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

in News/Crime

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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 Charged In Torrington Murder Case Had Criminal History In Park County

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman in Torrington late last month.

Sean Logan Pettus has been charged with murder and arson in the April 20 death of 20-year-old Madison Cook. Pettus and Cook identified themselves as being in a relationship on their individual Facebook pages.

Police discovered the murder after the Torrington Fire Department responded to a report of a fire early on the morning of April 20. The investigation of the fire led officers to another Torrington location, where Cook’s body was found.

While investigating the murder, officers were alerted to the theft of a vehicle nearby. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department and Pettus was taken into custody shortly thereafter.

In addition to the murder and first-degree arson charges, Pettus is charged with felony theft of a vehicle and burglary.

The Torrington Police Department, in a statement on its Facebook page, reminded readers that Pettus is considered innocent of the charges until proven guilty.

“The events of the past ten days have been incredibly traumatic for Madison’s family, her friends, and our entire community,” the Department wrote. “As we work to learn the truth and take this first step towards justice, we ask for continued support for the Cook family in their healing process.”

Court records obtained by Cowboy State Daily from the Park County court system show that Pettus has been connected to other crimes dating back more than a decade.

In 2014, he was convicted of battery of a household member and in 2013, he was convicted on charges of destruction of property valued at under $1,000 and breach of the peace. In 2016, he was convicted on a charge of criminal entry.

The Torrington Police Department continues to investigate the incident and is asking that anyone with information contact its offices.

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Victim Identified In Torrington Murder Case

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The victim of a Tuesday murder in Torrington has been identified as a 20-year-old Torrington woman.

The Torrington Police Department announced Thursday that Madison Shana Cook was killed in what has been ruled a homicide.

“Madison’s loss is a blow to her family, her many friends, and our community. We ask for continued thoughts and prayers for those who have been impacted,” the department said.

The department is continuing to investigate the murder, arson and vehicle theft that occurred early Tuesday in Torrington. A suspect was taken into custody Tuesday, but had not been identified by Thursday.

Police discovered the murder after the Torrington Fire Department responded to a report of a fire early Tuesday morning.

While firefighters battled the fire, police officers received information that led them to suspect the fire was the result of arson. Based on the information received, officers conducted a follow-up investigation and discovered Cook’s body.

While officers were working the murder scene, a vehicle was reported stolen stolen vehicle was reported on East C Street. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department.

The arson, murder and vehicle theft are believed to be related and the crimes are associated with a single suspect, who was detained at the Goshen County Detention Center.

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Torrington Police Investigating Murder, Arson, Vehicle Theft

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A murder discovered in Torrington on Tuesday appears to be connected with an arson fire and vehicle theft that also occurred, according to the Torrington Police Department.

The department, in a posting on its Facebook page, said a suspect has been taken into custody in connection with the events that all occurred Tuesday morning.

According to the department, the the Torrington communications center for Torrington and Goshen County law enforcement was made aware of a fire on East Valley Road around 6 a.m. Tuesday.

While the Torrington Fire Department was working to combat the fire, officers received information that led them to suspect the fire was the result of arson.

Based on the information received, officers conducted a follow-up investigation and located a body on East 17th Avenue in Torrington. The death is suspicious in nature and is being investigated as a homicide.

While officers were working the murder scene, a stolen vehicle was reported on East C Street. The vehicle was ultimately located with assistance from the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department.

The arson, murder and vehicle theft are believed to be related and the crimes are associated with a single suspect, who has been taken into custody and is currently being housed at the Goshen County Detention Center, the department said.

The suspect is being held on probable cause developed during the investigation, but no identities have been released.

Police do not believe there is any ongoing threat to the community.

The Torrington PD will work with the Goshen County Coroner and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations on this case, but the department said its staff would be strained during the investigation.

“We have officers available for emergent calls, but routine calls for service may be delayed. Please be patient with us as work through this challenging time,” the department said.

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Torrington Corrections Officer Receives Medal for Stopping Stabbing

in News/Good news/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Torrington corrections officer received the Medal of Valor from the American Correctional Association for stopping the stabbing of a prison inmate in 2019.

