NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, May 7, 2020

Laramie man charged for running ex off road

LARAMIE (WNE) – A 33-year-old Laramie man, Avery Long, was arrested last week after he allegedly used his pickup to ram his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle, running it off the road.

Long has two previous convictions for stalking the same woman.

For the most recent incident on May 1, he’s been charged with aggravated assault and battery, stalking, and leaving the scene of an accident.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the victim had been driving on 15th Street around 7 p.m. on May 1 when she saw Long’s white pickup traveling behind her.

The woman told police that she tried to lose Long by traveling through a neighborhood and driving around the park.

At one point, Long managed to get in front of her and cut her off. As the woman was attempting to get away, Long struck the rear of her vehicle, causing it to spin out and stop.

Long then drove away, the victim told police.

She said Long had tried contacting her by phone several times that day.

When Long’s vehicle was later spotted by police, the man initially denied seeing his ex-girlfriend that day, but later acknowledged having followed her because he found out “the victim had a relationship with some of his friends and he was upset,” he told LPD.

“Defendant stated he wanted her to stop so he could talk with her and … pushing her vehicle for what he estimated to be 20 to 30 yards,” the affidavit states.

After being convicted of two counts of stalking the woman in March, Long had been sentenced to two years probation.

Aggravated assault and battery carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.


Riverton firefighters find body in Monday camper trailer fire

RIVERTON (WNE) — A male subject was found dead Monday afternoon in a camper that had been involved in a fire south of Riverton. 

His name and age were not available Tuesday, pending notification of next-of-kin, officials said. 

No other injuries were recorded in the blaze, which was reported at about 12:30 p.m. Monday from Red Crow Street. 

Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Henri DeClercq said the initial report contained limited information, but when crews arrived in the area they found two camper trailers and three recreational vehicles “heavily involved in fire” at a property along Little Shield Road. The trailers and vehicles “were all parked … basically on top of each other,” DeClerq said. 

Black smoke billowed high above the scene and was visible for miles. No structures were threatened by the flames, DeClercq said, noting that there was not a house on the property. 

Instead, he said, it appeared someone – likely the deceased male – had been living in “at least one” of the campers. “We just didn’t know whether he was home or away,” DeClercq said. 

Firefighters began extinguishing the blaze with water while a local power company disconnected the electric lines that had fallen to the ground after melting in the fire, DeClercq said. Once the power was “isolated” and the fire was out, he said firefighters entered the campers to extinguish any remaining “hot spots.” 

That’s when they found the deceased male, DeClercq said.


Wyoming Hunger Initiative launches new program: Food from the Farm + Ranch

SHERIDAN (WNE) – First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative recently announced a partnership with Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Custom Meats, Inc., Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to launch a new program called Food from the Farm + Ranch. 

This collaboration exemplifies the partnership between related industries all committed to utilizing Wyoming products to care for Wyoming people.

For the first time, three beef cattle have been donated by Wyoming producers to be processed by Wyoming Custom Meats Inc. in Hudson and donated to Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to be distributed throughout the state as a vital source of protein. 

“Being a producer myself, my initial vision for Wyoming Hunger Initiative was to encompass a component of agriculture that would be part of the solution to food insecurity in our state. I am beyond excited about the immediate partnership between so many entities working together to ensure longevity of the program,” Gordon said.

The ultimate goal of Food from the Farm + Ranch is to utilize Wyoming products to combat food insecurity. Ultimately, the end goal is to reach a point beyond COVID-19 where families and pantries can purchase meat from local producers instead of seeking an out-of-state supplier.

While farmers and ranchers are supporting the food bank during this time through the donation of livestock and processing fees, the hope is that residents will support Wyoming producers now and in the future.

Those interested in donating livestock to the cause should contact Wyoming Hunger Initiative or Wyoming Stock Growers Association.


Cody Nite Rodeo has tentative start date of June 15

CODY (WNE) – There are few institutions as ingrained into the local culture as the Cody Nite and Stampede rodeos.

With many restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, what this summer will look like for the two events is anyone’s guess at this point.

The 82nd edition of the Nite Rodeo is a fairly likely bet at some point this summer.

Right now, it is tentatively scheduled for a June 15 start – 15 days later than the traditional June 1 kickoff. Marc Thompson, a board director, said this start date will allow time for easing of state restrictions.

“That gives us time to enact some safety protocols,” Thompson said. “Making sure we’re keeping everyone safe – contestants, employees and of course all the rodeo fans that will be showing up.”

Health orders and restrictions have been changing on a weekly, if not daily, basis and the board has been doing its best to stay on top of each new development.

Thompson and Mike Darby, president of the Cody Stampede Board of Directors, said they are submitting a list of regulations they plan to enact to Park County public health officer Dr. Aaron Billin.

The roughly 5,000 seat Stampede Park usually draws around 1,200 fans on a peak, midsummer night, allowing the potential for social distancing measures to be enacted in the grandstands.

“I think we’ve got plenty of room,” Darby said. “I think people are well aware of the social distancing rules.”

A much hazier picture exists regarding the 101st Cody Stampede PRCA and Xtreme Bulls Tour and Bullfighters Only event scheduled for June 30-July 4.

The pro rodeo events draw many more spectators and competitors than the Nite Rodeo from not only around the country, but also the world. Typically, 2,000 to 5,000 people attend.


