Wyoming news briefs for November 26

Man gets 35-40 years for mother’s murder

CHEYENNE — A man who killed his mother in May 2019 received more than three decades in prison in Laramie County District Court. 

Laramie County District Judge Catherine Rogers sentenced James Brian Wallace on Oct. 13 to 35 to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder. Wallace previously pleaded no contest to the charge as part of a plea agreement. 

At about 7:30 a.m. May 10, 2019, Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of an assault with a weapon. Wallace’s brother had reported that Wallace was “high on meth and freaking out” and had hit his mother with a hammer, according to court documents. 

Deputies found the body of Carol Wallace, 80, lying face down in the basement of the residence. James Wallace’s brother told deputies that James lived with Carol, and that when he went to pick Carol up just before 7:30 that morning, he saw James pacing around the main floor of the house, according to court documents.  James eventually told his brother that their mother was in the basement. 

James’ brother said James had a drug problem, and that meth was his drug of choice. The Laramie County coroner later discovered Carol had been shot once in the temple area, had blunt force trauma to the left forehead area, a six to eight-inch laceration to her left upper chest and multiple large bruises all over her body.

 Law enforcement found several weapons in the house and in James’ car, including a hammer and knife that had blood on them. Blood was found throughout the house and on multiple clothing items belonging to James. 

No drugs were found during the search of the house, according to court documents.


RER coming to Upton

NEWCASTLE — Rare Element Resources, or RER, will open its test facility in Upton, where it will process elements from RER’s Bearlodge mine located 12 miles from Sundance.

RER is an energy company  specializing in mining rare earth elements to provide them to technology companies. 

According to George Byers, vice president of RER, the search for a test facility site started about 10 years ago.

“The industrial park (in Upton) was a good choice because No. 1, you guys all wanted it,” Byers said. “Upton . . . has got the attributes you need. You got the rail, you’ve got the highway. you’ve got natural gas, you’ve got power.”

The test facility will be small enough to “fit in a garage,”  Byers said. 

Construction of the test facility is expected to take place in 2022 or 2023, and it will operate from 2023 to 2024.

The test facility will be responsible for refining several rare earth oxides. The most valuable oxide to come out of the plant will be neodymium praseodymium oxide, which is used to produce high-strength magnets for various types of technology, including cell phones. To produce this, the test facility must separate lanthanum, cerium and thorium.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, the minority leader in the Wyoming Senate, supports bringing the rare element industry to Wyoming.

Rothfuss said that he hopes Wyoming can use the thorium to give it a stake in the next generation of nuclear reactors. He also praised the low environmental impact the Bearlodge mine will have.

The U.S. Department of Energy has given RER $22 million, and RER is responsible for raising the other $22 million from investors. RER is offering shareholders the ability to buy stock for 0.24 cents a share until Dec. 8.


HGTV series to feature Buffalo

BUFFALO — Buffalo is set to add another TV credit to its resume. In 2022, the city will be featured on the new HGTV makeover series "Home Town Kickstart." 

"Home Town Kickstart" is a spinoff of two other HGTV series - "Home Town" and "Home Town Takeover" - both starring Ben and Erin Napier.

"Home Town," a show about the Napiers' renovations of homes in their hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, began in 2016. The new show will feature the hosts of other HGTV shows, including the Napiers, who will visit six "quintessential small towns" and give them "a major boost to re-energize their revitalization efforts and realize a much-needed fresh start," according to a press release from HGTV. 

Within each community, the show will select a public space, a small business and the home of a “local hero” to remodel.

The show is set to debut this spring.

Mayor Shane Schrader said that HGTV producers recently contacted the city to discuss what public spaces could be updated, and the city's ice rink came up as a possibility.

The identities of the local hero and the small business that will be involved in the show have not been announced.

Schrader said he thinks the show will be a boon for tourism in the area as it brings the city of Buffalo to a worldwide audience.


Counterfeit bills reported in Worland area

WORLAND — The Worland Police Department and Washakie County Sheriff's Office have received reports of counterfeit U.S. currency that has recently been circulating through local businesses.

The denominations have varied from $5-$100 bills.

Law enforcement is asking businesses to please pay attention to all currency when receiving it.

In most cases the counterfeit bills have the writing saying, "For Motion Picture Use Only."

Law enforcement officials have also been advised that a local bank recently discovered a counterfeit $100 bill that appeared to be very similar to a legitimate $100 bill.

Residents who come in possession of any counterfeit currency are encouraged to immediately contact law enforcement at (307) 347-4253.


Norovirus outbreak detected in Wyoming

SUNDANCE — Had an unsettled stomach recently? You’re not alone, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. 

Numerous reports of illnesses in Wyoming appear to be related to a norovirus outbreak, which causes symptoms including nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue and dehydration. Though other illnesses such as E.coli bacterial contamination can cause similar symptoms, norovirus is the most common culprit. 

“Stomach flu” or “food poisoning”, as norovirus is commonly referred to, is spread through contaminated food and beverages, or when people touch contaminated surfaces or have close contact with someone who is already sick. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), norovirus spreads easily and quickly and outbreaks are most common between November and April. 

The contamination that spreads norovirus can be invisible to the naked eye. 

Symptoms of norovirus generally appear between 12 and 48 hours after exposure and can last between one and three days. They typically go away without causing long-term problems. However, dehydration can cause the illness to become more severe and may require the assistance of a medical professional. 

The WDH recommends frequent hand washing to help prevent illness – especially after using the restroom, changing diapers or before eating and preparing food – as well as staying home if ill; minimizing contact with other persons; thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea with one cup of household bleach per gallon of water; immediately washing contaminated clothing or linens after an episode of illness; flushing or discarding any feces or vomit in the toilet and keeping the surrounding area clean.