Wyoming news briefs for April 28

Posted 4/28/22

News from across Wyoming.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Wyoming news briefs for April 28


Road to Yellowstone park gate set for repairs

CODY — Sorely needed pavement work will be ongoing this summer on a little more than a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 14-16-20 on the North Fork leading up to the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Work will start Monday – the east gate opens May 6 – and is slated to continue through August.

The $5.4 million project, west of Cody, will consist of rotomilling the existing pavement surface, a 2-inch pavement overlay, chip sealing, minor slope flattening, guardrail repair and other work.

WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers said drivers will rarely be stopped for a lengthy period of time, as only one half of the roadway will be worked on at any one time, with pilot cars to lead traffic along the other lane.

“In evening and early morning there won’t be any delay, just reduced speed limits, but in the day they’ll be working,” he said. “(The) contractor will do its best to keep traffic flowing, but what a great place to get stopped.  It’s the best scenery.”

The project extends east 10.25 miles to milepost 10.25 (Fishhawk Trailhead).

Prime contractor for the project is Mountain Construction Co. of Lovell.

This section of the road was originally constructed in 1996-97.

“Normal service life for pavement is approximately 20 years before it needs rehabilitation and an overlay,” said WYDOT resident engineer Todd Frost of Cody. 

All work, with the exception of reclamation, is required to be complete by Aug. 31. Contract completion date is Oct. 31, 2022.


Woman arrested for drugged driving after hit and run

GILLETTE — A 74-year-old woman was eventually arrested for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, failing to report an accident and unsafe backing after a car was reportedly hit in the Lakeway Professional Center parking lot Monday morning.

A 83-year-old woman returned to the parking lot and found her brown 2012 Chevy had been hit by another vehicle, said Police Sgt. Dean Welch.

The hit and run was seen by a 27-year-old woman, who told officers a black 2008 Toyota had backed into the Chevy and left without leaving any information.

Officers later contacted the suspected Toyota driver, the 74-year-old woman, at Walmart. She told police her medication use may have impaired her driving that day.

She performed field sobriety tests and based on her performance, was arrested for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, unsafe backing and failing to report an accident.


Worker dies in fall at Teton Village

JACKSON  Construction worker Ricardo Miranda Hernandez died Wednesday after falling off a roof while working on the Cody House Condominiums in Teton Village.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said the cause of death has not been determined yet. Blue confirmed that Hernandez, whose age was unknown as of press time, fell off the roof at about 8:30 a.m.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is saddened that a construction worker has died after suffering a fall while working on the roof of the Cody House Condominiums,” the resort said in a press release. “Teton Village Fire Department and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS responded immediately, but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.”

The worker was not a resort employee. He was contracted by an outside company — MD Roofing — for work on the condominiums, which are adjacent to the Bridger Gondola.

Teton County has witnessed several workplace-related fatalities in recent history.


Man convicted in ‘95 murder dies in prison

NEWCASTLE — Daniel Lee Harris, a South Dakota man convicted in a Newcastle murder case, died on April 17 in the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington. 

Harris was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 20, 1995, for his involvement in the death of Cheryl Varner. He was found guilty in Sixth Judicial District Court on various charges, including first-degree felony murder, first- and second-degree attempted sexual assault, criminal negligent homicide and assault and battery, according to stories prepared by the News Letter Journal.

According to the 1995 story, Harris and Varner had left a Newcastle bar together before driving to the LAK Lake. Harris has said during his testimony that he had attempted to have sex with Varner but that she had refused and slapped him. 

The convicted felon then pushed Varner out of the pickup truck, driving off, leaving Varner alone and half-dressed at the lake. She died that night from hypothermia, and the jury found Harris responsible for her death. 

At the time, prosecuting attorney Don Hansen did not seek the death penalty. Hansen had said that the decision to try Harris on felony murder charges had been made by former County Attorney Tracy Hunt. 

Felony murder is defined as an act that causes death as a result of another felony act such as sexual assault or robbery. 

A Wyoming Supreme Court appeal in 1997 upheld the Weston County court’s findings. 

Harris was 57 at the time of his death. Per Wyoming Department of Correction policy, an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death although the department does not release protected health information. 


Jury finds Teton County inmate guilty of more than pranking

JACKSON — A jury found Alvaro Gonzales Mancia guilty of more than bad comedic timing after he left his cell and sneaked up on a deputy at the Teton County Jail.

Jurors found the 25-year-old guilty of interference with a peace officer and escape from official detention during a trial last week. The jury acquitted him on a third charge of simple assault.

The charges stemmed from an incident at the jail where Mancia has been awaiting trial on separate charges from last September. He’s alleged to have bear sprayed two officers responding to a domestic call.

Evidence at last week’s trial detailed how Cpl. Janalynn McKay was conducting a formal headcount on the evening of Oct. 27. During a headcount, McKay observes every inmate but doesn’t enter the cells.

Mancia testified that he obstructed the lock on his cell door so at 6:06 p.m. it wouldn’t lock after McKay confirmed his well being. A video shows that when she closed the cell door and turned away, Mancia left his cell and sprinted at her while her back was turned.

McKay testified that her intuition told her to turn around, at which point she saw Mancia and began yelling at him to get back to his cell. Mancia then retreated.

Mancia’s counsel Spencer King told the jury that Mancia only sneaked up on McKay as a joke; he intended to spook her but not to harm her.

“Mancia said as he was running up behind McKay he said, ‘Here’s Johnny,’ a reference to the movie ‘The Shining,’” Deputy Robert Osmond stated in an affidavit.

“This is an extremely simple case,” prosecuting attorney Clayton Kainer said during opening arguments. “An inmate escaped from his cell while the facility was in lockdown. He attempted to escape and [McKay] thwarted the attack.”

King argued that the statute describing official detention is vague and countered that yes, Mancia left his cell, but not the jail.