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Natrona County

Casper Woman Sentenced To Prison For Helping Boyfriend Sexually Abuse Son

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wyoming Health Dept: Starting Friday, Masks Will Be Optional in Casper Schools

in News/Coronavirus/Education

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the waning days of the school year, Casper schools have been granted a variance from the state’s public school mask mandate by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Officials with Natrona County School District No. 1 requested the variance on Monday and it was approved Thursday. As of Friday, masks will be optional for all students, staff and school visitors while on district premises.

Face coverings must still be worn on all district transportation service vehicles, which is a federal order for all schools.

All of the schools will continue to have a masking requirement in and around a designated nursing station.

“Bullying, intimidation, shaming, or harassment of any kind by any individual regarding a person’s choice to wear or not wear a face covering will NOT be tolerated,” the district said in an announcement Thursday.

Students and staff will also be required to wear a mask or face covering while visiting another school or event outside of the district if they are asked to do so.

This is the largest school district in the state to receive a mask variance, following in the footsteps of other Wyoming school districts such as Sweetwater, Goshen and Park counties. Most have reported success from this move, but around 100 people recently had to be quarantined in Sheridan County following the removal of their mask policy.

Natrona County had 25 active coronavirus cases as of Thursday.

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Natrona Health Officer Urges Vaccinations; Says Masking Is Reason For Covid Improvement

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

There is some good news concerning the ongoing coronavirus in pandemic, according to Natrona County’s health officer.

Dr. Mark Dowell, in his most recent video message posted to social media, expressed some excitement about developments in coronavirus treatment and prevention.

“The message today is things are looking brighter. The more all of us do right now to prevent the spread of the virus to follow the social distancing and the masking and get the vaccine, the better the outlook for the summer and fall,” he said. “Things are looking up.”

Dowell used his latest address to Natrona County residents to discuss the coronavirus variant that’s been found in Wyoming, county hospitalizations and the coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re maintaining low levels in the hospital, at around 11 to 15 patients at any one time,” Dowell said. “Our ICU has few, if no, patients with COVID right now, which has incredibly improved due to the community masking up and doing their job. For that, I applaud you completely.”

He noted that the coronavirus variant found in Teton County isn’t more aggressive, just more contagious than the original variant.

He added that as long as people continue to wash their hands, wear masks and properly social distance, there should be no major cause for concern.

Next, Dowell stated that people who were elderly should get the vaccine once it’s available in their area

While Natrona County ran out of the vaccine late last week, Dowell said this was a good situation, as it meant elderly residents “stepped up to the plate” to get their first dosages.

“What I really want to do is open this up to those of you that are 60 to 70, especially if you’ve got medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, things like that. You’re the people that really need the vaccine.”

While Dowell knew some people still were hesitant to get the vaccine, he noted that many of his friends and patients have received it, experiencing few to no side effects.

“Do the right thing,” he said.

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Natrona County Health Officer Calls For Statewide Mask Mandate

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Natrona County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell called for Gov. Mark Gordon and other city and county officials to create mask mandates, as coronavirus cases skyrocket in Natrona County and Wyoming.

Dowell posted an 8-minute video to his business’ Facebook page on Sunday evening, making comments about the evening’s football games.

“It was a wild week,” Dowell said in the video. “I spent a lot of time working on COVID things, doing a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out what to do with the situation.”

He noted that seven people died in Natrona County in the last week and that 60% of patients in just one nursing home in the county had the coronavirus. Hospitals across the state, but Natrona County particularly, are beginning to fill with sick patients.

Meanwhile, many medical practitioners across the state are now infected with coronavirus and many schools in the state are seeing cases in students, he said.

The massive increase of cases has opened Dowell’s eyes, he said, prompting him to call for a mask mandate from both Natrona County officials and Gordon, who has resisted implementing one. Gordon did say during a news conference on Friday that stricter coronavirus health orders were coming, but didn’t say when.

“I don’t want to make people mad. I’m not interested in taking away anyone’s rights,” Dowell said in the video. “But I’m sitting here in a health emergency watching people in this county die.”

The goal of the mask mandate is to keep businesses and schools open, he added.

Dowell is one of many county health officers across the state who have called on Gordon to implement a mandate statewide.

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