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Wyoming News Briefs

Couple pleads not guilty to attempted murder, child abuse

CHEYENNE (WNE) — At separate hearings with separate judges Monday, both of the defendants charged with attempted first-degree murder in connection with the alleged abuse of a two-year-old boy pleaded not guilty.

Hannah Wingert, the 20-year-old mother of the child, and Joshua Moody, her 21-year-old boyfriend, were arrested for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse on Aug. 25. Law enforcement contacted them after Wingert’s stepmother called police to perform a welfare check on Wingert’s son.

Earlier that week, police had responded to an anonymous call saying that Wingert was living in a vehicle and using drugs around her son. Officers said they did not observe any concerning injuries on the child at that time.

At various times throughout the police’s investigation, the couple made conflicting statements about the events that led to Wingert’s son being hospitalized. Both Wingert and Moody have said throughout the investigation that most of the abuse was perpetrated by the other person.

At various occasions during the couple’s court proceedings, detectives and lawyers have described, in graphic detail, the injuries that the child suffered, causing him to be airlifted to Denver last month.

Doctors at Denver Children’s Hospital determined that the child had severe injures deemed “life-threatening enough to be fatal.”

The child is currently in foster care and recovering, according to previous statements made by Laramie County assistant district attorney William Edelman.

One detective likened the injuries they observed on the child to those “generally seen in prize fighting and major car accidents.”

Moody’s trial date with Laramie County District Judge Catherine Rogers is tentatively set for Jan. 16, 2024, and Wingert’s trial date with Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe is set for Feb. 6, 2024.

Public defender Brandon Booth, who represents Wingert, said the state may request a joinder, which would make both trials happen at the same time. 

L&H to help with development, manufacturing of small nuclear reactors

GILLETTE (WNE) — L&H Industrial recently entered into a partnership to evaluate the viability of deploying small-scale nuclear reactors, with the goal of working as a private supplier for nuclear microreactors in the state.

The cooperative effort comes as part of a two-phase contract with the Wyoming Energy Authority and BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC, with the aim of supporting nuclear energy in the state and meeting future energy needs.

With support from L&H Industrial, BWXT will be focusing on understanding the specific power requirements for commercial end users. This includes identifying areas where Wyoming’s existing supply chain can support reactor deployment and potentially demonstrate capabilities for reactor component manufacturing.

In addition, BWXT will perform engineering work to investigate how its microreactor design can integrate into Wyoming’s future power needs.

Rob Creager, executive director for the Wyoming Energy Authority, said collaborations like this one are vital for finding and advancing clean energy solutions.

BLM plans to reduce wild horse herd

CODY (WNE) — The Bureau of Land Management released a decision record that approves future wild horse bait trap gathers, removals and fertility control in the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area east of Cody.

The Appropriate Management Level for the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area — the population level consistent with land health and multiple use — is 70 to 140 wild horses. The current population is 181 horses, based on direct counts in 2023, according to a BLM press release.

The decision approves a plan to return the population to the appropriate management level and slow population growth by using a combination of small bait-trap gathers, selective removals and fertility control over a 10-year period. The BLM may begin a bait trap gather in 2023.

Comments on the environmental assessment received during the comment period have been addressed and incorporated into the environmental assessment and decision record. These and other associated documents are available at the BLM National NEPA Register.

For more information, contact Abel Guevara, BLM horse specialist, at (307) 578-5900.

Inmate alleges multiple civil rights violations at Wyoming Honor Farm

CASPER (WNE) — An inmate is accusing the Wyoming Honor Farm of violating his civil rights, including a “cruel and unusual punishment” of refusing him clean clothes and underwear for over 11 days while he suffered from Crohn’s disease.

Despite notifying the warden and a captain, Gregory Ficht Jr. alleges he didn’t receive clean clothes until the 12th day of a 15-day punishment for an undisclosed conduct violation, the federal civil rights complaint states.

He was locked down in his cell during the time. The “civil right violations and the crimes” were committed against him during his 15-day lockdown, the complaint states.

“Remember that I have a serious issue of Crohn’s Disease, and I need clean underclothes daily,” the complaint states. “...[I] had to wash my underwear in the shower.”

Ficht filed the lawsuit without an attorney. 

He is alleging that his First, Second, Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated while incarcerated at the Wyoming Honor Farm.

Ficht alleges that he was only let out of his cell for four of those 15 days and he wasn’t allowed to use the phone, even to call his attorney, for more than 11 days.

“[T]he officers there that were working the evening shift would tell me they do not have the time, when they would be sitting right in the officer’s station playing cards or playing on the computer, instead of doing their job,” the complaint states.

Ficht is requesting a jury trial in his case.

Casper mayor resigns following allegations of domestic violence

CASPER (WNE) — Ray Pacheco was named mayor and Lisa Engebretsen was appointed vice mayor Friday morning following former mayor Bruce Knell’s sudden resignation less than 24 hours prior. 

Casper Mayor Bruce Knell stepped down from City Council on Thursday following allegations he physically attacked his wife during a trip to Austin, Texas to see the Cowboys game. 