Jackson teen pleads guilty to delivering LSD to middle school students

JACKSON (WNE) — At a hearing Wednesday in Teton County District Court, Steven Bailey, 18, pleaded guilty to delivering LSD to minors.

In a plea agreement with the prosecutor, Bailey also pleaded guilty to possessing LSD.

He was arrested in November for selling drugs to middle school kids.

The plea deal amended the possession count to a misdemeanor, down from a felony.

In court documents, a 14-year-old boy said he had been buying LSD and marijuana from Bailey, a Jackson Hole High School senior, since last July.

The Jackson Hole Middle School student said he would then resell the drugs to his classmates.

LSD tabs were found Nov. 4 in lockers at the middle school. Two 13-year-olds admitted to buying them from the 14-year-old, who in turn bought them from Bailey, records state.

The students used Snapchat to initiate deals, some of which took place at the county fair and some near school property.

Bailey, originally charged with three felony counts, pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor in court.

Sentencing will follow later.

“I’ve talked to Mr. [Clark] Allan a dozen times about this plea agreement,” his attorney John Labuda said.

Judge Timothy Day will sentence Bailey at a later date. Bailey will likely serve probation with the chance of having the infractions taken off his record if he doesn’t violate the rules.


Grizzly bear euthanized after killing chickens in Wapiti

POWELL (WNE) — A large 14-year-old adult male grizzly was captured and euthanized Monday after killing chickens at a residence in Wapiti. 

After the homeowners reported the bear to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, officials set up a trap within feet of their home on Ptarmigan Drive. 

The bear had killed three chickens and been trapped and relocated two previous times, said Dusty Lasseter, Wyoming Bear Wise coordinator. 

“Both of those previous captures were what we call a non-target capture, which means we were trying to capture another bear for conflict and he jumped in the trap,” Lasseter said. “But this time he had a big injury on his back and was in poor physical condition.” 

After consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — the agency responsible for managing grizzlies while they’re listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act — Game and Fish officials euthanized the bear. 

The large bruin was the third grizzly “lethally removed” by wildlife managers in Wyoming so far this year. 

An adult male was trapped and euthanized from the Cottonwood Creek area just north of Cody on Saturday, April 25. 

That followed repeated conflicts in developed areas and after failed attempts to haze the bear away from developments. 

“He was exhibiting bold, unnatural behavior,” Lasseter said. 

Another grizzly was trapped and killed in the Jackson area on April 29 after obtaining numerous food rewards, damaging property and entering structures. 

“We’ve drastically reduced conflicts over the years, but it’s still important that people are diligent and secure all their attractants — whether that be bird feeders or barnyard animals like chickens and goats,” Lasseter said Wednesday.


Search and Rescue finds body of missing Cody man

CODY (WNE) — Park County Search and Rescue has found the body of a man who went missing Saturday night in the Shoshone Canyon. 

According to SAR, Michael Alan Shotts, 50, was found in the Heart Mountain Canal dead, near Lane 17 in Cody at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday by an irrigation district employee.

No foul play is suspected in connection with his death, although the exact cause of death is unknown.

The canal is downstream from the Shoshone Canyon where Shotts was last known to be. His body is now with the Park County coroner, and his family has been notified, according to spokesperson Charla Baugher–Torczon. 

On Sunday, the Park County Sheriff’s Office received a report that Shotts, known to be in the area of Hayden Arch Bridge around 7:30 p.m. Saturday with his two dogs, had not returned home.

Shotts’ wife did not discover him missing until Sunday morning when she awoke and learned he did not come home the night before. 

She found his truck and two dogs after going out to look for him once calling the authorities. The dogs were wandering outside the truck.

SAR immediately sent personnel to the scene after being called and spent the entire day looking for Shotts, until 8:40 p.m. that evening.

The search resumed on Monday, 7 a.m.-9:15 p.m., with assistance from Big Horn County Search and Rescue. The searched resumed again at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

SAR staff included multiple ground crews and dog teams. The searched in the water and aircraft.


Trap-wise grizzly captured and killed in Jackson

JACKSON (WNE) — An especially conflict-prone Jackson Hole grizzly was captured and killed last week after falling for a culvert-style trap that the boar bear had been adeptly avoiding for years.

Nine-year-old grizzly 802, an adult male, first got caught in subdivisions north of Jackson in 2015, and subsequently had to be relocated at least three times. After years of effort, Wyoming Game and Fish Department bear biologist Mike Boyce outmaneuvered the wary grizzly on April 29, when the bruin took the bait at a private inholding in northern Grand Teton National Park.

“He said this is by far the most difficult bear he’s ever dealt with,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. “He caught it in a culvert trap. And he had other instances where the bear had visited his trap and passed on by.”

Boyce reported investing more than 100 days trying to capture trap-wise grizzly 802 over the past three years, with no success until last week.

Boyce and his federal bear biologist counterparts in Teton park had responded to a spate of conflicts likely related to grizzly 802 over the last month. A grizzly had been breaking into sheds and frequenting yards in Moose, Kelly, Craighead Hill and points south of the park, reaping rewards of pet food, livestock and chicken feed, and garbage in the process. That was the continuation of a years-long habit.

“The number of conflicts is long, particularly starting in 2017,” Gocke said. “The past three years the bear got increasingly more bold and destructive, breaking into outbuildings and being on people’s porches.”