In September 2019, Officer Cullen Calderon at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution risked his own personal safety in order to prevent the loss of life, according to the Wyoming Department of Corrections.

“Officer Calderon exhibited extraordinary bravery and valor in the line of duty, as evidenced by his actions, and he deserves recognition for the courage he demonstrated,” the Wyoming Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Calderon was working as the facility recreation officer on Sept. 10, 2019. When staff began to serve the afternoon meal, Calderon went to assist and saw an inmate begin to stab another from behind.

Calderon began to wrestle the attacker to the ground. Calderon restrained the attacker’s hand to stop the attack and then disarmed the attacker.

His actions prevented any further injury from being inflicted by the attacker and his weapon to the other inmate and potentially staff, the Corrections Department said. 

In this selfless act of bravery, with his undaunted courage and unwavering devotion to duty and the Wyoming Department of Corrections mission, Calderon prevented the attacker from taking the life of another inmate and protected fellow staff from serious injury or death. 

“Calderon’s actions demonstrated the qualities of a leader and reflect his own high standards, which serve to uphold the highest traditions of the Wyoming Department of Corrections,” the DOC said.

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Torrington Closing City Offices Due To COVID Spike

in News/Coronavirus

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By Logan Dailey, Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – Torrington’s city facilities will be closing Nov. 12 and will remain closed until further notice due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Torrington and Goshen County.

Mayor Randy Adams asked the public to communicate with the city via phone, email, text or regular mail. Business can be conducted in person if it is necessary, but those needing to conduct in-person business must contact the city and schedule an appointment beforehand. 

Adams told The Telegram, “over the last week to two weeks, we have had several incidents in different departments where an individual, or an individual’s relative, has come down with a positive case.”

Adams believes much of the issues arising from the outbreak of COVID-19 in city hall began with people coming into their offices rather than avoiding contact and using city drop boxes. 

Adams said keeping city hall open is “putting our staff in jeopardy more than is necessary.” 

To conduct business with city facilities, visit www.torringtonwy.gov or call city hall at (307) 532-5666.

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Water flows through irrigation canal again

in News/Agriculture

Water has returned to the Goshen Irrigation District canal that was breached in mid-July, leaving more than 100,000 acres of land without water.

The Goshen Irrigation District began running water down the Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal, which serves farmers in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

A 100-year-old tunnel on the canal collapsed on July 17, backing up water behind the collapse and causing a breach in the canal.

Crews worked for more than a month to repair the tunnel and canal before releasing water the canal on Aug. 28. Since then, the irrigation district has been slowly increasing flows through the canal, said Manager Rob Posten.

“We have just been bumping it up slow and taking it easy and trying to monitor thing and trying not to do something stupid and wash out what we got done,” he said.

Repair costs are estimated at around $4 million and Posten said there is some thought being give to making more extensive repairs to the tunnels and canals at a cost of up to $10 million.

As reported by Cowboy State Daily, in August the U.S. Department of Agriculture affirmed that farmers who had purchased insurance against crop damage would be able to seek some compensation for damages caused by the canal’s breach.

But Cactus Covello of Points West Community Bank said not all the farmers will be fully compensated for losses to their bean, sugar beet, corn and hay crops.

Go deeper: Irrigation canal repairs nearly complete, Goshen County to turn water back on

“There’s going to be a monetary damage to all those farmers that count on those crops to make their payments and for their livelihood,” he said.

Construction crews race the clock to fix canal

in Economic development/News/Community/Agriculture

Farmers and ranchers in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska are facing nature’s deadline as construction crews work to repair an irrigation breach that left 800 irrigators without water.

Construction crews are working full-time to repair the breach in the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal that provides water for 100,000 acres of land on both sides of the Wyoming-Nebraska border.

Water to the canal has been turned off since the collapse occurred on July 17 and the late summer heat makes it crucial for water to be delivered to fields served the 130-mile canal as quickly as possible to avoid crop losses.

Rob Posten, district manager of the Goshen Irrigation District, said the district hopes to have the canal repaired by late August.

