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Wyoming News Briefs

Minor killed at Casper mall

CASPER (WNE) — A minor is dead following a stabbing just before noon Sunday outside Eastridge Mall in Casper.

“The two people most directly involved are in custody,” police lieutenant Scott Jones said, adding that additional individuals who may have been involved have been identified, questioned and may face “further action.”

The victim, who is under the age of 16, will not be publicly identified until after an autopsy is performed Tuesday by the Natrona County Coroner. He died shortly after law enforcement arrived, Jones said.

Jones, who has three decades of experience with the Casper Police Department, said he could not recall a similar incident and said the mall is not a particular hot spot of youth trouble.

“In my time in law enforcement, this doesn’t happen. We’ve been seeing an increase in frequency and severity [of youth crime] over the last several years. Just an unfortunate trend of our times.”

On Monday morning, police increased their presence at local schools in response to threats related to the incident on social media.

“Someone sent out a…social media posting making a threat on behalf of one of the people involved,” Jones said. “Because of that we have been inundated with concerns from students, faculty, staff, parents with kids in school.”

Despite the department determining the threats pose “no immediate threat,” Jones said the department would increase the number of officers patrolling near schools in addition to the existing school resource officers.

Despite the increased police presence, many parents pulled their children out of school Monday morning, leaving classrooms at some schools nearly empty.

Eastridge Mall Manager Tammy Ito said she had been instructed not to address the incident as the investigation was ongoing. The mall’s owner, Kohan Retail Investment Group, did not return a call for comment by press time.

Heart Mountain becomes Smithsonian Affiliate

CODY (WNE) — The Smithsonian Institution has selected the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation to join its network of Smithsonian Affiliates.

As an affiliate, the foundation will have the opportunity to collaborate on unique educational programs and workshops, participate in professional development, co-develop youth programs, host traveling exhibitions, and other opportunities offered in collaboration with the Smithsonian.

The decision makes the Foundation only the second Wyoming museum to become a Smithsonian Affiliate. It joins the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on the list of more than 200 Smithsonian Affiliates in nearly every state, plus Puerto Rico and Panama.

“The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is dedicated to telling an important part of our nation’s history,” said Myriam Springuel, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service | Smithsonian Affiliations director. “With a mission that so thoroughly matches the work of the Smithsonian, we are honored to welcome the Foundation into the Smithsonian Affiliate family and look forward to working together to share these important stories with audiences around the world.”

HMWF joins the Affiliate network at a critical time. The Foundation will have the grand opening of its new Mineta-Simpson Institute during its annual Pilgrimage on July 25-27, 2024.

“The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is thrilled and honored to become a Smithsonian Affiliate,” said Shirley Ann Higuchi, chair of the Heart Mountain board. “Our world-class museum has attracted interest, both nationally and internationally, signifying the impact of the power of place. With our new Mineta-Simpson Institute opening this summer, we will enhance our ability to educate the public and continue to tell our incarceration story. We hope that our museum and campus will inspire this country to learn more about what happened at this site in 1942.”

Judge restores pre-Trump rules for dealing with mine violations

CASPER (WNE) — A federal court has restored pre-Trump standards to the so-called Ten Day Notice, a rule that requires state and federal agencies to address public complaints with mining operations in a timely manner.

Whether for excessive dust, water pollution or non-compliant noise levels, the rule is meant to give citizens speedy recourse to mining-related infractions, requiring state agencies to respond to permit violations within ten days.

The rule is enforced by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and required under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, landmark legislation that overhauled a mineral industry that, until the 1970s, had operated under relatively minimal regulation.

The Citizens Coal Council, Appalachian Voices and Sierra Club filed suit in the U.S. District Court to challenge the rule, saying the 2020 changes resulted in “pre-investigation investigations” that significantly delayed actions to address violations while giving the office of surface mining and state regulators the discretion to table complaints indefinitely.

Advocacy groups in Wyoming say the newly strengthened rule is a win for citizens.

“When Congress passed the federal strip mine law, SMCRA, they realized that people like me who live near coal mines are a valuable source of information for regulators, and that we must have a way to call on regulators to address violations,” said Lynne Huskinson, a retired coal miner and board member of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and Western Organization of Resource Councils from Gillette, Wyoming.

Administrators with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality see the updated rule differently.

Leaders at WDEQ say the new rule was drafted without meaningful input from state partners and worry it will add unneeded bureaucratic paperwork while undermining the principle of “cooperative federalism,” which has normally conferred State Regulatory Authorities primacy to administer federal laws in state.

