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Rock Springs

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

in News/Crime
Courtesy, Lynne Sharrock.
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rock Springs Juvenile Arrested For Making Terroristic Threats On Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs youth was recently arrested and charged with making terroristic threats, the Rock Springs Police Department announced.

According to department officials, police were notified during the holiday break about threats of school violence circulating on social media in the Sweetwater County School District No. 1 area.

Department officials did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment about the situation on Tuesday.

The investigation culminated in the arrest of a Rock Springs juvenile, who was charged with one count of making terroristic threats, a felony offense that comes with a maximum prison sentence of three years.

Nicole Bolton, SCSD1 human resources director, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she could not release any information about which school the student attended or what type of threats were made. She added she felt confident everyone in the district was safe.

“When there is a threat of safety or well-being to a school, it becomes an immediate priority,” Bolton said. “Everything is always fully investigated in cooperation with law enforcement.”

Any students involved in making or spreading such threats could face expulsion from the school district in addition to criminal charges.

The police department asked the public and parents to report any posts regarding school violence to law enforcement or a school staff member and to monitor all of their children’s online activity.

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2023 International Airstream Rally To Be Held At Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs

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By Rock Springs Rocket Miner, Cowboy State Daily

ROCK SPRINGS — For the first time in 66 years, an international rally dedicated to devotees of the Airstream travel trailer will be held in the will be held in Sweetwater County.

This isn’t some podunk event where people gather in a parking lot and look at an RV.

This is huge. The International Airstream Rally is expected to bring over 1,800 people and hundreds of Airstreams from 49 states and Canadian provinces to Rock Springs in June, 2023.

Executives of Airstream Club International on Tuesday signed the contract solidifying the Sweetwater Events Complex as the site for the annual get-together.

It means a lot of money too. Conservative estimates project that over $1 million will be spent in Sweetwater County during the event.

“Our visit with the executive team members was extremely successful. We were able to brainstorm how to set up the rally around the grounds and activities in Sweetwater County for rally attendees to participate in,” said Sweetwater Events Complex executive director, Larry Lloyd. 

During the rally attendees will meet fellow Airstream members, learn about the Airstream lifestyle and explore all the activities, local businesses and restaurants Sweetwater County has to offer. 

“There is a certain comradery among Airstream owners. Our rallies are a great opportunity to meet and bond with fellow Airstream owners. We also love to support the communities we visit and are planning a community service opportunity for our members to participate in,” said Airstream Club International corporate manager and rally organizer, Lori Plummer. 

Airstream International Club and the Sweetwater Events Complex are partnering with the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rock Springs, and Downtown URA to ensure the community and local businesses are involved. As part of the rally, there will be a parade of vintage Airstreams through town for residents to enjoy.

There will be an open house during the rally where locals can tour vintage Airstreams, browse products from vendors and view Airstreams for sale. The City of Rock Springs will be hosting a special downtown event for rally attendees and the community at large to mingle and enjoy the town. 

Local food trucks will be featured at the rally and associated events throughout the week, local vendors will be invited to participate in the vendor fair, restaurants and business will be bustling with activity and gas stations will have increased traffic. 

“A motto of the Airstream International Club founder, Wally Byam, was ‘Fun, Fellowship & Adventure.’ We look forward to living that motto to the fullest by meeting and making new friends, learning about the Airstream lifestyle, and exploring all Sweetwater County has to offer at our 2023 rally,” said Plummer.

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School Bus Drivers Shortage Hits Sweetwater County School District No. 1

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By Trina Brittain, Rock Springs Rocket Miner

ROCK SPRINGS — Educators are teaching and students are learning but Sweetwater County School District No.1 is facing a shortage on school bus drivers.

School bus drivers have always played an important role in the lives of families in our community.

According to Joe Clingenpeel, Director of Transportation, 11 part-time drivers and four bus aides are needed.

“Bus drivers have a different kind of schedule – they may clock in and clock out three or four times a day, but they could still work five hours a day,” Clingenpeel explained. “It takes a very special person to tackle that kind of schedule, be a good driver and be good with kids.”

Clingenpeel pointed out, “Bus drivers have a huge influence on kids. They’ve helped a countless number of children and I’m proud of them.”

