Wyoming news briefs for January 5

Three Sheridan residents arrested in kidnapping, death

SHERIDAN — Co-defendants Casey Childers, 39, Leo VanBuskirk, 23, and Shantel Edlund, 43, appeared in Sheridan County Circuit Court Monday ahead of extradition proceedings. All three face kidnapping charges in Colorado. 

During court proceedings Monday, the defendants indicated they are Sheridan residents.

According to Sheridan Police Department reports, the trio was arrested during a traffic stop, primarily for drug-related offenses, Dec. 29. The defendants are also linked to a much more serious offense — the kidnapping and murder of a 29-year-old woman — in Colorado. 

According to an Aurora, Colorado, Police press release, police believe the woman was kidnapped in Aurora  — by two men and one woman — Nov. 6, 2021. Police suspected Childers, VanBuskirk and Edlund were responsible for the kidnapping. 

After the trio was arrested in Sheridan on Dec. 29, Aurora Police officers drove to Sheridan to interview Childers, VanBuskirk and Edlund. By Dec. 30, warrants were issued for the trio’s arrest for first-degree kidnapping.

The missing woman, however, was found dead in Douglas County, Colorado, Dec. 31. She has not yet been identified, Aurora Police said, but she died from a gunshot wound. 

Because of the victim’s death, Childers, VanBuskirk and Edlund will likely also face murder charges in Colorado. Both first-degree kidnapping and murder are Class 1 crimes in Colorado, with mandatory life sentences. 

Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Dianna Bennett said she will likely dismiss the defendants’ local cases, given the severity and long sentences of their charges in Colorado.


Douglas hospital pushes back vaccine deadline

DOUGLAS — Hospital of Converse County’s controversial vaccination policy has been delayed yet again in the ever-shifting legal, political and social landscape that has defined two years of the pandemic. 

The hospital board and administration drafted and adopted an initial policy requiring the vast majority of employees, contractors and volunteers be vaccinated by Dec. 5 – a date set by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under a federal vaccine mandate that has been the subject of multiple lawsuits across the country. The state of Wyoming is party to one case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. 

That initial policy, which was formulated based on the CMS rule, was hit with a federal court injunction. So MHCC rewrote the policy, softened the language somewhat from a stick approach (mandating vaccination or a waiver, or be terminated) to a carrot (incentives to be vaccinated) and moved the enforcement date to Jan. 1. 

The latest policy remains in effect, but the effective date has once again been moved back. This time, the new date is Jan. 31, according to CEO Matt Dammeyer. 

The administration and board realized the Jan. 1 implementation was cutting it a little too close given the holidays and the rapidly changing legal landscape with federal lawsuits, he said, so they decided to move the enforcement date back to the end of the month to allow employees more time to get both initial shots and/or the booster. 


Man sentenced to prison in fatal crash

RIVERTON — More information surrounding a fatal wreck on the Wind River Indian Reservation has emerged since the perpetrator’s sentencing. 

The victim, Laney Benally, died at the scene of the November 2020 crash. Other victims, including a 2- year-old and an infant, were ejected from the vehicle. 

Royce Neil Perry Jr, also known as “Chucky,” was sentenced on Dec. 20 to 46 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution and a $200 special assessment for assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and involuntary manslaughter. 

Perry was indicted by a federal grand jury regarding two incidents. The first was April 19, 2019, when a female driver picked up Perry, who was walking along a roadside on the Wind River Indian Reservation, according to a statement from acting U.S. Attorney for Wyoming Robert Murray. 

After being driven a short distance, Perry began striking the woman in the head, the statement alleges. The woman fled from her vehicle. Perry chased her down and kicked her in the head and face with his boots until she lost consciousness. 

The second indictment referred to the Nov. 2, 2020 crash. After ingesting methamphetamine and marijuana, Murray’s office stated, Perry drove a truck in a reckless manner on the Wind River Indian Reservation. 

Ultimately, the truck rolled and ejected a female passenger, Laney Benally, who was killed by blunt-force trauma.