Wyoming News Briefs
September 29, 2022
Woman charged with hit-and-run in Cody
CODY (WNE) — Jennifer Christen Phillips, 40, of Cody, pleaded not guilty Friday to hit-and-run charges after she allegedly struck an 11-year-old on a bicycle.
She also pleaded not guilty to one count of failing to yield the right of way in a crosswalk.
Parker DeFord was riding his bicycle Sept. 20 with some friends near the intersection of 16th Street and Stampede Avenue. As DeFord attempted to cross 16th Street around 5:30 p.m., a white Dodge Ram turning from 16th onto Stampede Avenue struck him. The vehicle did not stop.
Phillips turned herself in to the Cody Police Department after learning it was searching for a white Dodge pickup and after her husband told her a child had been injured, her attorney said at the arraignment hearing in Park County Circuit Court on Friday, Sept. 23.
“Her version of events is she felt she hit the curb and did not realize she had hit a young child and caused injuries,” Phillips’ attorney Timothy Blatt said at the hearing.
According to Nicole DeFord, Parker’s mother, he sustained a broken left tibia, two broken ribs on his left side, a small puncture in one of his lungs and several broken or chipped teeth.
“Any reasonable person under the circumstances would have known they hit somebody on a bicycle,” Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield said at the hearing.
Hatfield initially asked judge Joey Darrah for a $5000 cash and surety bond after saying Phillips was a flight risk and there was a concern for public safety.
Darrah agreed there was a public safety concern and limited Phillips’ driving privileges.
Phillips was also given a $6000 personal recognizance bond. A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2023.
Man arrested on drug charges tries to eat meth at jail
GILLETTE (WNE) — A 51-year-old man was arrested for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, driving with a suspended license, possession of methamphetamine, taking drugs into the jail and possession of fake urine meant to defraud drug screenings Saturday on Echeta Road.
At 2:06 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies were patrolling near the Foothills Theater when they saw a silver SUV with a missing headlight drive by and stop at a yellow light. The deputies followed the vehicle to the light where it did not move, Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said.
Deputies talked with the 51-year-old driver who they knew had a suspended license. The man was talking randomly about things that weren’t related to what the deputies were saying, and he did not complete the sobriety tests.
Deputies searched the SUV and found a bag with suspected meth, a used syringe and synthetic urine that is used in defrauding drug tests.
While being booked, jail staff found a bag of meth on him that the man tried to eat. They were able to take the bag back out of his mouth.
The man was also found to have three previous DUI charges in the last ten years, making his DUI a felony.
Gasoline prices back up more than 5 cents in Wyoming in past week
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Average gasoline prices in Wyoming have risen 5.3 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.83 per gallon Monday, according to GasBuddy.com's survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.
Prices in Wyoming are 14.8 cents per gallon lower than a month ago, and stand 37.4 cents per gallon higher than a year ago. The national average price of diesel has declined 5.1 cents in the last week, and stands at $4.88 per gallon.
According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Wyoming was priced at $3.09 per gallon Sunday, while the most expensive was $4.79, a difference of $1.70 per gallon.
The national average price of gasoline has risen 3.2 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.67 per gallon Monday. The national average is down 17.5 cents per gallon from a month ago, and stands 49.3 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy data.
The data is compiled from more weekly price reports covering over 150,000 U.S. gas stations.
GOP narrows field to three nominees for secretary of state
CHEYENNE (WNE) — The Wyoming Republican Party has picked three nominees to put forward to the governor to become the interim secretary of state, party and other officials have confirmed to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Those successful candidates were approved on the first ballot during the GOP meeting in Pavillion, and they were identified as Karl Allred, Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller.
A Wyoming GOP representative, as well as the spokesperson for Gov. Mark Gordon, later separately confirmed those three people were the party’s formal and final picks. Gordon now has five days to make a pick from these finalists to be secretary of state until the voters’ pick in the general election is sworn in. That person is likely to be Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the GOP primary last month.
The appointment of an interim secretary of state became necessary when Ed Buchanan, who was elected in 2018, left the secretary of state post on Sept. 16 to become a judge.
The three nominees for the position could not immediately be reached.
Gillette man gets 24 years for intent to deliver meth and fentanyl
GILLETTE (WNE) — A second Gillette man has been sentenced to prison after being caught with more than 7,000 fentanyl pills and ten pounds of meth in January.
Joshua Taylor, 26, was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for possession with intent to deliver meth.
Taylor, Brett Scheeler and Karl Dennis Vonngettrost Jr. were indicted by a grand jury Jan. 8 for possession with intent to deliver meth. Taylor and Scheeler were each indicted on a second count for intent to deliver.
