From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers
Former teacher gets prison for sex abuse
CHEYENNE (WNE) — A former Cheyenne junior high school math teacher was sentenced Friday to at least 20 years in prison for sexually abusing his former student, whom he later adopted.
Joseph Meza's friends, family and former students crowded the Laramie County courtroom, several of whom read statements urging the judge to understand his positive impact on their lives.
On the prosecution's side, the victim sat with her family and friends waiting to hear the sentence.
Through a victim's services coordinator, the young woman explained her relationship with Meza - first as a student when she was 14, then a mentee, then in a sexual relationship, until she became his adopted daughter.
"I never felt good enough for him. I left my own family for him," she wrote. "I turned myself into someone I wasn't."
She also talked about the effects of the court process and how people in the community often called her a liar for coming forward.
"I didn't feel safe leaving my house for fear that people would attack me or shame me," she wrote.
Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove then took the stand, urging the judge to impose the maximum agreed-upon sentence of a maximum of 40 years.
She said she was "confident" that if her predecessor had taken the case all the way to trial, the jury would've convicted Meza on all eight counts.
Instead, Meza pleaded guilty after about three hours of testimony from the victim and her mother to one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in exchange for a joint recommendation of 20-40 years in prison.
Sex offender who escaped from Casper facility captured
CASPER (WNE) — Fremont County authorities arrested a convicted sex offender whom Natrona County authorities say walked away from a Casper rehabilitative facility last week.
Lander police say they caught up with Cody M. Schlosser, 26, on two outstanding warrants on Thursday afternoon in a Lander trailer. Fremont County sheriff’s deputies assisted with the arrest, according to a statement provided by the Lander Police Department.
Schlosser was being held in Casper Re-Entry Center as part of a sentence for 2010 convictions of sexual assault and kidnapping, according to a Natrona County sheriff’s spokesman.
Authorities began looking for Schlosser on Jan. 3 when he failed to return from work.
The Casper Re-Entry Center is a privately-owned facility that provides rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment to inmates before they are released. The center, which is owned by the Geo Group, operates under a contract with the Wyoming Department of Corrections.
The Wyoming Board of Parole describes the Casper Re-Entry Center and other similar facilities as providing an “alternative to incarceration or traditional probation/parole supervision.” Certain residents of the facility are required to hold off-site jobs and pay rent as part of their rehabilitation, according to the parole board.
At least a dozen people have escaped from the facility each of the past three years, although those escapes typically occur when inmates do not return from work.
On Friday, Georgia authorities arrested a different man who is suspected of climbing a wall and escaping from a higher-security portion of the facility.
MMA fighter sentenced to prison in assault
GILLETTE (WNE) — An MMA fighter who knocked a woman unconscious and then continued to punch her while she was on the ground will spend up to six years in prison.
Cody W. Amman, 29, of Gillette was sentenced to 2.5 to six years in prison for aggravated assault. He also must pay $1,860 in fines and $1,565 in restitution to the Division of Victim Services.
Amman had earlier pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He allegedly attacked the woman at about 9:45 p.m. May 28 because earlier that evening she had confronted him about neglecting his responsibilities to his girlfriend. He had become angry and upset.
Witnesses said he “blindsided” the woman as she walked to her truck at Eagles Nest Circle. He then pushed her to the ground, climbed on top of her and hit her multiple times, according to court documents. Two women who were outside smoking witnessed the attack and told officers that they saw Amman come “out of nowhere,” push the woman, climb on top of her and start punching.
They also said the woman “went limp” after Amman’s first blow and appeared unconscious. One screamed at a man nearby to pull Amman off the woman, which he did.
The woman reported remembering Amman hitting her once and said she remembers waking up while her friend was cleaning a large open cut on her forehead, which was gushing so much blood that she had trouble opening her eyes.
Amman was a mixed martial artist who had fights that were scheduled to happen in the weeks following the attack.
Inquest to be held in Riverton shooting
RIVERTON (WNE) — The Fremont County Coroner's Office will conduct a public inquest into an officer-involved shooting that took place Thursday in south Riverton.
No officers were injured, but a male subject was killed in the incident, which took place at about 11 a.m. Thursday in the 500 block of South First Street at East Monroe Avenue in Riverton.
Riverton Police Department chief Eric Murphy said his officers were working with a federal agency on the case, which involved a convicted felon who was illegally in possession of firearms and threatening law enforcement.
Law enforcement was in contact with the male Thursday when he fired on officers, Murphy said.
They fired back, Murphy continued, and the suspect was later transported to SageWest Health Care at Riverton to be treated for injuries.
Murphy later confirmed the suspect was deceased.
On Friday, Murphy said he is not releasing any more information about the incident, including the name of the deceased. He directed questions to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In a press release Thursday, Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said his office will not issue any information about the incident, or the circumstances surrounding it, until the inquest presentation is made.
He anticipates it will take more than a month to make arrangements for the inquest.
"Such incidents are complicated and investigated by multiple agencies," Stratmoen said. "All agencies will require appropriate time to complete their investigations to a point where proper evidence can be presented to an inquest jury.”
After the inquest, Stratmoen said all of the evidence presented will be filed with the Clerk of District Court.
UW ranked among best colleges for winter life
LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming is one of the best colleges in the country when it comes to winter, according to a College Consensus, a website that aggregates college rankings and student reviews.
UW was No. 18 on the site’s list of “Best Colleges for Winter Life,” which looked for schools that embrace the cold and snow. The list noted the area’s annual snowfall of 58 inches, the variety of offerings through the UW Outdoor Program and the proximity of ski resorts, mountain lodging, hot springs and public lands.
“Students can enjoy the outdoors while engaging in winter activities of their choice,” the site says.
The top schools on the list were Middlebury College, Dartmouth College and Colorado College. In the Rocky Mountain region, University of Denver was listed at No. 10, University of Colorado Boulder at No. 11, University of Utah at No. 16, Westminster College at No. 17, Montana State University at No. 21, Colorado Mesa University at No. 22 and Western Colorado University at No. 25.
Garret Genereux, who coordinates UW’s Outdoor Program, said Wyoming has a reputation for harsh winters but also access to outdoor recreation.
“With winter comes a lot of fun,” he said.
The Outdoor Program offers a range of winter activities for students and staff from the start of the spring semester through spring break, including snowshoe hikes, Nordic ski classes, ski tuning classes, avalanche instruction and backcountry touring outings. Almost all of the outings take place on nearby public lands, such as the Medicine Bow National Forest.