Wyoming News Briefs
January 19, 2023
Two arrested after police find 121 fentanyl pills in car
GILLETTE (WNE) — A man and a woman were arrested on numerous drug possession charges Friday evening after police officers found meth and 121 fentanyl pills in a car.
Police received a report of a man smoking fentanyl in a white Ford Escape that was parked at the Ramada Inn.
When they arrived, there was no one in the car, but officers could see three fentanyl pills inside the vehicle, said Police Sgt. Steve Dillard.
As officers were looking inside the car, a 33-year-old man, Andrew Richwine, and a 28-year-old woman, Tori Shepard, came around the corner and unlocked the car before they saw the officers.
A search of the Ford Escape found 121 fentanyl pills, weighing a total of 13 grams, along with 6 grams of crystal meth, 0.1 grams of liquid meth, 3.5 grams of marijuana and one Xanax pill, Dillard said.
Both Richwine and Shepard showed signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance. Officers learned the woman had recently used meth intravenously and the man had smoked fentanyl, Dillard said.
Richwine and Shepard were each arrested for felony possession of fentanyl and felony possession of meth, along with misdemeanor counts of possession of liquid meth, marijuana and a controlled substance in pill form and use of a controlled substance.
Prosecution against separate trials for Aune, Williams
CODY (WNE) — After Cody resident Carolyn Aune, who faces first-degree murder charges in the death of two-year-old Paisleigh Williams, joined co-defendant Moshe Williams in asking for their trials to be severed rather than tried together, the state of Wyoming, represented by Jack Hatfield, objected Jan. 9.
Deputy Park County Attorney Hatfield did so on the grounds that separating the trials would cause the court to spend more time than necessary at trial.
“Conducting two separate trials for the same offense here would essentially cause this court to spend at least four weeks trying this case instead of two,” Hatfield wrote in the motion. “The same witnesses would have to be called twice to testify, [and] two sets of juries would each have to spend at least two weeks hearing the same evidence.”
Hatfield also cited the potential that the jury could be affected.
“There would be a potential for information reported by media sources regarding the first trial influencing the jury in the second trail,” he wrote.
Aune’s motion, filed by her counsel Elisabeth Trefonas on Dec. 13, argued that a joint trial would be prejudicial to Aune, as a jury would be “unable” to separate and evaluate each defendant separately once Williams’ competency evaluation was introduced.
“There is only the same charge against both defendant and the co-defendant, and this charge should be relatively easy for the jury to understand,” the motion said.
Hatfield went on to argue that Aune and counsel had not proved a joint trial would be prejudicial to Aune.
A hearing on Hatfield’s motion to sever the trials has been scheduled for Jan. 23.
Man ticketed for falsely reporting woman as drunk driver
GILLETTE (WNE) — A 32-year-old man who called to report a woman driving drunk ended up getting ticketed for false reporting.
The man was at his home in the 3000 block of Lunar Avenue when he called police Friday night to report that a 44-year-old woman was driving while drunk and that she assaulted him. He said she was driving a 2015 Jeep.
After his initial call, officers called him back, and he admitted that he was angry with the woman and deliberately called in a false report to get her in trouble, Police Sgt. Steve Dillard said. He said he did not believe she had been drinking.
Police had contacted the woman, who showed no signs of alcohol use.
The man said he was being untruthful in his REDDI report, and he was ticketed for false reporting to authorities.
The man was drunk himself, and after taking a portable breath test, his blood alcohol content was 0.14%, Dillard said.
Mystery donor sends needed winter coats to Teton County students
JACKSON (WNE) — The boxes just kept coming.
“There were 20-some boxes that arrived over several days, and it was just wonderful,” Jennifer Jellen, the Fund for Public Education’s executive director, told the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday.
Inside the boxes were 85 brand-new winter coats in a variety of sizes and colors. The boxes did not have any name attached to them.
The coats have been distributed through all seven elementary schools and through Jackson Hole Middle School based on student need.
“This kind of generosity is so uplifting,” Jellen said. “It solves a real problem for dozens of children and comes at a time when the need is at its greatest.”
Every year, the school district and area nonprofits work to outfit students and children with the “Big 5”: hats, gloves, boots, snow pants and winter jackets.
Jellen said anonymous donations are always welcome.
“We would love to thank this donor, and we hope they know the tremendous positive impact their gift has had. Support for child wellness, in all its many forms, is crucial.”
A recent account of kids’ needs directed to local lawmakers just ahead of the state legislative session reveals the stark need in the community. Teton County School District No. 1 reported at a meeting last week that it is serving 45 unhoused students, while the preschool Children’s Learning Center currently serves 88 unhoused children.
