Your Source For Local and Regional News



Featured Regional News

Wyoming News Briefs: September 19, 2018

The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

Competency evaluation ordered for man in mother’s death

DOUGLAS (WNE) — The Glenrock man accused of murdering his mother last month will be completing a competency evaluation before the case proceeds any further, according to court documents. 

Adam Ray Trujillo, 47, was charged with first degree murder and aggravated robbery Aug. 30 in Converse County. His preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 4 but has been continued to a later date after an evaluation of his mental condition is completed and the final report submitted to the court. 

According court documents, Converse County Sheriff ’s Office and Glenrock Police Department officers on Aug. 27 responded to 67 Miller Road where a female body was found. Investigators met with Trujillo, who allegedly stated that he had killed his mother, Connie Bean, so he could take her credit card to buy alcohol, according to court documents. 

CCSO Investigator Eric Koss wrote in a affidavit that the evidence gathered at the scene “substantially corroborates Trujillo’s version of events.” 

A conviction of first degree murder is punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole and a $10,000 fine. If he is convicted of aggravated robbery, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


Marbleton leaves Bank of the West

PINEDALE (WNE) — The Marbleton Town Council heard from Bank of Sublette County officials at its Sept. 10 meeting and after an executive session, unanimously approved ending its business with the Bank of the West. 

Bank of the West owners in San Francisco had angered many individual and municipal account holders after its announcing its policy statements against many aspects of the oil and gas industry. 

Local and state officials decried the stance, stating that the energy industry is important to Wyoming and its communities. 

At its Aug. 13 meeting, the council had discussed and then tabled the decision of choosing its fiscal year financial institution, which had been the Bank of the West branch located in Big Piney. Manager Joanie Christie had asked the council to reconsider leaving the Bank of the West, where she has been a very active for the community. 

The council and Mayor Jim Robinson told Christie that it would not be at all personal against her and her staff but they needed to consider what was best for their citizens. 

Bank of Sublette County CEO Pete Lawton and Pinedale branch manager Pat Schwab addressed the council, expressing willingness to facilitate courier service and other logistics with the town. 

Lawton said he was born and raised in Jackson and the bank is family-owned, with longtime experience in the Jackson area and more recently Pinedale. 

The other “half” of the family banking business is in Tulsa, Okla., and has been “very proactive in oil and gas development. Our investment policy is to invest in the community as much as possible,” Lawton said.

Robinson said the town had received excellent service from Bank of the West and he wanted to support its local employees. 


Cheyenne animal shelter president suspended

CHEYENNE (WNE) —  Cheyenne Animal Shelter President Bob Fecht will be suspended for 60 days without pay starting Friday following an investigation into his decision to have a young dog pepper sprayed during a “training exercise” earlier this month.

The decision to suspend the former police chief was made in a closed shelter board meeting Monday night and discussed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle Editorial Board.

Fecht also will be required to present the board with “an acceptable plan of action to restore the trust of the Shelter community in his abilities as the President and CEO” before returning to the job, according to a prepared statement from the board.

The decision came roughly two weeks after an 8-month-old pit bull mix named Tanner bit a shelter employee as she tried to take him out of his kennel. The following day, Fecht ordered the dog taken outside and pepper sprayed as part of a “training exercise.” The dog was euthanized the next day.

Jay Klapel, then the shelter’s community cat program coordinator, emailed board members the day Tanner was euthanized calling the incident “absolutely abuse.” She further accused Fecht of ordering the training exercise in unprecedented retaliation for the biting incident.

Shelter officials had disputed the allegations. 

An unidentified animal control officer wrote a report saying the dog had “viciously” mauled the employee, leaving her fearing for her life, and outlined the spraying as a relatively harmless training exercise to determine whether the spray would work on the dog and show employees how to use it.

Fecht, for his part, had said people questioning his actions were ignoring his responsibility to the employee who suffered a “very traumatic experience.”


Woman found guilty of delivering meth in jail

GILLETTE (WNE) — A woman who was accused of handing out meth while she was an inmate at the Campbell County jail has been found guilty of one count of delivery of a controlled substance.

