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Wyoming News Briefs


January 31, 2019

Cheney moves again to protect Devils Tower name

WORLAND (WNE) — Wyoming U.S. Representative Liz Cheney announced on Monday a plan to reintroduce legislation to codify the name of Devils Tower National Monument. 

The move would follow several previous attempts to set the name in stone. 

In 2014, a proposal was submitted to the Unites States Board on Geographic Names on behalf of the Lakota tribe to change the name of the monument to “Bear Lodge”, in accordance with Native American tradition. 

Prior to 1901, the unique feature was referred to as “Bear Lodge” or Mato Teepee” on contemporary maps, and only in 1875 did an Army colonel translate the name as “Bad God’s Tower,” which became “Devils Tower” when the monument was proclaimed in 1906. 

According to the United States Department of the Interior, neither the National Parks Service or the United States Board on Geographic Names have the legal ability to change the name, which can only be done by an act of Congress, or the President of the United States. 

In 2017, Sen. Mike Enzi attempted to retain the name with Senate Bill 70, and Rep. Cheney did the same with House Resolution 401. Both pieces of legislation failed, as at the time, both the Unites States Board on Geographic Names and Wyoming Board of Geographic Names restricted any name changes until January 3, 2019. 

On Monday, Cheney noted that “The name Devils Tower is over a century old and represents one of the most well-known, beloved geological features in the nation. The bill I reintroduced this Congress protects the legacy of Devils Tower by taking the first step towards codifying the name in statute.”

No charges in moose shooting

PINEDALE (WNE) — A Sublette County resident will not be charged after shooting a charging moose. 

According to a press release from Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson, on Jan. 14, the Pinedale Regional Office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was contacted by a reporting party who stated that he had just shot and killed an antlerless adult bull moose on his property, in self-defense. 

Game wardens assisted by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene and observed a dead bull moose with an apparent fatal gunshot wound. 

After completing an investigation, based upon examination of all available physical evidence and an interview with the reporting party, it was determined by game wardens that the moose was shot at very close range in justifiable self-defense as it charged. 

“After reviewing all evidence in the case and meeting with the lead investigator Jordan Kraft, Crosson concurred that the shooting was legally justified under the circumstances and charges will not be filed at this time,” Crosson stated in the release. 

“It appears likely that the moose had become habituated to eating the hay/alfalfa mix feed located on the property and was defending this food source when it charged,” the release states. 

Crosson declined to release the name of the person shooting the moose, saying, “It is my general policy with limited exceptions that I will not name persons of interest in potential criminal investigations unless there is probable cause that a crime was committed, in order to protect their privacy.”

Weston County IT audit results called “scary

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — “Scary” is what Commissioner Ed Wagoner called the results of Weston County’s IT audit. Colorado-based Pro River Technology performed the audit in late 2018 at the request of Weston County Commissioners. The audit found that the county needs a security overhaul. 

According to the company’s report, as far as the network goes, Weston County scored 90 percent on the risk assessment, 1 percent being the best and 100 percent being the worst. In terms of security, the county scored 75 percent on the risk assessment, with 100 percent being the least secure. 

The first step after the audit, according to Commissioner Tracy Hunt, was to hear from the other side and that is just what the county did on Jan. 8 during a meeting with Golden West Technologies and Internet Solutions, which provides the county’s current technology support. Questions addressing issues and concerns raised by the audit were prepared for the Rapid City-based company before the meeting, according to Mark Parette, a Golden West business technology specialist. 

Parette addressed specifically the claim that 85 percent of the county’s network use was being used to access sites including Facebook, YouTube and Gmail. He stated that some of this is “speculation” and that the reports produced during an IT audit can sometimes produce “false positives.” 

“I can’t imagine only 15 percent of the workforce is getting work done,” Parette said, saying that things must be examined at the “granular” level. 

Treasurer Susie Overman clarified that Facebook is occasionally used to conduct county business by individuals in her office.

“We use it to contact and locate people, as far as taxes go. We actually use it as a tool,” Overman explained to the commissioners.

Sweep of Thermopolis high school for drugs reveals — nothing

THERMOPOLIS (WNE) — Students and staff were caught off guard on Jan. 18 when four K9 units were brought on the premises at Hot Springs County High School to do a sweep for illegal substances after some safety issues that arose the previous week with students vaping.

