Wyoming news briefs for May 31


Yellowstone hiker injured in bear attack

JACKSON — A hiker who set out alone outside the Mammoth Hot Springs area on Friday morning was badly injured in an encounter with a grizzly bear.

Yellowstone National Park sent out word within hours of the incident that a 39-year-old male was able to walk out under his own power after the mauling. The man was about 1.5 miles down the Beaver Ponds Trail from the trailhead when he encountered what was believed to be two grizzlies.

“One bear made contact with the hiker and he sustained significant injuries to his lower extremities,” Yellowstone’s notice said.

The man was transported to the Livingston Hospital by a National Park Service ambulance. The 6-mile-long Beaver Ponds Trail, which is heavily trafficked, is also closed until further notice.

This is the first person injured by a grizzly bear inside Yellowstone during 2021, though there have been other maulings in the ecosystem. In April, 40-year-old Charles “Carl” Mock, of West Yellowstone, Montana, died as a result of complications from injuries sustained from a male grizzly that was defending a moose carcass. The grizzly was later killed by wildlife officials investigating the attack.

Best practices for recreating in grizzly country include hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, making noise and staying alert.

Yellowstone’s public affairs office said Friday there were no additional details about the injured hiker to share at this time.

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Man pleads guilty to abuse of child

CHEYENNE — A Cheyenne man accused of the habitual sexual abuse and rape of a young girl for more than five years pleaded guilty Monday to 13 felony charges in Laramie County District Court. 

Martin Joseph Stoklosa pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor (position of authority), three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor (position of authority), one count of second-degree sexual assault (position of authority), two counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor (position of authority) and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor (immoral/indecent liberties) as part of a stipulated plea agreement. 

In exchange for Stoklosa’s guilty plea, he and the state agreed to an imposed sentence of 10 to 12 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation, which would have an underlying sentence of 10 to 15 years. 

In December 2019, Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of sexual abuse of a minor. A woman had reported to her mother that the mother’s former boyfriend, Stoklosa, had sexually abused her between the ages of about 13 and 18, according to court documents.

Stoklosa, who is more than 15 years older than the girl, sexually abused and raped her several times a week for more than five years when her mother was not at home, she said. In 2016, Stoklosa filed for guardianship of the girl, and she continued living with him in Burns, even after the relationship between Stoklosa and her mother ended, according to court documents. 

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Investigation continues into man’s death

LARAMIE — Steven Morgan, public safety answering point for the Laramie Police Department, revealed last week there’s currently no new evidence concerning the ongoing investigation of Dustin Murdock’s death. 

The lead investigator — whose name was not disclosed — has not yet received a coroner’s report, Morgan said, which won’t be available until July at the earliest. 

“(The autopsy) is very thorough … (and) takes six to eight weeks,” Albany County Coroner Jennifer Graham said Wednesday. She added the report will include a full forensic autopsy, which requires extensive testing of the organs and a toxicology analysis.

Several theories on the circumstances surrounding the death of Murdock have circulated through the Laramie community since Murdock’s body was found May 19 on the 1900 block of E. Harney, including a gunshot wound and a lightning-strike incident. 

Graham, however, was not at liberty to discuss any details of the investigation nor was she able to confirm or deny an apparent cause of death. 

“We don’t want to backtrack in case we find evidence that we were mistaken about,” Graham said. 

She added the processes involved with medicolegal autopsies are delicate and it can put the family in a “tough spot” if misinformation circulates the public. 

Morgan said Murdock’s family has been informed of his death but was unable to release any names. He also said no new information has been received from the public. 

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Tribe forms panel to study marijuana legalization

RIVERTON — The Eastern Shoshone Tribe didn’t legalize marijuana – yet. 

At the tribe’s May 15 General Council meeting, tribal voters agreed to craft a panel to investigate the viability of cannabis use and cultivation on the Wind River Indian Reservation, for Eastern Shoshone Tribal members. 

Having lost quorum partway through the meeting, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe has resolved to continue its general council on July 24, retaining Wade LeBeau as chairman of the session. 

The marijuana panel created by the Eastern Shoshone General Council is to be held by that body, not by the business council, which is the executive branch of the tribe.

No past or present Eastern Shoshone Business Council members will be allowed to sit on the Shoshone Cannabis Commission, which will monitor sales and regulation if and when marijuana is legalized in any form. 

The new commission is to be sovereign, retaining the autonomy to cut ties with outside contractors or tribal members in violation of contracts, laws, or tribal treaty. 

The commission also must seek its own attorney, at the approval of the Shoshone General Council. 

Referencing inter-governmental relations and the well-being of his own people, LeBeau told The Ranger that the commission’s purpose is to set “the foundation for medical and industrial cannabis and hemp use — not (set) the stage for recreational marijuana use.” 

He said the tribe might find profitability in CBD oils, hemp production and medical cannabis. 

“It has to go in stages,” said LeBeau. “Not everything can go at once, because it has to be done right.”

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