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Wyoming News Briefs


February 20, 2020

UW provost a finalist for Texas job

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Texas at El Paso announced this month that the University of Wyoming’s provost, Kate Miller, is a finalist for its Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs position. Miller declined to comment on her candidacy Monday.

Miller is one of five finalists and is scheduled to visit UTEP March 5-6 and engage in a forum with faculty and staff.

A graduate of Princeton and Stanford universities, Miller previously worked at UTEP from 1991 to 2008. She began her work at UTEP as a research specialist before she eventually became the university’s associate dean of the College of Science.

In 2009, she began working as the dean for Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences.

Miller was hired as UW’s provost in 2016 at a salary of $300,000. In May 2019, the board of trustees increased her pay to $325,000.

In addition to the title of provost, Miller also holds the title of Vice President for Academic Affairs.

If she were to imminently leave UW, it would task the university with a second vice presidential search.

In September, UW suddenly announced it had parted ways with then Vice President of Student Affairs Sean Blackburn. Kimberly Chestnut is now serving in that position in an interim capacity.

Counterfeit money shows up at Campbell jail

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office is out real money after inadvertently taking $120 in counterfeit bills from a man coming into the jail after his arrest for fraud — and who was in jail a month earlier for allegedly passing counterfeit bills.

Edwardo Vlahos, 43, was arrested Oct. 19 on suspicion of felony shoplifting and as part of his booking process, he turned over money he had with him to credit his commissary account. When he was released Oct. 21 on a $1,500 cash or surety bond, the department returned $261.69 to him on a debit card.

In the meantime, a Sheriff’s Office worker tasked with overseeing the inmate commissary money reported that the counting machine wouldn’t accept a $20 bill and two $50 bills that Vlahos allegedly had turned over at the time he was booked, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case. The $20 showed up as counterfeit with a detecting pen. The $50 bills had the same serial number.

Because of that, prosecutors added an additional charge of forgery to a September case after Vlahos allegedly passed counterfeit bills at Old Chicago, where he worked as a dishwasher. 

When contacted by police, Vlahos denied knowing that the bills were counterfeit.

Cheyenne man faces charges in five robberies

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A local man faces federal criminal charges for allegedly robbing five businesses and threatening store employees with a gun.

Taylor Ross Wardell has been charged with four counts of interfering with commerce by robbery in U.S. District Court. Wardell already had his initial appearance in the federal courthouse in Casper and has waived his preliminary hearing.

His bond is set at $10,000 cash. It is unclear from the court documents whether Wardell has posted bond.

Wardell is facing a total maximum penalty of 80 years in prison, a $1 million fine, three years of supervised release and a $400 special assessment fee for all four counts.

According to court documents:

Starting Aug. 14, and continuing over the next couple of months, Wardell is accused of robbing several businesses, including Silver Mine Subs on Vandehei Avenue in Cheyenne, Loaf ‘N Jug on East Lincolnway in Cheyenne, Loaf ‘N Jug on Third Street in Laramie, Vino’s Wine and Spirits on Vandehei Avenue in Cheyenne and a Subway on West Carlson Street in Cheyenne.

Court documents say Wardell robbed these businesses with help from someone identified only as “MH.”

Wardell was arrested by Cheyenne Police on Oct. 1, when he and “MH” were found sleeping in a white Subaru at 4000 W. College Drive with license plates that didn’t match the car’s registration. Drugs were also seen in plain view, and during the vehicle search, officers found a note that read “give me the money or I’ll shoot.”

Oil pad construction to start near Cheyenne

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Construction of a well pad is slated to start later this month, as EOG Resources, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the country, prepares to start new oil drilling operations in April.

The drilling operation is located east of Cheyenne and north of Interstate 80, near the Triple Crown and Durham Estates neighborhoods.

Last week, EOG Resources held an open house for residents surrounding the drilling area to share concerns, get more information on the process and sign up to have their water quality tested.

