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NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, June 27, 2019

UW sexual assault reports decline

CASPER (WNE) — There were 18 reports of sexual assault at the University of Wyoming in 2018, according to data from the school, a slight decrease from last year’s high of 21. 

“Sexual assault numbers still appear to be high in comparison to other institutions,” UW Police Department Chief Mike Samp said Wednesday, “but we certainly still attribute that to the No More campaign, efforts educationally through the University of Wyoming athletics department – efforts largely through reporting.” 

Samp said the 18 reports represent a “master list” of all reports, including those that were made anonymously and didn’t prompt a police investigation. Roughly a half dozen of them were investigated, he said. 

The number of sexual assaults at UW has ticked upward in recent years, with 21 in 2017, 19 in 2016, 14 in 2015, nine in 2014 and 15 in 2013. But there appear to be fewer in residence halls: There were two reports in 2018, compared to six in 2017 and nine in 2016. 

The number fluctuates somewhat — there were eight in 2013, for instance, and just one in 2014 — but Samp attributed the decline to the various groups in and around campus that “work very hard on the educational, regarding consent, regarding how alcohol influences sexual assault and certainly prevention.” 

“It’s largely a comprehensive effort across campus, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he added.

The broader crime report is fairly stable, Samp said. There were two reported hate crimes in 2018, compared with three in 2017. Eight reports of domestic violence were made last year, down from 11 the year prior. 


Big Horn County has highest unemployment rate

WORLAND (WNE) — The Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported Tuesday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 3.6  percent in April to 3.5   percent in May. Wyoming’s unemployment rate was lower than its year-ago level of 4.0 percent and slightly lower than the current U.S. unemployment rate of 3.6 percent. 

In May, the highest unemployment rate was reported in Big Horn County at 4.0 percent. While having the highest rate in May, Big Horn County did show a decrease from April at 4.5 percent. 

Other high rates were found in Sublette County at 3.9 percent, and Fremont County at 3.8 percent. 

The lowest rates were seen in Niobrara County at 2.7 percent, Converse County at 2.8 percent, and Weston and Crook counties, both at 2.9 percent. 

Most county unemployment rates changed very little from April to May. Slight increases were seen in Niobrara (up from 2.2 percent to 2.7 percent), Albany (up from 2.6 percent to 3.0 percent), and Goshen (up from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent) counties. Unemployment fell the most in Teton (down from 3.8 percent to 3.0 percent), Big Horn\ and Park (down from 3.9 percent to 3.5 percent) counties.


Cheyenne nursing home sued for wrongful death

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Cheyenne nursing home and its parent companies are named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed June 18 in Laramie County District Court.

SavaSeniorCare, a Delaware company that owns Cheyenne HealthCare Center, is being sued for allegedly neglecting the care of a patient so badly it caused his death, according to court documents.

The suit was filed by Diana Rhodes of Rhodes Law Firm on behalf of Marci DeLong, widow Ronald J. DeLong. The plaintiff is seeking restitution of more than $50,000 and is demanding a jury trial.

Ronald J. DeLong died on Feb. 6, 2017, at the Davis Hospice Center in Cheyenne after his stay at the nursing home. He was 49 years old.

According to court documents:

The nursing home is being sued for “negligent actions” and a “series of negligently neglectful and careless incidents.”

On Sept. 3, 2016, DeLong was taken to the nursing home following complications from a stroke. A few months later, on Jan. 24, 2017, he was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center by nursing home staff.

At the hospital, DeLong was noted to have suffered from acute renal failure, severe upper GI bleeding, severe sepsis, urinary tract infections, lactic acidosis, uremia, obstipation (a severe form of constipation), severe metabolic acidosis with Kussmaul breathing (a deep and labored breathing pattern) and more, all while under the nursing home’s care.

Around the time DeLong was a resident of the nursing home, the Wyoming Department of Health surveyed the facility and found it may potentially cause “foreseeable harm to its residents.”


Campbell Co. Republicans approve plan to review voting records of officials

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Campbell County Republican Party Central Committee passed two resolutions Monday night designed to act as a litmus test for Republican views and to give the party more power in filling vacancies.

Chairwoman Vicki Kissack said a resolution that addressed filling vacancies in county elected seats passed 27 to 16, and a resolution about upholding party platforms passed 28 to 15.

Bill Fortner wrote the resolution about strengthening the local GOP through education. It said that the central committee will review the voting records of all Republican elected officials in Campbell County “to ascertain their support of the state party platform,” and include the results of this review in the party’s “education efforts.”

Both Kissack and Fortner said this just gives voters another tool to look at when they’re trying to make a decision.

“Every party should educate (the public) on what their elected officials’ positions are,” Fortner said. “That’s just transparency. We’re not telling anybody how to vote.”

Fortner said there already is a system in place in Cheyenne that records all of the legislators’ votes. The hope is to bring that process to Campbell County and apply it on a local level.

The second resolution, written by former GOP chair Doug Gerard, addresses filling a vacancy in a county elected office. State statute requires county commissioners to fill the vacant seats. The resolution says commissioners must select someone from a list given to them by the local GOP.

If the commissioners fail to make a decision within 60 days, the chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party shall go to the governor or district court “to obtain relief by removal of the commissioners for failure to do their duty.”


Buffalo man faces five counts of sexual abuse of minor

BUFFALO (WNE) — Joseph C. Connors, 57, of Buffalo, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in Fourth Judicial District Court on June 24 to five counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. All are felonies.

Johnson County prosecutors allege that between February 2017 and February 2019, Connors sexually abused two minors under the age of 17 in the third degree by showering with them and touching their genitals. Police also allege he slept naked in the same bed with his victims, photographed them half naked, took videos of them wrestling naked and transmitted the videos and images to other individuals.

Prosecutors also accuse Connors of photographing three additional minor victims half naked, transmitting or sending those images to other individuals and sleeping in the same bed with the minor victims.

According to court documents, police say they found 14 images of childpornography on Connors’ laptop and an

additional image of child pornography on his desktop computer which would constitute charges of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The attempted sexual exploitation charges stem from accusations that between April 1, 2016, and Feb. 12, 2019, Connors attempted to access child pornography on the internet using both his computer and his cell phone, according to court documents.

If convicted, Connors could face a maximum 115 years in prison and up to $90,000 in fines.