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Pinedale Woman To Be Extradited To Michigan For 25 Year Cold Case Involving Baby’s Death

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Pinedale woman will be back in Michigan within the next month to face charges in a 25-year-old cold case involving a baby’s death, the Mackinac County, Michigan sheriff told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Mackinac County Sheriff Edward Wilk said the suspect in the case waived her right to an extradition hearing in Sublette County late last week.

“We have 30 days to get her transported back here to Michigan, where she will then be arraigned,” Wilk said. “Right now, we’re trying to work out how that will be done, whether it’s us coming out to Wyoming to bring her back or hiring a company that does prisoner transports like this.”

The 58-year-old woman was arrested July 12 after she was interviewed by Mackinac County investigators in Pinedale and confirmed she was the mother of “Baby Garnet,” who was found June 26, 1997 by a worker in a Garnet Lake Campground septic pit in Michigan, according to sheriff’s officials.

It was not clear if the baby girl was dead prior to being placed in the septic pit. The Detroit News reported that the baby’s body was too decomposed to be identified or to reveal details such as the child’s race. 

Wilk has not revealed the suspect’s identity, but the only 58-year-old woman being held at the Sublette County Detention Center as of Tuesday was Nancy Ann Gerwatowski, who was listed as being a “fugitive from justice.”

Gerwatowski was arrested on July 12 and has been held at the detention center ever since, according to jail records.

25 Years of Investigation

Investigators attempted to solve the case when Baby Garnet was first discovered, but they could not confirm her identity and the case went cold, Cowboy State Daily previously reported.

However, in 2017, county and state police reopened the case and ultimately decided to use forensic genetic genealogy in hopes of identifying the girl.

A genealogist traced the baby’s blood lines and found the name of the woman who was likely her mother, who had since moved from the Garnet area to Wyoming in the 25 years that had passed.

Wilk said earlier this month that he did not know when exactly the woman moved to the Pinedale area, but he said he believed she left the Garnet community not long after the baby’s death.

He also noted at the time that the girl’s father, siblings and other family members have been identified. He hopes the family will receive closure from knowing what happened to Baby Garnet.

Probable Cause

According to sheriff’s officials, the woman provided additional comments that provided probable cause for police to arrest her for murder.

News outlet MLive reported that forensics tests conducted on the baby showed that she had gestated for between 38 and 40 weeks, indicating the mother carried her to full term.

The outlet also reported that police at the time believed the girl was placed in the outhouse as early as June 1, 1997, and that her parents likely lived in the region.

The community raised nearly $1,000 to bury the girl in a white casket at Hudson Township, Michigan Cemetery. About 40 people attended Baby Garnet’s funeral, bringing flowers to the memorial service.

“We’re a county of about 11,000 people and that township has a couple hundred people, so when something like that happens around here, people take notice,” Wilk said earlier this month. “Even though the case isn’t closed, we’re a step closer to bringing the community closure.”

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

in News/Education/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

The statement did not specify the nature of the misconduct.

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

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

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

The school district provided no further information on the incident.

People v. Preds

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

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

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

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

Confirmed Photo

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

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

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

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

Text Messages

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

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

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

Police Arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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Pinedale Airport Officially Reopens

in Pinedale

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By Robert Galbreath, Pinedale Roundup

PINEDALE – The Pinedale Airport reopened at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 30, Abram Pearce, Town of Pinedale director of public works, confirmed to the Roundup. The airport runway project, including asphalt pavement and striping, reached substantial completion on Thursday morning.

The airport was initially slated to reopen on Sept. 4, with the date pushed back due to asphalt paving delays, Pearce explained. The primary issue was quality control – hitting the specs of the contract and ensuring the town got the quality of product it was aiming for, Pearce added.

At the Sept. 27 town council meeting, Pearce stated the only work left on the runway was to groove the pavement. Grooving work had to be done 30 days after the paving was completed and the work would take place at night to ensure the airport remained open, Pearce said.

Pearce raised the concern that the night work would take place at the end of October and early November in freezing temperatures. Pearce met with the contractors and T-O Engineers, the firm overseeing the project, to consider pushing the grooving project out to next spring.

Wes Werbelow, an engineer at T-O, told the council waiting for spring to avoid fighting with freezing temperatures had no downsides for the town and would result in higher quality in the finished product.

Financial audit

The Town of Pinedale passed its financial audit with flying colors, reported Tim Fixter of Fagnant, Lewis and Brinda, P.C. Fagnant, Lewis and Brinda, an accounting firm based in Lander, carried out the audit on the towns financial reports and statements this year.

