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NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, June 10, 2019

Competency hearing requested in murder case

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Court proceedings are now on hold for a man charged with first-degree murder after his attorney requested a mental competency evaluation.

Public defender Brandon Booth recently asked that James Wallace undergo a competency evaluation to determine whether Wallace can understand the charges against him and assist in his defense. Wallace is charged in connection with the death of his 80-year-old mother.

If an evaluator at the Wyoming State Hospital finds that Wallace is not competent, court proceedings could be suspended for further evaluation.

Wallace’s latest initial appearance in Laramie County Circuit Court was scheduled for May 23, but he had not cooperated with legal counsel in time to appear.

If convicted, Wallace, 48, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison or the death penalty. His mother, Carol Wallace, was found dead May 10 in the home the two shared.

According to court documents:

Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the 1100 block of Green Mountain Road, northwest of Cheyenne, for a possible weapons assault at 7:30 a.m. May 10.

A man called to report his brother, James Wallace, was “high on meth and freaking out, said he hit his mother with a hammer.” When deputies arrived on scene, they discovered Carol Wallace’s body face down in the basement on the east side of the home.

Detectives found multiple bloody drag marks leading to the body and a larger pool of blood in the basement.



Lander casino announces layoffs

CASPER (WNE) — The Shoshone Rose Casino and Hotel in Lander is making a number of changes, including employee layoff s, amid financial problems, Eastern Shoshone officials announced Friday afternoon. 

Tribal officials said the casino will lay off 15 to 20 casino employees, end table games, discontinue shuttle bus operations, dissolve the banquet department and close the casino during the overnight hours Sunday through Thursday. The cutbacks are needed to reduce costs and ensure the casino’s survival, officials said. 

The changes were made after the casino hired a gaming consultant amid struggles to meet its financial obligations, according to Eastern Shoshone officials. 

“This has been a difficult process for the (Eastern Shoshone Business Council) but we will do everything we can to bring back these jobs once the casino stabilizes,” business council Chairman Vernon Hill said in the Friday afternoon news release. 

After reviewing the casino and hotel’s operations and meeting with employees, the consultant prepared an “Operational Assessment” that included recommendations to boost revenues, reduce costs and help ease short-term expenses. 

In an email, Eastern Shoshones spokeswoman Alejandra Silva said some changes have already been made while others will happen in the coming weeks. She didn’t specify which changes had already been made. 

Other changes, including additional “reductions” could also follow as the consultant continues to review operations, according to tribal officials. 

The casino opened in 2007 and started a $30 million expansion in 2015 to lure more customers from out of town. 


Murder suspect charged with assault

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Laramie County inmate awaiting trial on first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges has now been charged with aggravated assault and battery for allegedly attacking another inmate.

According to court documents, Frank McHenry attacked Randall Carr, another inmate, in a Laramie County jail dayroom June 3. McHenry allegedly punched and kneed Carr in the face, causing extensive bleeding. McHenry told a sergeant he assaulted Carr because the man called him a “b—-.”

Carr was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center following the altercation. X-rays revealed Carr had multiple facial fractures to his left eye orbital socket, and was referred to a Colorado specialist.

McHenry’s preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday in Laramie County Circuit Court. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

McHenry is also facing multiple charges in connection with the death of 61-year-old Joseph “Stevie” Tortolito and attempted murder of Kristen Smith during a 2018 Cheyenne shooting.

He pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary-deadly weapon, four counts of interference with a peace officer-injury and misdemeanor property destruction last year.

An evaluator with the Wyoming State Hospital determined he was mentally competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense. His trial is set for Oct. 16.


Campbell County recognized for efforts to protect raptors

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County has been recognized for its efforts to start a conversation on the relationship between raptors and the energy industry.

The National Association of Counties gave Campbell County a 2019 Achievement Award in the category County Resiliency: Infrastructure, Energy and Sustainability, for developing the Raptor Symposium.

The first symposium was in 2015. Commissioners then wanted to bring the energy sector, federal agencies and private landowners to talk about the golden eagle and ferruginous hawk to better understand them, their nesting habits and how regulations affect industry.

There was a second symposium in 2017 and a third in April.

Commission Chairman Rusty Bell said while it’s easy for commissioners to get all the glory, the county’s support staff deserves a lot of credit as well.

“It was our vision to get all these people in the same room,” he said, but it was the people behind the scenes, such as Ivy McGowan-Castleberry, Sandra Beeman and Dru Bower, who did “a lot of the legwork” to make it possible.