While COVID-19 is a big factor in the bus driver shortages nationwide, Nicole Bolton, Director of Human Resources, said that is not the main reason for the school bus driver shortage in Rock Springs.

“It’s hard to compete with private businesses when they offer better pay, more hours and benefits – that’s been the main concern here,” Bolton shared. “Often, drivers with a CDL can’t refuse a full-time position with benefits.”

“Being a part-time school bus driver is perfect for a select population,” Bolton revealed. “Our best drivers are the ones who retired and just needed something to do part-time.”

Bolton usually receives positive feedback from the school bus drivers.

“We don’t have a very high turn-over rate at all, in fact, I hear many drivers say that this is the most rewarding job,” Bolton said. “Most kids will go home and talk about their drivers more than anyone else – the students really love their drivers.”

“We have a top-notch training and safety program,” Clingenpeel said. “We’re not going to put anyone behind the wheel until they’re ready.”

He added, “Our drivers are very confident when they finish their training.”

Bolton and Clingenpeel agreed that the school bus drivers are “a genuinely awesome group of people who are phenomenal with kids.”

“Bus drivers play an important role in the lives of our community,” Bolton said.

Bolton pointed out that the district does not have a problem filling their full-time positions with benefits.

“That’s a perk for them if they want to start part-time and then make their way into full-time.”

Candidates for a school bus driver position must be 23 years old and have a good Motor Vehicle Record.

“This job is flexible with online classes,” Bolton mentioned. “It’s good extra income and the retirees, especially, love it.”

According to school bus driver, Kyla Witt, there are a few perks transporting children in Rock Springs.

“The beauty of being a bus driver is watching the town wake up and witness the beautiful sunrises,” Witt expressed. “I love driving in the morning, picking up my happy and tired students.”

Witt was originally a bus aide during the 2020-2021 school year. Soon, she decided to get her CDL and be a driver.

“It was honestly something that I was afraid of doing,” she admitted. “I didn’t trust myself driving a huge bus.”

“With a lot of encouragement from the great team I work with, I gained confidence. I was trained by one of the Top Ten Best Over the Road Driver’s/Trainers. I get excited to drive now,” Witt said.

According to Witt, trainees receive paid training.

“I didn’t have to pay for a single class,” she said.

“As bus drivers, we are the first person kids see in the morning and the last person they see at the end of their school day. We can start and end their day with some positivity. I have made new friendships with co-workers, and I truly care about each of my students who ride my bus.”

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Rock Springs Pulls Together To Raise Over $50,000 For Flood Victims

in Rock Springs/News
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By Tyler Johnson tjohnson@rocketminer.com

ROCK SPRINGS – The Rock Springs community doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Especially when it involves helping out a neighbor in need.

After a 100-year flood impacted many residents in late July, the citizens of Rock Springs pulled together like they have done time and time again.

So far, the city has raised a total of $52,933 to help at least 94 families and victims who saw their basements take on a large amount of water on July 28, according to Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce president Rick Lee.

“I’ve lived in Rock Springs all of my life and when we come to a situation where the community needs to pull together, this community always pulls together,” said Mayor Tim Kaumo.

On Sunday, Aug. 22, a Rockin’ from the Rain concert fundraiser was held at the Sweetwater Events Complex. Many volunteers and bands, including Wy5, Wyoming Raised and Zamtrip, donated their time to raise around $17,000 to help the people in need.

“The community of Rock Springs is always raising money and coming together to help people. I think it’s just because we’re a small community that sticks together and supports each other,” said Amber Kramer, a Rock Springs resident and member of the Rockin’ from the Rain committee.

The money raised will be distributed to the victims of the flood. The amount given will be determined by the damages that took place.

“No matter what anybody says about the damage that was caused by an over 100-year flood, if we didn’t have the infrastructure that we had in place, it would’ve been a lot worse,” Mayor Kaumo said.

“The unfortunate thing is that flood insurance does not cover basements and most residential areas don’t even provide flood insurance, so we have to take it upon ourselves to pull together, raise funds and help those families and victims associated with the flood to help them clean up their yards, their basements. We’re going to do that.”

The city will be collecting donations until the end of the week.

To donate, go to Rock Springs City Hall, located at 212 D St., or the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, located at 1897 Dewar Drive.

