O’Hare.

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Man Shot By Green River Police After Firing At Officers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was shot late Tuesday by Green River police after shooting at police officers and threatening other people with a gun, according to the Green River Police Department.

Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, a Green River police officer received a report of a person who had threatened other people with a gun near a local park.

As the officer was receiving the information, a vehicle matching the description given by the caller passed by the officer’s location.

Officers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and the driver initially refused to exit the vehicle.

Then, the driver began to fire a weapon at officers, who returned fire. The subject was wounded at some point during the altercation and was transported by ambulance to Sweetwater County Memorial Hospital.

He was later taken to an out-of-state hospital for further treatment.

The investigation of the incident has been turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which is standard practice for any officer-involved shooting in the state.

No other details on the shooting were immediately available, since the investigation just commenced.

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14-Year-Old Cheyenne Male Shot And Killed In Apparent Homicide

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 14-year-old Cheyenne boy was killed early Monday morning in an apparent homicide, according to the Cheyenne Police Department.

Around 1 a.m. Monday, Cheyenne police officers were dispatched to a residence on a report of a gunshot heard inside the home. Upon arrival, they found the teenage victim.

The boy was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center by ambulance, where he was then pronounced dead.

The case is under investigation by Cheyenne police and no further information, including the victim’s name, has been released.

However, a GoFundMe page that was launched by an apparent friend of the victim’s family identified the boy as Daniel Barlow. The page also said he was shot in the chest.

“We are asking for anyone that feels lead by the Lord to please donate to funeral costs,” the GoFundMe’s organizer, Ashlea Bradford, wrote. “Nothing can bring my sweet cousin back but hopefully this will help the financial burden on my uncle. Whatever you can help with would be greatly appreciated by our family. Thank you.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the Cheyenne Police Detective Bureau at 307-637-6521. Additionally, information can be provided anonymously at 307-638-TIPS or at silentwitnesslaramiecounty.com.

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Raccoon-Hat-Wearing Maine Man Banned From Yellowstone For Trespassing Onto Old Faithful

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Maine man who last year approached Old Faithful Geyser while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag has been banned from Yellowstone National Park as part of his sentence on a guilty plea to charges stemming from the incident.

Aaron E. Merritt, 38, pleaded guilty to trespassing on the Old Faithful Thermal area in the park last summer. He was arraigned and sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail, with credit for four days served. He was also fined $230 in court costs and a $10 special assessment fee.

Merritt was also banned from the park, although it wasn’t clear if it was a lifetime ban. He was also sentenced to 15 days imprisonment with credit for four days served.

On July 7, 2020, while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag, Merritt ran out onto the thermal area and up to the geyser at Old Faithful more than once. The thermal area surrounding the geyser is off-limits to visitors.

Merritt then failed to appear for his court hearing on July 23, 2020, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was arrested on June 5 in Maine and made his appearance at the Yellowstone Justice Center.

“Yellowstone National Park has rules and regulations in place to protect park resources and help keep visitors safe,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “This case ended with federal charges and time in prison, but it could have been much worse. If Mr. Merrick had fallen through the thermal feature, he would have most likely lost his life.” 

Merritt is the second person to be banned from the park this week, joining an Indiana man who fought park rangers and security guards earlier this month while intoxicated. That man was banned from the park for five years.

According to a previous Cowboy State Daily story, Merritt is not the only person to face park justice recently. Jake Adams, a comedian who thought he could increase his social media following by hitting a golf ball in all 50 states, is now under investigation for hitting one near Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

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Drunken Man Who Attacked Yellowstone Rangers Pleads Guilty, Banned From Park For 5 Years

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who drunkenly fought park rangers and security guards in Yellowstone National Park earlier this month pleaded guilty to his offenses this week in U.S. District Court.

Kyle F. Campbell, 31, of Fairmont, Indiana pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from an incident in the park on June 21. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, a five-year term of unsupervised probation and banned from Yellowstone for five years.

He was also ordered to pay $1,550 in fines and a $50 special assessment fee.

