NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Former clerk of court sentenced to prison

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Former Goshen County Clerk of District Court Kathi Rickard will spend at least the next three years in prison for stealing over $100,000 during her time as an elected official. 

Rickard was sentenced to three to six years in the Wyoming prison system by Judge F. Scott Peasely on July 16. Rickard will also have to pay back $125,400.  

In a statement to the court, Rickard tearfully apologized to the people of Goshen County as well as her former coworkers. 

“The first thing I would like to do is apologize to Goshen County and all of my family, colleagues  and friends,” Rickard said. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. This was the biggest mistake of my life and I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Peasely said Rickard is unlikely to reoffend and doesn’t pose a threat to the community, but imposed the prison sentence because of the violation of that trust. 

“You were in a position of trust,” Peasely said. “You were elected, and that carries heightened responsibility to those you serve. Over several years, you violated that trust. You cast a dark cloud over the office you served and your employees, who are now tasked with gaining back trust of the citizens.” 


Two die in wreck near Rock Springs

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Two Rock Springs men died Sunday afternoon in a one-vehicle rollover south of Rock Springs.

The fatal crash happened around milepost 525 on U.S. Highway 191 south of Rock Springs. Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were notified of a rollover at 4:06 p.m. Sunday.

A 2002 GMC Envoy was headed northbound on U.S. 191 when the vehicle exited the right side of the roadway, according to a press release. The driver corrected to the left and exited the left side of the road before the driver overcorrected a second time to the right, causing the vehicle to overturn.

The driver of the GMC has been identified as 32-year-old Rock Springs resident Steven A. Reed. He was not wearing a seat belt and died of his injuries at the scene of the crash. The passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Rock Springs resident Jacob M. Dunnuck, who was also not wearing a seat belt and died of his injuries at the scene of the crash.

Speed is being investigated as a possible contributing factor.

These are the 54th and 55th fatalities on Wyoming’s roadways in 2020 compared to 93 in 2019, 56 in 2018, and 78 in 2017 to date.


At least three brush fires break out in one day along I-25

DOUGLAS (WNE) — Numerous grassfires were ignited Monday afternoon in the brush alongside the right-hand lane of I-25 south in Douglas, drawing multiple agencies to suppress the flames. 

At least three different fires ignited within less than a 10-mile stretch, starting near mile post 131 on the freeway. Some reports indicated more than three burning at the same time up and down the highway. 

The three fires, each roughly 1 acre in size, drew teams from the Wyoming Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and Douglas Fire Department. Joel Eldred, a trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol, emptied two entire five-gallon fire extinguishers in an attempt to suppress just one of the fires.

The areas first caught fire around 2:30 p.m., Douglas Fire Department Chief Rick Andrews said at the scene. 

Authorities at the scene could not definitively say what caused the fires, though they may have been caused by a spark from a chain dragged by an automobile along the road, Andrews said. 

Combined with dry conditions and high temperatures, the risk of fire increases and any spark or tossed cigarette butt can ignite a fire which can spread quickly in dry, hot climate. 


Campbell commissioners agree to apply for community college

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Campbell County Commissioners are moving forward in the process to create a community college district in Campbell County.

At their regular meeting Tuesday morning, the commissioners approved a resolution approving submitting an application for the creation of a district.

The application will be submitted to the Wyoming Community College Commission, which will have 90 days to decide whether to approve it.

The county also will submit a petition that has been passed around the community in support of the formation of a new district has so far grown to more than 800 signatures, said county administrative director Carol Seeger. The County Clerk’s Office is verifying the signatures. It needs a minimum of 500 signatures from qualified electors.

The resolution also creates a task force to help with the process.

“This is going to be a lot of work,” said Commission Chairman D.G. Reardon. “It’s not going to happen overnight, we do understand that.”

When the community college commission receives the application, it will conduct a survey to consider the need for a community college in the proposed district and state, the financial ability of the proposed district to support a college, the educational soundness of the proposed community college plan, and any other matters that might help the commission in considering the application

The commissioners will reimburse the community college commission for the survey’s costs.

If the community college commission approves the application, the proposed district would then need the approval of the state Legislature.


Corrections Department head announces retirement

RAWLINS (WNE) — Bob Lampert, long-time director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC), has announced that he is resigning his position and retiring, according to a Tuesday press release.

Lampert has been director of that agency since November 10, 2003, making him the longest-tenured state correctional agency head in the nation.

“WDOC is an incredible agency comprised of hard-working dedicated public servants who are all reaching for the same goal of making better neighbors out of those who are put under our charge,” Lampert stated while In announcing his retirement. “In comparison to most other state systems, the agency is performing at a high level on all measures, even in the face of increased challenges such as COVD-19 and looming budget reductions, thanks to the efforts of Wyoming’s corrections professionals.

Offenders are succeeding at higher rates than in most jurisdictions in the nation due in large part to the often underappreciated work of corrections staff and contractors in creating a success-oriented approach to incarceration and supervision,” he added.

Lampert is retiring with more than 46 years of corrections experience. He began his career in the Marine Corps in military police corrections in 1974, the release reads. After discharging as an E-6 Staff Sergeant four years later, he joined the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a correctional officer, retiring 20 years later as a Senior Warden. His career then took him to Oregon where he served as Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent before arriving in Wyoming as Director.


Deputies investigate Flaming Gorge drowning

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the apparent drowning death of a Green River man on Saturday, July 18, at the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Frank M. Ortega, 63, was snorkeling alone in windy conditions approximately 50 feet offshore on Flaming Gorge Reservoir between Squaw Hollow and Anvil Draw.

When friends and loved ones lost sight of him, they immediately searched the shoreline by boat. After locating and pulling him from the water, they began lifesaving measures but could not revive him, according to a press release. An AirMed helicopter was initially launched from Rock Springs at the request of emergency first responders, but Ortega was ultimately pronounced deceased at the scene.

While no criminal activity is suspected at this time, an investigation into this incident remains active and ongoing.