The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.
Man sought in Colorado murder arrested in Powell
POWELL (WNE) — A 22-year-old man reportedly walked into the Powell police station midday Tuesday and informed law enforcement personnel that he had killed his girlfriend in Colorado. Jonathan E. Akin, of the Denver area, allegedly told police that her body was in his vehicle.
Powell officers reportedly found the woman in the trunk of the car that Akin brought to the law enforcement center — and police in Thornton, Colorado, say they found evidence of a crime at the apartment the couple shared there.
Thornton police did not name the deceased in a Wednesday afternoon news release, saying she had not yet been officially identified by the Adams County, Colorado, Coroner’s Office.
As for what brought Akin to the Powell area, Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said Akin had traveled to a family member’s home in Deaver.
Akin was arrested at the Powell police station by agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Tuesday afternoon. Thornton police say they have opened a first-degree murder investigation and have asked for Akin to be detained.
DCI agents initially arrested Akin on suspicion of disposing of a human body in a transient location (in this case, a vehicle) to conceal a crime. That’s a felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
However, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric said Wednesday that, with Colorado authorities pursuing a first-degree murder case, he does not plan to file any additional charges against Akin in Park County.
Colleges seek COLA pay raise
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Officials at Wyoming’s community colleges are urging the governor to advocate for cost-of-living pay adjustments for their employees.
In a letter sent in September to Gov. Matt Mead on behalf of the seven state community colleges, Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer said colleges across the state are struggling to attract and keep top talent when their pay does not account for inflation, a lack of affordable housing and rising health-care costs.
“We believe that an employee pay plan is essential at this time,” Schaffer wrote.
“As the economic picture of Wyoming has improved slightly and provided some relief for state revenues, now is the time to make these investments in our state employees.”
Over the past year, LCCC has failed to hire people in nine searches because they haven’t been able to provide adequate compensation packages, Schaffer said.
Last year, 40 people in permanent, benefitted positions resigned because the vast majority had other opportunities with higher wages, Schaffer wrote.
The local community college isn’t the only one struggling to recruit and keep people, either.
Casper College saw 39 resignations by permanent, benefitted positions over the past fiscal year, and 31 percent of those cited pay as a reason for their departure.
Central Wyoming College in Riverton lost 11 percent of its workforce and had four failed searches over the past year, with the majority of people leaving saying they had opportunities for higher wages.
Northwest College in Powell had double-digit turnover for the first time in more than 10 years. In a 2017 campus employee survey, more than 49 percent of employees said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with compensation levels, Schaffer wrote.
Man guilty of intimidating witness
SHERIDAN (WNE) — A jury found Roger Black guilty Tuesday evening of felony influencing, intimidating or impeding a witness who was subpoenaed in another case in 4th Judicial District Court.
In a case scheduled for trial next month, Black faces one count of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and three counts of delivery of methamphetamine.
Tabitha Charles was subpoenaed by the state in the drug-related case, and witnesses testified Monday that Black had a letter to Charles delivered that threatened her about testifying.
The second day of trial for the intimidation charge included testimony from the lead special agent on the case from the Division of Criminal Investigation. The jury also heard from Josh Myers and TJ Dieleman, who both served time in the Sheridan County Detention Center at the same time as Black; DCI agent Loy Young; and former Casper Police Department employee Chris Reed.
Reed, who received numerous years of training in crime scene investigations, fingerprinting and handwriting analysis, analyzed the threatening letter with other documents known to have been written by Black due to his signature on the document or the writing was witnessed by someone.
In closing arguments, Sheridan County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Redle reiterated that the letter was threatening in manner, causing intimidation and influence of Charles.
The final jury consisted of nine women and three men; one man was dismissed as an alternate. In just over an hour, the jury unanimously found Black guilty of intimidating and influencing the witness by using threats.
Cody man sentenced to prison in abuse case
CODY (WNE) — A man accused of sexually abusing a female minor a dozen times over a year-long period from 2016-17 will now face incarceration over the better part of the next decade.
Mathew Melnar, 37, convicted of hiding a camera in a bathroom where the minor was changing, was sentenced to 6-9 years in prison on Tuesday.
“What happens in court … it stays with people forever,” District court judge Bill Simpson said. “Unfortunately, I wish there is some way I could take away the pain the victim and the victim’s family can suffer. Unfortunately, I cannot.”
Melnar was found guilty for one count second degree sexual abuse of a minor, a charge carrying 5-7 years in prison. He was also found guilty for one count felony voyeurism, which brings 18-24 months in jail.
An individual identified as the victim stood, crying, in front of the courtroom Tuesday and presented a letter to Melnar during the sentencing, read by a county staff member at her side.
“The minute you (Melnar) walked into my life, I always had a horrible feeling about you,” the victim wrote. “You convinced my mother I was lying.”
The victim mentioned an instance where Melnar told her if she was going to commit suicide, to do it before her mother came home that day.
Simpson also handed down $15,000 in suspended fines with the sentence which can be charged if Melnar breaks his probation once released.
“When you hear the sound of those cell doors close,” Simpson said. “When you hear the call … if you haven’t realized the gravity of the crimes you’ve committed yet, you’ll realize it then.”
Grand Teton switches roads to oversnow routes
JACKSON (WNE) — Grand Teton National Park has switched a number of its interior roads from wheeled to oversnow routes for the balance of the winter.
The reason, the park announced in a press release Wednesday, is because recent snowfall and what’s ahead in the forecast.
The change affects Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road and Signal Mountain Summit Road, and means that skinning, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, snow-shoeing and plain old walking will be the transportation methods permitted.
Fat biking is illegal on oversnow access roads, though it is allowed on plowed roads open to motor vehicles, the park’s notice said. Leashed pets are allowed on Moose-Wilson and Teton Park roads.