Wyoming News Briefs
February 18, 2021
Fremont County lawmakers propose adding unborn children to murder statutes
RIVERTON (WNE) — An effort to add protections for unborn children to the state’s murder laws has considerable support from Fremont County delegates.
If it becomes law, Senate File 96 would attach murder chargeability to a defendant whose attempted or actual murder resulted in the victim’s unborn child dying.
The bill got its number on Feb. 8 and has yet to be heard by a committee in the Wyoming Legislature, which reconvenes for session on March 1.
Co-sponsors are many, and include three of Fremont County’s six delegates. State Representatives Ember Oakley and Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, both have signed on as co-sponsors, as has State Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton.
State Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, who represents a portion of Fremont County, also has attached his name to the bill.
It reads that a person is guilty of murder in the first degree of an unborn child if the person kills, or attempts to kill, a pregnant human whose baby dies during the offense.
In Wyoming, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or death. The bill also would list the unborn child as a victim in second-degree murders or attempts. Second-degree murder is punishable by between 20 years and life in prison.
Nursing home dashboard shows promising trends
CHEYENNE (WNE) — AARP’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Dashboard is showing some promising trends in numbers of Wyoming nursing home residents and staff cases of COVID-19, as well as nursing home resident deaths due to COVID-19.
However, these numbers are still far higher than levels of infection seen during the summer and early fall, according to a news release.
AARP’s dashboard indicates 29% of Wyoming nursing homes reported COVID-19 cases for the four-week period ending Jan. 17, down from 50% of nursing homes that reported COVID-19 cases during the four-week period ending Dec. 20.
While 73% of nursing homes reported at least one staff member with COVID-19, that number was down from 96.9% in December’s snapshot. Those numbers reflected a large improvement in the numbers of nursing homes with a staff shortage, from 53% in December to just 29.4% of facilities reporting shortages in the four-week period ending Jan. 17.
The nursing home resident death rate also dropped in Wyoming, from December’s 2.75 deaths per 100 residents to 2.22 deaths per 100 residents. Some 41 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 from Dec. 21 to Jan. 17, which was down from 48 over the previous four-weeks.
“It is encouraging to see our numbers of nursing home deaths and infection rates dropping,” says AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “But, these numbers are still far higher than they were this summer or fall.”
All-state music festival to be virtual
RIVERTON (WNE) — Originally scheduled for mid-January at Laramie High School, this year’s All-State Music festival has been rescheduled for Feb. 15, and will be conducted in a virtual meeting.
“They’re going to have a virtual rehearsal,” said Riverton High School band director Stan Dulkoski, who added that a CD also would be made from pre-recorded performances, which will be spliced together into one concert whole.
“That’s a lot of layering – between 75 and 100 musicians,” he said.
Still, said Dulkoski, studio recording and splicing is a necessity for career musicians that does not often occur on the high school level, so it’s a useful experience.
“We’re making the best with what we have.”
Dulkoski noted that the Wyoming Music Educators Association chose to turn the festival virtual due to COVID-19 case numbers.
“I’m just hoping we can all stay safe and weather this storm so we can all experience fine arts the way they were meant to be experienced for next school year,” he said, noting that “the kids’ morale remains high.”
Man arrested after day-long standoff
EVANSTON (WNE) — Several Evanston police officers responded to an apartment on Park Road Wednesday morning and remained throughout the day after a man who was “very agitated and armed with two large knives” barricaded himself inside his home, according to a press release from the Evanston Police Department.
Officers were called to the scene to perform a welfare check. When they arrived, “the male subject refused to speak with officers initially and slammed the door to his apartment shut and placed a couch in front of it,” the release states. “It was known the male subject was the only person inside the apartment at this time.”
EPD Lt. Ken Pearson said the incident was resolved around 3 a.m. Thursday morning and said the public was not in danger as officers patiently waited for the right time to act.
“The necessary measures were taken to secure the adjoining apartments by the Evanston Police Department to ensure the safety of the surrounding residents,” the release states. “Negotiations were established with the barricaded male subject through his apartment’s shut door and windows. … An opportunity presented itself when the male subject laid down his knives and Officers made entry into the apartment. The male subject was taken into custody after a brief scuffle with the Officers.”