Dogs from the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Lander Police Department and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office worked the building for about an hour and a half of the two-hour lockdown.

While there were a couple of positive “hits” in the building, officers were not able to locate anything to go along with the scents the dogs picked up.

Superintendent Dustin Hunt and high school Principal Breez Daniels were pleased that no drugs turned up on campus, but are still highly concerned about student safety with regards to student use of electronic cigarettes.

“The District is very appreciative of Wyoming’s law enforcement agencies and the use of the canines,” Hunt stated, “and will continue to utilize the canine drug detection resources in the future.”

Large plane makes unexpected stop in Cody

CODY (WNE) — Yellowstone Regional Airport got an unexpected visitor on Friday afternoon, as weather forced one of United Airlines’ large Boeing 737s to make a pit stop in Cody. 

The United flight departed Chicago O’Hare International Airport at 10:46 a.m. Friday, bound for Jackson Hole Airport. 

However, with poor weather conditions in the Jackson area — and the plane lacking the fuel to continue circling the airport in a holding pattern — the flight was diverted to Cody to refuel. The aircraft landed around 1:23 p.m., according to data from the plane-tracking website FlightAware.

With a carrying capacity of 118 passengers, the 737 is considerably larger than the 54-seat jets that the Cody airport typically hosts this time of year. 

A passenger loading bridge was pulled up to the 737-700’s door on Friday, though it wound up not being necessary. 

“The pilots and flight attendant stepped out to communicate with the airport staff and the Skywest ground crew, but no passengers disembarked,” said Vicki Olson, a Powell resident and Skywest employee who captured photos of the unusual scene. 

The 737, its crew and passengers spent a little more than an hour on the ground in Cody. 

The refueled aircraft resumed its flight to Jackson Hole at 2:32 p.m., arriving at its intended destination a half-hour later, according to FlightAware’s data. All told, the Chicago-Jackson trip took about five hours and 15 minutes — about an hour longer than normal. 

Evanston man killed in accident

EVANSTON (WNE) — An Evanston man was killed in a single vehicle rollover on Thursday, Jan. 24. According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the accident took place around 6:50 a.m. near mile marker 35 on eastbound Interstate 80. 

The driver and lone occupant of the 2008 Ford F-350 that rolled has been identified as 24-year-old Evanston resident Tyree L. Summers. According to WHP, Summers’ pickup drifted off the left side of the roadway before it overturned. 

The Wyoming Highway Patrol is investigating the incident and has cited “driving too fast for road conditions” as a possible contributing factor to the deadly crash. 

“The road conditions were slick at the time of the crash,” a WHP press release states. 

Although Summers was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident, he became the 12th fatality on Wyoming’s highways in 2019. That’s four times the number of Wyoming highway deaths through the same time period in each of the last three years.

Gillette man pleads not guilty to stealing from 84-year-old

GILLETTE (WNE) — While serving as the manager of an elderly rancher’s finances and as the executor of his trust, a 51-year-old Gillette man allegedly stole nearly $200,000, gifting the majority to his girlfriend.

In District Court on Thursday, Harvey Bruce Bethea, 51, pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult for allegedly stealing the money from Donny York, 84, between April 2016 and April 2017.

In April 2016, York was declared incompetent at the request of Bethea who, at the time, was York’s ranch manager. Bethea then assumed control over York’s finances, overseeing his bank accounts and trust.

Bethea boasted to his girlfriend that he had “millions of dollars” and bought her several items using York’s money in an attempt to “buy her affection,” according to court documents.

In October 2016, Bethea sent his girlfriend a check for $17,500 with the memo “4 Red Bulls” and told her “she could just use the money to get a new start,” court document say.

He went on to spend nearly $3000 on a fur coat for her, about $1600 on a laptop for her daughter and $7500 on practice roping machines for her daughter.

York was in a nursing home in Sundance during the time Bethea was managing his finances and appeared unaware of the alleged theft.

Bethea has been charged with stealing only $173,403 because it is difficult to substantiate everything he took, said Sheriff’s investigator Kristen Antle, who has spent months working on the case.

Yellowstone reopens as shutdown ends

CODY (WNE) — Visitors to Yellowstone National Park resumed paying entrance fees Sunday after 35 days of free admission during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Other operations and services reopened Monday.

