Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

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Wyoming News Briefs


October 24, 2019

Black bear euthanized in Story

SHERIDAN (WNE) — An adult male black bear was euthanized by Game and Fish personnel in Story after it broke into a secured shed near a residence.

Game and Fish received a report from a Story resident on Oct. 11 that his shed had been broken into and damaged the previous night, with the carcass of his harvested deer drug away. Suspecting a black bear, Game and Fish personnel set a trap for the bear that evening.

When personnel later checked the trap, they discovered the bear had an ear tag, identifying it as a bear that was previously caught for nuisance behavior on June 12, 2018.

The bear was trapped and relocated to the head of Columbus Creek in the Sawmill Flats area of the northern Bighorns, more than 30 linear miles from Big Horn.

Because the bear had previous history of accessing food rewards near humans and because in this second situation it escalated its behavior and became more aggressive in its attempt to get food, the decision was made to euthanize it.

“We really need the public’s help to secure human-provided food rewards and prevent bear conflicts in the first place,” said Sheridan Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas. “Once a bear receives food while near humans or residences, the chances are low that the bear will have no further conflicts with humans.”

Bears will be active for several more weeks before going into dens for the winter. During this time, they are seeking out food resources to increase their body weight in preparation for hibernation.

Gillette man admits taking $230,000 from man’s trust

GILLETTE (WNE) — Sentencing has been set for Nov. 26 for a former Campbell County man who pleaded guilty to stealing about $230,000 from an elderly man who entrusted him to take care of his ranch.

Harvey Bethea, 52, pleaded guilty to five counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult as part of a plea agreement in which five other counts of exploitation were dismissed. He agreed to pay $231,255 in restitution to the estate of his victim.

Exploitation of a vulnerable adult carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

He was accused of 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, according to court documents.

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

Bethea admitted at his change of plea hearing that what he had done was wrong.

He admitted spending money in various ways to help his girlfriend and her family to pay for livestock that was never bought, for a down payment on a motorized roping machine, a laptop and medical bills.

According to the agreement, some of that money will be repaid as monies due to him under a martial settlement with his ex-wife.

Earlier court documents said that 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.

Freak hammock accident in Grand Teton injures Florida man

JACKSON (WNE) — A man and his girlfriend were enjoying a relaxing hang in their hammock Wednesday afternoon when the tree they were dangling from snapped.

Hanging above a rock field at Surprise Lake, when the tree broke they fell onto the rocks. The tree knocked Preston Reidy, 24, of Florida, unconscious.

There’s no cellphone signal in that area of Grand Teton National Park, but a separate party came upon the accident and ran about 100 yards to where they were able to call for help.

As Reidy regained consciousness, he began having seizures, witnesses said. He has no history of seizures, first responders said, so they think it was related to the head injury.

Search and Rescue personnel and Grand Teton National Park rangers responded at 3:45 p.m.

This is normally a gap month for search and rescue’s contract helicopter, but because of a successful fundraising season the nonprofit was able to get the helicopter in service a month early.

Reidy was short-hauled to the Jenny Lake Ranger cache, then taken by park ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center. He was disoriented, Lockhart said, and didn’t know where he was or what had happened. He also lost hearing in one ear but eventually regained it.

Reidy’s hiking partner walked out with a search and rescue member.

The mission concluded around 8 p.m.

Reidy was treated at St. John’s emergency room and released Wednesday night, the hospital’s chief communications officer, Karen Connelly, said.

Growers work to save beets after freeze

POWELL (WNE) — Even the smell in the air tells the story of freeze-damaged beets.

“You only have to drive by a beet field and the smell will tell that the damage is real,” said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain grower and vice chairman the Western Sugar Cooperative board.

More than a week after the killing frost lifted on Oct 11, the area beet crop has shown signs of some healing. But these facts remain: a big percentage of the crop is still in the ground, and Western Sugar and growers must take measured steps to salvage what they can.

With the warmer temperature since the freeze, the damaged part of the beets has lightened some, which indicates healing. But the beets are still harmed.

That has forced a balancing act on Western Sugar: harvest only enough to keep the factory running.

The company’s response has been to run receiving stations to accept deliveries on a pre-determined, ton-per-acre quota basis from growers. The freeze-damaged beets are hauled to the factory in Lovell on a priority basis for immediate processing.

