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From Wyoming News Exchange Newspapers 

Wyoming News Briefs


May 30, 2019

State investigating pneumonia cases

CODY (WNE) – The Wyoming Department of Health is currently investigating a pneumonia break out that has stricken Park County. The state Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program reports 31 people have contracted the infection in recent months.

Most of the pneumonia cases are from elementary-aged children, but the department said children as young as 1 year old and adults up to 41 years old have also been identified.

Not all cases of pneumonia are contagious, but its germs can be spread that lead to pneumonia.

Sporadic cases of the disease were found as early as late February, but contraction appears to have spiked the week of April 29. WDH said cases continue to be reported “with onset of illness within the past several days.”

Most cases of the disease have been found in Cody, but a few recent cases have reached Powell as well.

One recent infected person tested positive for Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacterium. According to the Centers for Disease Control this is sometimes known as “walking pneumonia” since symptoms tend to be milder than other pneumonia caused by other germs.

WDH recently sent three samples to the CDC in Atlanta for testing.

For more information, assistance with testing, or to report a case of pneumonia, call (888) 996-9104.

Under new owners, dude ranch to serve alcohol

POWELL (WNE) — After a lengthy dry spell, alcohol will again be served at a North Fork dude ranch, which is under new ownership. 

On Tuesday, Park County commissioners approved a restaurant liquor license for Absaroka Mountain Lodge. It gives the establishment the ability to sell beer, wine and/or liquor — but alcohol can make up no more than 40 percent of the business’s gross sales. 

Craig Kenyon and Carol Crowell, formerly of Powell, recently bought Absaroka Mountain Lodge through a corporation called Gunbarrel Creek Inc. Kenyon and Crowell purchased it from Kerry and Theresa Boyd of Montana, who’d owned the ranch since 2005 through a corporation called Shooting Star Enterprises. 

Although alcohol had not been served at Absaroka Mountain Lodge in the recent years, Commissioner Lee Livingston recalled that the guest ranch had a liquor license in the past. 

“At least, you could buy beer there,” quipped Livingston, a longtime North Fork resident. 

This is the first restaurant liquor license that the county has issued in some time; until recently, the county still had full-fledged retail licenses available. They’re generally more desirable for businesses, but the state caps how many of those licenses a city, town or county can issue based on their population. 

Like most of the North Fork guest ranches, Odde said Absaroka Mountain Lodge will only be open seasonally. Founded in 1917 as Gunbarrel Lodge, it lies about 13 miles east of Yellowstone National Park and about 40 miles west of Cody, off of U.S. Highway 14/16/20.

Man accused of stalking teen

JACKSON (WNE) — A Teton County inmate was ordered not to have contact with six people after two alleged incidents.

Brian Bentley, 47, is accused of driving to Jackson from Utah to stalk a 15-year-old girl. Bentley was arrested May 16 for criminal trespass and criminal entry after a Jackson woman — a second victim — said he wouldn’t stop coming to her mother’s house.

“He went up the stairs and went inside and looked around my mother’s bedroom,” the woman told Teton County Circuit Court Judge James Radda during a protection order hearing.

The woman and her mother said Bentley is a stranger to them, and they’re confused why he keeps showing up at their house.

“I thought it was somebody else’s property,” Bentley told the court during a stalking protection order hearing.

Bentley was remanded into custody pending a psychological evaluation and later given a $5,000 bond.

A Jackson man who has known Bentley for a long time testified that Bentley has been stalking his 15-year-old daughter. The man said Bentley’s relationship with the teenager has become “creepy” in recent years.

“Do you feel this connection?” Bentley reportedly texted the girl. “Next time I see you I want to make you mine.”

Radda granted two separate orders of protection against Bentley. The first one includes the 15-year-old girl and her two sisters. The other includes the woman, her mother and her sister.

“I do not know that woman, so it isn’t going to be a problem,” Bentley told Judge Radda. “I am not going to come looking for her or anything.”

He remains in Teton County Jail.

Man charged with felonies in knife attack

LARAMIE (WNE) — A Laramie man has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault and battery and one count of domestic battery for a May 18 incident in which he allegedly chased his daughter’s boyfriend with a knife.

