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Sundance Tow Truck Owner Accused Of Stealing Dead Man’s Belongings Following Fatal Accident

in News/Crime

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A Sundance tow truck owner has been charged with theft, accused of taking tools and other items from the wreckage of a pickup truck belonging to a man killed in an accident.

Norman “Gus” Sampson of Iron Horse Towing has been issued a citation for theft in connection with allegations he stole items from the pickup truck of Shon Engel after Engel was killed Aug. 1 in a single-car accident near Sundance.

For Shon’s brother Jim, it wasn’t the alleged theft of his brother’s belongings that mattered to him as much as efforts to keep those items from being returned to his grieving family.

“You just don’t do that,” the Gillette resident told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s not right, and I’m going to keep fighting.”

Jim Engel had been at a rodeo in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, when he got the call from his father that his younger brother, 41-year-old Shon, had been killed.

Engel immediately headed to Sundance to meet with law enforcement officers and make funeral and other arrangements, including recovering Shon’s possessions from his badly damaged pickup truck. 

Engel said his brother was a mechanic who kept hundreds of dollars in tools in his truck along with other valuables.

Took Photos

A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper responded to the crash site and called Sampson of Iron Horse Towing in Sundance to come tow the vehicle. 

As part of his investigation, the trooper took photographs of the crash site where Shon’s possessions had been thrown from the vehicle, documenting a $200 pair Maui Jim sunglasses, a red Yeti cup Shon’s parents had just purchased for him, a large knife that Jim Engel said his brother had been proud of, a chair and lots tools and loose change scattered around the scene.

A couple of days later, Engel said he called Sampson to ask about the towing bill and about retrieving his brother’s possessions. Engel was told the bill was $750 for the tow and the three hours it took Sampson to collect all of the belongings from the field. Engel said that Sampson told him that all of Shon’s possessions would be placed in the back of his pickup truck.

Engel said he would stop by on Aug. 6, the day of his brother’s memorial service, to pay the bill and get the belongings.

“I really wanted to locate the Yeti cup and the knife for my parents to have a memory,” he said.

Nothing In The Truck

When Engel and his 15-year-old daughter stopped by to pay Sampson, he said they noticed there was nothing in the back of the truck. Engel drove up to Sampson’s shop, handed him the cash, and asked about his brother’s belongings.

Engel said Sampson then told him he hadn’t been able to find anything. 

Engle told investigators that when he went into the shop, he saw the Red Yeti cup sitting on a table and spotted a large pile of tools and Shon’s knife sticking out of a red toolbox. 

When questioned, Engel said Sampson reported he had forgotten about the items and Engel could take them.

When Engel continued looking around the shop, he found more of his brother’s belongings. 

He told investigators he asked Sampson to gather up all the tools belonging to his brother, but Sampson continued to say that there were no other items and that he’d put everything belonging to Shon in the back of the truck, according to the incident report by the Crook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

According to the report, when questioned by Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Kaminski, Sampson said he had placed everything belonging to Shon in the back of the vehicle. He added that Engel and Watt had repeatedly harassed him and threatened to beat him up if they didn’t get the possessions back.

Photographic Evidence

Kaminski informed Sampson there was photographic evidence of the accident site showing all of Shon’s possessions.

Sampson said he didn’t know where the items were and that maybe Engel had taken them when he was rummaging around in the truck, the report said.

He then went to his wrecker and lifted the drop deck where Shon Engel’s Maui Jim sunglasses were found sitting in a bed box underneath the deck, the report said, along with a hammer also belonging to Shon.

Sampson said that the items must have just been placed in the box during the cleanup on scene, according to the report.

The report said about 20 minutes later, Sampson contacted the CCSO to report finding a few more of Shon’s items, including several sockets, a hammer, crescent wrench and other tools.

According to an email provided by Engel from the Crook County Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys have requested a jury trial which is scheduled for June 24.

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Sundance Winter Festival This Weekend: Racing on Skis, Barstools, Inner Tubes

in Travel

The residents of Sundance have figured out what to do when Mother Nature gives them an abundance of snow.

They use it to race on skis, inner tubes, and even barstools.

The Sundance Winter Festival on Saturday is a mix of activities aimed at creating a little fun in the middle of Wyoming’s long winters, said Reggie Gaylord, who created the event with some of his friends.

