NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, Feb. 3, 2020

Man killed in wreck south of Wright

GILLETTE (WNE) — Wyoming Highway 59 was closed for about seven hours Friday after a fiery two-vehicle accident that killed a man.

A semitruck heading northbound on an icy Highway 59 by Cosner Road south of Wright T-boned a southbound pickup at about 9 a.m., said Trooper Eli Ellis of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The pickup was in a passing lane when it apparently lost control on the ice and drifted into the northbound lane in front of a Rev Energy semi-truck, Ellis said.

The semi “attempted to brake, but couldn’t stop in time,” he said.

The big rig hit the pickup T-bone fashion on its passenger side, and the pickup “immediately caught fire and slid down an embankment and became fully involved.”

While the pickup was too damaged to determine how fast it may have been going when it lost control, Ellis said the WHP estimates the semi was traveling at about 50-60 mph when the truck slid in front of it.

The driver of the pickup was killed in the crash and his identification is being withheld until his next of kin can be notified, said Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem.

The cause of the crash is being attributed to icy road conditions.

Friday’s fatality is the third so far on Wyoming highways in 2020.


Murder charge dropped in 2018 case

LARAMIE (WNE) — Prosecutors dropped a murder charge last week against 24-year-old Artem Day, who was accused of fatally bludgeoning his 22-year-old fiancee in March 2018.

Day’s case was scheduled to go to trial on Monday, but prosecutor Ben Harwich said in a court filing that “further investigation” is needed.

After what the Laramie Police Department described as a “lengthy and intensive investigation,” Day was charged with second-degree murder in August 2019.

The delay in charging Day largely stemmed from the bizarre and convoluted circumstances of his fiancee’s death.

When Laramie police responded to the couple’s home on March 11, 2018, it initially appeared that Day’s fiancee was suffering from alcohol poisoning, as Day suggested.

However, the autopsy found no alcohol or other drugs in her bloodstream.

Instead, a medical investigator discovered wounds that suggested she had been beaten so severely that her body was inundated with fatal levels of lactic acid.

Court documents did not name the victim, opting instead to use the victim’s initials, S.R. — a practice that’s customary in cases that involve a sexual assault charge, as this case does.

When S.R. was brought to Ivinson Memorial Hospital, an examination revealed two bruises on her back, a bruise on her forearm, a bruise on her right shoulder, a bruise on her right thigh, two bruises on her right hip and one bruise on her tricep.

After searching the couple’s residence, police found a “breaker-bar-type tool” that matched the linear bruises on S.R.’s body.


DCI director to retire

CASPER (WNE) — The director of Wyoming’s drug investigative agency will retire later this spring, he told the Star-Tribune last week. 

Steve “Woody” Woodson, who has led the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation since 2012, said that his retirement will become effective March 1. 

Attorney General Bridget Hill, under whose supervision DCI rests, confirmed Woodson’s pending retirement and said that working with him was a pleasure.

“I have very much appreciated his tremendous passion and dedication to law enforcement and I will always admire his level of commitment and devotion to his job.” Hill said by email on Thursday afternoon. “We are lucky to have had him and I am thankful he decided to share his talents with this office for nearly the past decade. He will be missed.” 

Before he was named to lead the agency under then-Gov. Matt Mead, Woodson worked more than 31 years in law enforcement. After a stint as a detective in Missouri, Woodson took an agent’s job with DCI. After leaving the Wyoming agency for the first time, he spent 20 years working for the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

When he left the federal agency, Woodson in fall 2012 was sworn in as director of DCI. Woodson said in a brief Thursday phone interview that his retirement will enable him to spend more time with family. 

DCI is authorized by state law to investigate drug crimes, organized crime that crosses into multiple local jurisdictions, as well as certain computer and sex crimes.


Men found not guilty of animal cruelty charges

GILLETTE (WNE) — Two Campbell County men who had each been charged with 27 counts of animal cruelty were acquitted Friday.

David and Trenton Love were found not guilty on all counts. The jury of five men and one woman deliberated for less than two hours before delivering the verdict Friday afternoon.

The Loves were charged with failing to provide 27 animals, which were in their charge and custody, with proper food or drink on June 5, 2019.

The attorneys for each side made their closing arguments Friday morning. Deputy County Attorney Steve McManamen and J. Craig Abraham were in agreement about one thing: the situation was a tragedy.

The case was about “27 living, feeling, breathing animals, completely dependent on the Loves,” McManamen said. “They were failed by the men who were supposed to provide for them.”

The tragedy, Abraham said, was that the investigation was biased against the Loves from the start and separated them from animals that they cared for and loved.

“There’s no malice here (from the Loves),” Abraham said.

The Loves had 20 horses and seven cattle on Joel Hjorth’s property 9 miles south of Gillette. The animals were seized June 6 and sold at an auction July 10.