Campbell pleaded guilty to several criminal charges: disorderly conduct; threatening, resisting, and intentionally interfering with a government employee; violating the lawful order of a government employee; being under the influence of alcohol and a controlled substance to a degree that may endanger oneself or others; and contempt of court for refusing to comply with Magistrate Judge Mark Carman’s warrant to collect a blood sample.

“We understand that people are eager to get out this summer and enjoy our national parks; however, this type of behavior is unacceptable. Thanks to the quick actions taken by park rangers and the park vendor’s security officers, no one was seriously harmed,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Stay sober, because unruly and intoxicated behavior will only earn you a spot with the jailbirds rather than enjoying the beauty and adventure of Yellowstone.”  

According to court documents, around 5:45 p.m. on June 21, a Yellowstone ranger received a report of disorderly conduct occurring at the Grant Marina. Four people had been denied access to their kayak tour by their tour guide because of intoxication.

Campbell, who was part of the group, allegedly became agitated and hostile, according to an affidavit filed in support of the charges, yelling at the tour guide and making threats.

The group left the scene in a silver minivan towing a trailer. Law enforcement began looking for the group within the park.

A few minutes later, there was a report an incident at the Grant Helispot between Campbell (dressed only in sweatpants and socks) and a security guard. The location of the incident was in an employee RV court in an area clearly marked for employees only.

When a ranger arrived, Campbell put his hands into the air, claiming he did nothing wrong and the security guard was lying. He also kept making threatening gestures toward the security guard, which caused the ranger to detain him, the affidavit said.

Campbell continued to repeat he did nothing wrong, and the ranger noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the man. Campbell confirmed he had been drinking that day and only could say he “had a lot.”

The security guard said he had seen Campbell driving the silver minivan without the trailer. When he told Campbell to drive slower in the area, Campbell flipped him off.

As they kept talking, Campbell got increasingly agitated, getting within a foot of the security guard and making comments about assaulting him, the affidavit said.

Campbell also refused to comply with the ranger’s requests to stay put and stop moving while the security guard was being interviewed. He was then placed inside the ranger’s vehicle.

While the ranger asked the security guard if Campbell could have been driving under the influence, Campbell began to bang his head against the law enforcement vehicle. He was told to stop, which he did momentarily, but then resumed.

After being removed from the car and placed on the ground, Campbell began to refer to the ranger and security guard using racist and homophobic slurs, according to the affidavit.

Campbell attempted to scoot and roll toward the security guard, and the ranger ultimately placed him under arrest for disorderly conduct.

In a search of the silver minivan, officers found empty alcohol and marijuana containers.

He also banged his head against the pavement, injuring his nose and causing it to bleed. He continued to resist detainment and paramedics taking him to the hospital in Livingston, Montana, ultimately leading to him being sedated.

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Casper Animal Shelter Employee Charged With Felony Theft

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An employee of the City of Casper’s Metro Animal Shelter has been charged with theft following an investigation that indicated he stole almost $6,000 from the shelter over six years, the Casper Police Department announced on Monday.

Michael Gaylord, a kennel technician and six-year employee of Metro Animal Shelter, has been charged with two felony counts of theft.

“The citizens of Casper deserve honest, hard-working public servants,” said Casper Chief of Police Keith McPheeters. “When one of our own falls short of the high standards we set for ourselves, we feel it necessary to inform the community and make the changes necessary to prevent this type of behavior from taking place again. Our community can trust that the Department has no tolerance for employees who do not uphold the highest levels of professionalism, a standard our citizens expect and deserve.”

An internal investigation was launched in April, following a citizen complaint concerning an unissued receipt from a transaction at the animal shelter. The investigation uncovered numerous receipts that were unaccounted for and discrepancies in financial reports at the shelter.

Because the Casper Police Department took over the shelter in 2019, it turned its findings over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation for further investigation.

Ultimately, investigators determined that over the course of six years, Gaylord stole at least $5,970 from Metro Animal Shelter, the department said.

The investigation confirmed that the theft consistently occurred through the misappropriation of small cash transactions, generally $5 or $10 at a time, occurring over time, and occurred during customer transactions for purchases of small items such as licenses, fees or other products when the customer didn’t want a receipt for the purchase.