40-year-old Sergio Ortega-Lopez was arrested that Saturday after an officer with the Laramie Police Department was dispatched to a house on S. 6th Street after receiving a report of a “father and son who were currently in a physical altercation and one of the subjects had a knife.”

Ortega-Lopez’s daughter told police that she got into an argument with her father after tracking him down when he had been driving around town while drunk.

During the argument, Ortega-Lopez was drunk and “became verbally aggressive towards her boyfriend, and the defendant called her boyfriend derogatory name (sic) several times and they began pushing and shoving each other, then punching each other,” according to a police affidavit.

Ortega-Lopez then grabbed a kitchen knife then began “charging her boyfriend” as the boyfriend ran out of the house.

The daughter then called Ortega-Lopez’s son, who arrived as his father was still chasing the boyfriend.

The “brother and defendant engaged in physical altercation and at one point her brother grabbed the knife out of the defendant’s hand and threw it into front yard,” the affidavit states. “They were both involved in a physical altercation when the police arrived.”

The son had a roughly three-inch laceration that he said he believed he received when he grabbed for the knife.

Gillette man sentenced in poaching case

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette man must pay $4,000 in restitution and has had his hunting privileges suspended for two years because he killed a buck mule deer with a rifle during an archery-only season last fall.

Eric S. Sorensen, 42, was caught after a ranch manager called North Gillette Game Warden Kristen DaVanon on Sept. 16 after hunters on his land heard gunshots on nearby public land and later saw Sorensen with a buck mule deer, according to a Wyoming Game and Fish press release.

The ranch manager then visited with Sorensen on a road, saw him with the deer and provided his license plate number to DaVanon.

Sorensen and he agreed to meet DaVanon at noon. He had the deer in his possession, but denied that he had taken it with a firearm.

When she met with him for a second interview that evening, he admitted shooting the deer with a rifle from a roadway. He no longer had the deer carcass in his possession, claiming that while he was removing the cape, skull and antlers the meat had gone bad.

He admitted to dumping the meat along Echeta Road. DaVanon located the abandoned meat and determined most of it would have been salvageable at the time he disposed of it, according to the press release.

DaVanon confiscated the deer head and cape and Sorensen was charged with waste or abandonment of a big game animal, use of a firearm during a special archery season and shooting from a roadway. In addition to the restitution, he must pay $615 in fines.

Legal Aid of Wyoming wants to help vets regardless of income

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Legal Aid of Wyoming is testing a pilot program in Laramie County to provide military veterans access to free legal assistance, no matter their income level.

Currently, Legal Aid of Wyoming restricts its services to Wyomingites whose income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. But the new program being tested in the county would provide in-person legal assistance for any veteran without any income qualifier, said Raymond Macchia, executive director of Legal Aid.

The program is a collaboration between several organizations, including Legal Aid of Wyoming, Equal Justice Wyoming and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We want the veterans to know that their service is valued, and we do appreciate everything they’ve done for us and our country,” Macchia said. “This is a military town, and we think it’s important for us to reach out to those people who have served our country and to say thank you. And if there’s something you need, to let us know.”

Veterans across the state, regardless of income, can access legal aid over a hotline run by the Wyoming State Bar Association. But for those veterans who need in-person assistance, Legal Aid of Wyoming in Laramie County will not be checking income levels before proving services.

Macchia said those services could range from helping create and update a will to filing for a divorce. But it could also be something like helping a veteran file an appeal of their discharge status, which could lead to a significant increase in benefits available for them in their civilian life.

Drug cases dismissed because of late search

GILLETTE (WNE) — The drug cases against two Gillette residents have been dismissed after a judge ruled that since a search of their home was done during the wrong hours, the evidence of criminal activity cannot be used against them.

Tohniejo Brimmer, 31, and John N. Miller, 42, were charged with two counts of drug endangered child, a count of possession of meth and a count of possession with intent to deliver meth, all felonies.

They were arrested Nov. 26 in their camper at 107 Harry St. when meth was found on a man leaving their home after he was stopped for a traffic violation. That prompted Campbell County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Coxbill to apply for a search warrant for the camper, which was granted at 10:36 p.m. Nov. 26.

He executed the search warrant at about 11 p.m. at the home and found more than six used meth pipes, packaging material, a digital scale and bags with meth weighing 3.21 grams and 4.13 grams, according to court documents. 