Weekend windstorm rattles Laramie County

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Wind gusts reached 91 mph in Cheyenne this weekend in one of the longest sustained windstorms in the area in recent memory.

Emergency response teams kept busy on Saturday and Sunday responding to calls of downed power lines, power poles, light poles and a few houses that were hit by trees that were blown over.

Interstates across the state were closed for safety, and many trucks and trailers toppled from the wind.

Cheyenne Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Don Wood led teams of firefighters this weekend. He said they received 50 calls on Saturday alone.

“I do know that there was a couple of points in time that every single unit was responding to calls in the city,” Wood said. “It was definitely a stretch for resources.”

Laramie County Fire Authority responded to 10 wind-related calls this weekend, including power lines down, roofs blowing off, semi-trucks blown over and carbon monoxide alarms.

Hayden Humphrey, vice president of field operations for Capitol Roofing, estimated his company received around 40 or 50 calls for roof repairs over the weekend, and he anticipates more to come.

He said he has never seen anything like this past weekend’s windstorm in his eight years in the roofing business.

Black Hills Energy also had a busy weekend, as crews responded to downed power lines.

National Weather Service Cheyenne lead meteorologist Aaron Woodward said his staff recorded 15 hours that met “high wind” criteria. According to the NWS, “high winds” are winds 40 mph or greater for better than one hour, and/or wind gusts 58 mph or greater, for any duration.

“That definitely was one of the longest-duration highwind events,” Woodward said, adding that in his two-and-a-half years in Cheyenne, he had never experienced winds over 80 mph.

Details emerge in Fremont County murder cases

RIVERTON (WNE) — Fremont County Coroner Erin Ivie ruled two recent deaths as homicides, and her office’s case dockets in the deaths shed light on how the pair were killed.

The most recent death occurred on February 25, when Inez Whiteman, 37, died as a result of a stab wound to the chest. The BIA and FBI are investigating the death, which Ivie ruled a homicide.

Ivie also ruled the February 19 death of William Yellowrobe Sr. as a homicide due to blunt-force traumatic injuries to the head and ethanol intoxication; his blood-alcohol content was measured at .31% at the time of his death.

Riverton Police were called for a welfare check at 9:30 a.m. that morning after Yellowbear was discovered bloodied with possible signs of trauma near St. James Episcopal Church.

He was pronounced dead there; police are seeking information from anyone who may have heard a disturbance the day before, February 18, between 3-9 p.m.

The two deaths are among three homicides recorded in Fremont County in January and February.

The first occurred on January 2, when Ezekiel “Zeke” Frank James Ute allegedly stabbed and killed Lawrence Oldman III while the two were driving around drinking on Riverview Road outside Riverton.

Ute has been charged with second-degree murder in Oldman’s death.

Thus far in 2024, Fremont County’s homicide rate is about triple the national average for areas with similar populations, according to the National Statistic Comparison from CDC – National Vital Statistics System.

Casper firefighters discover actual fire while conducting training

CASPER (WNE) — Late Wednesday afternoon, Casper-EMS firefighters were training at a building that is slated for demolition when a child just two homes away alerted them to an actual structural fire.

The address they were training at was 1020 S. Chestnut St. The house that was on fire was in the 800 block of West 11th Street, a press release from the fire department said.

“Firefighters quickly disengaged from the training site and responded to the actual incident. Firefighters located a single-family wood-frame home with a fire located on the stovetop, and heavy smoke emanating from the front door,” the press release said.

They were able to extinguish the flames and ventilate the smoke from the house.

One resident in the home at the time was taken out by the firefighters and transported by ambulance to Banner Wyoming Medical Center. Other residents had left the building before firefighters arrived.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Nominations sought for female entrepreneurs in Wyoming

JACKSON (WNE) — The Wyoming Council for Women is seeking nominations for outstanding female entrepreneurs across the state for recognition with the annual Jan Torres Woman Entrepreneur Award.

Nomination forms are available at WyomingWomensCouncil.org. The deadline for 2024 nominations is May 10.

Nominees must be women who own, co-own or operate a Wyoming-based business that has operated continuously for at least three years.

Women may nominate themselves or be nominated by another individual.

Along with recognition on the Wyoming Council for Women website and social media and statewide media outlets, the award will be presented at a recognition ceremony in the recipient’s business location city.