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

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Broken Down Vehicle In Rock Springs Leads To Discovery Of Missing Idaho Child

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A check on a disabled vehicle south of Rock Springs led the rescue of a missing Idaho child last weekend by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

An “Amber Alert,” was issued Friday after a 10-year-old was abducted from the Idaho Falls area. The suspect vehicle was potentially headed for Pueblo, Colorado, so Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were on alert.

According to WHP reports, on Saturday morning, a trooper was notified of a broken down vehicle in the road on Wyoming Highway 430 south of Rock Springs. The trooper found the car and realized it was similar to the one described in the Amber Alert.

The trooper spoke with the driver, who provided inconsistent and vague responses to questions, including telling the trooper he was alone in the vehicle. The trooper detained the driver and asked if the female suspect from the Amber Alert was also inside the car. The dcriver admitted the woman and child were both in the vehicle.

All occupants were asked to exit, and the child from the Amber Alert was found unharmed. The trooper later discovered small amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine inside the vehicle.

The child was released to the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

The driver and passenger were arrested and have been identified as Eugene A. Trujillo and Gabriella A. Rodriguez.

Trujillo has been charged with kidnapping, interference with custody, accessory before the fact, and child endangerment with methamphetamine.

Rodriguez has been charged with kidnapping, interference with custody, child endangerment with methamphetamine, and two counts of third-offense possession of a controlled substance.

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Rock Springs Christmas Parade Restores Hope, Resiliency

in News/Good news
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By Hannah and Lisa Romero, Rock Springs Rocket-Miner

The Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted the Annual Lighted Holiday Parade in Historic Downtown Rock Springs on Saturday evening. 

This year’s parade theme, Christmas Needs More Cowboys, was selected to demonstrate triumph and resiliency.

The past year has been challenging due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Chamber CEO Rick Lee said our community has long demonstrated its ability to rise above adversity and work together for combined success.

“Our people are known to be tough, but also very compassionate and when challenges arise,” Lee said on the chamber’s Facebook page.

“We pull together, cowboy up and always end up stronger and better. This year’s parade is dedicated to the amazing people of Sweetwater County who have demonstrated great resiliency and have triumphed over our common enemy and the numberless challenges of the time.”

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Man With Bad Footwear Choice Wanted For Passing Counterfeit Money in Rock Springs

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It’s bad enough that someone in Rock Springs chose to pass a counterfeit $100 bill. But to do so wearing sandals shows very poor decision-making abilities.

The Rock Springs Police Department is not looking for him because he wore sandals but they are asking for the public’s help in identifying him because passing counterfeit money is against the law.

The department said the individual is a white man in his 30’s, about 5’10, some facial hair, a light colored shirt, blue jeans, and hideous footwear.

The public is asked to contact Officer Joey Machado at 307.352.1575 with information on the suspect. Messaging the police department’s Facebook page is ok as well.

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

In related news, sandals should never be worn by men.

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Rock Springs Police Test Positive for Coronavirus

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The Rock Springs Police Department announced on Monday that two of its officers have tested positive for coronavirus.

The department said the officers are recovering and have not been hospitalized.

“The employees were directed to self-isolate and will be quarantined during the 14-day incubation period. The origin of how the officers contracted the virus is under investigation,” the department wrote in a Facebook post.

The department listed measures taken shortly after the officers tested positive. The measures include:

• Notified additional city employees who may also have been exposed;

• Completed a deep cleaning of the police department’s facility and designated police cars, and

• Initiated the Health Department’s contact tracing investigations and will be conducting additional testing on all department employees.

Employees will be wearing facemasks during all contacts with the public, following the social distancing recommendations of 6 feet between individuals, washing hands after contacts and using hand sanitizer as needed.

On Tuesday, Wyoming recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases with 37 confirmed across the state.

New cases were confirmed in Albany, Campbell, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, Sweetwater, Teton and Uinta counties.

“It is clear from the recent increase in cases statewide that the dual threat of COVID-19 to both the health of our citizens and the health of our economy is not going away,” Governor Gordon said in a press conference last week.

“No one wants to see the progress we have made vanish, but that requires each of us to make a concerted effort to slow the spread of the virus,” he said. “It is really simple and depends on everyone practicing good hygiene, social distancing and doing their best to wear a mask in public where social distancing isn’t possible. It’s the way you and our economy will both stay healthy.”

