Wyoming news briefs for May 21


Body found on UW property

LARAMIE — The Laramie Police Department received notification Wednesday afternoon of a dead body found on University of Wyoming property on the 1900 block of East Harney Street. 

Officials said the body found is not connected to the dead body found earlier the same day on the 500 block of Buchanan Street or to the two dead bodies found earlier this month. 

Jacob Kiester, a record specialist with Laramie Police, said nine officers responded to the dispatch call and were included in the initial report. It is not known at this time who is leading the investigation. 

UW Police Chief Mike Samp identified the deceased as 27-year-old Dustin Murdoch, who has no known affiliation to the university. 

Murdoch’s body was reportedly found shortly before 3:30 p.m. in a field near a walking path near Baker Street, Steven Morgan, LPD’s Public Safety Answering Point administrator, said.

Because the incident occurred on university property, UW police are collaborating with LPD on the investigation. 

“At this time, there is no indication that foul play was involved,” Samp told the Boomerang, adding, “We do not believe there is any danger to the broader community.” 

The county coroner, who was unavailable for comment, has received Murdoch’s body for autopsy, which will confirm cause of death, Samp said. The coroner’s report should be ready in a week’s time, he added, depending on caseload, case complexity and any necessary laboratory results for a conclusive report.

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Jackson council calls for ban on helicopter tours

JACKSON — The Jackson Town Council this week joined the Teton County Board of County Commissioners in voting to approve a resolution banning commercial scenic air tours.

The vote came just a few weeks after the Jackson Hole Airport Board scolded the owner of a scenic helicopter tour company for unapproved flights over Grand Teton National Park.

The town’s resolution closely mirrors one county commissioners approved in April. The council, though, expanded the language of its resolution to include all types of aircraft — not just helicopters — while the county’s specifically cites helicopters.

Wind River Air, a scenic heli-tour company operated by Tony Chambers, was rebuked by the Jackson Hole Airport Board last month after GPS data showed that Chambers repeatedly flew over the national park, deviating from previously proposed routes around the perimeter, and also flew below 2,000 feet, violating the park’s guidelines.

Wind River Air’s permit was renewed by the airport board a day after county commissioners unanimously approved their resolution declaring that commercial scenic helicopter tours are “incompatible” with the park and nearby public lands.

Both the town’s and the county’s resolutions point to noise pollution, wildlife disturbances, scenic disturbances to the viewshed and the erosion of the national park experience as problems caused by the scenic air tours.

The Town Council’s resolution banning scenic air tours of any type “seeks Congressional relief through legislation.”

Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen and Councilor Jim Rooks acknowledged that the resolutions won’t have an immediate impact in halting the flights.

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Man pleads not guilty in fatal accident

SHERIDAN — Todd A. Kohler pleaded not guilty to homicide by vehicle, a misdemeanor, in Sheridan County Circuit Court Thursday. 

Kohler faces the charge after a vehicle crash in which he was involved killed Shariah Harper Dec. 8, 2020. 

According to court documents, Harper had been traveling north on Wyoming Highway 338 near the intersection of Wyoming Highway 339. She slowed as a vehicle in front of her waited to turn left onto Highway 339. 

Data from an accident construction investigation indicates Harper started to move right and accelerate right before impact and she was traveling between 6 and 9 miles per hour. Court documents indicate this is when Kohler, who was driving a FedEx truck, struck Harper's vehicle. 

The impact caused Harper's vehicle to strike the rear of the vehicle in front of her before going off the roadway, through a fence and coming to rest in a field. 

Data from the investigation indicate Kohler did slow from about 65 or 60 miles per hour before the impact, braking approximately 21 feet before the collision. One trooper indicated that data shows Kohler did not react until tenths of a second before the collision. 

When interviewed at the hospital following the crash, Kohler told a WHP trooper he had been looking at the handheld GPS mobile device and this distracted him while he was driving. 

Kohler submitted to a blood test while at the hospital, and no drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

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