“It’s kind of a mixture of what others do out there,” he said. “You know how winters are in Wyoming, they’re cold and boring. We were trying to come up with a fun idea to bring life to Sundance.”

The best known event of the festival, now in its sixth year, is skijoring, where a skier is pulled by a horse and rider along a snow-covered track featuring jumps, slalom gates and rings to be captured by the skier.

In Sundance, after the opening rounds are of competition are completed, the track is changed to make things more challenging, Gaylord said.

“We’ll start building that track on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon, we’ll wipe the track clear and build it again,” he said.

In barstool racing, competitors ride on a downhill track while seated on a barstool with skis attached. Each barstool racing team consists of two members — a rider and a person to push him or her at the top of the track. Competitors are encouraged to make unique sleds and wear costumes for the event.

“That’s all about the costumes and the entertainment,” Gaylord said. “We had some young guys from Laramie build a whole tugboat kind of thing with all-UW colors. We’ve even had saddles put on barstools.”

And what’s the use of having a skijoring course that’s used only for skijoring? The Sundance Winter Festival sees that course used as well for “wild horse and tube races.” 

Two people on inner tubes are pulled down the skijoring course — jumps and all — while carrying a cup of their favorite beverage. The winner is determined by the amount of liquid left in the cup at the end of the race.

All of the festival’s events are free to watch, Gaylord said. Food trucks and vendors will also be present.

Activities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with skijoring and continue through the day. People wishing to register to compete in events can do so from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Sundance’s Longhorn Saloon and Grill. Registration will continue at 7 a.m. Saturday.

For more information on the Sundance Winter Festival, visit the event’s website or its Facebook page.

Everything autumn celebrated at Sundance’s Pumpkin Patch Festival

in Travel
Sundance Wyoming Pumpkin Patch Festival

A plethora of pumpkins and a collection of scarecrows can be seen on the streets of Sundance this weekend as the city hosts its annual Pumpkin Patch Festival.

The festival on Saturday, now in its sixth year, features all of the usual celebrations of autumn, including freshly squeezed apple cider, a farmers market, pumpkin painting and a scarecrow contest.

However, mixed in with the usual goods found at a farmers market are booths set up by local non-profit organizations, which are encouraged by festival organizers to use the community gathering to raise money for their groups.

“I encourage it,” said festival organizer Joni Spaulding. “It’s a good way to raise awareness for their cause.”

The festival is held in downtown Sundance and features a pumpkin patch containing about five tons of pumpkins brought to the community from Ellis Harvest Homes in Lingle.

“They have good quality pumpkins and the people there take very good care of us,” Spaulding said. “As long as they have pumpkins, we’ll get them there.”

The festival is a way for members of the community to get together and to highlight the people who offer their wares at farmers markets.

“I decided a long time ago I wanted our festival to be a community event, where people could come together and meet their local farmers,” said Spaulding, who also owns Sundance’s Harvest Farmers Market, which is open year-round.

The open air market will feature a wide variety of goods, from produce to hand-crafted items, she said.

“You’ve got vendors who come around from all over who set up with their wares,” she said.

A booth fee is charged for vendors, but not the non-profit groups, she added.

The festival also sees the judging of the community’s scarecrow contest, which is open to any business or individual in Sundance.

The contest has been going on for five years and sees very creative entries, such as the “piggy bank” scarecrow submitted by a bank.

“A lot of local businesses and residents design scarecrows and they come up with some pretty creative ideas,” Spaulding said.

The scarecrows entered by businesses are usually set up outside of the businesses, while some scarecrows entered by individuals adorn light poles in downtown Sundance, she said.

The scarecrows will be up by Thursday and during the festival, attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite.

Also on hand will be an apple cider press and those attending the festival can get a glass of freshly squeezed cider and a booth where attendees can paint their recently purchased pumpkins. Or they can ask an artist at another booth to apply his talents to their pumpkins.

Pumpkin bowling, an obstacle course, wagon rides, duck races, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting and carnival games are also planned for the day. A gentleman raising money for his own philanthropic work for children will be at the festival to make balloon animals.

For more information on the Pumpkin Patch Festival, visit the Harvest Farmers Market page on Facebook.

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