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Rock Springs Police: People Not Following Governor’s Recommendations on Coronavirus

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The Rock Springs Police Department expressed frustration on Friday over individuals failing to heed the recommendations of Gov. Mark Gordon to practice social distancing and stay home.

The police, in a Facebook post, cited a one-car accident last week involving four teenagers who were not related as an example of people not paying attention to the governor’s recommendation to stay home.

“The Rock Springs Police Department continues to observe that citizens are breaking the governor’s orders to social distance and stay home,” the post reads. “It is apparent many have not taken the COVID-19 situation as seriously as it really is.”

“Despite Sweetwater County only having three confirmed cases to date, it is unknown how many are actually infected.  It is important to note that not all infected person readily show the symptoms, however they can still spread COVID,” it reads.

As of Sunday afternoon, Sweetwater County had five coronavirus cases.

Wyoming is one of nine states that does not have a “stay-at-home” order. 

Gordon, in a press conference on Friday, said existing edicts he has issued, which includes closing schools and some businesses and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, were sufficient and an example of “Wyoming values.”

“Our orders talk less and say more,” he said.

The governor said he and the medical community are united.

“Stay at home, wash your hands, maintain six feet of distance between yourselves, only go to the store as an individual – not as a group – do not congregate in groups of more than 10, and if you (run) a store, for heaven’s sake, don’t allow shoppers to mingle in the aisles or checkout lines,” he said.

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Travel Wyoming: Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo in Rock Springs

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A plethora of items designed to make the great outdoors even greater will be on display this weekend in Rock Springs.

The Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo will be held Friday through Sunday at the Sweetwater Events Complex.

The expo, now in its fifth year, features vendors showing good such as off-road vehicles, boats and campers, along with fishing and hunting equipment, cookware and camping equipment.

“We also have some western decor,” said Debi Knezovich, whose company Wyoming Home Show is putting on the expo. “There will also be some antler jewelry. It’s not just ATVs and campers and guns and knives.”

Kenzovich has put on other shows throughout the year in Rock Springs, such as the Wyoming Home Show and Home and Holiday Show, for 24 years.

The Sportsman’s Expo came about as recognition of what people do for fun in the state, Knezovich said.

“It’s kind of our lifestyle up in this area and that’s why we live in Wyoming,” she said.

In addition to the equipment and gear on display, several outfitters from Alaska and Canada will be attending the expo, Knezovich said.

“So if you want to plan a hunting trip, there will be outfitters on-site to answer those questions,” she said.

Booths with groups offering educational information will also be set up, as will a “mini golf course” where people can test golfing equipment.

The expo runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit the event’s website at https://wyominghomeshow.com/3.

Rock Springs Woman Receives Maximum Sentence in Animal Cruelty Case

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By Stephanie Thompson, Sweetwater NOW

ROCK SPRINGS — A Rock Springs woman who pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty will serve six months in the Sweetwater County Detention Center.

Lauryn Burge, 20, appeared in the Rock Springs Municipal Court of Judge Scott Nelson Tuesday morning for a sentencing hearing to the misdemeanor charge. Burge originally pleaded guilty to the charge at a December 30, 2019, hearing, however sentencing was deferred at the time so the state could look into the case.

Burge was also ordered to pay $444.45 in restitution for treatment the surviving dog. Nelson told Burge if she took every parenting class available while in the detention center, he could lessen the sentence.

Even though Burge received the maximum jail sentence, the maximum fine of $750 wasn’t given. Judge Nelson said he wanted Burge to pay the restitution instead.

“We’re happy she’ll do jail time,” Terry Dufford said.

However, Terry said in cases like these, a stiffer penalty is needed. Terry is the father of Jayden Dufford, Burge’s ex-fiancé, who left his puppies in Burge’s care while he was in basic training for three months.

WITNESS TESTIMONY

Assistant city attorney Jordan Allen called three witnesses, including Rock Springs Police Officer Tracy Frisbee.

Officer Frisbee said he was asked to participate in a civil standby because a young man, later identified as Jayden Dufford, wanted to gather his belongings from an apartment.

