NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019

Online tip leads to child porn bust

RIVERTON (WNE) — A social media account containing child pornography images could land a Riverton man in prison for 22 years.

Michael Duane Woodward, 26, has been under Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation scrutiny since social media website “Tumblr” drew its attention to possible child pornography content on one of its users’ accounts.

 “Specifically,” court documents state, “the report indicated that Tumblr personnel discovered that the account of Tumblr user ‘amituteporn’ contained 13 images believed to be child pornography.” 

Tumblr personnel discovered the images around July 8 and provided additional information to authorities, including an IP audit of the account. DCI took the investigation from there. 

Further investigation of the Tumblr account, now linked to Woodward, revealed 14 images of prepubescent, female subjects; DCI categorized 13 of the images as “pornographic.” 

On Nov. 7, DCI agents and the Riverton Police Department executed a search warrant which Riverton Circuit Court Judge Wesley Roberts granted, enabling them to search Woodward and his residence. 

When shown a photo of the preteen girls, Woodward “recognized the image immediately” and admitted to possessing child pornography, and to sharing child pornography with another Tumblr user. He also explained that he had first discovered the images on another Tumblr member’s blog page, documents state. 

Charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of children, Woodward now faces two felony-level allegations.


Wyoming Sugar leaves about 5 percent of crop in ground

WORLAND (WNE) — With three freezes during the growing and harvest season this year, Wyoming Sugar had to abandon 5% of its crop.

Wyoming Sugar concluded the harvest on Nov. 18, according to the company’s president and CEO Mike Greear. He said based on preharvest estimates they were able to harvest 92% of the tons they were estimating and 95% of the acres but had to abandon 5% of the acreage. Greear added, “That’s not bad given the weather.” 

He said there was a small freeze in May, and then during harvest on Oct. 9 and a harder freeze on Oct. 26. 

The majority of the acres that had to be abandoned were from Big Horn County growers. In an earlier interview, Greear said the freezes hit Big Horn County growers the hardest. 

Fortunately, he said, he believes the majority of the growers who had acres abandoned do carry crop insurance. 

He said they harvested 333,000 tons this year, compared to the 362,000 tons estimated before the harvest. 

“The factory is processing a poor crop very well, but at the end of the day it’s the amount of sugar. We are a sugar factory not a beet factory,” Greear said. “Because of the two freezes [in October] we will probably have about 20% less sugar produced out of this crop than what we were estimating going into the harvest.” 


Following GPS, truck driver gets stuck in Beartooths

POWELL (WNE) — First responders from multiple agencies had to rescue a semi-truck driver last week, after he and a passenger got stuck while trying to drive up the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212). 

Wintry conditions closed most of the highway a couple months ago and a sign warns truckers not to try navigating the mountainous route in good conditions. However, the driver — who was not identified by authorities — attempted to take U.S. 212 because “his GPS gave him that route,” the Wyoming Highway Patrol said in a Monday Facebook post. 

The tractor-trailer wound up getting stuck about 5 miles east of the Beartooth Highway’s junction with Wyo. Highway 296 (the Chief Joseph Highway) on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 27. 

The patrol, personnel from Park County Search and Rescue and a loader and plow truck from Yellowstone National Park were all dispatched to the scene around 11:28 a.m. 

There was initial concern that search and rescue members would need to snowmobile in to the site, but a trooper was able to reach the truck with his all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger and the heavy equipment followed.

“At [6:43 p.m.], the tractor-trailer, which was ironically carrying snowmobiles, was freed and en route to Cody,” the patrol recounted in its post. 

The agency went on to say that motorists need to be prepared for changing weather conditions and mountain driving — and to look beyond their GPS for navigation. 


UW to offer online accounting degree

SHERIDAN (WNE) — At the start of the Fall 2020 semester, the University of Wyoming College of Business will offer a fully online Bachelor of Science in Accounting to help meet high demand for the profession and preserving flexibility for students across the state. A number of the courses will be available online in the Spring 2019 semester.

“Our purpose as a university is to meet the educational needs of the state, and it has become clear over the years that students want this program, and we are here to deliver,” College of Business Relations Representative Taylor True said in an email.

The online version of the degree program will be entirely self-paced. True said it was important to allow flexibility for students to complete the program on whatever timeline best suits their needs. Sheridan College Director of business education Doug Cherry said he considers accounting amenable to online and part-time study but emphasized the difficulty of the courses, even in person.

He cited a difficult 300-level course with a fail rate over 50% that serves in effect to decide who will and will not become an accountant, and said he believes the difficulty will be magnified online.

“From a state demand perspective, they are so overdue,” Cherry said. “We have a huge economic demand for it. In reality, the University is a decade behind. They should’ve been doing this 10 years ago.”

The courses will make use of a variety of projects, assignments, examinations and discussion boards.


UW to host state thespian festival

LARAMIE (WNE) — More than 800 drama students from across the state are converging in Laramie this week for three days of workshops and competitions.

The Wyoming State Thespian Festival is scheduled to start Thursday and run until mid-day Saturday at the University of Wyoming.

A statewide drama event organized by the Wyoming Educators of Secondary Theatre has existed in different forms for many years. This is the first year it will be hosted by the UW Department of Theatre and Dance.

“We’re the permanent host from this point forward,” said co-producer Cecelia Aragon, who teaches in the department.

Students from about 30 different schools are preparing dramatic and comedic monologues, duets and other performances for the festival’s competitions. When they’re not competing, they’ll be attending workshops, many led by UW faculty, on movement, combat, acting, voice, design, technical elements and more.

“They run the gamut of the field of theater,” Aragon said of the workshops.

Festival events are scheduled to take place at the Buchanan Center for Performing Arts, the Visual Arts Building and Hilton Garden Inn.

Aragon said the festival, in addition to offering students a chance to demonstrate and enrich their artistic abilities, is also an avenue for building community among students and schools around the state.

“(It’s about) bringing the different community groups together, bridging social realities and strengthening the social bonds of all these high school students,” she said.