In the last week, most growers finished their quota deliveries on Friday; a few finished Saturday. The harvest was then shut down to get the damaged beets through the factory.

With the colder temperatures forecast for this week, another push-quota started Tuesday.

“The amount [of the quota] is yet to be determined; most likely it will be larger than the two previous quotas to get ahead of the colder temperatures in the forecast. It’s really a day by day assessment,” Rodriguez added.

Military medals stolen from Cheyenne VFW

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Military medals dating back to World War II were taken over the weekend from a trailer outside Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1881.

Cheyenne police were alerted of the theft Monday morning after a passerby found an emptied shadow box near the trailer. The passerby called Martha Albright, whose father’s medals had been stored inside the box.

“For Cheyenne, I was shocked, because I didn’t think somebody would do something like that to military members,” Albright said.

Albright, who donated the medals about two years ago for Armed Forces Day, said other items, like her father’s jacket, were intact, but the medals were gone.

The trailer sits about 50 yards from the VFW post on East Seventh Street near Nationway. Though the theft was reported Monday morning, the break-in could have happened anytime over the weekend, post manager Clayton Schoepflin said.

The shadow box included Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, Schoepflin said.

“You can’t put a price value on something like that,” Schoepflin said. “I could tell you that a Purple Heart, let’s say if it’s manufactured, costs maybe $15. But to somebody else, there’s no value to it because it’s so important to them or their family.”

While police investigate, Schoepflin implored whoever stole the medals to return them to the VFW post.

“Do the right thing,” Schoepflin said. “Because this is such a disgrace, not only to themselves, but it’s a disgrace to the family that provided these to us and to the member who earned them.”

Two face charges after infant tests positive for opioids

EVANSTON (WNE) — Two Evanston residents are facing felony charges for allegedly distributing a controlled substance to a minor following a hospital visit in which a two-year-old child had a urine drug screen that was positive for opioids. 

Karlie T. Bradham and Miguel Echeverria have both been charged with distribution to a minor in the case involving Bradham’s child. Echeverria has also been charged with three counts of felony child abuse, while Bradham was also charged with child endangering. 

In late August, Evanston Police Department Detective Jake Williams was called to Evanston Regional Hospital regarding a case of suspected child abuse. During that visit, the child’s injuries were described as “startling and readily apparent,” including severe facial swelling and bruising. Injuries documented during that hospital visit reportedly included multiple bruises and fractures and a urine drug screen that tested presumptively positive for opioids. 

The child was transferred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where medical records included a diagnosis of “severe child physical abuse” and a positive opioid test that “may reflect intentional poisoning to quiet or put the child to sleep,” according to court documents. The report additionally stated, “Given the extent of injuries, (the child) is fortunate to have no traumatic brain injury at this point.”

UW assistant coach charged with DUI, suspended

CASPER (WNE)— Wyoming assistant coach Willie Mack Garza has been suspended indefinitely from the football team after being charged with driving under the influence, head coach Craig Bohl announced Friday. 

Garza was booked into the Albany County Detention Center on Thursday night on DUI alcohol and speeding charges, according to the jail log. In a statement, UW said the athletic department would have no further comment. 

Garza has pleaded not guilty to both misdemeanor charges, according to court documents. A circuit court clerk said Garza’s next court date is scheduled for Nov. 14. 

Garza is in his first season as the Cowboys’ safeties coach after being hired as the final on-field assistant in May. It’s his first job back at the Football Bowl Subdivision level since 2011, when he resigned as Southern California’s secondary coach amid his involvement in an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations when he was an assistant at Tennessee. 

The NCAA issued him a two-year show-cause penalty. Garza, who also coached under Bohl at North Dakota State from 2005-09, spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Dixie State. 

“We have a reputation of holding ourselves to high ethical standards here at the University of Wyoming, and I expect Coach Garza to follow those high standards,” Bohl said in a statement when Garza was hired.

Wind project’s future in question

LARAMIE (WNE) — The future of a planned wind project between Albany and Carbon counties is now in question.

The result of that could mean the loss of $5 million “impact assistance” funding that governments in Carbon and Albany counties were set to receive from the state.

