Wyoming news briefs for June 25


Off-duty firefighter gets teen out of burning house

GILLETTE — A local teen boy has a lot to be thankful for, especially an off-duty Campbell County firefighter who alerted him and got the teen out of a burning house Wednesday.

No one was hurt in the afternoon fire at 1803 Plumcreek Ave., according to the Campbell County Fire Department. The teen and three other members of his family were displaced by the fire.

The firefighter, who wasn't identified in a Fire Department press release about the incident, responded and found the teen was the only one home at the time.

Neighbor Alan Blocker said the family is upset but doing OK.

"It's a pretty sad deal," he said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it had likely been burning in the attic “for some time” prior to a neighbor noticing the flames. The home and its contents are a complete loss, the Fire Department reports.

Firefighters received the call at 12:43 p.m. and had the fire under control by 3:30. They remained at the scene through Wednesday night and will periodically be there Thursday to monitor for any potential flare-ups.

The Red Cross of Wyoming is helping the family with a hotel room, food and clothing as well as health services support to replace medicine.

A Gofundme page has been set up by a family member with the proceeds going to the family. As of Thursday morning, about $1,200 has been raised.

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Military truck carrying ammunition catches fire on I-80

LYMAN  The Uinta County Fire Department responded to a truck fire Monday afternoon on Interstate 80 milepost 14, outside of Evanston, which resulted in I-80 westbound being closed by the Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

The truck was a military truck carrying ammunition.

Although the cab of the truck was basically destroyed, the cargo containers which held the ammunition were not breached and the firefighters put out the blaze without any injuries. 

After the fire was extinguished the military convoy — minus one truck — was able to continue its journey. 

“We were headed to Evanston and passed it before any emergency vehicles were there,” said Susan Lallatin on Facebook. “Guys were running with fire extinguishers! Great job putting it out.” 

Also, last week a Humvee — and in a military convoy — caught fire during rush hour on a Friday afternoon in Utah. There were no injuries reported in that accident either.

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Fort Laramie woman pleads guilty to felony thefts

TORRINGTON — A 32-year-old  Fort Laramie resident, Susan Hunzeker, has pleaded guilty to six counts of felony theft.

Hunzeker was accused of taking money in 2019 from the Subway restaurant in Torrington, where she was previously employed, and embezzling more than $10,000 from the Fort Laramie Historical Association the following year. Hunzeker was an employee of the association as manager of the bookstore at the Fort Laramie National Historic Site. 

According to the plea agreement, in return for the guilty pleas and upon payment of restitution to Subway, the state would dismiss some charges and argue in favor of a suspended prison sentence and completion of supervised probation.

Hunzeker has already tendered payment of $3,321.53 to the clerk of the District Court to be dispersed to Subway. 

The total amount of restitution to be paid, was $14,881.89, including $11,560.36 to be paid to the Fort Laramie Historical Association. 

Hunzeker confessed to writing payroll checks to herself while employed by the Fort Laramie Historical Association, cashing or depositing those checks into her personal account and doing so without authorization. 

Hunzeker will be sentenced at a later date. 

In the meantime, Judge Patrick Korell approved a modified bond which allows her to travel to Nebraska, South Dakota and throughout Wyoming in order to visit family, specifically her mother, who is very ill. 

Korell prohibited her from having contact with any Fort Laramie Historical Association board members or entering the grounds of the Fort Laramie National Historic Site. He also prohibited her from contacting Subway employees or entering the facility. 

Hunzeker is also required to inform any new employer of her convictions in the court, should she be hired in a capacity where she would be responsible for the handling of money. 

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Sweetwater County claims $13.7M in back taxes

GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County will receive more than $13.7 million in back taxes after nearly two years. 

Sweetwater County Treasurer Robb Slaughter said Southland Royalty Company paid the back property taxes at the start of the month following a May court hearing between the company’s attorneys and attorneys representing the county. 

Slaughter said payments to various entities were sent this week. 

Southland Royalty is an oil and gas company based in Fort Worth, Texas which owns a number of land parcels in the Red Desert. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and failed to pay taxes on its property after the filing. 

Initially, Slaughter was told the county could only expect between seven and 10 cents on the dollar for what was owed. 

Eventually, a letter from the company stating it would pay the taxes owed is what caused the Delaware-based bankruptcy court hearing the case to make the county one of the priorities as Southland Royalty settled its debts. 

The company agreed to pay taxes owed for the second half of 2019, the full 2020 taxes and a portion of the 2021 taxes owed until Southland Royalty completes a sale of its Red Desert properties to Wamsutter E&P this year. 

Slaughter said the 2021 taxes were placed in escrow and not included as part of the amount paid to the county.

Slaughter said the county views the taxes as a perpetual lien and require those taxes to be paid. 

“Even if someone new takes over, those taxes are due,” he said.

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Out-of-town fanny pack with $3,000 lost and found Tuesday

GILLETTE — A father and daughter from Washington state who passed through Gillette on their way to Iowa had a scare Tuesday when the dad misplaced his fanny pack with about $3,000 in cash inside.

They stopped for gas at the Shell gas station on Second Street when he went to the bathroom and lost the fanny pack somewhere along the way. By the time he and his daughter, 22, got to Rapid City, South Dakota, they noticed it was gone, Police Lt. Brent Wasson said.

Using an app of some kind on his phone, the man was able to track the waist bag to a waste can outside of Walgreens in Gillette, but it was found without the cash.

Walgreens video surveillance showed Jason Baham, 40, man leaving the store with the fanny pack.

Officers contacted Baham at his home, where he admitted to taking some of the cash from inside the bag and allowed a search of his home. 

Inside, $3,090 in cash was found, along with 2 grams of meth, 0.5 grams of cocaine and 14.5 grams of marijuana.

Baham was arrested on suspicion of felony theft and three drug possession charges, all felonies because his charges for each drug was his third or more, Wasson said.

The money was most likely photographed for evidence and returned to the family, Wasson said.

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