Wyoming news briefs for May 17

Woman pleads guilty to charges in kidnap case

CASPER — A woman involved in an August kidnapping that left one dead and one injured pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting robbery in Natrona County District Court on Friday.

Kayla Wollitz was initially charged with aggravated kidnapping and robbery, but those counts were dropped with her guilty plea to the amended charge Friday. She pleaded not guilty to the original charges in February. 

If the court accepts the plea agreement, she’ll be sentenced to two to four years at the Wyoming Women’s Center. 

Court documents state Wollitz helped Robert “Crook” Land find and take a woman he suspected of withholding money from methamphetamine sales from a Natrona County residence on Aug. 7. Wollitz then drove Land, the victim and Darron Monroe in her car to Land’s apartment. 

Later, when police arrived at the apartment, officers briefly exchanged fire with Land before shooting and killing him. The victim was also injured by bullet fragments, but recovered.

Monroe, who helped intimidate the victim according to an affidavit in the case, pleaded guilty to separate charges of aggravated robbery and conspiring to deliver methamphetamine. He was sentenced to time served for the drug charge and awaits sentencing for the other. 

The affidavit states Land put Wollitz in charge of holding the victim’s purse during the incident, and she admitted in court Friday to taking items from it. 

Police also reportedly found Wollitz had a syringe with trace amounts of methamphetamine at the time of the incident.


Historic Cheyenne mansion up for sale

CHEYENNE — The Nagle Warren Mansion, an iconic Cheyenne architectural feature that was built 1888 and later transformed into a bed and breakfast, hit the housing market at $2.25 million earlier this year.

The historic, three-story home at 222 E. 17th St. is up for sale through #1 Properties, after late owner Jim Osterfoss shut down the B&B in late 2019.

Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, the property boasts a 6,158-square-foot main building, complete with a library, conference rooms and ornate details in every corner of the home. A private garden and hot tub are tucked away from 17th Street behind the home, along with a 2,145-square-foot carriage house.

When he closed the B&B before passing away in January 2020, Osterfoss told the WTE, “I want to know somebody is going to take good care of it. It’s such a jewel for the city.”

As described in the Downtown Development Authority’s Historic Walking Tour, the building itself was born out of a competition between Erasmus Nagle and Francis E. Warren. Nagle, a wealthy businessman, bragged he had the “biggest and best house in Cheyenne” and that “nobody would build a better one.”

That was, until Warren constructed an elaborate home right next door.

To counter his competitor, Nagle constructed what is today the Nagle Warren Mansion, only to die two short years later. Warren, after grieving the loss of his wife, getting remarried and wanting a fresh start with his new partner, moved into the home, which ultimately led to the Nagle Warren Mansion title.


Tribes to receive millions under rescue act

RIVERTON — The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes are slated to receive millions of dollars under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

In a May 10 letter to tribal leaders across the country, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that $20 billion is being split among the 570 recognized American Indian tribes. 

Of that, $1 billion will be split evenly, allotting a base of $1,754,386 to each tribe in the country, including the local Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation. 

After that, the remaining $19 billion is to be distributed on a membership basis, in which bigger tribes get more money, and on an employment basis using 2019 employment data to determine how many positions each tribe needs to fund and promote. 

Conservative estimates place the northern arapaho tribe alone in position to receive about $80 million. 

The federal legislation stipulates that the funds must be used by 2024. 

All tribes must submit enrollment data by May 24, and employment data by June 7, to receive each round of payments. 

According the Treasury.gov, tribes may use their new funding to support public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by COVID-19 issues, replace lost public sector revenue, provide premium pay for essential workers, and invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.


Camping along North Platte restricted because of runoff

LARAMIE — Post-wildfire hazards along the North Platte River on the west side of the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, have prompted a temporary camping prohibition for public safety during spring run-off and until hazardous conditions subside.

Effective immediately, overnight camping is prohibited on National Forest System lands within 1,000 feet of the centerline of the North Platte River, from the point the North Platte River flows across the Routt National Forest boundary immediately south of the Routt Access trailhead/ recreation site to the point the North Platte River flows north across the Medicine Bow National Forest boundary near the confluence with Savage Run Creek. 

The closure is necessary to minimize the threat to human life and safety. Due to the 2020 Mullen Fire, there is increased potential for hazards along the river, including debris flows, flash floods and hazard trees. 

Day use of the river and other associated activities, such as fishing and rafting, may still take place. 

Forest visitors should expect to find a changed landscape when they enter the burned area, with multiple new hazards. 

Specific to the North Platte River and its tributaries, water flows have potential to increase quickly, carrying burned debris, ash and soil along with it. Debris, log jams, trees and strainers may create new obstacles and/ or rapids in the river. 

Everyone near and downstream from the burned areas should remain alert and stay updated on weather conditions that may result in heavy precipitation over the burn scars.


Teton County offers raffle for people who get vaccine

JACKSON — Get a shot, win a prize.

That’s the basic premise of the Teton County Health Department’s “Shots for Swag” campaign. Director Jodie Pond announced the upcoming prizes-for-vaccines push during Friday’s community update.

“We’re going to encourage those that haven’t been vaccinated to participate in our campaign and sign up for the drawings for great prizes,” she said.

Don’t worry if you already were vaccinated; you can enter, too. The push is meant to reach the Health Department’s new goal of vaccinating 80 percent of Teton County residents by the Fourth of July.

Though epidemiologists don’t truly know the percentage of protection needed for herd immunity from COVID-19, most estimates fall between 70 percent and 90 percent, so Pond is taking the average. The community is well on its way, with 61 percent of residents fully vaccinated, but the pace has been slowing.

That is true across the U.S. Communities have explored some novel ideas to get people vaccinated. Beyond the usual tactics like creating mobile clinics, which Pond is doing for outlying communities and seasonal workers, other officials have capitalized on people’s love of free stuff.

A brewery in Connecticut offered a beer with the shot. West Virginia’s governor proposed giving out $100 bonds. The mayor of Long Beach, California, offered free tickets to the aquarium. The biggest prize comes from Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine has offered raffles for $1 million and full-ride college scholarships.