“The coats just kept coming, and we were all grateful to know that no TCSD family would have to worry about their child being cold this winter,” school Superintendent Gillian Chapman said in a news release on Thursday.
ERAP funds still available to previous and new applicants
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Housing assistance still is available to previous Emergency Rental Assistance Program applicants and those who never applied.
ERAP has set aside $8.6 million for housing stability services available to ERAP recipients and households that have not previously received funding. That funding is scheduled to be available until June.
Below are the housing stability services that are available.
• Need help with the first month’s rent and deposit or other costs related to obtaining or keeping safe housing? ERAP has given funding to local community-based organizations that will determine funding on a case-by-case basis.
• Households needing legal assistance: If facing eviction, visit Legal Aid of Wyoming at lawyoming.org or call 1-877-432-9955.
• Seniors and individuals with disabilities: The Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division provides specialized services to support their ability to obtain and maintain safe housing.
• Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking: The Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault provides specialized services to support their ability to obtain and maintain safe housing.
For more information, call 1-877-WYOERAP, visit dfs.wyo.gov/erap or email [email protected]
Food Freedom Act changes set to advance
LANDER (WNE) — A Food Freedom Act amendment proposed by a local legislator this session aims to ensure that the state of Wyoming cannot hold producers of farm-raised eggs and dairy products to a higher standard than any other inspection criteria set by the United States Department of Agriculture.
According to the co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, “This will help producers in Fremont County sell the products locally and provide needed guidance to state agencies.”
Salazar said state inspectors, working with the Department of Agriculture, have long worked without a standard to allow local producers to sell their products like eggs and dairy on the open market due to concerns about handling and marketing standards. The amendments to this bill will allow the sale of these products with a simple disclosure that conveys that they are locally produced.
The bill currently addresses only eggs and dairy, but Salazar said future amendments could be necessary to add products as the “farm to table” movement gains momentum in the state.
The Fremont Local Market in Riverton is a new business dedicated to the secondary selling of local produce and other farm products from residents and small businesses in Fremont County. It has recently faced challenges with selling dairy products from local providers, prompting senators and state representatives to act on their behalf.
The measure, SF 102, was introduced and referred to the Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources committee.
Taxi driver arrested for reckless driving
JACKSON (WNE) — A taxi driver was arrested Thursday morning for driving his black Chevrolet Suburban taxi at high speeds, forcing other cars off the road while eluding a Teton County Sheriff’s deputy. The driver said he thought he was being “escorted” on his way to pick up Harrison Ford.
Pavlo Voichuk, 38, is facing two charges in Teton County Circuit Court: reckless driving and attempting to elude police.
Thursday morning, Deputy Landon Call of the sheriff’s office saw a black SUV pass him and other vehicles at a high rate of speed on Highway 390, just north of the Snake River Ranch Road.
Investigations identified the taxi company as A Black Car Service.
During the course of the incident, Teton County Sheriff’s Office Clayton Platt said, Voichuk forced “at least seven” vehicles off the road.
“Two vehicles in the opposite lane of travel pulled to the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision,” Call’s affidavit said. “The suburban continued to travel down the middle of the north and south bound lanes causing vehicles in both directions to leave the roadway.”
Voichuk also, “recklessly forced his way in between two vehicles and nearly caused a four-vehicle crash at speeds from 55-70 miles per hour.”
Driving in the opposite lane of travel, Voichuk eventually turned onto Teton Village Road and stopped at the entry of the Four Seasons Resort.
The driver stated he thought Call was “escorting” him to the Four Seasons. He said he received an urgent message that he needed to pick up Harrison Ford as soon as possible.
No evidence of impairment, controlled substances, or weapons was found before Voichuk was transported to the Teton County Jail.
Voichuk, identified as a Ukrainian native with a California driver’s license, was arraigned in Teton County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon. He appeared remotely from Teton County Jail but was released on a $500 cash bail.
Black Car Service owner Dumitru Cusnir said both Voichuk’s taxi permit and employment have been terminated.
Bill could maintain Wyoming abortion access
JACKSON (WNE) — Democrats are pushing to repeal Wyoming’s “trigger ban” on abortions.
“I think that the trigger ban is unconstitutional,” said Rep. Mike Yin, a Jackson Democrat. “The issue with the whole thing is that it criminalizes providers.”
The bill’s four co-sponsors are Sen. Mike Gierau, from Jackson, along with Reps. Karlee Provenza, Trey Sherwood and Sen. Chris Rothfuss, from Albany County.
Yin’s bill would restore abortion access to what it was before state lawmakers passed a trigger ban that makes providing abortions a felony punishable by 14 years in prison and allows narrow exceptions for rape, incest or physical risk to the mother’s life.
Wyoming state lawmakers passed the bill in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June reversal of Roe v. Wade, which had provided federal rights to abortions.