“Over the last two years, the Casper Police Department has worked diligently and invested heavily to organize and restructure the business operations of the shelter,” the department’s Facebook post said. “This initial finding was made, in part, due to the attentiveness of the newly appointed Superintendent of Metro Animal Shelter.”

Immediately upon receipt of the citizen complaint that launched the investigation, the Casper Police Department leadership implemented new policies and procedures surrounding how monetary transactions are conducted and recorded at the Metro Animal Shelter, including increased checks and balances, oversight and accountability to ensure theft like this doesn’t happen again.

“The team at Metro Animal Shelter continues to be a dedicated group of professionals who work tirelessly to protect and serve the citizens and animals of Casper,” the post said.

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Rock Springs Accountant Sentenced to Jail For Filing Fake Tax Returns

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs accountant has been sentenced to four months in jail for filing fake tax returns on behalf of Sweetwater County restaurant owners with the Internal Revenue Service.

Paul Edman, 53, was sentenced on June 7 in U.S. District Court, and his jail time will be followed by one year of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in March to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

In February 2017, agents from the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations interviewed Edman about several of his clients, Sweetwater County restaurant owners who were believed to be hiding cas sales.

After a thorough investigation, including the use of a grand jury and interviews, the government determined Edman had willfully counseled the restaurant owners in the preparation of a false 1040 form for calendar year 2014, knowing that the form was false.

Edman made significant adjustments to both personal and business expenses related to the family-owned restaurants to reduce their tax bill, which totaled nearly $645,000.

In emails, he recommended ways they could deduct expenses in a fashion that would not stand out in an audit. This communication was easily traced and proved that Edman willfully provided the advice in an effort to defraud the United States government, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“All certified public accountants must be held to a higher standard when working with the taxpaying public in preparing income tax returns,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui. “By disregarding this duty and preparing a client’s tax return knowing it contained false deductions, Paul Edman is now a convicted felon and will spend time in prison for his criminal actions.”

Ultimately, Edman reduced the amount of his client’s tax bill by $72,000, signed and filed the tax return electronically.

“Some may argue that tax evasion is a victimless crime, but that could not be further from the truth. We all end up paying when someone unlawfully evades our tax system,” said Acting U.S Attorney Bob Murray. “Edman’s aiding and assisting certain clients file false tax returns is an outright theft of the American taxpayer.”

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Lander Man Charged With Possessing, Distributing Child Porn Via Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander man has been charged with both possessing and distributing child pornography through a social media application, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court this week.

Garret Thomas Findlay, 23, of Lander, has been charged with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge, as well as a $250,000 fine for each count.

According to the 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 content.

Kik supplied law enforcement with information about the user’s account, including IP addresses and that the person was using a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus cellphone to access their account through the Verizon network.

Law enforcement contacted Verizon, which provided a phone number for that particular phone, which was Findlay’s number. The company also confirmed Findlay had that same type of phone.

Officials tracked down one of the IP addresses to a residence in Laramie. There, they spoke with the property owner, who rented an apartment to Findlay from July to mid-December. Following this, Findlay moved back into his parents’ home in Lander.

Another IP address connected to the Kik account was found to be at Findlay’s mother’s home in Lander.

Police executed a search warrant of the home in early March, where they 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 advised the last time he viewed the material 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.

It was found that on or around March 1, Findlay used Whisper to send 18 images of child pornography to another user on the app.

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Wyoming Park Rangers Track Down Michigan Man Who Ventured Too Close to Old Faithful

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It is 2,488 miles from Old Faithful in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park to Madison, Maine. One would think that would be a safe distance for a Michigan resident seeking to avoid a Wyoming court appearance.

And this might be true if any normal law enforcement agency were involved. But not for the intrepid agents of the National Park Service.

A Michigan man learned that lesson the hard way when he was arrested earlier this week in connection with a charge he ventured too close to Old Faithful last summer.

Like the man who selected Yellowstone as the perfect location for a golf shot, Aaron Merritt learned firsthand of the tenacity of the Park Service.

