Wyoming news briefs for November 24

Unemployment falls as people leave work force

CHEYENNE — The Research and Planning Section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported Monday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 4.5 percent in September to 4.1 percent in October. 

The recent decreases in Wyoming’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate have been largely the result of unemployed individuals leaving the labor force. From October 2020 to October 2021, the number of unemployed people in Wyoming decreased by an estimated 3,955 individuals. Estimates suggest that just over one-third of those people (1,331 individuals) had found jobs and gone to work, while nearly two-thirds (2,624 individuals) had stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. 

From September to October, unemployment rates fell in most counties. The largest decreases occurred in Niobrara (down from 2.4 to 1.9 percent), Sublette (down from 3.4 to 3.0 percent), Natrona (down from 3.7 to 3.3 percent), Hot Springs (down from 2.4 to 2.0 percent) and Campbell (down from 3.3 to 2.9 percent) counties. From October 2020 to October 2021, jobless rates decreased in every county. Unemployment rates were unusually high in October 2020 because of the pandemic. The largest decreases were seen in Natrona (down from 6.6 to 3.3 percent), Converse (down from 5.5 to 2.5 percent), Campbell (down from 5.9 to 2.9 percent) and Sweetwater (down from 5.4 to 3.1 percent) counties. 

Natrona County had the highest unemployment rate in October at 3.3 percent.


Man who tried to burn down house twice sentenced

DOUGLAS — A Douglas man found guilty of first degree arson for twice trying to burn down another man’s house has been sentenced to 8-12 years in prison, but District Judge Scott Peasley then used the state’s split sentencing statute to suspend the prison term and instead send Sebastian M. Esquibel, 30, to 10 months in the county jail followed by three years probation.

In October, a jury found Esquibel guilty of one felony count of first degree arson. He had been charged with two counts of arson and faced up to 20 years in prison on each count from two incidents a day apart in mid-February 2020. Both incidents occurred at the same South 5th Street home in Douglas, and the Douglas police affidavit states Esquibel admitted to having been “intimately involved with the victim.”

According to police, someone had thrown a brick through a front window of the home and powered a flammable accelerant onto the house and lit it. The fire scorched the house.

The following day, someone broke out another window and poured accelerant into the home but cut themselves and left blood at the scene. The DNA in the blood matched Esquibel’s.

Peasley, in his sentencing order, gave Esquibel credit of 150 days in jail for time served and ordered intensive supervised probation with additional conditions and fines, restitution and assessments totaling $2,463.


Court rejects prosecutor’s motion to attend hearing

CHEYENNE — A Laramie County District Court judge rejected a request by the county’s district attorney to reconsider her exclusion from a recent hearing involving a man awaiting sentencing on several felony charges, including manslaughter.

The order from Judge Catherine Rogers, filed Thursday, is a single paragraph, simply stating that the request had been denied by the court.

Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove filed a motion Nov. 16 challenging Rogers’s setting of an “in camera,” or closed, hearing on Nov. 12 that excluded her office. The closed hearing included the defendant in the case, Frank John McHenry; his attorney, Cody Jerabek; Rogers; Rogers’s court reporter and jail staff.

It was still unclear Tuesday what took place during the closed meeting, though jail calls between McHenry and his mother described in an affidavit may provide some insight. McHenry said Rogers had “encouraged him to think about withdrawing his plea,” and that he believed the hearing had stemmed from a conflict between Rogers and Jerabek.

In her motion, Manlove alleged the closed hearing had included ex parte communications, or communications between a judge and an involved party without the other party’s knowledge, about substantive matters. The court had not notified involved parties of the ex parte communication or given it an opportunity to respond, as is required by the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct, she said.


Man accused of shoplifting from store he crashed into

RIVERTON — A man who was banned from Walmart in Riverton after crashing a stolen car into the building nine years ago now is being charged with burglary from the same business.

Donovan James Shakespeare, 27, now faces one felony burglary charge from Oct. 17, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines; one misdemeanor theft charge dating back to March 15, punishable by no more than six months and $750 in fines; and two separate counts of criminal trespass, each punishable by up to six months in jail and $750 in fines. 

According to court documents, on Oct. 17 at about 2:11 p.m., Riverton Police Department officer Kingston Cole responded to reports of shoplifting at Walmart. A security employee had escorted Donovan Shakespeare and Charnele Jenkins to his office, along with two children believed to be theirs –– a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old. 

The employee said he’d seen Jenkins and Shakespeare stuffing household items into their pants, then trying to “walk out the door” with additional items in their cart without paying. The employee said he stopped them and escorted him to his office without incident. 

Jenkins also had been banned from the store. 

Charging documents for Jenkins were not available to The Ranger as of press time. 

When Cole asked the suspects if they’d stolen the merchandise, both said they had participated in the act, according to court documents. RPD Dispatch informed Cole that both had active and confirmed arrest warrants from prior thefts at Walmart.