If the repairs take much longer, farmers and ranchers could be looking at significant crop losses, which Shawn Madden of Torrington Livestock said would affect the economy throughout the area.

“It’s not just if you’re farming south of Torrington or down by Gering, Nebraska,” he said. “Those people are all customers on Main Street in Scottsbluff (Nebraska), Torrington. I mean, these people are in financial peril.”

Cactus Covello of Points West Bank said most agricultural operations run on a slim profit margin to begin with.

“There’s not much profit in the corn, there’s not a lot of profit in cattle,” he said. “Most of that goes back to pay for their input costs, to make land payments, to put a little food on the table and hopefully have some to put in savings for a rainy day. The agricultural life is a lifestyle you’ve got to love, because it’s not ultra-profitable.”

Questions remain over whether the crop losses will be covered by insurance. If the tunnel failure was the result of natural causes such as rain, officials believe the losses will be covered. If the collapse was the result of structural failure, the coverage will not apply. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to determine what caused the collapse of the 102-year-old tunnel.

Covello said he expects members of the community to work together to overcome the problems.

“These banks around here, we serve the agricultural community,” he said. “We will change and do things that we need to do so we can all survive together.”

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Irrigation tunnel collapse could cost Wyoming’s ag millions, repairs underway

in News/Agriculture
Tunnel collapse Torrington

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

More than 100,000 acres of agricultural land are without irrigation after a canal tunnel collapsed July 17 in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

“The tunnel collapse shut the water off in one of our canals,” Goshen Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said. “Right now, about 400 landowners are affected just in Goshen County.”

Approximately 52,000 acres of the affected area are in Goshen County and the rest is across the state line in Nebraska, Posten said.

John Ellis, a Goshen County commissioner, said if unchecked, the collapse could have a disastrous impact on the entire county.

“I’ve never seen a disaster close to this scale,” Ellis said. “Agriculture is Goshen County. There’s very little other businesses, and they all rely on agriculture.”

On Monday, Gov. Mark Gordon signed an emergency declaration to allow the use of state resources to help fix the collapse.

“This is a serious emergency, and we recognize addressing an issue of this magnitude will take coordination, especially because it affects so many Wyoming and Nebraska farmers,” Gordon said in a news release. “We are working with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, along with a need to proceed carefully. Wyoming is united in its effort to find the right way to help the Goshen Irrigation District get up and running.”

Created in 1926, the irrigation district was formed to contract with the federal government for water from the North Platte River. The district pays the U.S. a proportionate share of the estimated cost to operate and maintain the facilities that store the water for use, including the Pathfinder Dam and Reservoir and Guernsey Dam and Reservoir, according to the district’s website.

“We supply water to the farmers,” Posten said. “We only have two canal tunnels, and they’ve both been there 100 years. The one that collapsed was built in 1917.”

He said the collapse was not maintenance related.

The district has not yet received state resources to repair the collapse and Posten said it’s still too early to speculate what those resources might be.The repairs, however, are already underway.

“We have people that know how to fix this working on it as we speak — professionals from St. Louis, Missouri,” he said. “I don’t know the full scope of the work needed, but they will likely pump grout in around the tunnel, fill in the voids and install steel ribs to shore it up, and then try to run water through it.”

If the water is not turned back on soon, Ellis said the cost could be through the roof. Although he was not aware of an official estimate of potential damages, Ellis said he’s heard guesses between $90 million and $250 million.

From a policy making standpoint, he said the collapse would likely affect the county’s future, but determining how is a waiting game.

“We don’t know the total impact,” Ellis said. “Until we know the financial impact, it’s hard to tell what we may have to do.”

Whatever the case, Ellis said he’s proud of the way the irrigation district is handling the situation.

“The Goshen Irrigation District have done such an excellent job,” Ellis said. “They’ve left no stone unturned. They’ve done everything possible to get this thing working again.”

College, city, state help workers displaced by Western Sugar closure

in News/Agriculture/Business
A forklift loading sugar into semi trailer, ALT=Western Sugar layoffs hit 200 Torrington workers

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

City, state and educational institutions are stepping up to help the almost 200 Western Sugar Cooperative employees in Torringon who will soon be out of work with the closure of the cooperative’s plant there.