In an announcement, Knell denied the accusations, but indicated his reputation had already been affected to the point that he had to resign. 

“It is readily apparent to me that the City Council has abandoned me, band members who I have worked with for a number of years have ended their relationship with me and it is apparent to me that every effort is being made to destroy me to the public,” Knell wrote in the statement. 

City Manager Carter Napier said in a press conference at the Casper Business Center on Thursday afternoon that Knell had been served with a protective order. Court records also indicate his wife filed for a divorce. 

A report published Wednesday by K2 Radio cited documents that suggest the alleged attack sent Knell’s wife to the hospital. A public information officer with the Austin Police Department indicated the agency had responded to a call involving Knell and his wife on Sept. 15 at roughly 11 p.m. The officer said no arrests were made and, as of Friday, the agency had suspended its investigation into the matter. 

The city was not aware of any criminal investigation into the former mayor, Napier said. 

That could change, though. He said if Wyoming law enforcement were to open an investigation into Knell, it would probably be headed up by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office or the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. 

Wrong emergency number sends Gillette woman more than 150 phone calls

GILLETTE (WNE) — “You have not reached 911. You have reached Londen,” the voicemail begins.

“This is not emergency services and please do not leave me a message,” it continues. “But have a great day.”

Londen Tabor plans on leaving the conversation-starting voicemail as is for a good long while. It’s the cherry on top of an “interesting” Tuesday she experienced when her phone number was accidentally released as an alternative dispatch contact while 911 lines were down across Campbell and Weston counties. At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, a countywide alert went out that gave different emergency service numbers in place of 911.

Tabor remembers looking at the alert and thinking something looked a little funny.

“I took a screenshot of it and then I went to Facebook to check it out and my phone rings,” she said.

The number was restricted so she declined. Then another restricted call came in and another. Tabor decided to answer her phone and a girl on the other end said something like, “I just saw to call this number.” 

It was then Tabor knew her eyes had not deceived her — her number really was one of the phone numbers given for dispatch. It was a mistake of one digit that prompted more than 150 phone calls and a plethora of voicemails that filled her inbox to capacity multiple times.

David King, Campbell County Emergency Management coordinator, said the team has already added an item to their internal checklist for next time a similar emergency occurs. The plan now is to call each number to make sure each cell phone rings before releasing any phone numbers to the public.

“There are worse things in life,” Tabor said. “That’s the key point here is, you gotta laugh about it.”

Texas man arrested after allegedly exposing himself to woman at Walmart

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 32-year-old Texas man was arrested for indecent exposure, interference and a number of other charges Thursday afternoon.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, a 28-year-old woman told police that an unknown man, later identified as the 32-year-old, was exposing his genitalia while she was shopping near him in Walmart, said Police Deputy Chief Brent Wasson.

Two hours later, a similar report was made at Hobby Lobby, Wasson said. Officers responded to the store, and he ran away and got into a 2022 Ram with a trailer. He drove south through the parking lots of Hobby Lobby, Walmart and the Powder Basin Shopping Center, running over some landscaping in the process.

Officers lost sight of him, but within minutes they found him behind Bloedorn Lumber. He fled on foot but was caught quickly. He was suspected of being under the influence, Wasson said.

The man was arrested for indecent exposure, two counts of interference, reckless driving, hit and run and driving under the influence. A second charge of indecent exposure is possible, Wasson said.

The police are investigating what happened at Hobby Lobby.

Phone outage impacts 16,000 in northeast Wyoming

GILLETTE (WNE) — About 16,000 people were impacted Tuesday during a phone outage that downed phone lines across the city and county, along with 911 calls. The outage also affected those in Weston County and some parts of Crook County.

David King, Campbell County Emergency Management coordinator, said its cause had something to do with a crew about 18 miles outside of Wright.

“I got a couple of descriptions,” he said. “It was either a break or wiring connections were not as they should have been.”

The outage began Tuesday morning.

The crew went back to the site to fix the issue and throughout the day, county and city lines, hospital lines and cellphone service began to slowly come back online. By about 4 p.m. Tuesday, King said he only heard that Weston County was still having problems.

Different providers were affected during the outage, including Lumen, the platform that handles 911 calls. Those in Campbell and Weston County could not call 911 but a countywide alert sent out at about 8 a.m. Tuesday gave other numbers to call in an emergency.

During the outage, texts to 911 could still go through because SMS uses less bandwidth and needs less service than a call. King said an after-action meeting with all agencies will go over what should be done differently in future, but overall, outcomes were good.

“It made for an interesting day,” King said. “There were no tragedies that I know of, no severe medical event that we were unable to get a hold of them.”

Supreme Court denies state’s petition in school funding lawsuit

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The Wyoming Supreme Court has denied the state’s Petition for Review in the lawsuit brought against the state by the Wyoming Education Association and eight intervening school districts over inadequate school funding.

