Wyoming news briefs for August 18


Climber’s body recovered high on Gannett Peak

RIVERTON – The search for a 41-year-old Cheyenne man ended Monday afternoon, when he was found deceased on Gannett Peak. 

The missing man has been identified as Thor Hallingbye. 

Sublette County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Travis Bingham said the climber was reported missing Sunday morning, apparently after getting separated from his excursion group on Saturday, near Gannett Peak, the tallest mountain in Wyoming at 13,804 feet. 

“At this time the death appears to be a tragic climbing accident,” Fremont County Sheriff Ryan Lee said Tuesday. 

Lee said the investigation into Hallingbye’s death is continuing, involving the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, Fremont County Coroner, and the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. 

Hallingbye’s climbing party had entered the wilderness from the Green Lakes Trailhead in Sublette County, which is typical for climbers attempting the Gannett summit. 

The Sublette County Sheriff’s office began search efforts Sunday and later found the missing man Monday afternoon at an approximate elevation of 12,900 feet, within Fremont County, on the northeast face of Gannett Peak. 

The body was airlifted to the Lander’s Hunt Field airport late Monday afternoon.

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LCCC president: Budget cuts leave college finances in “chaos”

CHEYENNE – Laramie County Community College experienced the largest reduction in state funding in its history last fall, and the loss of $8 million impacted not only the upcoming fall semester, but the future of the college. 

“There’s no better term to explain our fiscal environment right now than chaos,” LCCC President Joe Schaffer said during his State of the College address Monday. 

Even with emergency funding due to the pandemic and federal stimulus programs, the college is struggling to navigate the funding cuts, he said. 

The administration is not unaccustomed to this kind of financial restriction, though. According to LCCC financial records, over the past decade, there has been a downward trend in stable funding to community colleges in the area. 

Ten years ago, funding from the state’s biennium budget to LCCC was $192 million. Going into the 2023- 24 biennium, only $147 million will be allocated to the local college. Taking into account inflation and other economic factors, this was a loss of more than $98 million in funding to the school. 

And in the past four years, there has been a cut in state funding to LCCC by 25 percent. 

“There’s been a mantra that we need smaller government and less state spending,” Schaffer said. “And if that is our goal, what I can tell you is that we are accomplishing it when it comes to higher education.” 

One of the ways LCCC has managed to function throughout these cuts to state aid is through its major one-time funding, which often comes in the form of private donations and investments.

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Powell man alleged to have fled from police while on bond for foot chase

POWELL — A Powell man who led police on a foot chase mid-July is now facing charges that allege he led a deputy on a higher speed pursuit less than two weeks later. 

Lon F. Middleton, 36, is alleged to have fled from a Park County Sheriff’s deputy at upwards of 90 miles per hour on July 26. 

Park County prosecutors have filed four misdemeanor charges alleging Middleton sped, eluded police and drove without valid auto insurance or vehicle registration. 

However, at an appearance in Circuit Court on Friday, he vehemently denied being the driver of the vehicle in question. 

“I haven’t driven anywhere and I have not been pulled over. I haven’t violated anything,” Middleton said, pleading not guilty to the charges. 

At the time of the pursuit, Middleton was awaiting trial in connection with a July 16 incident, in which he allegedly fought with a bartender at the Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill before running away from responding police officers. Bystanders reportedly cheered officers on as they pursued Middleton through downtown Powell. 

He’d been out on a $500 bond for roughly a week when Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Cooper spotted a Ford Crown Victoria speeding down Lane 9. 

At one point, “I was traveling over 90 miles per hour and the white Ford was pulling away from me handily,” Cooper wrote in an affidavit. 

The Park County Attorney’s Office later filed criminal charges in connection with the pursuit and moved to revoke Middleton’s bond in connection with the Red Zone case; police arrested him in Powell on Wednesday. 

During Friday’s hearing in Circuit Court, Judge Bruce Waters set Middleton’s bond at $7,000, which was posted by a family member later in the day.

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