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NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Murder suspect pleads not guilty to jail assault

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Laramie County inmate accused of first-degree murder pleaded not guilty Monday to aggravated assault and battery charges related to an attack against another inmate.

Frank J. McHenry allegedly punched the inmate three times in the face June 3 and then kneed him in the face repeatedly, causing extensive bleeding, according to court documents. The altercation occurred after the inmate allegedly called McHenry a “b——.”

The inmate was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where doctors determined McHenry caused serious bodily harm by causing multiple facial fractures in his left orbital eye socket, according to documents.

McHenry’s trial is set for Oct. 16, the same week as his murder trial. If convicted for these charges, he faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

In 2018, McHenry was arrested in connection with a shooting that caused the death of 61-year-old Joseph “Stevie” Torolito, and he is facing another attempted murder charge.

McHenry allegedly stole an AR-15-style weapon from his relative’s house, went outside and shot one of the victims in the hip before fatally shooting Torolito. During his arrest, McHenry also fought and injured Laramie County sheriff’s deputies when he was brought in for questioning after the crime, according to court documents.

McHenry also pleaded not guilty due to mental illness in regard to these charges: 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.


Federal charges filed in case of meth found in dishwasher

GILLETTE (WNE) — Local charges have been dismissed against a man who faced drug charges after a pound of meth allegedly was found in his dishwasher in January. He has been indicted federally in the case.

Jeffrey Powell, 55, had pleaded not guilty in District Court to an enhanced charge of possession with intent to deliver meth, one with a longer sentence possible, because it was his second offense. He had been convicted in 1999 of a similar crime in Washington state, according to court documents.

That charge was dismissed earlier this month by District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan because of a federal indictment against Powell.

Officers began investigating Powell’s home on Gold Road home after seeing several vehicles coming and going from the area. A deputy’s suspicions were aroused Jan. 16 while he was conducting a security check of Anytime Storage and he saw four vehicles come and go from the Gold Road home between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m.

As a deputy walked around the home, he heard people talking and smelled marijuana in the garage, according to court documents. No one answered when other deputies knocked on the door, which had a video camera doorbell.

After getting a search warrant, they found a blue measuring cup containing meth and a bag with 29 grams of meth on the top shelf of Powell’s closet. In the kitchen, they found another blue measuring cup containing meth, two digital scales, three fake $100 bills, a vacuum sealer and the 1.05 pounds of meth in a vacuum-sealed bag in the dishwasher, according to an affidavit of probable cause.


Rock Springs natives win Miss Wyoming titles

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Two Rock Springs natives will advance to the national competition after winning the Miss Wyoming and Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen scholarship competition Saturday at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center in Sheridan.

Jordan Hardman, a senior at the University of Wyoming studying family and consumer science, was crowned 2019 Miss Wyoming and Hannah Moore, a senior at Black Butte High School in Rock Springs, was named 2019 Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen.

An aspect of competing in Miss Wyoming is developing a social impact, or a plan to create positive change in candidates’ communities.

Contestants write essays about a social issue they want to address to present to the judges along with a headshot and resume. During the competition, contestants present their social impact in 10 seconds during the evening gown portion of the event.

Hardman’s social impact is ‘Bridging History: Vets who lived it, Children who need it.’ Her goal is to visit communities in Wyoming to help build connections between veterans and children. Through this interaction, both groups gain a new perspective on life and the children can learn more about history. She also wants this program to help with the emotional and mental health of both groups.

The empowerment received by participating in Miss Wyoming is something Moore has experienced firsthand, seeing her confidence improve throughout the process.

“I hope to inspire a bunch of young women to be themselves,” Moore said.

Her social impact is ‘I am enough.’ Moore wants to help people realize their self-value. ‘I am enough’ helps people stop trying to change themselves to fit others views and instead encouraging them to just be themselves.


Cause of death determined for man whose body was found in river

RIVERTON (WNE) — The deceased 83-year-old Lander man whose body was found June 9 in the Sweetwater River following a June 7 disappearance was determined to have died of fresh water drowning and hypothermia. 

In the Fremont County Coroner’s report dispatched early Friday morning, Bill Lookingbill’s death was determined to be an accident, and his time of death unknown. 

The discovery followed a three-day search and rescue effort that mobilized volunteers and officials from both Fremont and Sweetwater counties, including air support, and eventually resulted in recovery through cadaver dogs who led searchers to a portion of the Sweetwater River that had previously been unnavigable due to snowmelt flooding. 

Lookingbill’s body was lodged in a river log jam between steep canyon walls, roughly a quarter-mile from the Upper Sweetwater Campground. 

Lookingbill had been antler hunting with his family when he went missing on June 7. Family members searched for roughly four hours before reporting his disappearance near the Sweetwater Gap in the South Pass area, at which point the Sublette County Sheriff’s office enlisted the Fremont County Sheriff’s office and several Search and Rescue volunteers in the search. 

The coroner also responded to the scene when Lookingbill’s body was found on June 9, and, consistent with recovery efforts, noted the discovery date as the date of death.