Fixter gave the town an “unmodified audit” opinion, meaning the firm found no material weaknesses in the town’s finances and all statements met regulatory requirements. This is the best opinion an auditor can grant a governing entity, Fixter explained.

Recreational resort development district ordinance passes second reading

Ordinance 692, to establish a recreational resort development district in Pinedale, passed unanimously on second reading.

Chauncey Goodrich proposed the concept to the council in June to foster growth in the tourism and recreation industry.

The proposed ordinance incorporated hotels, motels, recreational vehicle and motor coach resorts with owned or rented lots along with “other similar uses oriented toward tourism and the resort business.”

Ed Wood, town attorney, told councilmembers that he met with Goodrich and town staff to amend the ordinance based on discussion held during the first reading. The modifications included defining primary and secondary facilities, language related to using town services, lot sizes and specifications, the permitting process and limits to the length of stay at certain RV and motor coach facilities.

Pearce stated he and town staff were “much more comfortable” with the amended ordinance.

Councilmembers did not debate the overall ordinance and kept the discussion to suggestions on places to clean up language in specific sections, including length of stay and how the recreational resort development district would affect the new short-term rental ordinance.

Additional news

Councilmembers passed a rate resolution on first and final reading containing several changes to the town’s fee, permit and license structure. The modifications included adding a fuel flow fee of 6 cents per gallon at the airport.

The rate resolution also included a simplified fee structure for tournaments and other events at the new Dudley Key Sports Complex and fees for the short-term rental permit.

The council approved a request from Union Wireless to extend a permit to operate a cell on wheels tower, or COW, for an additional year until Union completed a permanent tower.

Mayor Matt Murdock emphasized to Union the need to follow the towns ordinance on wireless towers.

Councilmembers approved a contract with Rita Wright for laboratory consultation on the towns water system. Pearce told board members Wrights job included offering staff training and preparing the town for an audit by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Sublette County Shows Western Hospitality To Kids In Fatal Bus Crash

in News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Western hospitality at its finest was on display in Sublette County on a Friday in late June, when a tragic accident allowed local heroes to shine.

On Friday, June 25, the Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to a report that a motorcycle had crashed into a tour bus north of the Hoback Rim near Pinedale. 

According to patrol reports, a Big Piney man, 30-year-old Holden Horgan, was killed when his motorcycle crossed into the southbound lane of the highway on a dangerous curve and collided head-on with a tour bus carrying 55 high school students from Missouri.

Horgan was killed instantly — while the high school students and their driver were left on the side of the road, uninjured but traumatized by the crash, but with no severe injuries reported. 

A second bus carrying a similar number of students was undamaged, but the trip was halted for all 100 students and their chaperones.

That’s when Pinedale residents came to the rescue, according to Darren Hull, executive director for the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce. 

As a volunteer firefighter for the county, Hull was at the scene of the accident and he said he realized that it was going to take some time before another bus would arrive to replace the damaged vehicle.

“We’re sitting there kind of waiting for the investigation to take place,” he said, “and I was thinking well, there’s no reason we can’t help on the other end. 

“And so I double checked with the battalion chief that was on scene, he said it was fine, so I called our Visitor Center, and got the staff rolling — knowing it was coming up on dinner time, just kind of figuring out what to do with these kids for the next three hours till the bus came,” he continued

The town of Pinedale kicked into caretaking mode, according to Hull, first taking the students to American Legion Park and then looking for ways to feed them.

“The Visitor Center staff called Ridley’s grocery store, and instead of charging — we just figured we’d pay when we got there — the grocery store just said, ‘Hey, no, no, we’ll just donate,’” he said. “And they actually showed up at the park with the stuff, so that was awesome.”

Hull said the local pizza restaurant, Old Stones, started making pizzas for the stranded students, using the restaurant’s full capacity to make six pizzas at a time. 

“They started making them before we were even dispatched from the scene,” Hull said. “And then our Visitor Center staff would pick them up and bring them to American Legion Park, then drive back over, and pick up another six or seven.”

The group of students and adults had concerns in addition to hunger, though, according to Hull — a summer storm had started brewing and the Pinedale hosts realized that they needed to find indoor shelter for their guests.