In 2021, law enforcement received information that Taylor was selling and distributing meth and fentanyl in Gillette. In January 2022, he talked to someone in the Campbell County Jail about going to Arizona.
Law enforcement believed Taylor was traveling to Arizona to pick up a shipment of meth and fentanyl, and using Taylor’s cell phone data, they determined he subsequently drove to Phoenix and returned to Gillette.
On Jan. 8, agents conducted surveillance on the route they believed Taylor would use to get back to Gillette. At about 11:45 a.m., they saw a 2011 Chevy Suburban heading north on Highway 50, about 19 miles south of Gillette.
Scheeler was driving, and agents believed Taylor was in the car. Deputies attempted to stop the men, but a high-speed chase ensued until Scheeler turned onto private property. Taylor jumped out and ran across the prairie, according to court documents.
Troopers and deputies witnessed Taylor throwing items from a backpack. These items turned out to be 6.38 pounds of suspected meth and 272 grams of suspected fentanyl in pill form.
Deputies found a black handgun and a syringe on the passenger floorboard right behind the driver’s seat of the car.
Scheeler was arrested, and a search of the Suburban found an additional 4.05 pounds of meth and 569 grams, or 1.25 pounds, of fentanyl, in a black duffel bag.
Fire restrictions lifted in forests
LARAMIE (WNE) — Fire restrictions on all National Forest System lands managed by the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland were removed on Friday.
The restrictions were lifted because of increased fuel moisture and favorable weather forecasts for reduced wildfire potential as per a news release.
The areas include national forest and grassland in Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties in northwest Colorado; Albany, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Crook, Natrona, Niobrara, Platte, and Weston counties in Wyoming.
Large wildfire activity has been less substantial this year compared to previous recent years; however, late-season fires have become more common in the Rocky Mountain region.
Hunters, campers, and all other forest visitors should exercise caution to reduce wildfire risk. Campfire safety best practices include making sure that campfires are thoroughly extinguished before leaving a fire unattended.
Even relatively small warming fires should be dead out before campers leave the site.
Many areas across the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland remain in drought of varying levels of intensity.
More information also can be found on the website fs.usda.gov/mbr or social media channels: @ FS_MBRTB on Twitter or @FSMBRTB on Facebook.
Also call 307-745-2300 or visit the Forest Supervisor’s Office and Laramie Ranger District at 2468 W. Jackson St. for local site-specific information.
Green River elementary school celebrates national level success
ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — The students had the opportunity to celebrate during a surprise assembly at Washington Elementary School in Green River on Monday, Sept. 19.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized Washington Elementary as one of the 297 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2022.
The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. With its 39th cohort, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.
National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.
“This is the most exciting news in all my 17 years of teaching,” Washington Elementary School teacher Breeun Palmer-Bieber said at the assembly. “This is a big deal because not a lot of Wyoming schools have won this.”
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” said Craig Barringer, Sweetwater County School District No. 2 superintendent. “It’s a testament to the work the teachers do and how the parents help them. As you walk in here, you can just feel the positive vibe.”
Principal Anne-Marie Covey said she was overwhelmed with pride.
“I think to be recognized on the national level is something that validates the work we do here,” she said. “I hope when the kids are older, they will look back and say, ‘That was my elementary school and I was a part of that.’”
Up to 420 schools in the U.S. and its provinces may be nominated each year.
The Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School in Sheridan is also a 2022 Blue Ribbon Elementary School.
Meth defendant determined fit to proceed
JACKSON (WNE) — Timothy Ritter, who is facing felony methamphetamine charges, was determined fit to proceed to trial after an evaluation by the Wyoming State Hospital.
Ritter, 43, appeared in Teton County Circuit Court on Thursday. His attorney, Bill Fix, stated that his client agreed with the findings of the evaluation and that he was competent to proceed.
Ritter has charges pending in both Teton County District and Circuit Court. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
The two felony charges pending in District Court were originally filed Dec. 15, 2021, for actions alleged to have occurred in October and November. Ritter was arrested Nov. 10, 2021, after a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper found ingredients used to make meth in his car.
The charges are conspiracy to commit a controlled substance offense and possession of a controlled substance precursor. Each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
Two additional drug-related charges are related to actions that allegedly occurred during November and December of 2021. These charges carry fines of $15,000 and a potential imprisonment of seven years.
He had been in custody since July 7 after he failed to appear for a court-ordered evaluation of his mental fitness, prompting a warrant for his arrest.
His case had been placed on inactive status until June 22, when officers in Georgia apprehended him during a traffic stop and extradited him back to Teton County. After two and a half months in custody, Ritter posted a $50,000 cash bail and was released Thursday evening.
His release conditions allowed him to return to his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Ritter’s trial is now set for Oct. 31.