EPD did not immediately release the name of the suspect, citing medical reasons.
Snowboarder dies at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
JACKSON (WNE) — A snowboarder was found dead in a tree well Monday morning at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The Virginia man, Daniel Tatum, 27, was visiting the Tetons with friends, resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said.
Tatum became separated from his friends around 10:45 a.m. Sunday. When he didn’t show up at the end of the day at their agreed-upon meeting time, the friends notified ski patrol around 5 p.m.
Ski patrollers led a search that included other resort employees Sunday night, searching until around 8:45. Without light and unable to locate Tatum in what Cole called a “very heavily treed and gladed area,” they suspended the search, returning around 6:30 a.m. Monday.
With help from Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue, patrollers found Tatum unresponsive in a tree well after seeing his snowboard. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said Tatum died Sunday, but details on the exact time, cause and manner of death were still pending.
According to DeepSnowSafety.org, a tree well is a depression that forms at the base of a tree when its branches keep snow from consolidating. The wells can be a mix of tree branches, snow and air, and many of the fatalities that occur in them are from snow immersion suffocation.
From 2008 to 2018 there were 41 reported fatalities resulting from snow immersion suffocation incidents at U.S. ski areas, an average of four a year.
Wyoming gas prices up by 4.5 cents in last week
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Wyoming gas prices have risen 4.5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.33 per gallon as of Monday, according to GasBuddy.com’s daily survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.
Gas prices in Wyoming are 12.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago, and stand 13.2 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.
According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Wyoming was priced at $1.97 per gallon Monday, while the most expensive was $2.68 per gallon, a difference of 71 cents per gallon.
The national average price of gasoline has risen 2.6 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.50 per gallon Monday.
The national average is up 11 cents per gallon from a month ago, and stands 5.3 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
Personal info breached at Campbell Co. Health
GILLETTE (WNE) — Personal information for more than 900 Campbell County Health patients was breached when an errant email was sent out earlier this month.
On Feb. 5, “an email was sent to a single individual with an unintended attachment that contained names, account numbers and type of insurance,” a CCH press release said.
The organization said it learned of the breach within an hour and the recipient was immediately contacted.
After the recipient was directed on how to “permanently delete the attachment from their email and all other devices,” CCH believes that potential risks from the personal information leak has been mitigated, the press release said.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services has been notified of the information breach and CCH said it followed all appropriate investigative steps into the breach.
CCH said all of the affected parties were contacted and the incident will lead to further organizational processes, including additional education and training on protecting personal health information for all CCH employees.
“We take our role of safeguarding our patient’s personal information and using it in an appropriate manner very seriously,” said CCH CEO Colleen Heeter in the press release. “Campbell County Health apologizes for any concern this situation has caused our patients, is doing everything we can to rectify it, and ensure that it will not happen again.”
CCH declined further comment on the matter.
Legislators seek exemption to hunting age
SHERIDAN (WNE) — The minimum hunting age for big game in Wyoming may soon have two exceptions permitting younger hunters.
Two bills in the Wyoming Legislature this session look to amend Wyoming State Statute 23-2-102, which currently prevents any hunter younger than age 12 from hunting big game.
“I think both merit discussion,” said Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Sheridan, who is sponsoring one of the bills. “As long as kids have an adult with them, and they’ve gone through hunter safety protocols, that’s what is important.”
Western’s bill — House Bill 84 or the Naomi Hunting Age Exception Act — was inspired by the titular Naomi, a Make-A-Wish child with terminal cancer who wanted to hunt big game in Wyoming. But Naomi’s wish went ungranted because she was younger than the minimum age.
Western’s bill states the minimum hunting age may be waived if a person younger than the age requirement demonstrates they are suffering from progressive, degenerative or malignant medical conditions that endanger their ability to hunt big game in the immediate future.
A separate bill, proposed by Rep. Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, also provides an exception to the hunting age requirements. House Bill 115 allows children age 11 to hunt big game, as long as they will turn 12 within the calendar year.
“The purpose of it is, if you have a December birthday like I do, you automatically miss out on a year of hunting as opposed to someone who is born in January,” Paxton said.