The state’s petition sought to overturn a district court judge’s decision that strict scrutiny would be applied in this current litigation, as in past precedent-setting Campbell cases dealing with unconstitutional, inadequate funding of Wyoming public schools, according to a news release from the association.

“Already we have seen multiple attempts by the State to prevent or prolong our opportunity to explore the merits of our case in Court, “WEA President Grady Hutcherson said in the release. “We are grateful that the Supreme Court has upheld the decision made by the District Court — a decision which we feel is a just, appropriate ruling regarding the burden of proof to be applied in our case.”

In December 2022, the First Judicial District Court of Laramie County denied the state’s motion to dismiss the WEA’s school finance lawsuit.

In July, the state requested the district court commit to what level of scrutiny the judge would use in ruling on the case — strict scrutiny or rational basis. After the district court decided in favor of the strict scrutiny standard, the state filed a Petition for Review with the Wyoming Supreme Court. That petition has been denied.

The case is set for a five-week bench trial in June 2024.

Legal filings relevant to this case are available online at the Wyoming Supreme Court Clerk’s Office.

Rawlins man charged with attempted murder

SARATOGA (WNE) — A 73-year-old Rawlins man is facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges following an incident on United States Highway 287 earlier this month. 

Melvin Leon Bagley has been charged with two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and battery, reckless driving and reckless endangerment according to court documents. 

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Carbon County Circuit Court, the Wyoming Highway Patrol was dispatched to mile marker 22 on US 287 for a report of a man with a gun, later identified as Bagley. It had been reported that two people were shot and being chased by the suspect and that the suspect was ramming the victim’s truck with his own as they tried to get away. 

The trooper with the WHP found the victim’s vehicle at mile marker 14 and observed “a heavy amount of damage” on the driver’s side. 

The trooper then found Bagley’s vehicle approximately two miles away. 

According to court documents, Bagley claimed the victims – later identified as his nephew and his nephew’s wife – had been stealing money out of his bank account. The trooper later interviewed the victims, who claimed Bagley had dementia and had been relocated to Bairoil to live with them. 

They said he had agreed to give them power of attorney over his finances but began accusing them in April or May of stealing money from his account. He also wanted to move from Bairoil to Rawlins, which occurred in June 2023. 

The charges of attempted second degree murder come with a penalty of 20 years to life in prison. 

Back in Grand Teton, Grizzly 399 stayed out of trouble while down south

JACKSON (WNE) — Jackson Hole’s most watched bear has returned to Grand Teton National Park with a clean record.

In late August, Grizzly 399 left the park, heading south, and crossed onto private property. She spent the better part of the past three weeks in developed Jackson Hole, where she has gotten into trouble in the past, eating people’s trash and breaking into beehives and livestock and compost feed. 

But park officials confirmed Tuesday that the grizzly matriarch and her cub had crossed back into National Park Service territory. State wildlife managers said 399 didn’t get into any trouble during her most recent trip south.

“No conflicts that we have been aware of or dealt with,” Dan Thompson, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore supervisor, said in a text.

Grizzly watchers were pleased to hear that 399’s most recent jaunt was conflict-free.

“She has one mouth to feed,” Cindy Campbell said of 399 and her progeny. “I feel like she’s coexisting quite well right now, and it feels like people are coexisting because I don’t think she’s gotten into any trouble.”

Grizzly watchers aren’t sure, exactly, where 399 traveled or how she got back to the park. She hadn’t been seen for a few weeks before turning up in Grand Teton on Monday afternoon. The bear has made herself scarce since then.

Thousands of grizzlies and black bears live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and hundreds reside in Jackson Hole. Bears are currently experiencing hyperphagia, a period of intense eating that helps them bulk up for hibernation, and it’s hunting season, meaning there may be carcasses on the landscape that can attract bears and pose hazards for people hiking — or hunting.

Tips for living and recreating in bear country can be found on the web at JHWildlife.org/bearwise-jh.

NHSFR nets increased profit for Cam-plex

GILLETTE (WNE) — With the dust settled and books balanced from this summer’s National High School Finals Rodeo, Cam-plex has walked away with what may be its highest profit of all its years hosting the event.

The week-long event netted Cam-plex about $405,000, which Executive Director Aaron Lyles said appears to be the highest profit in Gillette’s 13 tries hosting the event.

“It’s been the most financially successful rodeo in history to our knowledge,” he said.

Cam-plex brought in about $1.7 million in gross revenue and sent out under $1.3 million in expenses to reach the $405,686 net profit.

This year marked the 75th anniversary for the NHSFR and saw a record-high turnout with 1,785 contestants, breaking the record set the summer before, when 1715 contestants came to Gillette. It was Gillette’s 13th turn playing host.

This was the first year to feature data collection and economic analysis from Zartico, which compiled credit card and cellphone data from Cam-plex and throughout the county with the purpose of understanding the event’s impact on the local economy.

That approach aims to collect about 5% of credit card sales and applicable cellphone data, but that amount was likely limited due to internet and cellphone service problems that struck Cam-plex due to the high volume of people congregating within the Cam-plex campus.

 
 
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