“There were kids that were starting to get cold, and they were kind of huddled under the park shelters, and so I actually called Jason Burton, who is one of the employees for the Pinedale Aquatic Center,” Hull said. “He got the logistics worked out at the PAC for those 100 kids to descend upon that Aquatic Center with a skeleton crew on a Friday night, no warning. So we were able to move the kids and the rest of the pizzas inside, and they hung out and played basketball.” 

The gratitude of the students’ families back in Missouri was overwhelming, according to posts made on the Sublette County Chamber’s Facebook page.

“My kiddo was on this bus,” wrote Shanna Dale. “My momma’s heart is so grateful for the hospitality your community displayed. Wrapped your collective arms around our kids during a tragic situation. Thank you!”

“Thank you for taking care of Columbia’s kids and adults on Friday,” said Meera Sood. “You stepped up in the most generous way possible and defined what it means to be a community. You set the bar high for how we care for each other and led by example. We are forever grateful! Sympathy for the motorcycle rider’s family.”

Hull said his contacts developed through his job with the chamber of commerce allowed him to set the rescue operation in motion.

“Being from Missouri, they obviously didn’t know where to go, what to do, and being stressed out, so we just took it off their plate,” he said.

He added the generosity of the community isn’t surprising.

“You see it over and over, the generosity of Sublette County,” he said. “And you don’t even really think about it, just kind of what the community does. And people say, ‘Oh man, I wish my community was like that,’ and you realize that maybe it is special, that people will bend over backwards to help each other out and to help strangers.”

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Missing Man, Dog Found On Union Pass After Going Missing This Weekend

in News/Good news

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A missing motorist and his dog were found safe but cold and hungry on Sunday after being stranded over the weekend on the Union Pass in Pinedale.

According to the Tip Top Search and Rescue social media accounts, the Wyoming Highway Patrol informed agencies of a reported missing motorist who last made contact with his family on Friday evening.

He was stopped behind the closed barrier on Wyoming Highway 28 and told his family he would find another route around the mountain, with his destination being Riverton.

Sublette County Sheriff’s officers were notified of a ping off his cell phone just northwest of Pinedale, but it was difficult to triangulate the man’s exact location.

Tip Top Search and Rescue members were sent out Sunday morning, intending to investigate all possible routes to Riverton, focusing on the Union Pass route north of Pinedale.

Due to the heavy snowfall over the weekend, a snow machine team of SAR members were deployed to ride the Union Pass road to see if any vehicle tracks could be found.

Around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, SAR team members found a vehicle matching the description of the one the man was driving near Raspberry Creek on the Fremont/Sublette County line. The car had slid off the road and gotten stuck.

Team members found a man and dog standing outside the vehicle and both appeared to be in good health, despite the situation. The man had an extensive medical history and hadn’t had food or his medication since Friday, but had no complaints than being cold and hungry

The man had plenty of gas in his vehicle and planned to stay until help arrived.

SAR members bundled the man in warm clothing and brought him, his dog and some personal belongings back down the trail until they met up with the rest of the team. The man was transferred to a warm vehicle and was taken to his family.

“This is a good reminder to check your routes before travel, plan extra time for inclement weather, have resources in your vehicle for survival should you become stranded, and ALWAYS let family and friends know where you are going,” Tip Top said in its Facebook post.

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Pinedale Bar Finds Loophole to Open Back-Up as a Bar

in News/Coronavirus

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If you keep trying hard enough, you might find a way around Gov. Gordon’s COVID-19 regulations.

At least that’s what a bar in Pinedale did and it appears to have worked.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office announced on Tuesday that the Cowboy Bar’s plan to operate an outside bar is allowable.

Here’s how it will work:

A patron can place an order at the outside bar area.  A bartender will fulfill the order while a separate individual will handle the monetary exchange.

If patrons stay 6 feet apart and no more than 10 individuals are in the outside bar area at one time, things are good to go.

That doesn’t mean the sheriff’s office is happy with it.

In a Facebook post, the department says the plan is not advisable and they do not “condone the practice.”

“We encourage the public to stay home when you can and adhere to proper social distancing and the state health orders in effect,” the post reads.

One commenter was nonplussed about the announcement.

“Yeah, that’s been going on forever now,” said Greg Miller.

Forever or not, the sheriff’s office offered a reminder as to what is illegal and enforceable, including:  social gatherings of 10 or more people, taking open alcoholic containers into public areas, taking alcoholic drinks to go, going inside a bar and failing to maintain social distancing of at least six feet.

Calls to the bar for comment were unsuccessful. The prerecorded answer announced that “the telephone you are calling cannot receive calls.”

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