Yin called his bill the “simplest” way to maintain abortion access in Wyoming.
Abortions up until viability, between 22 and 24 weeks, remain legal in Wyoming for now, while a case challenging the trigger ban’s constitutionality continues to play out in Teton County District Court.
The plaintiffs suing the state include two women of childbearing age, two obstetric physicians and two abortion access nonprofits. The women want to see the ban declared unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including that it is unconstitutionally vague, violates their right to make their own health care decisions and discriminates based on sex and religion.
The state Supreme Court declined to weigh in for now and sent the case back to the District Court.
Two Republican lawmakers and Right to Life of Wyoming filed an appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court to allow them to intervene in the case to defend the trigger ban.
By repealing the ban, Yin’s bill, if passed, would make that lawsuit moot.
Names of victims of double homicide released, investigation ongoing
SHERIDAN (WNE) — The names of the victims in a recent double homicide were released by Sheridan County Coroner Dr. Robert Byrd Thursday morning.
The bodies of Erin Nicole Johnson, 39, and son, Owen Miles Lawson, 13, were discovered Jan. 6 around 6:52 p.m. at their mobile home on Mydland Road in Sheridan.
The cause of the deaths appeared to be homicide with a firearm, and Byrd determined the date of death was Dec. 22, 2022.
SPD officers were initially dispatched to the residence after the reporting party told police the home had a water leak and that attempts to contact the residents were not successful. Officers breached the door to the residence, the press release said, after determining the circumstances required immediate action.
The initial follow-up investigation revealed one suspect who was found to be dead in Colorado. The investigation is ongoing by Sheridan Police Department and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab.
Nine vehicles involved in Wednesday crash on Pass
JACKSON (WNE) — Wyoming Highway Patrol State Trooper Todd Baxter leap-frogged between related accidents Wednesday on Teton Pass in what ultimately became a crash between nine vehicles that slid into each other like dominoes.
According to Clayton Platt, investigations sergeant for the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, a call came in at 4:12 p.m. Wednesday to assist a stuck semitrailer. The call was primarily handled by Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Baxter said the truck was on Highway 22 headed over the mountain from Wilson when it lost traction and stopped moving near milepost 10. The license plates showed the truck was from the East Coast, Baxter said, and the driver was an Alabama man who had never seen snow.
Baxter called for a tow truck to pull the semi up to the top of the pass, at which point the driver could make it back down.
Then the rescuing tow truck ran into problems.
“When the tow vehicle got to the pullout around milepost 9, where all the snowmobilers park, to put on his chains, the tow truck started to slide,” Baxter said.
When Baxter heard the news, he left the semi trailer driver with another trooper who had arrived on scene to go assist the stuck tow truck.
It was cold, snowing and slippery in spots, but Baxter said the plow driver on the scene laid down a lot of sand and other road treatment. However, the section of road where the tow truck driver pulled out to put chains on hadn’t been treated.
“When he elevated the rear tires to put the chains on, when the tires lifted up, it just slowly started sliding,” Baxter said.
It quickly became a domino effect of sliding into eight parked cars, luckily all of them empty while their owners were out riding snowmobiles.
The vehicles hit by the tow truck sustained varying degrees of damage, ranging from $500 to $10,000.
OD death leads to man’s arrest
CODY (WNE) — After a 25-year-old Cody man died from a fentanyl overdose Jan. 2, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and Cody Police Department conducted an investigation, which implicated a Greybull drug dealer as the suspected source of the fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone.
Anthony Michael Fuentes, of Greybull, was charged Jan. 3 with two counts of delivering a controlled substance, two counts of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver it and one count of possessing a controlled substance.
According to the affidavit, agents determined Fuentes to be the deceased man’s drug dealer by examining the latter’s cell phone. DCI Special Agent Jonathan Shane Reece posed as the decedent in order to contact and locate “Pop Tart,” the name agents learned was used by Fuentes.
Fuentes was arrested for delivering a controlled substance after arranging to leave pills for the undercover agent.
Agents obtained a search warrant for Fuentes’ residence and vehicles, where they found marijuana and multiple fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone tablets, according to the affidavit.
“He admitted to selling the suspected fentanyl laced counterfeit oxycodone to the decedent on multiple occasions,” the affidavit said.
Fuentes also told agents he had distributed two fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone to the decedent on Jan. 2 for $80.
“This delivery occurred just hours prior to the decedent being discovered deceased from a suspected fentanyl overdose in Cody,” the affidavit said. “[And] Fuentes admitted to using the Signal application to communicate with the decedent and acknowledged [his] alias as ‘Pop Tart.’”
Fuentes faces felony charges, with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.
He was given a $100,000 cash-only bond on Jan. 5 in Big Horn County Circuit Court.