“We’ve done a rapid response already, and we have one planned in mid-March,” said Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Torrington Center Manager Gilbert Servantez. “(A rapid response is) a core team that meets with individuals that are going to be laid off and lets them know what services we can provide.”

As first reported by the Torrington Telegram, Western Sugar recently announced they planned to layoff 193 employees from the Torrington facility by mid-March. The layoffs are predicted to be permanent, and Western Sugar attributed the workforce reduction to evolving business needs, the Telegram reported.

Many of the employees at the plant are seasonal. However, Western Sugar would not respond to requests for additional information or comment.

Torrington Mayor Randy Adams said the news of the layoffs was not surprising, because Western Sugar announced a coming round of layoffs in 2016, but the timing of the move is less than ideal.

“Western Sugar is not our only problem — just this weekend we had a major fire downtown,” Adams said, explaining no one was hurt, but a major business was shut down. “In the last year, we also heard the South Morrill yards, a Union Pacific engine repair facility, was closing. We had quite a few people working at that facility.”

In office for just more than a month, Adams said he’s got a lot on his plate, but he’s not going to let that stop the city from pitching in to help the soon-to-be laid off Western Sugar employees.

“We’re working directly with (Servantez) on all the things he’s trying to do,” the mayor said. “All my departments have been told to consider Western Sugar people who are slated to lose their jobs when an opening comes up.”

As part of the rapid response core team, Adams said the city is also working with the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation — Wyoming’s only economic development organization funded by an optional local sales tax — to explore economic effects the layoffs might have on the area and offer dislocated employees opportunities for opening new businesses. The Goshen County Economic Development Corporation did not respond to requests for comment.

Servantez said another key member of the rapid response team was WDWS unemployment insurance staff.

“That was probably one of the most important core partners,” he said. “There was a lot of questions regarding unemployment insurance.”

Some of the workers could also be eligible for WDWS dislocated worker funding, Servantez added.

“When a business closes down such as Western Sugar, and there is no other place for the workers to go in regards to their skill sets, they qualify for dislocated worker funding,” he said, explaining the money would be in addition to the employees’ unemployment payments. “They do have up to $6,500 dollars that is available to them for whatever it is they want to do after their employment ends.”

One of the challenges of the Western Sugar layoffs is they haven’t happened yet, Servantez said, so determining what programs and training opportunities could best serve the people affected is on hold until after March.

At Eastern Wyoming College, Vice President for Student Services Roger Humphrey said the school is reaching out to Western Sugar employees with information about high school diploma equivalency courses, single-semester certificate programs and other post-secondary training opportunities.

“We’re hosting a job expo scheduled for Feb. 13, and we encourage those displaced workers to attend,” Humphrey said. “We’ll have 20 employers from the around the region in attendance. We’re also offering seminars on employee culture and interviewing techniques.”

The college is also encouraging the Western Sugar employees to enroll for summer and fall courses.

“We’ve went out twice during shift changes (at Western Sugar) and talked about opportunities for financial aid to attend and how to re-enroll in the school,” Humphrey said. “We also outlined all the one-semester degrees and certificates that could potentially put them right into the job market.”

Servantez said it would be difficult for Goshen County to retain all the workers, but WDWS has prioritized finding former Western Sugar employees work as close to home as possible.

“It’s important that our community knows there are some options for these folks — training options and post-secondary options,” he said. “Our goal going forward is to find them work, we will do what we can to find them work here, but the reality is some might need to move to find work.”

With help from the economic development corporation, Adams said new jobs could soon be available in Goshen County as Torrington and the surrounding area push for tourism growth.

“Economic development is rebranding and trying to attract more tourism,” he explained. “We’re on the (U.S.) Highway 26 to Yellowstone (National Park), we’re on (U.S.) Highway 85 to Devil’s Tower — there’s things looking to the future that are positive, and that hopefully we can build on.”

Whatever the path forward may be for Torrington and the Western Sugar employees, Adams said they would work on it together.

“I don’t know that it will be rather quickly, but we will overcome this,” he said.

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