B-T Forest expands commercial mushroom hunting to August

JACKSON (WNE) — The Bridger-Teton National Forest is extending the sale of commercial permits to collect mushrooms as morel hunters flock to the Roosevelt Fire scar.

Originally, commercial harvesters picking over the Bondurant-area burn could purchase a permit to gather more than 3 gallons per day through the middle of next week. The Bridger-Teton announced Monday that the permits will now be available for purchase and valid through Aug. 1.

“Both commercial and personal users have been able to enjoy this season’s morel mushroom crop,” forest officials said in a statement, “and with anticipated conditions, mushroom gathering will likely continue past the original permit window of July 3.”

The Bridger-Teton is urging people to use caution in the burn area, which is littered with stump holes, snags and loose soil and rocks. The designated commercial picking zone and required permit are both firsts for the forest.

The required $300 commercial morel permit gives pickers up to 14 days to earn back the fee. People slinging mushrooms to upscale restaurants or for any other commercial purposes are confined to a harvest area in the northern portions of the burn area. All other parts of the 3.4 million-acre national forest, Cernicek said, including the Wyoming Range’s 2018 Martin Fire site, are off-limits if the end goal is to sell mushrooms.


Stone tablet found near Rock Springs subject of TV show

EVANSTON (WNE) — A mysterious stone tablet discovered in southwest Wyoming nearly 80 years ago will be featured on a season 4 episode of The Travel Channel’s “America Unearthed” airing on Tuesday, June 25. 

A story appearing in the Uinta County Herald on Nov. 19, 1982, detailed the strange tablet’s mysterious origins. Discovered near Rock Springs in the 1940s by Lorene Bolen, who lived in Evanston in the 1980s, the small sandstone tablet was kept by Bolen as a “conversation piece.” 

Trying to discover both who carved the tablet and what its strange markings said, Bolen sent the tablet to both the University of Wyoming and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

The university returned the tablet and said the writing was possibly Scandinavian runes. The Herald reported Bolen said the Smithsonian doubted the tablet’s authenticity because of how recently the carvings had been made. 

However, Bolen then sent the tablet to the Epigraphic Society, whose members decipher old writing, and from there it was sent to Barry Fell, “a Harvard marine biologist turned amateur archaeologist.” 

Fell reportedly claimed the markings were a Cypriot script using a Hittitte-Minoan language and deciphered it as saying, “Keep safe, do not break the stone; Misfortune it turns away, it protects against evil, strikes harm and turns it aside.” 

Two expert archaeologists, however, were less than convinced by Fell’s claims, citing lack of any evidence to substantiate Fell’s theories of transatlantic settlers from Ireland, Spain and North Africa arriving on the eastern shores of the United States as early as 1200 B.C. 


Rock Springs airport to receive more than $5 million for taxiway

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to receive funding for work on its taxiway.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced Monday the Federal Aviation Administration will award $495 million in airport infrastructure grants, the second allotment of the $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program funding for airports across the United States.

“This significant investment in airport improvements will fund construction and rehabilitation projects that will help maintain high levels of safety in U.S. aviation,” Chao said in a press release.

Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport is slated to receive $5.1 million for the installation of navigational aids, reconstruction of a taxiway, repairs to the taxiway and taxiway lighting.

Airport Director Devon Brubaker said he was excited “for this critical infrastructure project as we have been working on development and design of the project for over three years.”

Brubaker said the $5,432,085 project will make significant safety improvements to the airport’s airfield.

Other Wyoming airports to receive grants include $500,000 to the state to update its system plan study, $149,400 to the North Big Horn County Airport in Cowley to improve airport drainage and install airport beacons, and $2.5 million to Jackson Hole Airport for airport access road repair.


Wyoming this Weekend, June 28-30

By the Wyoming News Exchange

Costumes, toys, comic books and even tattoos will be the focus for the weekend in Casper as the city’s first Comic Con tops the list of weekend events in Wyoming.

The event, to be held at the Casper Events Center on Saturday and Sunday, will feature vendors, a costume contest and an appearance by Montana native Kerry Cahill, a star on the AMC television series “Walking Dead.”

Doors open at 10 a.m. each day and the costume contests will be held each day at 3 p.m. Saturday’s contest will be for adults, while Sunday’s will be for children.

Other events scheduled for the weekend include:

The Oil City Street Slam 3×3 Basketball Tournament in Casper on Friday and Saturday;

A “wildflower trek” with botanist Frances Clark in Dubois on Friday;

An outdoor showing of the movie “Space Jam” in Casper on Friday;

The opening weekend of “Wild West Spectacular – The Musical” in Cody;

A “Shoshoni cemetery trek” in Riverton on Saturday;

A performance by Leo Rondeau and Jason Tyler Burton in Pinedale on Saturday, and

An “Xtreme Bulls” rodeo event in Cody on Sunday.

For more information on these and other events, please visit the Wyoming Tourism Division’s website at