“When I opened the door, I got a very strong smell,” Frisbee said. “It smelled very bad.”

According to his statement, the kitchen area was trashed, dishes were left all over, feces and urine were on the floor and flies were flying around the kitchen. While Frisbee was talking to Burge, Jayden and his family looked for the puppies.

“They came out with two animals that definitely hadn’t been fed for a long time,” Frisbee said. “I mean, they looked bad.”

Jayden and his sister Brooklynne Dufford left with the dogs, telling Frisbee they needed immediate attention. While they were gone Frisbee was told three other adults were living in the apartment with Burge.

Terry testified Jayden had just returned home after three months of basic training. Terry said Jayden and Burge’s relationship had ended and Jayden was told there were other people living in the apartment with Burge. That’s why they called for an officer to assist with him retrieving his personal items.

“When we walked in the apartment, the smell was horrendous,” Terry said.

As they went through the rooms, Terry said the trash, flies and stench was almost too much, but they were looking for the dogs. A video was played to show the condition of the apartment, it depicted feces, urine and trash all over the floor in every room. The kitchen was the worst with flies hovering all over the leftover food.

While he was trying to process everything he saw, Terry heard something much worse.

“All I heard was my daughter say ‘I think one is dead,” Terry said.

The family immediately left with puppies, after finding them emaciated in the bathtub. Angel, was in the worst condition and they thought she was dead until she moved. Since it was a night, they couldn’t get the animals to the veterinarian, but spoke to one and were told how to treat the puppies.

The next morning on the way to the veterinarian’s office, Angel died in Brooklynne’s arms. Maxie, the other puppy, survived.

Brooklynne testified she took the veterinarian’s advice and fed the dogs Pediasure and goat’s milk, but Angel threw it up. Maxie kept the milk down and even ate hard food.

Brooklynne said they had Angel cremated, but they still have to pay for the veterinarian bills related to treating Maxie. So far, the total is $444.45. She also said Burge had bought the puppies for her brother.

After the testimony, attorney Allen said he was asking the court to give Burge a five-month jail sentence with one month probation. He asked for restitution in $444.45 be paid and a fine set also.

“She would have witnessed these animals whittle away slowly,” he said.

JUDGE QUESTIONS BURGE

Nelson asked Burge several times if she wanted to speak, but she said “no.” He started to ask her some questions about herself and the case.

Burge was asked if she had ever been in trouble with the law in the past.

“I’ve never even been in a courtroom,” Burge said.

Burge said she has a one-year-old son, whom she has given guardianship to her mother when all of this happened.

Judge Nelson also asked why she didn’t ask anyone for help with the dogs.

Burge said she posted their photos on Facebook several times in an effort to find a taker, but no one responded.

Judge Nelson asked her why she didn’t take the dogs to a shelter if she couldn’t care for them. She said the registration on her car lapsed and she couldn’t pay it so she couldn’t take the dogs to the animal shelter. She said she has two cats that are fat, and she tried to feed the dogs, but Maxie was aggressive and wouldn’t let Angel eat.

Burge told the court she first noticed the dogs’ deteriorating condition around December 15, 2019.

Judge Nelson said the court isn’t set up for these types of cases. He expressed concerned about Burge having a small child and handed down the sentence of six months in jail with orders to pay restitution.

He then gave her stern instructions by telling her to take as many parenting classes as she could while in the jail. He said she could then request a sentence reduction.

“I’m giving you the opportunity to avoid the six months,” Judge Nelson said. “Please take advantage of that.”

Rock Springs hosts interesting take on ‘Black Friday’ — ‘Plaid Friday’

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Plaid Bags
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An interesting twist on “Black Friday” that puts the emphasis on shopping local is taking place Friday in Rock Springs.

“Plaid Friday,” a creation of Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency, will put shoppers on the street with plaid bags as they visit local businesses, said Trina Brittain the agency’s marketing director.

“Instead of ‘Black Friday,’ we’re doing ‘Plaid Friday’ to encourage people to shop local, to remember to give those mom and pop shops the love they deserve,” she said.This year’s event, the first, is part of a weekend full of activities to launch the holiday season.

At 9 a.m., Friday, First Bank in Rock Springs will offer the first 100 shoppers to enter its offices plaid shopping bags to carry as they stroll through the downtown area. Each bag is filled with special offers, information and gift certificates, Brittain said.