It’s a lesson the Park Service applies with vigor when it sees flagrant violations of the rules that make the country’s national parks special places, said Rob Wallace, who until January oversaw the National Park Service as the assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

“When people show up and do these crazy stunts and then advertise them, they’re basically flaunting what national parks are about, and perhaps encouraging other followers on social media, to one up and do something even more, you know, crazy or stupid or dangerous,” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily. “So I think the Park Service is selective about what they decide to pursue. But in cases that are pretty egregious, they want to discourage that kind of use.”

Merritt was cited for thermal trespassing after allegedly walked too close to Old Faithful on July 7, 2020.

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Merritt was wearing a raccoon fur cap and carrying an American flag when he allegedly stepped off the boardwalk at the park. He was 50 feet off the path and approaching the backside of the geyser when a park ranger called him back. Merritt was cited, and scheduled to appear in federal court two weeks later.

But he skipped out — so a warrant was issued for his arrest.

And on Monday of this week, the Michigan resident (who has since garnered a few facial tattoos) appeared remotely before a federal judge from the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, Maine.

Merritt is not the only person to face park justice. Jake Adams, a comedian who thought he could increase his social media following by hitting a golf ball in all 50 states, is now under investigation for hitting one near Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

Wallace said special laws are in place to protect the country’s national parks and the federal government takes violations of those laws seriously.

“There’s different rules in a national park from a state park or BLM land,” he said. “You can’t take driftwood out of the park, you can’t grab a handful of flowers and take, take them apart, you can’t throw coins in the Grand Prismatic pond, for obvious reasons of corrosion.”

Wallace said it has been relatively easy to find such offenders when they speak about their exploits on social media.

“When they post their exploits on social media, that right away suggests how to find these people,” he said. “They leave clues all over the internet about what they’re doing, and it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out how to track them down.”

He added that the public plays a part in apprehending offenders as well.

“When you see reports from people that are doing things that are clearly out of balance, the public is pretty good in terms of grabbing a license plate number, taking a video, reporting it to the nearest ranger,” Wallace said. “So there’s lots of ways that information comes in. And in certain cases, the Park Service or the U.S. Attorney’s office looks at something and says, ‘That is so problematic that we’ve got to pursue this further.’”

Wallace adds that the Park Service’s relationships with other government agencies helps the process.

“The Park Service works very closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, because they are a federal agency,” he said, “and the U.S. Attorney, whether it’s in Wyoming or Maine, represents the interests of the Park Service, and looks at these cases, and makes a decision whether to take them or not.”

And when someone flaunts the rules and then disregards the consequences, Wallace says they just might find a U.S. Marshal at their door.

“They show up at their door, or they contact people and say ‘You’re in violation,’ and quite often people will cooperate,” he says. “A lot of it is ignorance. People don’t know what they don’t know. But then when they decide to put that ignorance in full display on social media, it catches people’s attention.”

“If people are smart and they are caught, they would likely agree to come back and appear before a magistrate and take their medicine,” he added.

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Cheyenne Carjackers Sentenced to Prison After Posting Crimes On Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man and Colorado teen whose criminal exploits were tracked on social media have been sentenced to prison in connection with a violent carjacking in Cheyenne last year.

Oscar Alfredo Ortiz, 20, of Cheyenne, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release, while Jacob Nathaniel Hopkins Trigg, 19, of Colorado, was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years of supervised release in connection with the April incident.

They were each ordered to pay $5,089 in restitution and $200 in special assessment fees.

Last April, a man driving in southwest Cheyenne encountered Ortiz and Trigg while they were standing on the roadway.

After the victim stopped to help the men, Ortiz brandished a rifle and demanded the victim turn over control of his vehicle. Trigg pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded he empty his pockets. The two then ordered the man out of the car at gunpoint and fled in the vehicle.

The next day, the car was found in Longmont, Colorado. Witnesses saw the two men and a woman dump the vehicle and cover it with a tarp, an action also recorded by video cameras in the area.

Meanwhile, officers in Longmont were tracking the duo on social media and found several posts related to their crime spree, which also included a high-speed chase on Interstate 70 near Evergreen, Colorado.

The Colorado State Patrol ultimately stopped pursuing the vehicle after speeds reach more than 96 miles per hour in a heavy traffic area.