In a written statement to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, EOG communications manager Creighton Welch wrote, “EOG employees are active members of the Cheyenne community, and we work to be as transparent as possible about our upcoming activity.”

A few years back, EOG Resources had plans to drill in the same area, but with four well pads instead of one.

The well pads ended up being close enough to landowners in the area that EOG held off on drilling after hearing residents’ concerns.

Due to EOG Resources consolidating the pads and using directional drilling, the singular well pad that will be constructed will be more than 1,000 feet from the closest residents. According to company representatives, a number of mitigation techniques are being used to minimize the impact on surrounding areas.

The major concerns residents shared about the project were related to water quality, noise and light pollution, flaring and increased traffic.

Yellowstone proposes major bridge replacement

JACKSON (WNE) — The National Park Service is taking steps to relocate a major bridge spanning the Yellowstone River at Tower about 500 feet south of its current location.

“This project will maintain safe visitor access from the park’s Northeast Entrance since the bridge is part of the only road corridor in the park that is open year-round and plowed in the winter,” Yellowstone officials announced in a statement. “Built in the early 1960s, the concrete deck, sidewalks, and parapets have deteriorated.”

By aligning the bridge farther south, Yellowstone National Park would trim 1,500 feet of road surface from the Northeast Entrance Road. A 1,175-foot-long, 176-foot-high bridge that would be built in 2022 would skirt wetlands, enabling the park to restore wet meadows that are adjacent to the current 60-year-old bridge and road corridor.

Those plans are outlined in an environmental assessment that Yellowstone publicized last week. Two other options are contemplated: the customary “no-action” alternative, and a different plan for the Yellowstone River bridge that would move the structure north instead into an area where the topography would enable a much shorter bridge.

The construction schedule is contingent on funding, but plans are to have the project wrapped up by 2024. Traffic delays aren’t yet clear, and could range from no delays to 30-minute delays with occasional two- to four-hour delays.

Federal charges filed against man caught with 12 pounds of meth

GILLETTE (WNE) — Local charges against a 66-year-old Gillette man who was arrested Jan. 29 for having 12 pounds of suspected meth have been dropped after he was charged federally.

It is believed to be the largest confiscation of meth in Campbell County history with an estimated street value of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Louey Williams, leader of the Northeast Enforcement Team of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, said a federal hold was placed on Raymond Carnahan earlier this month.

As a result, the three local charges against Carnahan — possession of meth with intent to deliver, reckless driving and fleeing or attempting to elude police — were dismissed this past week by District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan.

Carnahan is federally charged with “knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully” working with other people, known and unknown, to distribute 50 grams or more of pure methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

The federal penalty for a first offense is at least ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.

He also is being charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver.

“It’s the largest [meth bust] I can recall,” said Williams, who has worked for DCI for 25 years.

Carnahan had been the subject of a lengthy, multi-agency drug investigation that is ongoing. Further charges and arrests are anticipated.

Convicted murderer accuses mayor of not doing job

ROCK SPRINGS — A former Green River resident who is serving multiple life terms for murder and attempted murder is alleging the mayor of Green River has violated his oath of office in not responding to letters seeking support in reopening one case.

Steven Mitchell served Mayor Pete Rust with a commercial affidavit by certified letter on Nov. 25, 2019, requesting a response to a separate affidavit stating that during his trial at least one witness was coerced into testifying against him.

Mitchell was convicted in Wyoming state court of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison on each count. He currently is imprisoned in St. Cloud, Minnesota, serving three consecutive sentences.

Mitchell claims his rights were violated on multiple occasions and alleges a state witness was coerced by a Green River police officer into falsely testifying during Mitchell’s trial on March 18, 1997.

Mitchell argues that because he has sent multiple certified letters to the mayor and has yet to receive a response, Rust has refused to perform his duties under sworn oath, which is a violation of public trust. He also says Rust’s silence represents a refusal to defend state and federal constitutions and deprives Mitchell of justice.

When contacted, Rust issued no comment and referred all questions to his City Attorney Galen West, who also declined to make a statement.


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