Shoppers are being also being encouraged to wear plaid as they make their rounds.

“We’re encouraging business owners, staff, shoppers and neighbors to wear plaid,” Brittain said. “It’s like having people wear the local high school colors for team spirit.”

Through the weekend, visitors will also be invited to take part in a “plaid rock hunt” and search for rocks painted plaid that have been placed around downtown. The rocks should be turned in to the Rock Springs Main Street offices to earn the finder an entry in a prize drawing.

At 11 a.m. Friday, a Christmas Gift Show will open in Bunning Hall on Main Street, featuring 25 vendors. The gift show will run through Saturday.

Rock Springs Bingo

Other activities planned for the weekend include free horse-drawn carriage rides on Saturday, visits with Santa beginning Saturday and an ongoing “Christmas Bingo” game, where participants will get the chance to earn a prize by taking part in various activities around the community during the holidays. Most of the activities are free, Brittain said.

All of the events are designed to foster good relations between the shoppers and merchants of Rock Springs, Brittain said.

“The whole celebration is a chance for merchants and patrons to feel those positive relations and just have fun,” she said. “That’s our goal here is to get people to gather and make a special connection.”

For more information about “Plaid Friday,” visit the Rock Springs Main Street website or the Downtown Rock Springs Facebook page.

Western Wyoming College hosts “Fall Geology Expo”

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Western Wyoming College Geology Expo
Attendees at Western Wyoming College’s annual “Fall Geology Expo” peruse vendors’ booths and get a chance to try some hands-on activities. This year’s expo will be held Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Western Wyoming College)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A wealth of rocks, gems and minerals awaits those who travel to Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs this weekend.

The college is holding its sixth annual “Fall Geology Expo,” a chance for the public to visit its extensive geology and archaeology collections and learn more about its nationally acclaimed geology program, said Dr. Dana Pertermann, associate professor of geology and anthropology who created the expo in 2013.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that having the expo here accomplishes,” she said. “One is getting the community involved. Two is disseminating geologic information. A lot of people don’t know that Rock Springs and Green River are in every first-year geology textbook for the Green River Formation and Rock Springs Uplift.”

The event Saturday, open to the public at no cost, is also designed in part to raise money for activities in the Geology Department that Pertermann heads, including field trips, a summer field school and scholarships.

Events featured at the expo include hands-on activities put on by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, Pertermann said.

“They always come up with something different every year,” she said. “It might be using rocks as tools, it might be flintknapping. They get pretty creative every year to try to get people interested.”

Also on hand will be vendors selling a wide array of minerals, gems and stones, Pertermann said.

“A lot of them actually specialize in a particular stone in the rough,” she said. “One vendor specializes in moss agate or ‘Sweetwater stone,’ a particular kind of agate found near the Sweetwater River. We have another vendor who specializes in minerals from around the world. He goes to shows around the world and collects samples and then brings them here to Rock Springs.”

Also selling items will be the college itself, which will make specific items from its own collection available for purchase to raise money for the Geology Department.

“We have a huge collection,” Pertermann said. “I sell parts of that to benefit the students.”

Of particular interest to buyers in the past have been topographic maps, some of which have been in the school’s collection since it launched its geology program in 1972, she said.

“We usually get some interest from the hikers,” she said. “Some of these maps are really interesting. They make wonderful wall decorations.”

J Circle K International, the college arm of the Kiwanis Club, will also be on hand serving food and drinks for donations to its various causes.

Throughout the day, members of the public are encouraged to tour the college’s Natural History Museum and it collection of fossils and dinosaurs.

For more information about the Fall Geology Expo, visit the Western Wyoming College website.

Wyoming residents look to themselves to boost business, populations

in Economic development/News/Business
Wyoming small business
1480

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Residents in many Wyoming cities and towns are pitching in to invigorate their communities in the face of declining populations.

About three-fourths of the larger cities and towns in Wyoming saw people leave between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent news release from Wenlin Liu, Wyoming Economic Administration’s senior economist, said Casper was the hardest hit community with a decline of 351 in population, followed by Rock Springs at a loss of 291. Cheyenne, meanwhile, gained 370 residents.