The FBI ultimately arrested the two following a search warrant of Ortiz’ Cheyenne home, where the firearms were also located. Both firearms were traced to the two men.

“I want to send a clear message to would-be carjackers: Committing a senseless act of violence like carjacking will earn you a home in federal prison for a long time,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “This office and our law enforcement partners will always fight for crime victims and do our job to hold accountable violent criminals.”

The case was investigated by the Cheyenne Police Department, F.B.I., the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and Longmont Police Department in Colorado.

“Today’s sentence highlights the successful collaboration between the FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force, Cheyenne Police Department, Longmont Police Department, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The CPD’s integration into the RMSSTF directly impacted the efficiency of the investigation,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We work diligently with our partners to identify, investigate, and prosecute violent criminals such as Trigg and Ortiz to protect the public and keep our communities safe. FBI Denver is grateful for all our task force participants as these strong partnerships continue to bring justice to those who commit violent crimes.”

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Natrona County Sheriff Investigating Strip Club Shooting; Left Man In Critical Condition

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Natrona County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating a shooting at a Casper strip club over Memorial Day weekend.

Around 12:30 a.m. Monday, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call regarding an adult man who had been shot in the parking lot of Northern Dreams, a strip club that is around 8 miles outside of Casper, NCSO spokesman Sgt. Taylor Courtney told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The victim was taken to the Wyoming Medical Center with critical injuries, but he is now in stable condition.

While no one has been charged in the shooting yet, police executed a search warrant on a building in a residential area of Casper on Tuesday evening. One person was arrested during this time, but it was for unrelated charges.

There was a heavy police presence in the area where the search warrant was being executed.

Courtney couldn’t reveal much information about the shooting, the victim or a motive, as there is “still so much under investigation.”

“We have no specific information about a threat to the public at this time,” Courtney said.

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Torrington Man Accused of Uploading 102 Files of Child Porn to Internet

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Torrington man faces federal charges in connection with allegations he had more than 100 files of child pornography on his computer, with some images depicting children as young as 4 in sexual situations.

Andrew Bryan Culligan, 35, is charged with one count of transporting child pornography, which comes with a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if he is convicted.

According to court documents, federal investigators received multiple cybertips from Google regarding an account that contained 102 files of child pornography on the company’s Google Drive and Google Photos system. Many of the files showed prepubescent girls engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Investigators traced the IP address of the computer where the files were uploaded and revealed a Torrington address. Google also provided information about one of the email addresses registered to the Google Drive/Photos account, which was tracked to Culligan.

During the investigation, it was discovered that Culligan is a registered sex offender, having been convicted in 2013 of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The computer used to upload the child pornography was traced to his home in Torrington.

In April, a search of the home was done and investigators interviewed Culligan’s girlfriend, whose name the home’s internet service was listed under. She confirmed to police that Culligan did use one of the email accounts reported through the cybertips and that he was “protective” of the account.

However, the girlfriend was allowed to use Culligan’s other email account, which was also reported in the cybertips, to file his taxes.

Culligan was contacted while the search warrant was being executed, and while he confirmed one of the email accounts reported was his, he asked for a lawyer. Investigators then terminated the interview.

Based on his admission, Culligan was arrested on a state charge of child sexual exploitation and transported to the Goshen County Detention Center. He was formally charged in early April, but posted bond two days later.

Also according to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, last week, Culligan’s girlfriend took her 14-year-old daughter to the local emergency room to be examined for assault after finding a letter Culligan to the girl.

In the letter, Culligan made sexual remarks to the girl and expressed a desire to impregnate her. The girl has disclosed “multiple” incidents between Culligan and herself, but this is still being investigated, the affidavit said.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Investors In Wyoming Natural Gas Schemes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from two schemes to defraud investors in Wyoming and elsewhere in the United States, officials announced Friday.

On Tuesday, Robert William Mitchell, 52, of Centennial, Colorado, entered guilty pleas related to an indictment alleging separate, but related, investor frauds.

First, Mitchell pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud investors in a  Wyoming natural gas production venture.

According to court records, Mitchell solicited investments he claimed would be used to create a publicly traded natural gas production company in Wyoming.

