NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020

Northwest College reports first COVID case

POWELL (WNE) — Northwest College had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 since reopening campus to the public last month. Late Monday night, the college was notified of a positive case. 

Anyone who came into contact with the individual has been notified, and the college took all necessary precautions to stop any spread of the virus, NWC President Stefani Hicswa said in a Tuesday afternoon email to staff, faculty, and students. 

College staff will continue working with Park County Public Health officials on this week’s case and any others that may occur, Hicswa said.

“Northwest College takes the health and safety of employees, students, and the community very seriously,” she wrote in the email. 

The president also thanked college students and employees for all they’re doing to keep the campus safe. 

“Through your diligent efforts to follow our COVID protocols, we will continue to ensure that the college will stay open throughout semester,” Hicswa said. 

The email didn’t provide any further information about the individual who tested positive, including if he or she is an employee or student. Carey Miller, NWC communications and marketing director, said because the campus community is so small, Hicswa is protecting the identity of the person so he or she won’t be singled out, ridiculed or face any discrimination. 

If that happened, Miller explained, people might be reluctant to report positive COVID test results, which could lead to the disease spreading through the population.


Trooper pleads not guilty to stalking charges

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend has pleaded not guilty to those charges in Laramie County Circuit Court.

Andrew Kelly was arrested on 14 counts of misdemeanor stalking, and originally had his arraignment scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday. His attorney entered a written plea of not guilty to all charges, so his hearing scheduled for Wednesday was vacated.

His next hearing, a scheduling conference, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 26. He was previously released on a $3,000 bond.

Kelly had been placed on administrative leave by the Highway Patrol pending the results of the criminal proceedings, and the agency is conducting its own review of Kelly.

According to court documents:

On Aug. 7, Cheyenne police interviewed Kelly’s ex-girlfriend, and she told police Kelly had been harassing her and following her. The two dated for eight months.


Pilot Hill land exchange complete

LARAMIE (WNE) — The Pilot Hill Project announced Tuesday that the land exchange to acquire the Pilot Hill property is now complete.

A lease agreement between the state of Wyoming and Albany County has been activated. The land exchange closed Aug. 28.

The property is scheduled to open for public use as soon as possible, once several requirements in the lease agreement have been completed, including signage, fencing and agreements with non-state property owners. Chris Rothfuss, a member of the Pilot Hill Project oversight committee, said the work should be completed soon.

“We look forward to being

able to welcome the community to enjoy the land this fall and will make an announcement as soon as we have a firm date,” Rothfuss said.

The closure is the final step in a two-year process to acquire the 4,344-acre property, which was exchanged for 11,668 acres of isolated state trust land in Albany and Laramie counties. The State Board of Land Commissioners approved the exchange earlier this summer. In November, the University of Wyoming formalized its partnership in the Pilot Hill Project with the purchase of 1,233 acres of the parcel, which will be managed jointly and provide an uninterrupted experience for visitors.

Gov. Mark Gordon said the exchange fulfills management objectives of the state’s trust lands by increasing  immediate annual revenues, offering improved appreciation

of land values, opening more than 4,000 acres of undeveloped open space for public recreational access and enhancing tourism opportunities.


Supreme Court to hear appeal in manslaughter case

SUNDANCE (WNE) — An appeal to re-examine Marty Smith’s guilty verdict will be heard by the Wyoming Supreme Court in September.

Smith was sentenced to up to 18 years in jail after a jury convicted her of accessory before the fact to involuntary manslaughter and to aggravated assault and battery related to the death of local man Doug Haar.

Haar died in the early hours of August 1, 2018 following an incident that involved Smith and her then-boyfriend, Jesse Johnson.

Smith and Haar were said to have bickered and then begun pushing each other. When Johnson became involved, he took Haar to the ground and placed him in a chokehold, which resulted in Haar’s death.

Johnson and Smith were tried separately, with Smith charged as an accessory to the crimes for which Johnson was accused of. Johnson, whose trial came second, was acquitted by the jury on all charges.

Smith’s appeal was filed on the basis that Johnson was found not guilty. In documents filed with the Wyoming Supreme Court by the Office of the State Defender, Smith’s counsel argued that an appeal should be considered because:

“To prove the charge of accessory before the fact, the State was required to prove commission of the underlying crime…That is, if Mr. Johnson’s actions were legally justified, there was no underlying crime committed to which Ms. Smith could have been an accessory.”


Hunters, guide on trial for game waste

CODY (WNE) — Two hunters and a local guide charged with wasting and abandoning big game last year are fighting the charges in circuit court.

A six-person jury is hearing the case this week before Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters. Jury selection and opening statements were heard on Tuesday.

The designated fine for the offense is $420, but judges can also rescind an individual’s hunting privileges for years if found guilty. According to the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides, failure to comply with state hunting laws is grounds for denying an outfitter or professional guide licensing for up to three years.

Tyler Viles, Blendi Cumani and Roland Shehu are being accused by Wyoming Game and Fish of leaving two elk crippled and another two cow elk carcasses unclaimed. Viles, a Cody guide, is facing two counts for this charge, while Pennsylvania residents Cumani and Shehu are facing one.

Those three men and George Schnell allegedly killed seven elk on Oct. 27, 2019 on land owned by the Two Dot Ranch in the Heart Mountain area. Two cow elk were taken legally by Cumani. One bull elk was accidentally taken by Schnell, which he admitted to authorities. Schnell is not being charged as part of this case.

Wyoming law states that “the failure of any person to properly dress and care for any big game animal killed by them, and, if the carcass is reasonably accessible, within 48 hours to take or transport the carcass to the camp of that person” is considered a violation of that law.


Greybull museum reopens after closure of rest area

GREYBULL (WNE) — The Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting reopened on Aug. 19 thanks in large part to the collaborative efforts of the Town of Greybull, Big Horn County and the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The three governmental entities came together to find a work-around for the museum, which was forced to close in June when its primary access was lost due to WYDOT’s closure of the Greybull Rest Area and its parking lot.

Bob Hawkins was manning the visitor center Tuesday morning.

“It’s good to be open again,” said Hawkins, who along with his wife Becky has been the driving force behind the museum. It features several firefighting aircraft and a visitor center bursting with memorabilia celebrating the glory days of Hawkins and Powers Aviation.

In order to reopen, the museum needed to identify and develop a new parking lot and to create fencing and a walking path to guide visitors to the museum entrance. The county and the town developed and graveled the parking lot, the state provided the ground-up asphalt for the walk path and installed the fencing, and the town spread the asphalt and installed the gate.

People are finding the museum again. While the end of August and the first part of September represent the tail end of the tourist season, Hawkins said he’s been encouraged by visitor counts, which have averaged around 25 per day. The museum’s best day since reopening came on Saturday, Aug. 22 when 28 people passed through the gate.