State to seek death penalty in Lovell murder case
LOVELL (WNE) — The Big Horn County Attorney’s Office will be pursuing the death penalty in a homicide case involving a man from Lovell.
In a recent filing with the court, County Attorney Marcia Bean conveyed to the court that her office would pursue the death penalty in the case involving Donald Joe Crouse. Crouse is charged with the first-degree murder of Carol Jean Barnes on Jan. 4, 2018.
The last execution carried out in Wyoming was Mark Hopkinson in 1992. Wyoming’s last death row inmate, Dale Eaton, had his sentence overturned by a federal judge in 2014.
There is a current motion from Crouse’s current attorney, Timothy Blatt, to reschedule the trial set for June 3. His reasons include that Crouse is seeking another mental examination and the need for another public defender that has experience with death penalty cases. Crouse waived his right to a speedy trial.
Action to be taken against student behind school threat
RIVERTON (WNE) — The 14-year-old student accused of making a threat against Riverton High School will be suspended or even expelled, Fremont County School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder said Tuesday.
He identified the girl as an RHS freshman but said he could not share her name or talk about the specific disciplinary actions issued.
In a press release Friday, Snyder said the girl had published a "series of posts" anonymously on Instagram making fun of other people on the RHS campus. A second student, in an attempt to identify her, suggested the derogatory posts might keep her from "shooting up the school." In response, the girl responded with a message that contained "an eyewink emoji" and the date May 15.
Riverton Police Department chief Eric Murphy characterized the threat as "vague at best" but said in a Friday statement that his agency was taking the situation "very seriously," with plans to station extra officers at all Riverton schools as a result of the incident.
In an email sent to staff Friday after the girl had been identified, Snyder said there still will be additional police presence in the district Wednesday "as a precaution."
His email indicated that the student had "confessed" to making the threat.
"I am so thankful for this outcome," he wrote. "Keeping you and the kids safe is important to all of us.”
Former Buffalo chamber CEO sentenced
BUFFALO (WNE) — Former Buffalo Chamber of Commerce CEO Angela Fox was sentenced in Fourth Judicial District Court on Monday to two to five years in prison.
Fox had been found guilty of three counts of felony theft in a jury trial in Buffalo in January 2019.
Judge William Edelman sentenced Fox to two to five years for each count of felony theft, to run consecutively. Edelman suspended all but 90 days of the sentence. Edelman also ordered Fox to serve 10 years of supervised probation until restitution in the amount of $16,601 is paid to the chamber.
At the conclusion of her sentencing hearing, Fox was taken into custody by the Johnson County Sheriff's Office to begin her 90-day sentence in the Johnson County Detention Center as a crowded courtroom looked on.
Fox was found guilty of three counts of felony theft for making unauthorized personal charges on chamber credit cards. Those purchases include charges at a wedding boutique in Billings, Montana, and a ring from a jewelry store in Billings.
Other charges to the chamber credit card include a $1,846 charge to the Occidental Hotel; and a $732 charge to the Roosevelt Hotel and Spa, located in New Orleans. There were also charges for two airline tickets purchased for Fox's husband, Thom Gabrukiewicz, who was not an employee of the chamber but traveled with Fox, totaling $1,041.60, according to the affidavit.
Teenager killed in accident near Riverton
RIVERTON (WNE) — A 16-year-old Ethete girl died Saturday after being involved in a traffic incident on U.S. Highway 26 just west of Riverton.
Officials confirmed the deceased was Triston Addison.
Fremont County Sheriff's Office reports indicate the incident that led to her death was reported at about 3:35 a.m. Saturday on U.S. Highway 26.
Fremont County Coroner's Office chief deputy coroner Erin Ivie said Addison did not die at the scene, but she would not release a time of death.
There will be no autopsy on the victim's body, Ivie said.
Ivie did not release a cause of death for Addison pending an investigation in conjunction with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Further information was unavailable Tuesday from the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The crash remains under investigation.
NWC facing layoffs with budget crunch
POWELL (WNE) — With falling enrollments and diminishing support from the state, Northwest College is facing a crunch as it plans its fiscal year 2020 budget. As a result of the shortfall, layoffs are likely.
Stefani Hicswa, NWC president, said the college wouldn’t have any specifics on the reductions in force — such as how many positions and which departments would be impacted — until the NWC Board of Trustees meets in June to review a balanced budget.
It’s not entirely certain the layoffs will occur, but the discussion at Monday’s board meeting suggested they’re highly probable.
“It really stinks, but it’s work we have to do,” Hicswa told the board. “We don’t have a choice.”
NWC is projecting a $1.6 million cut to its operating budget for fiscal year 2020, which is an 8 percent drop from last year’s budget.
In fiscal year 2017, the college was hit with an 11.5 percent budget reduction, which led to some reductions in personnel. A total of 19 positions were eliminated, all but four of which were cut through early retirements or leaving open positions unfilled. The bulk of the budget cuts in that year were non-personnel.
Since NWC cut so much from its operating budget in fiscal year 2017, Hicswa said there aren’t as many non-personnel cuts to be made this time around.
Man pleads guilty to attempted murder
THERMOPOLIS (WNE) — On Monday in Hot Springs District Court, Hugo A. Luna Aguero entered a guilty plea to an amended felony charge of second-degree attempted murder.
The charge is amended from a felony of first-degree attempted murder, and a second felony charge of kidnapping has been dismissed.
As part of the plea agreement, a jail sentence of 20-30 years in a Wyoming Department of Corrections facility was proposed. However, Judge Bobbi Overfield noted during the proceedings that the maximum penalty is 20 years to life and Luna could be looking at more time.
Luna admitted that on April 13, 2018, he was in Hot Springs County driving an 18-wheeler with a female passenger and he had pulled over to the side of the road to allow her to relieve herself. He further admitted they had a disagreement, during which he got upset and, as a result, pushed her down to the ground and used a box cutter to cut a deep gash in the side of her neck which could’ve proved fatal. He left her on the side of the road and left the scene.
It was certainly a different story from the reports taken during the incident a year ago. At that time the initial report came from the woman, who was found along the side of the road by another driver. During questioning, she said she became suspicious of Luna when he didn’t stop in populated areas or allow her to use a phone. She also said she saw a mattress with blood on it in the sleeping area of Luna’s truck.
G&F: Elk in Bighorn Forest clear of brucellosis
SHERIDAN (WNE) — Elk from the Bighorn National Forest have clean bills of health from the brucellosis presence a few years ago, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Tim Thomas.
Each year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department monitors the distribution and prevalence of brucellosis within the state’s elk population, according to a handout presented by Thomas. Approximately 10,000 blood collection kits are assembled and mailed to elk hunters successful in acquiring limited quota licenses within target surveillance areas.
The program began in 1991 and throughout the program, more than 17,000 blood samples have been analyzed. A total of 1,559 elk blood samples were tested in the 2018 surveillance of the Bighorn Mountains area with 1,529 of them being suitable for testing. There were no positive tests for brucellosis in the 2018 sampling.
Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that spreads from animals to people, according to the Mayo Clinic. The local Game and Fish started testing for the infection in 2011. The first time brucellosis was present in the Bighorn Mountains was in 2012, thought to be carried over through elk herds from the Big Horn Basin and greater Yellowstone area.
Thomas said everyone has calmed down about the potential of the infection spreading, as it has not been detected in the last two years in the area.