Instead of developing any company or protecting the investors’ money, Mitchell used the money to pay his personal expenses and continue financing the scheme.

Mitchell stole over $1.3 million from about three dozen investors, most of whom lived in and around Gillette, according to the indictment.

Second, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud in relation to the common stock of NuTech Energy Resources Inc.

According to court records, Mitchell conspired to artificially inflate the market price of NuTech common stock by manipulative trading and by releasing to the public false and misleading information about NuTech’s business prospects. 

Mitchell then sold his worthless NuTech shares to unwitting investors in the public market.

The indictment also charged three other men with crimes arising from the alleged conspiracy. Their jury trial will begin on Sept. 20 in Cheyenne.

As a result of his guilty pleas, Mitchell may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, along with three years of supervised release.

In addition, he faces fines up to $250,000, as well as possibly being ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District  Court Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne on Aug. 4.

These crimes were investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

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Lander Woman Sentenced For Making False Sex Assault Accusations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander woman was sentenced to prison this week for making false accusations about being sexually assaulted.

Rachael Myla Stagner, 36, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne to just under two years in prison, 21 months in total. She was indicted in September and pleaded guilty in January to allegations she made false claims that she was sexually assaulted by a white man on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Her initial report of the assault initiated an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, since the FBI has jurisdiction over the reservation. During the course of the investigation, Stagner maintained her claims in an effort to extort money from the victim, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI take any allegation of sexual assault seriously,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “The resources our offices have to investigate and prosecute crimes on the Wind River Indian Reservation are limited, and false reports hinder and delay other investigations.  Not to mention how actions like this belittle the crime of sexual assault and those who are true victims,” concluded Murray.

Upon completion of her prison sentence, Stagner will serve three years of supervised released. she was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners take seriously acts of violence and sexual assault targeting our Native American community. False claims of such crimes, in this case meant to extort the alleged perpetrator, result in the diversion of valuable law enforcement and victim service resources away from actual victims,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “The FBI thanks our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs – Wind River Police Department, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, and Montana Department of Corrections – Adult Probation & Parole for their work in this matter.”

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Casper Man Sentenced to 10 Years For Making, Uploading Child Porn

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Casper man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for making, uploading and possessing child pornography.

Liam Van Damme, 21, was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised released in U.S. District Court. He was also ordered to pay a $200 special assessment fee and may be ordered to pay restitution through a separate court order.

Van Damme came to the attention of law enforcement after he uploaded child pornography while using Google and Flickr accounts.

A probe conducted by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation showed Van Damme had images of children as young as toddlers being violently sexually abused. He also recorded a young child he had access to while the child was being changed, editing the video to focus on the child’s genitalia.

“The sexual exploitation of innocent children has to be the most heinous crime imaginable,” said Acting United State Attorney Bob Murray. “Predators like Van Damme create a demand that only leads to more kids being abused. It must stop. We will investigate, prosecute, and lock up anyone in possession of child pornography so we can put an end to this disgusting practice.”

This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

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Three Wyoming Residents Sentenced For Distributing Meth Through Mail

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three Wyoming residents have been sentenced to multiple years in prison for their part in a scheme to use the U.S. Post Office to mail methamphetamine.

Louiz Serbando Pena-Hermosillo, 35, of Casper, Ashley Nichole Bullock, 35, of Gillette, Sheila Ann Rohovie, 33, of Dubois were all convicted on charges stemming from a conspiracy to distribute meth. A fourth individual, Angel de Jesus Duarte-Toledo, 34, of Arizona, was also convcted in the operation.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne, in April 2020, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation began looking into a drug distribution ring engaged in circulating meth throughout Wyoming. The investigation began when DCI notified the USPIS that its agents believed people in Wyoming were using the postal service to mail meth.

Acting on this information, the USPIS recovered a packaged containing just under a pound of meth. Investigators determined Duarte-Toledo was mailing meth from Arizona to Wyoming for further distribution.

After his co-conspirators in Wyoming received the packages, the drugs were then distributed throughout the Gillette and Glenrock communities.

