Wyoming news briefs for August 10


Man sentenced to prison in child abuse case

EVANSTON — A registered sex offender who was to have no contact with children has been sentenced to 4-10 years of incarceration for child abuse for an incident that occurred in October 2020. 

Jacob D. Balli, 23, was on probation for an attempted sexual assault of a minor that occurred in Utah when the 2-year-old child of his girlfriend suffered severe burn injuries necessitating a LifeFlight from Evanston Regional Hospital to the University of Utah burn unit. 

According to court documents, Balli and his then girlfriend transported her 2-year-old child to ERH on Oct. 16, 2020, with serious injuries that were suspicious for child abuse. 

Evanston Police Department officers were dispatched to the hospital and an affidavit states the child’s “face was burned from eyes to chin.” The child was also missing a patch of hair from their head, had a black eye and also had bruises to the face and ears and abrasions to the back, chest and neck. 

In interviews with Balli, he insisted the child had been burned by hot water in the bathtub; however, law enforcement officers informed him the water at the home had been tested and did not reach temperatures hot enough to inflict the type of burns the child had suffered.

Balli was charged with two counts of child abuse, including a count of torture of a child.

Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas, the case was scheduled for trial but instead Balli entered a “cold plea” of guilty to one count of child abuse. 


Man accused of leaving naked wife at store pleads guilty

GILLETTE — A kidnapping charge was reduced to felonious restraint for a Gillette man who allegedly stripped the clothes off his wife and dropped her off at Walmart last fall.

John Jessie Crump, 38, agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint, a felony, and a misdemeanor count of domestic battery as part of a plea agreement in which he also agreed to plead guilty to one count of voyeurism. 

In the restraint case, Crump and his wife had been to Boot Hill Nightclub on Sept. 12 and had begun to argue on the drive home. 

He asked her to pull over about 1.2 miles west of Highway 14-16 on Middle Prong Road. He told her she needed to get out. Initially, she refused, but then agreed to walk home as long as she could get her jacket out of the truck, the affidavit says.

He eventually wrestled her to the ground, pulled her hair and dragged her back toward the truck, which caused a road rash to her back. He ripped off all of her clothes and forced her into the back seat of the truck, according to the affidavit.

He continued to drive to town and when he reached Walmart, he made her get out of the truck. She ran to the front doors, screamed for help and an employee let her in. She grabbed a rug to cover herself and tried to hide in the produce section of the store, the affidavit says.


Man faces fines, prison on animal cruelty charges

RIVERTON — Charged with felony cruelty to animals, a 35-year-old Pavillion man could face up to six years in prison and $15,000 in fines. 

Cole Littlewhiteman was arrested by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office after videos surfaced depicting him tasing, stomping, kicking, punching, and chain-whipping a horse – according to court documents written July 30 by FSO Lt. John Zerga. 

A caller contacted FSO at about 9:06 the morning of July 28, to report that Littlewhiteman, who works at a ranch in Dubois, had been seen abusing horses. 

“Some horses you have to be more stern with,” noted the reporting party, “but this was too much.” 

Law enforcement received 14 video clips of varying length, showing what Zerga would later write was “torture and torment of the horse in an aggressive manner, causing undue suffering.”

According to descriptions listed in the court affidavit, one video showed Littlewhiteman kicking a horse in the head, then stomping on its head, and punching and slapping its face, saying “(expletive), who’s gonna win?” 

Another clip showed LIttlewhiteman delivering drive stuns to a horse’s face and neck while yelling at it. 

Footage also depicted Littlewhiteman riding the same horse, using a three-foot chain with a leather strap to hit the horse in the face and right flank area over and over, court documents state.

Littlewhiteman faces three counts of felony cruelty to animals, dating to “on or about July 27.” Each charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and $5,000 in fines. 


Guide pleads not guilty to hunting charges

PINEDALE — Timberline Lodge owner and hunting guide Melanie Peterson pleaded not guilty to 19 charges alleging she violated Wyoming Game and Fish hunting regulations over the past decade. 

Peterson, who lives in Daniel and Decatur, Texas, appeared via videoconference Monday, Aug. 9, for her Sublette County Circuit Court arraignment. Her attorney, Joey Darrah of Powell, entered the pleas on her behalf. 

The alleged violations resulted from investigation into nonresident hunts Peterson arranged and guided in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018, court records show. 

Peterson is listed on the Timberline Lodge’s website as a “seasoned guide and outfitter.” She is also known for competing in – and winning – the title of 2018 Extreme Huntress 2018 in an international women’s competition that tests outdoor skills, fitness and marksmanship. 

She is charged with seven counts of taking game without a license or during a closed season, two counts of taking a fur-bearing animal without a license and two counts of guiding without a professional license. 

As a guide or outfitter, Peterson is also charged with eight counts of failing to report the violations, according to the case filed July 27 in Sublette County Circuit Court. 

Penalties recommend jail time and fines – and the first seven require suspensions of hunting privileges for at least five years, according to records.