“Wyoming’s women have accomplished incredible feats, and we want to encourage all women entrepreneurs to toot their own horns or recognize other great women,” said Natalia Macker, chair of the Wyoming Council for Women. “We need help finding these amazing women and telling their stories. We are asking everyone to nominate women business owners in their communities — or to nominate themselves.”

This will be the seventh Woman Entrepreneur Award the council has given out. Previous recipients include women from all corners of the state.

“The last several years have been challenging for Wyoming entrepreneurs, yet many female business owners have overcome their obstacles and succeeded despite the odds,” said WCW Entrepreneur Award Committee Chair Mary Ann Cummins. “These community leaders have provided inspiration to countless others with their actions. Please help highlight these self-made businesses by nominating a personal hero.”

For questions about the award, contact Cummins at [email protected] or WCW Chair Macker at [email protected].

Game and Fish Director set to retire in September

RIVERTON (WNE) — Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik will retire in September after 29 years of dedicated service to conserving Wyoming’s wildlife.

Nesvik’s journey with the department began in 1995 as a game warden in the Laramie Region.

His dedication and passion for wildlife led him to climb the ranks of the wildlife division, ultimately earning him the governor’s appointment as the director in 2019.

“I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to have served as the Director and worked alongside the incredible people who wear the uniquely red uniform shirts of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,” Nesvik said. “It has been a privilege to work with dedicated, passionate professionals who are committed to conserving wildlife, serving our citizens and preserving Wyoming’s heritage.”

A search for the director’s successor will begin promptly. By Wyoming law, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will initiate a search and eventually forward three candidates to the governor for his consideration.

State investigates after man dies in hospital hours after drug arrest

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 62-year-old man who was arrested on a drug charge Wednesday afternoon was pronounced dead at Campbell County Health a few hours after he said he felt sick while being taken to jail.

At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, a Gillette police officer stopped a 1993 Harley Davidson for a traffic violation near the intersection of North Garner Lake Road and Kluver Road.

A Sheriff’s deputy drug dog indicated on the motorcycle, and a used meth pipe was found in the saddle bag, said Sheriff Scott Matheny.

A search of the 62-year-old turned up another used meth pipe and a small baggie with suspected meth, Matheny said.

Police arrested the man, Clayton Westover, for possession of a controlled substance and took him to the Campbell County Jail at 2:40 p.m., according to a press release from the Gillette Police Department.

During the ride to the jail, Westover told officers he felt sick. They got to the jail at 2:51 p.m., and officers asked for an ambulance.

EMS arrived six minutes later and took Westover to the emergency room. Westover was pronounced dead at 6:51 p.m.

An investigation into Westover’s death has been opened by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.

Wyoming job-stayers see 4.9% wage growth, new data from ADP shows

CHEYENNE (WNE) — New data shows workers in Wyoming who have stayed in their job for at least 12 months saw their wages rise by 4.9% compared to the same time last year, with a median annual salary of $51,900.

However, nationally, workers who have switched jobs in the last year are seeing 10% pay raises on average. This is according to new data released this week in ADP Pay Insights for March.

Additionally, the average year-over-year median change in annual pay across the U.S. was 5.1% for those workers who have stayed in the same job for the last year, which is steady from the month before. That brings the national average pay to $59,000.

ADP’s Pay Insights captures the salaries of the same cohort of almost 10 million individual employees over a 12-month period and can be found online at tiny url.com/march-2024-payinsights.

Inmate tests positive for drugs after drinking what she thought was Kool-Aid

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Sheriff’s Office is investigating after a woman tested positive for a controlled substance after drinking what she believed to be Kool-Aid.

A 56-year-old woman who is an inmate at the Campbell County Jail tested positive for amphetamines during a drug test. A detention officer mistakenly threw this sample away, but she provided another sample.

A detention officer found a clear sandwich bag with a white powdery substance in the woman’s cell, said Sheriff Scott Matheny.

The woman, who has been in the jail since June, said she didn’t know that she tested positive for amphetamine, and that the substance in the bag was Kool-Aid powder that was given to her the day before by another inmate who was released.

She said she drank some of the Kool-Aid Tuesday afternoon, and denied intentionally using drugs. She said she would be willing to do another drug test.

The powder weighed 7 grams with packaging. In a test for methamphetamine and amphetamine, the results came back positive. In another test for methamphetamine and MDMA, the results were negative, Matheny said.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal conducted its own test and determined the substance was confectioner’s sugar.

The powder will be sent to the state crime lab for further testing.

 
 
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