That funding is provided from the state to local governments to offset the impact on social services of big industrial projects like wind farms.

“At this point, it’s my understanding the project has ceased or stopped pertaining to some issues of the transmission of power,” Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said during a Tuesday meeting of the county commissioners.

Originally, Albany County governments were set to receive $8.4 million from the state, with Rock River and Albany County receiving the lion’s share.

Payments were stopped this year when work on the wind farm was suspended amid a contract dispute between Rocky Mountain Power and Boswell Wind, LLC.

The wind project is located about 10 miles northeast of Rock River and originally called for 170 wind turbines to be erected on 21,569 acres. However, even before work stopped, the project was reduced to 80 turbines with higher capacities.

As a result, governments in Albany and Carbon counties have tentatively agreed to receive fewer impact assistance funds as a result of the down-sized project. However, the payments will only continue once — or if — the project resumes.

Gillette College enrollment up by almost 25 percent

GILLETTE (WNE) — Enrollment in the fall semester at Gillette College has grown by 385 students compared to the previous year.

That was the headcount for students as of Tuesday, college Vice President Janell Oberlander told the Advisory Board at its meeting Wednesday afternoon.

There were 1942 students on campus overall during the fall 2019 semester, 385 more than the 1557 taking classes in the same semester in 2018.

That’s an increase of 24.7 percent.

The college also experienced growth in its full-time equivalent student numbers and the number of dual and concurrent enrollment for junior and senior high school students, she said.

“So our numbers are doing very, very well,” Oberlander said after introducing new college staff at the meeting.

Overall, the full-time equivalent numbers for students this fall is 1241, she said. That’s up by 234 students compared to a year earlier, or about 23.2 percent.

The number of high school students taking dual or concurrent courses for college credit — much of that paid by the Board of Cooperative Higher Education — also rose from 578 a year ago to 653 this fall, close to a record number and a growth of about 13 percent.

Oberlander said she’s not sure how the growth at Gillette College this fall compares to the numbers at Sheridan College, which also is part of the Northern Wyoming Community College District.

“I know the headcount districtwide is up 7.7 percent,” she said.

CWC trustees approve four-year degree program

RIVERTON (WNE) — More progress was made last week in the process to offer a four-year degree at Central Wyoming College.

The CWC Board of Trustees approved the Bachelor of Applied Science program in organizational management and leadership during its regular meeting Oct. 15. 

CWC will being offering the BAS in fall 2020 – pending further approvals from the Wyoming Community College Commission and the national Higher Learning Commission accrediting agency. 

CWC academic affairs vice president Kathy Wells talked about the work that has gone into developing the BAS degree, which is designed to help students in the local workforce advance in their careers without having to travel to go to college. 

“Existing but not being able to thrive is a huge challenge for a large share of our population,” Wells said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Our community needs this type of education.” 

That need has motivated college staff throughout the “rigorous” and “complex” process of creating the degree, she added. 

“We have to be responsive,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to serve these students.” 

The work involved the majority of the staff, Wells said, including a sub-group of faculty members who selected two emphasis areas for the BAS degree: one in one in tribal leadership, and another in business and entrepreneurship. 

Commander discusses Minuteman replacement

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Maj. Gen. Ferdinand “Fred” Stoss discussed the United States nuclear program and plans to upgrade the missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base while speaking Friday to members of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee during its monthly luncheon.

Stoss, who became commander of the 20th Air Force last year, oversees more than 12,000 people working with the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile force, which is organized into operational wings in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

As part of the nation’s nuclear triad, Cheyenne’s 90th Missile Wing operates 150 Minuteman III ICBMs, which became operational in the mid-1960s.

In the coming decade, the missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base will be replaced as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program. The aging missiles are part of a problem described by Stoss: much of the Air Force’s infrastructure is timing out at the same time.

Though the project is estimated to cost more than $90 billion, Stoss said other avenues would be even more costly.

The company selected to complete the project will be announced in the fall of 2020. Because of the status of the bidding process, Stoss could not comment on the acquisition.

“Until the last GBSD (missile) goes in the hole, the Minuteman has gotta keep on going,” Stoss said. “We see that to be in about 2036, so times are going to be good for this community.”


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