District Judge Thomas W. Rumpke found Brandi Bell, 38, guilty after a bench trial last month. Before the trial began, prosecutors dropped two other delivery charges and Bell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of using meth.

Detention officials were alerted to the possibility that Hallie Marie Stratton, 23, had brought meth into jail after she was booked into jail for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and meth April 19.

The next day, Stratton told her girlfriend during a video visit that she had something inside her “that needs to come out” and “it’s starting to bother” her, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

By the time the video was reviewed by detention officials, Stratton already had been taken to her cell in a block where five other women, including Bell, also were housed. A subsequent strip search of Stratton turned up nothing.

But when Bell mentioned to a visitor that she was having problems with her eyes and he noted that her demeanor was off, detention officers decided do urinalysis tests of the inmates in the block, according to the affidavit.

When confronted by investigators, Bell told them that after Stratton removed the “drug bag,” she handed it to Bell, who knew it was meth and described it as being wet and “crystally.” She originally said that she flushed it all in the toilet, but later told deputies that she flushed only one bag because it was wet. She allegedly split the rest with the other inmates.


Devon proposes first Converse Co. water recycling plant

DOUGLAS (WNE) — Converse County could see its first water recycling facility next year. 

“It’s something that the commissioners and companies and just people on the street have been talking about for quite a while,” Converse County Commissioner Jim Willox said. “I think the buzz is (Devon) is the first one ready to step up and say, ‘We’re going to build the facility necessary to do it . . . It’s the first commercial-scale recycling of produced water.’” 

While plans for the project are not finalized, two Devon officials presented the proposed facility to the county commissioners Sept. 5. If Devon decides to proceed with the project, they estimate they could begin recycling water by the second quarter of 2019. 

The facility would be located on a private road 8 miles southwest of Bill. When operational, it would be heavily automated and require only one or two employees. 

The new facility would be recycling produced water, which is the water extracted along with oil in the hydraulic fracking process. 

When it’s not recycled, produced water is essentially useless and has to be disposed of carefully and safely, typically by injecting it below ground or evaporating it in open air pits.

Recycling is preferable because it helps reduce the huge quantities of water required for fracking. A well can require between 6 and 24 acre-feet of water per year to frack, or between 2 and 8 million gallons. 

Devon already has a produced water pipeline running to the site, but would also truck out wastewater. 

After the initial construction, Devon officials said the facility will have an output of approximately 5,000 barrels per day. 

Devon will use all of the recycled water for its own operations. 


Art auction sets 15 records

JACKSON (WNE) — Art flew off the auction block last weekend at the Jackson Hole Art Auction.

The star item was undoubtedly Norman Rockwell’s portrait of John Wayne.

The painting of the iconic Western hero reached its high estimate at $1,496,000 after an enthusiastic bidding war in the Center Theater on Saturday afternoon. While the Auction doesn’t divulge buyer information, coordinator Madison Webb said that the piece was sold into a private collection over the phone.

“The Rockwell definitely generated a lot of interest, both locally and nationally,” Webb said. “There was a really positive energy in the room.”

Over the course of two sessions Friday and Saturday, the auction sold 88 percent of 392 lots for $8.4 million in total sales. This year marked the largest number of lots up for auction.

While the excitement around the Rockwell stole the show, the auction set 15 world records over the two sessions.

Other intense bidding wars drove up the sale price for John Clymer’s “Territorial Dispute” and Thomas Moran’s “Laguna, New Mexico Looking from the East” to $339,300 each, over double their estimated prices.

“It was very exciting to be a part of,” Webb said.

David Shepherd’s “Leopards at the Waterhole” also sold for double its high estimate price, bringing in $61,425.

Perhaps some of the biggest surprises happened during Session I, which fetes artworks at a lower price point than Session II.

Conrad Schwiering’s “Touch of Spring,” estimated at $5,000 to $7,000, sold for an astounding $26,325, setting a per-square-inch record price for the late artist. An overall record was set for Texas-born Jerry Jordan on “Spirit Welcome,” which sold for $55,750 after initially being estimated at $15,000.

  • 3