NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, April 9, 2020

Man sentenced to probation for death threats

JACKSON (WNE) - Reading some of the threats Braxton Johnson made against his ex and a relative made Judge Timothy Day’s “blood run cold.”

Three months after Johnson was arrested for telling his partner he would skin her alive and kill her, the 23-year-old pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault and felony intimidating a witness. He was sentenced Tuesday.

“These are some of the most chilling threats that anyone would ever want to read, and coupled with your previous violent actions you can see why [the victim] or anyone would just be dramatically impacted by that,” Day told Johnson during his video sentencing Tuesday in Teton County District Court. “She has nightmares and has a tremendous amount of anxiety, and it affects her in every part of her life.”

Day said the plea agreement offered by the state was unusually lenient, given Johnson’s violent criminal record when he was a minor.

By Johnson pleading guilty to domestic assault and intimidation, the prosecutor dropped one felony intimidation count and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana and THC.

In emotional testimony, Johnson told Day that the substance abuse and violence prevention classes he’s taking are helping.

“I take the classes that I’m doing now to heart, and even though it’s difficult to relive those couple nights over again every week, it is benefiting me to see the damage that I did,” he said.

The victims in the case agreed to the plea deal. Neither victim testified at the sentencing.

Day sentenced Johnson to 180 days in jail with credit for 91 days served. The remainder of the sentence will be suspended as long as Johnson does well on probation.


Yellowstone opening uncertain

CODY (WNE) — Yellowstone National Park superintendent Cam Sholly expects the park to open this summer. Exactly when though is another question.

In a conference call with the Park County commissioners Tuesday, Sholly gave strong signs the scheduled opening is not likely to occur.

“I don’t know if we’ll open in two weeks; I don’t think that will be the case,” he said.

Sholly said he received direction from the Montana, Wyoming and Idaho governors, as well as public health officers and elected officials from the four counties serving entrances into the park when deciding to close temporarily two weeks ago.

The West Entrance in West Yellowstone, Mont., was scheduled to open April 17 and the road from Mammoth Hot Springs, which is accessed year-round from Montana at the North Entrance at Gardiner, was also scheduled to open that same day.

“I don’t foresee us opening in the month of April,” Sholly said. 

Sholly never specifically addressed the east gate closest to Cody during the call, but it is scheduled to open May 1.

Sholly said he will rely on the same direction from health officers and other elected officials when contemplating when to reopen, but may not wait for a full consensus to make the move, a situation he would consider a “worst-case scenario.”

If the health officers feel comfortable with local restaurants opening back up and social gatherings starting to take place, he said those could be useful cues.


Horn hunter stranded overnight near Kirwin

POWELL (WNE) — A horn hunter endured a chilly Sunday night in the Kirwin area after his truck became stuck in snow. 

Daniel McIlroy of Cody, 38, set out for the ghost town west of Meeteetse around noon on April 5 to look for shed antlers. However, by Monday morning, McIlroy had failed to return home, prompting a concerned family member to call the Park County Sheriff’s Office. 

The weather in the Kirwin area was around 37 degrees and snowing heavily at the time. 

While search and rescue volunteers launched the organization’s airplane and prepared to deploy ground teams, Deputy Rob Cooke headed up the Wood River Road and into the Shoshone National Forest to aid with the search. 

Around 9:50 a.m., Cooke spotted McIlory inside his truck, which was “buried in the snow” near the abandoned Double D Ranch — some 28 miles southwest of Meeteetse. 

“McIlroy had spent the night in his truck and was prepared for the emergency in that he had plenty of food and water and had actually built a fire the day before to keep warm and to dry out,” said a news release about the incident.

“The victim in this case did all the right things,” Sheriff Scott Steward said in the news release. “He let someone know where he was going and when he expected to return. He also had emergency provisions, including the ability to build a fire. Finally, he made the wise decision not to try and walk for help.” 


Man arrested near Sundance for possession of marijuana

SUNDANCE (WNE) — Codey Lang of Minnesota has been arrested for possession of a controlled substance after being stopped on Hwy 585 for speeding and admitting to law enforcement that he was traveling with $1000 of marijuana he had bought in Colorado.

On March 26, an officer from Sundance Police Department was on regular patrol on Hwy 585 when he observed a vehicle that appeared to be speeding at 58 in a 55 mph zone. The officer initiated a traffic stop and approached the driver.

According to court documents, the driver rolled his window down only about two inches. The driver, Lang, allegedly was unable to hand over a driver’s license and said he was driving to give the female in the vehicle a break.

The officer reports that dispatch informed him Lang had a revoked driver’s license out of Montana and two warrants for drug-related offenses. The officer requested the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit.

Meanwhile, Lang allegedly admitted there was marijuana in the vehicle and said it all belonged to him. Questioned further, he said it was around 11 ounces in weight and located in a bag in the front seat.

According to court reports, Lang was placed in handcuffs and a search of the vehicle located the marijuana and a glass pipes. Lang allegedly stated he bought the marijuana in Colorado for around $1000 and was planning to use it himself.

Lang faces one felony charge of possession of marijuana, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ incarceration, a $10,000 fine or both.