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Wyoming News Briefs: October 10, 2019

SVI Media is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

 

Body of missing Upton girl believed found in South Dakota

SUNDANCE (WNE) — Michael Campbell of Sturgis, South Dakota, appeared in court Wednesday, charged with murder in the second degree after a body was discovered in his home that was believed to be that of missing Upton resident Shayna Ritthaler.

Ritthaler disappeared on Oct. 3. Moorcroft Police Department quickly asked for the public’s help in providing information about the 16-year-old, who was last seen entering a black vehicle at the Coffee Cup in Moorcroft at around 12:36 p.m.

The department later received information that suggested Ritthaler was in the Lead and Deadwood, South Dakota, area or near Sturgis.

On Oct. 7, Meade County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that a search warrant had been served on a residence in Blucksberg, bear Sturgis. Agents from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation were also involved in the search.

According to the press release, the search was based on information received from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, which had been working with the Deadwood and Moorcroft police departments.

The body of a young female was discovered in a basement bedroom at the residence and was believed to be that of Ritthaler. A juvenile suspect was taken into custody and transported to the Juvenile Services Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.

At that time, the suspect’s name was not released to the public. However, the 17-year-old’s identity was revealed on Wednesday when he made his initial court appearance in Meade County before Judge Kevin Krull.

Campbell will be held in lieu of $1 million cash or surety bond.

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Subject of cold-case murder arrest refuses extradition

RIVERTON (WNE) — Accused of a first-degree murder that occurred 36 years ago, Riverton resident Willie Moore, 61, has refused to sign his extradition papers to be transferred to the jurisdiction of Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for prosecution.

With Moore’s refusal, the next step is for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to issue a governor’s warrant for extradition, which will petition Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to verify Moore’s identity, before court processes can continue.

If Moore is found to be the same man wanted by the state of Oklahoma for first-degree murder, the court’s processing of a governor’s warrant merely delays the extradition.

Moore appeared Monday in Lander Circuit Court for the second time since being arrested by Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies Sept. 20.

The arrest was the conclusion of three years’ contact between the local sheriff’s office and a cold-case detective team from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa investigators suspect Moore for the 1983 murder of Anthony Baltes.

Tulsa Police Department cold-case files state that Anthony Baltes was discovered deceased due to blunt-force trauma in a Tulsa motel room, Sept.16,1983.

His car was parked near the scene, and investigators say robbery appeared to be the motive.

FSO agents interviewed Moore in 2016, then waited three years to make the arrest while the investigation continued in Oklahoma. A multi-county grand jury indicted Moore Sept. 20.

At his initial appearance Sept. 23, Moore spoke of the murder charge to Lander Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt, saying “I didn’t have nothing to do with that.”

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NWC enrollment reaches 25-year low

POWELL (WNE) — Enrollment at Northwest College has sunk to a 25-year low, according to data presented this week.

Lisa Smith, NWC institutional research manager, presented figures from the college’s latest longitudinal report to the board of trustees at their regular Monday meeting. The report shows trends in enrollment over time, and Smith noted that enrollment has seen “peaks and valleys.”

“We’re in valley time at this point,” she said.

A preliminary headcount for this fall tallied 1,256 students. That’s down 4 percent from the fall 2018 semester.

Historic trends follow a pattern of increasing enrollment during periods of high unemployment, such as the recession period of 2010 to 2012, when the college experienced a significant spike in students. The figures then started to decline annually since 2013, correlating with falling unemployment rates.

While NWC is struggling with enrollment numbers, its retention and graduation rates are well above the state average.

The percentage of students enrolled in fall 2018 and returned this fall is 65 percent — the institution’s highest rate since 2002 and well above the state average.

At 39 percent, the college’s graduation rates are well above national averages, which sit at 27 percent for comparable institutions.

The college continues to address the falling enrollment rates with a marketing campaign that includes print, billboards, and online strategies. These campaigns sell the college on its location, quality of education, low cost and the experience NWC offers students.

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California man killed in wreck near Moorcroft

SUNDANCE (WNE) — A fatal crash near Moorcroft on Oct. 7 claimed the life of California resident David Segal.

The accident occurred around milepost 169 on Interstate 90 east of Moorcroft. Around 7:34 p.m., Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched to the area for a one-vehicle rollover.

A 2006 Toyota Tundra was traveling eastbound on Interstate 90 when the vehicle entered the median. The driver over-corrected to the right and then to the left before overturning.

The driver of the Toyota was identified as 57-year-old Segal of Woodland Hills, California. Segal was wearing his seatbelt and succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash.

Driver inattention is being investigated as a possible contributing factor.

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Gillette air traffic picks up

GILLETTE (WNE) — After a slow start to the year, traffic at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport has picked up and should finish the year on a very strong note, thanks to a third flight that was added on Sunday.

For the first three quarters of the calendar year, 42,716 passengers have passed through the airport, a 3 percent increase over 2018. It’s 8.5 percent behind 2017, however.

Airport director Jay Lundell said he doesn’t know why ridership has increased, other than that more people are flying.

September’s total of 4,984 was a 22 percent increase over September 2018. It’s the second straight month to show a double digit percentage increase over its 2018 counterpart.

For the year, the airport has been averaging 4,746 passengers per month, but that will increase the rest of 2019 now that it’s added a third daily round-trip flight to Denver.

The third flight, which leaves Gillette in the early evening, started Sunday.

Lundell said it’s too early to tell how successful it will be, adding that he’ll have a better idea at the end of October. But initial returns are promising, he said, with full inbound flights and half-full outbound flights.

The airport will have three flights four days a week. That will continue through the end of the year. In January and February, it will drop to two daily flights, then go back to three flights in March.

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Ten Sleep teacher named Wyoming ‘Teacher of the Year’

WORLAND (WNE) — Ten Sleep School 7 – 12 social studies teacher and 2018-2019 Ten Sleep Teacher of the Year, Dane Weaver was announced as the 2019-2020 Wyoming state Teacher of the year during a Superintendent’s Policy Summit in Laramie.

According to a press release, the Wyoming Teacher of the Year comes with the significant responsibility of representing the teaching profession in Wyoming. The Wyoming Teacher of the Year acts as liaison among the teaching community, Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Department of Education, districts and communities. In addition, the Teacher of the Year is an education ambassador to businesses, parents, service organizations, and media, as well an education leader involved in teacher forums and education reform.

“Dane has a special gift for teaching and leading,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “He teaches for the future – getting students ready for what’s to come, and he knows that relationships and connecting with students are as important as teaching technical skills. Dane’s charisma is infectious – I am so excited that he will represent rural education, Wyoming, and the teaching profession as our 2020 Teacher of the Year.”

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