But attorneys for Brimmer and Miller protested that the material was seized improperly and asked that District Judge Thomas W. Rumpke suppress the evidence.

Since the search warrant expressly authorized the search from between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and it was conducted outside of that time period, Rumpke ruled that the evidence found in the search could not be used in court.

Without that evidence, prosecutors said they likely couldn’t get a conviction on the charges and asked that the charges against Brimmer and Miller be dismissed.

Lyman man sentenced to probation in standoff

EVANSTON (WNE) — Lyman man Jonathon P. Burkett will serve two years of supervised probation following an armed standoff with law enforcement that occurred in January. 

The sentence is the result of a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office, through which Burkett agreed to plead no contest to two counts and guilty to a third while two additional counts were dismissed. 

Burkett, 29, was arrested on Jan. 21 following a string of events that ended in the standoff. Burkett was reportedly armed with a handgun when he entered John’s Bar in Lyman in the morning hours while the business was closed. He was caught and confronted by the bar owner. 

Burkett left the bar and the owner called law enforcement, who later located Burkett at his parents’ home in Lyman. 

During his change of plea hearing in Third District Court on Friday, May 17, Burkett’s public defender Dean Stout said his client’s memory of that morning is hazy, but court documents indicate he was still armed and refused to disarm when law enforcement officers made contact with him. 

Burkett was finally arrested after reaching for the gun and being taken to the ground by responding officers. Initial charges included aggravated burglary, wrongful taking or disposing of property, reckless endangering, interfering with a peace officer and use of methamphetamine after Burkett admitted to smoking the drug earlier in the day, which was confirmed by urinalysis. 

Burkett was sentenced to two years of probation for the burglary charge on count one and one year of probation for the charges of reckless endangering and interfering with a peace officer, to run consecutively to one another but concurrent with the probation on the burglary count. 

Pinedale man survives 500-foot drop in car

PINEDALE (WNE) — A Pinedale man survived a 500-foot drop when his car went over a cliff above Fremont Lake, but spent a cold night before contacting rescuers. 

Lucas Corwin, 25, of Pinedale, was able to call Tuesday about 10:45 a.m. setting off a search by law enforcement agencies, firefighters and personnel from Bridger-Teton National Forest. 

According to Sublette County Sheriff K.C. Lehr, when the call came in he and other law enforcement started walking the rights-of-way on Skyline Drive north of White Pine Ski Resort’s access road.

Lehr said at some point another officer heard Corwin shouting for help. The crash site was not visible from the road. 

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Brandon Deckert, the Pontiac G6 “vaulted” almost 100 feet before hitting the edge of a rock shelf. The vehicle then cartwheeled end over end another 300 or 400 feet down the steep embankment. 

During the fall, Corwin, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle. The crash occurred before dark Monday night. Corwin managed to get into the crashed vehicle, despite back injuries. He remained in the vehicle until Tuesday morning. 

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures fell to 21 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. Corwin was able to call for help Tuesday morning and give his approximate location. 

Deckert said the cause of the crash was “intentional.” No alcohol or drugs are suspected in the crash. No citations were issued.

Torrington council tables chicken ordinance

TORRINGTON (WNE) — After two public comment sessions full of spirited debate both for and against an ordinance that would allow Torrington residents to have up to four laying hens within city limits, the Torrington City Council voted 3-2 to table the issue Tuesday night. 

The urban chicken motion had passed on its first and second reading, but was tabled – or set aside – before the third reading. If it passed on the third reading, it would have been officially part of the city code.

Councilwoman Deanna Hill, who has voted twice in support of the ordinance, moved to table the issue. Councilman Matt Mattis, who introduced the urban chicken movement, seconded the motion and Councilman Ted Kinney voted with them in favor of tabling. 

Mayor Randy Adams and Councilman Bill Law voted against the motion to table the matter. 

Hill said she thought it would be appropriate to table the ordinance for the time being, which would allow the council to hear from representatives from other towns in Wyoming who have approved such an ordinance. 

According to Mattis, tabling the urban chicken ordinance was in the best interest of the council. 

“Last time we had a lot of opposition to this topic,” he said. “I think we need to do our due diligence to get more info from other cities that have proposed this. The best service we can do for our citizens is to make a better decision based on other cities and towns and the trials and tribulations they’ve had.”


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