Duarte-Toledo and Rohovie were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, Pena-Hermosillo received a 12-year sentence and Bullock received a 6.5-year sentence.

“As this case demonstrates, bolden methamphetamine traffickers are using every possible method to sell this poisonous drug to the people of Wyoming. In order to stop this dangerous and illegal trade, we will closely coordinate with all of our law enforcement partners, including the USPIS to identify, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate those responsible,” said acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. 

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Woman Found Dead In Goshen County, Police Investigating As Suspicious

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The death of a woman whose body was found in Goshen County is being investigated by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Goshen County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the sheriff’s office, officers were called Monday morning to a home in Goshen County where a woman’s body was found. No indication was given as to where the home was, whether it was Torrington, Lingle, La Grange or another town in the county.

Her death is considered suspicious, the sheriff’s office said, but no more information was available as of Tuesday morning, including the woman’s name or manner of death.

Since this is an ongoing investigation, no further details could be released.

However, if police do determine the woman’s death a murder, it would be the second in the county in less than two months.

Shawn Logan Pettus was charged in April with first-degree murder in the death of Madison Cook, 20, a Torrington resident.

Cook’s body was discovered in a Torrington residence in April as the result of an investigation into an arson-caused fire at Pettus’ tattoo shop.

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Wyoming to Receive $500K In Magazine Scam Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive a settlement of $500,000 in a lawsuit alleging two companies targeted customers nationwide by selling overpriced magazine subscriptions using deceptive mailers designed to look like renewal notices for customers’ legitimate existing subscriptions.

Wyoming joined Colorado in this lawsuit against Atlantic Publishers and Publishers Partnership Services and will also receive $500,000 in the settlement.

Both states’ attorney general offices, as well as the Better Business Bureau, received hundreds of complaints, mainly from people over 60, about the mailers.

One customer, a 94-year-old woman, reported to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that she sent more than $60 to Atlantic Publishers when she received what she thought was a renewal notice for her “Time” magazine subscription, but when she received the real renewal notice the next month, she called the magazine and was told they had not received her payment. 

Colorado filed a lawsuit in November 2019, and Wyoming filed its lawsuit in January of this year. 

The lawsuits stated that from 2016 through 2019, Atlantic Publishers Group and Publishers Partnership Services sent millions of these deceptive mailers to consumers across the country.  

“Overcharging and misleading older consumers into thinking that the mailers were renewal notices  is unconscionable,” said Colorado AG Phil Weiser. “We are pleased that we were able to work with Wyoming to stop this practice that caused financial stress for many consumers and hurt the operations of legitimate  magazine publishers.” 

Because Atlantic Publishers operated out of Colorado, and Publishers Partnership Services operated out of Wyoming, people from across the U.S. filed complaints with the attorneys general offices in both states.

“This settlement highlights the value of interstate coordination,” said Wyoming AG Bridget Hill. “Working together as  equal partners, Colorado and Wyoming have halted and held accountable those whom we allege used our states as home base for misleading consumers nationwide.”  

Under the terms of the joint settlement, the alleged organizers of this scam, Dennis Simpson and John Ackermann, and their companies will pay $500,000 to each of the attorneys general offices to support consumer protection efforts in Colorado and Wyoming.  

They are also banned from operating magazine subscription businesses in both states and from sending the deceptive mailers to Colorado and Wyoming consumers. 

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Vandals Destroy Phone Lines In Uinta County, Causing 911 Outage

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Vandals destroyed fiber-optic lines and materials in rural Uinta County this weekend, cutting off 911 telephone service for some county residents.

On Friday, Century Link experienced an outage that disrupted phone and internet services to many customers in the Bridger Valley area, with some outages lasting until Sunday.

During Century Link’s investigation into the outage, workers discovered “mass” intentional damage to fiber-optic lines and materials in rural Bridger Valley. It appeared that the damage was caused by multiple vehicles.

As of Monday, the damages were estimated to be in excess of tens of thousands of dollars, with hundreds of customers affected.

This incident is being investigated by the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office.

If anyone has information about the individuals that may be involved, please contact the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office 307-783-1000, or the information can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers by text: 307-708-2274. Information leading to an arrest could be eligible for a reward. 

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