NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, March 9, 2020


From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Missing woman’s death ruled accidental

RIVERTON — Acute methamphetamine intoxication and hypothermia were pronounced culprits in the death of 23-year-old Jade Wagon.

Wagon went missing Jan. 2 and was found dead three weeks later, in a field near Ethete. 

“The examination revealed no evidence of significant traumatic injuries,” stated a Thursday press release by the FBI describing the results of the Jan. 27 autopsy. 

“The methamphetamine levels in Ms. Wagon’s body are known to produce confusion and irrational behavior. Based on the investigation of multiple agencies and autopsy results, the (Fremont County) Coroner’s Office ruled the manner of death as accidental.” 

Multiple sources claimed Wagon was last seen at the Wind River Hotel and Casino before leaving with unknown parties. 

She was the sister of Jocelyn Watt, who was murdered in Riverton along with Rudy Perez almost exactly one year before Wagon’s disappearance. Under investigation by the Riverton Police Department, the murders of Watt and Perez have not been solved. 

The girls’ mother, Nicole Wagon, is an activist for Not Our Native Daughters, which supports Gov. Gordon’s task force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 

The FBI and “all participating agencies” including the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Wind River Police Department, and RPD — express in the statement their “deepest condolences to the Wagon family.”

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$200,000 forfeited in restaurant-drug money case

CASPER (WNE) — Defendants have forfeited more than $200,000 in connection with civil proceedings that have targeted Mexican fast-food restaurants in Wyoming and Colorado, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration said Friday. 

Although the proceedings — which have targeted bank accounts that authorities say show the restaurants laundered drug money with falsified invoices — remain largely sealed by a judge’s order to keep secret details of a parallel criminal case, the spokesman said on Friday that among the people forfeiting money was Jose Aguilar-Martinez, who ran a Colorado Springs, Colorado, food supplier alleged to be at center of the scheme. 

David Tyree, special agent in charge of the federal agency’s Wyoming office, told the Star-Tribune by phone Friday that he could not specify how much of the money had belonged to Aguilar-Martinez, whom Tyree referred to as the investigation’s target. 

According to prosecutors’ filings, the owner of El Potosino — Aguilar-Martinez — would provide money from drug sales to the restaurants, which would then deposit the money into restaurant bank accounts. El Potosino would then issue falsified invoices for ingredients and supplies to the restaurants. The restaurateurs would then pay El Potosino for items that the restaurants never actually received, according to the government. When El Potosino deposited those checks in its accounts, the money would then appear legitimate. 

Among restaurants named in the civil case are Rodolfo’s Mexican Grill in Cheyenne, Rolando’s Mexican Grill in Cheyenne and Almanza’s Mexican Food in Laramie. An attorney for the restaurant’s owners has said his clients strongly denied wrongdoing.

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Representative named in case of man killed by deputy

LARAMIE (WNE) — The mother of Robbie Ramirez, the Laramie man killed by a sheriff’s deputy in 2018, was appointed as the representative for a potential wrongful death case at the end of February.

Debbie Hinkel’s appointment is a step toward the possibility of damages being sought from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the death of 39-year-old Ramirez in November 2018.

Hinkel’s attorneys requested her appointment for ‘the purpose of investigating, pursuing and prosecuting a wrongful death claim.”

The appointment of a wrongful death representative doesn’t inherently mean damages will be pursued; Hinkel’s attorneys declined to comment on whether a lawsuit will ultimately be filed.

Ramirez was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling, who was previously involved in two other fatal shootings while working for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Colling fatally shot Ramirez after Ramirez drove away during a traffic stop near Garfield Street, between 21st and 22nd streets, leading to a scuffle between the two men outside Ramirez’s apartment.

After Colling unsuccessfully tried using his Taser, Ramirez became combative and began throwing punches, with a key lodged in between his knuckles, before Colling drew his weapon and fired three fatal shots.

A grand jury convened by Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent opted not to indict Colling for involuntary manslaughter in early January 2019. Trent said it was the first time a grand jury has been convened in Wyoming for an officer-involved shooting.

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Denver group takes ATM from Cheyenne business

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A group based in Denver has been stealing ATMs from businesses in northern Colorado and from a local business in downtown Cheyenne.

The ATM in the Presidential Barber Shop on West Lincolnway was stolen in February by the group. Law enforcement officers believe the local theft is connected to the other thefts, said David Inman, Cheyenne Police Department public information officer.

The group leaves other items in the business undisturbed and just targets the ATMs, Inman said. In these cases, law enforcement usually finds the emptied ATM abandoned somewhere else.

The barber equipment and recording studio equipment were left undisturbed during the robbery. Inman said it isn't uncommon to get crime from Colorado in Cheyenne due to the Interstate 25 corridor that runs through Wyoming's capital city.

He said it's common for any town off of an interstate or highway to get this type of crime because it's easy to make an escape. This group isn't believed to be gang-related at this time.

Inman also said it seems the group has experience with this type of theft because of how they are specifically targeting the types of businesses and ATMs.

At this time, no suspects have been identified in this crime, and CPD is working with Colorado authorities.

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Man who took money from Scouts, elderly woman accused again

GILLETTE (WNE) — A man sentenced last week to prison for defrauding the Boy Scouts and a 76-year-old woman of more than $150,000 has been implicated in another case.

A 63-year-old woman reported to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office that she paid Jason Barnum $2,000 with a cashier’s check to do roof and siding work at her house on Blackbird Road in November.

Barnum allegedly did not do the work, Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said Friday.

She filed the report after reading about other charges against Barnum.

Barnum, 43, was charged last week with two counts of felony fraud and three counts of misdemeanor fraud for allegedly taking money to do work on homes and then never showing up to do the work.

Those counts date back to Nov. 4 — 10 days before he pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and one count of obtaining goods by false pretenses. A condition of his plea agreement was that he was to pay $10,000 in restitution on or before his sentencing Thursday.

Barnum’s attorney, Senior Assistant Public Defender Greg Steward, said Thursday a News Record story about Barnum “hit Barnum hard” and interfered with his ability to get a job.

But he didn’t explain how news coverage affected Barnum’s ability to complete jobs he’s alleged to have not done in the latest charges.

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