Wyoming news briefs for January 7

Colorado man sentenced to prison in fatal crash

EVANSTON — A Colorado man who was involved in a motor vehicle crash that claimed the lives of two people last July, including a 12-year-old boy, has been sentenced to spend 7-15 years behind bars. 

Braylin Wertenberger appeared in Third District Court on Dec. 23, when a scheduled motions hearing became a change of plea and sentencing hearing after a plea agreement was reached with the Uinta County Attorney’s office. 

According to court documents, Wertenberger was driving a 2018 GMC Sierra pickup on the afternoon of Sunday, July 18, when he slammed into the back of a 2002 Toyota RAV4 that was stopped on I-80 just outside Evanston due to an earlier accident approximately half a mile east. The collision forced the RAV4 into the back of a 2013 Ford truck that was also stopped on the interstate. 

Two people died as a result of the crash, 12-year-old Scobey Baker of Wolf Point, Montana, and his grandfather, 71-year-old William Baker, also of Wolf Point.

Law enforcement officers reportedly found drug paraphernalia and residue consistent with heroin use in Wertenberger’s vehicle, and witnesses on the scene estimated the vehicle was traveling at approximately 85 miles per hour as it approached the backed-up traffic. 

Wertenberger entered guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated homicide by vehicle and one count of aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 7-15 years for each count of aggravated homicide and 7-10 years for the aggravated assault and battery count, all to be served concurrently.


Family members plead guilty to defrauding company

CHEYENNE — Three members of a family pleaded guilty Thursday morning in Laramie County District Court after they were accused of working together to steal from a local contractor.

Joni Gayle Brown, 62, David Dean Brown, 63, and David Kyle Brown, 32, each pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit theft. Joni and David Dean Brown admitted to helping their son, David Kyle Brown, receive paychecks from Reiman Corp. over a period of about three and a half years for work he did not do.

Reiman Corp. found that David Kyle Brown may have worked for the company at some time in the past, starting in 2008. After being laid off periodically during slow seasons he was rehired in May 2017, and had exclusively been part of his father’s team since that time, according to court documents. 

After further review of records, David Kyle Brown did not seem to have been present at any job site between May 2017 and October 2019, despite receiving full-time pay and benefits. 

Joni Brown started working for Reiman Corp. as a part-time clerical worker in June 2017. She worked under David Dean Brown, her husband, and was responsible for filing his paperwork and completing his crew’s time card entries, according to court documents.

As of June 12, 2021, David Kyle Brown’s total gross pay and per diem totaled $196,755.72. By the same date, Reiman Corp. had lost $275,992.65 as a result of the family’s fraudulent activity.


Woman found not guilty of child abuse

SHERIDAN — A jury of 12 Sheridan residents found Teresa Hammond, 67, not guilty late Wednesday night before 4th Judicial District Court Judge John Fenn. 

Hammond was accused of child abuse, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. 

Testimony from prosecution witnesses alleged Hammond struck her developmentally disabled and nonverbal grandson, then 4 years old, at least three times during a single incident July 9, 2021. At the time, Hammond was the relative foster parent of two grandsons, including the alleged victim in this case. 

In court Wednesday, the defense painted a portrait of Teresa Hammond as an overwhelmed relative foster parent who wanted the developmentally disabled child in her care to obey, but never meant to cause the child harm. 

Hammond’s defense attorney, Jonathan Foreman, argued the injuries the child sustained in Hammond’s care were insufficient to meet the legal standard of “physical injury” and Hammond did not cause the injuries in the first place. 

One bruise on the alleged victim’s forehead was of particular concern to the prosecution. In response, Foreman called two witnesses who stated the child often harmed himself out of frustration, when his developmental disabilities kept him from communicating. 

This behavior, Foreman argued, was the cause of the bruise on the child’s forehead, not any aggression by Hammond.