A random check with residents in towns and cities in the Cowboy State finds that many are trying to turn things around. Many get help from state and federal grants, non-money resources and education as well as private financial sources.

Lots of activity is going on now in Gillette, a city of about 31,903 people that depends heavily on the oil and gas revenues. Gillette lost 134 people between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, according to Liu’s news release. The loss reflects an economic slide caused by plummeting oil and gas prices and diminished coal production.

Phil Christopherson, chief executive officer for Energy Capital Economic Development, the economic development arm for Campbell County, said city and county revenues dropped 30 to 40 percent because of the downturn a couple of years ago. But residents stayed strong. 

“Everybody came together and said ‘we’re going to make it through this.’ The community spirit really showed through” and is there today, he said.

The county’s economy is rebounding now, but the downturn meant “that the community became committed to diversify the economy,” Christopherson said. 

Energy Capital Economic Development proceeded with a business incubator program that was in the works when the crash occurred. The business incubator opened in September and has about nine business interests involved.

The agency also started plans for an advanced carbon research facility for exploring the many uses of coal. Its goal is to prove the technology exists to make the alternative uses of coal commercially viable.

The Wyoming Business Council will vote June 20 on a $1.4 million grant for the project, which also received money from an EDA federal grant and private investments.

In Rock Springs, officials are trying to determine how best to develop 15,000 acres of land near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, said Kayla McDonald, business development director for the Sweetwater County Economic Development organization.

Money for the $66,000 study will come mostly from a Wyoming Business Council grant as well as the economic development organization, the county, Rock Springs and Green River. The study will provide ideas about what businesses and industries would be best to recruit for the site, she said.

Economic development supporters also want to recruit more retail businesses and restaurants to the area, she said.

Meanwhile, Powell, a farming town in northwest Wyoming that added only four people to its census during the year, is also looking at new development. Residents now are excited about the planned construction of a new hotel and convention center, said Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership.

The center, with an estimated cost of $10 million, is planned to open in 2020 and should create around 33 new jobs. It is the result of a partnership between the Powell Economic Partnership and the Wyoming Business Council. Additional hotel rooms are in demand, Bekes said. 

“We’re right near Yellowstone National Park and the lodging is inadequate,” she said.

The new hotel will increase available lodging by 50 percent.

Other projects in Powell’s near future will rely heavily on community volunteers. A community action group is building Powell’s first public dog park. A dog park is high on the list of what people who are relocating want to see. 

“Those who live in urban environments come to expect it,” Bekes said.

Effective economic development also demands creative thinking.

“I think the communities that are thinking outside the box are finding some success” in terms of positive community development efforts, said Justin Schilling, coordinator of member services for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. 

Schilling points as an example to high-tech education, such as Cheyenne’s Array School of Technology and Design. The city has a diversified workforce, allowing it to offer career training for high-tech jobs, he added.

Another creative project Schilling cited is the $7 million Evergreen Plaza, a proposed 30-room assisted living facility in Torrington, where the population dropped by 14 during the year.

Money to build the project will come from sources like a $2.6 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, a loan from local banks and a partnership with the private assisted living provider. The facility can be a solid economic development tool, according to Schilling.

Positive economic development doesn’t always mean building big warehouses. Tom Dixon, marketing management coordinator for the Wyoming Business Council, said that some projects – like the Civic Center Commons park in Cheyenne – “help develop the soul of a place and make people feel more connected.”

Projects don’t have to be expensive, either. Sprucing up a downtown with flower planters, bushes or a giant chess set can make a big difference, Dixon added. 

Even though Cheyenne is the fastest-growing city in the state — it gained 370 people in one year — efforts to boost the economy are ongoing.

Economic development in Cheyenne long has relied on Cheyenne LEADS, a private, non-profit organization with its own volunteer board of directors. Business and community leaders formed LEADS 32 years ago to attract good jobs and industries to Laramie County, Executive Director Randy Bruns said. 

LEADS receives $50,000 a year each from the City of Cheyenne and Laramie County and money from private donations. More than 80 industries and 6,000 jobs have been created in Laramie County because of the work of LEADS. 

“I am still doing this job because when LEADS succeeds, when we have a success, we know that the result of our work helps to do good things in the community,” Bruns said.

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