With the enactment of the continuing resolution to fund the federal government Friday, the park started resuming regular operations.

“Employees are happy to return to work serving the American people and welcoming visitors to Yellowstone,” the park announced in a release.

Sunday, visitor centers normally open at this time of year reopened by 11 a.m. They include the Albright Visitor Center, Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, Canyon Visitor Education Center lobby and the ranger-staffed desk at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center. With visitor centers open, the public will again be able to obtain backcountry permits.

On Monday, a majority of furloughed staff returned and opened the remaining park functions. Employees will begin to process the backlog of applications for special use permits, film permits, commercial use authorizations and research permits.

By midday the public was also able to obtain permits for the non-commercially guided snowmobile access program. The public affairs office also reopened Monday.

House approves veteran’s facility in Buffalo

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize the construction of a skilled veterans nursing facility in the state on third reading Thursday with Buffalo as the proposed location.

The decision came after a long debate during which amendments to build the facility in Casper and Sheridan were defeated. With the House’s passage of the bill, it will cross over to the Senate, where it will need to pass on three readings and will be subject to amendments.

The state Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee chose Buffalo as the site for the proposed facility during its interim meetings, however the House portion of that committee recommended changing the location to Casper after testimony from medical professionals from Buffalo raised concerns that the city would struggle to staff the facility.

Rep. Richard Tass, R-Buffalo, pushed back against that concern while speaking against the amendment that would have moved the proposed facility to Casper.

He pointed out that Buffalo has several nearby locations that could provide a workforce for the facility.

“We have access to three junior colleges to the north and there is nothing to say that the junior college from (Casper) won’t help staff our facility,” Tass said.

After the amendment to change the location to Casper was defeated, Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, proposed an amendment to select Sheridan as the facility’s location.

Western also raised concerns about Buffalo’s ability to staff the facility and argued that the established veterans affairs services in Sheridan, combined with the nursing programs available through Sheridan College, would ensure the Sheridan facility has a skilled workforce.

Western’s amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

Man gets probation in meth conspiracy case

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A Cheyenne man was sentenced to probation Monday after admitting to conspiring to sell methamphetamine with his son and wife.

Jesse J. Iddings said he wants to combat his addiction and get his life back on track after being charged with selling meth in Cheyenne.

His wife, Janelle Iddings, is facing charges in federal court of conspiracy to deliver 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

She was initially discovered by authorities when they found Shaun Gilkey dead in Converse County of a suspected meth overdose.

When they searched his phone, special agents from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said it contained messages between him and Janelle Iddings about Gilkey getting drugs from her, according to initial charging documents filed in Laramie County District Court.

She is still awaiting trial in federal court.

Janelle and Jesse Iddings’ son, Ryder Iddings, also admitted in Laramie County District Court to being part of a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Ryder Iddings is still awaiting sentencing.

Last year, Jesse Iddings admitted to being a “middleman” in the case.

“I am guilty of buying and doing drugs, and I’m guilty of pointing the direction for other people to buy and find drugs,” he told the judge, according to a court transcript.

Two other people were also charged in connection with the distribution case.

Lamont Sturgis was indicted in federal court, along with Janelle Iddings, for the death of Gilkey and other meth-related crimes.

State DCI helping with investigation of homicides

RIVERTON (WNE) — The Riverton Police Department has enlisted the help of another agency in investigating a double homicide discovered this month in Riverton.

In a press release Tuesday, RPD Capt. Todd Byerly said the Division of Criminal Investigation is assisting in the case “due to the complexity of the crime.”

He referred to the investigation as “comprehensive.”

“[We are] working diligently to investigate this heinous crime,” Byerly said.

“It is our goal to give closure to the family of the victims as well as the Riverton community in a timely manner.”

Little information has been available about the incident, which resulted in the death of Jocelyn Watt and Rudy Perez, both 30, both of Riverton.

Their bodies were discovered at about 12:35 p.m. Jan. 5 after police responded to a report that there were two deceased or unresponsive subjects in a residence in the 1100 block of East Main Street.

A death notice for Watt indicates she died at her home.

Family members have reported that the victims were shot, and police said there could be a suspect at large related to the deaths.

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said both Watt and Perez were autopsied Jan. 7, but he has not released any further information.


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