Wyoming news briefs for August 17

Posted 8/17/21

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for August 17


Woman tried to escape multiple times after domestic battery arrest

GILLETTE – A 32-year-old woman who was arrested for domestic battery Sunday night also was charged with interference after trying several times to escape custody.

A 31-year-old man in Wright called 911, saying the woman had hit him in the face. He said he’d lived with the woman for two years, but they’ve been going through a breakup for the last two months after a prior assault in May, said Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

He left for work earlier in the evening and asked her to watch his 9-year-old daughter. A friend called him, saying the woman was not taking care of the girl. He left work to talk to her, and she met him on the front deck of the house, where she hit him.

She was arrested for domestic battery.

While she was being driven from Wright to Gillette, she was able to remove her handcuffs and unbuckle herself. When deputies put her back in restraints she tried to escape again, Reynolds said. She made more attempts at trying to unbuckle her seat belt and escape from the patrol car.

Due to her escape attempts, she had to be placed on a gurney and rolled into jail, Reynolds said. For her efforts she was charged with interference with a peace officer. At the jail she took a portable breath test, and her blood alcohol concentration was 0.11 percent, Reynolds said.


Jones Ranch conserves 600 acres of wildlife, migration habitat

PINEDALE – On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Mark and Renee Jones partnered with the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust to place a conservation easement on 600 acres of the MJ Ranch near Boulder. 

This conservation easement will protect exceptional wildlife values on a property that provides habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, greater sage-grouse and other migratory avian species. 

The property is within greater sage-grouse core area and is near the Sublette Mule Deer Migration Corridor. 

The conservation easement will ensure that the property remains undeveloped, protecting agricultural uses, scenic values and wildlife habitat. 

The Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) funded the conservation easement’s purchase. 

“Conserving this portion of the MJ Ranch is significant. It builds upon previous conservation work in Sublette County, adding to the preservation of agricultural lands and important wildlife habitats for the future,” Jessica Crowder, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust executive director, commented on the closing. “We appreciate the partnership of the Jones family, the WWNRT and the NRCS in this important work.” 

The conservation easement is adjacent to the 2,054-acre conservation easement on the MJ Ranch that was completed in 2008 in partnership with The Conservation Fund. With the completion of this project, WSGLT now holds 285,700 acres of conservation easements statewide, with 72,700 of those acres in Sublette County. 


Fort Washakie man charged in sex abuse case

RIVERTON — A grand jury has indicted a Fort Washakie man for abusive sexual contact with a minor.

Annin Damian Soldierwolf, 52, could face any penalty up to life in prison for the federal charge.

The indictment alleges that Soldierwolf knowingly engaged and attempted to engage in sexual contact with a child younger than 12 years old.

According to a statement by the victim, "he just kept doing it every time he had the chance."

The child was interviewed by a forensic investigator on Feb. 24. She related that Soldierwolf often would try touching her sexually during the summer.

She pushed him away at least once, and finally, she started to wear baggy clothes, according to court documents.

On May 13, Soldierwolf came to the FBI office in Lander, saying he was ready to turn himself in, court documents state. He said he had apologized to the child.

"At first he claimed he could not remember what he had done because he had been drunk," documents note.

When asked if the child was telling the truth, he said "I have no idea. She probably is, because like I said sometimes I was so drunk, sometimes I didn't remember anything."

Soldierwolf appeared on July 28, 2021 before United States Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin and pleaded not guilty to the Indictment. A jury trial is set for September 20, 2021, in Casper before Chief United States District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to life in prison; five years to life of supervised release; up to a $5,000 special assessment fee pursuant to the Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2015; up to $250,000 fine and a $100 special assessment.


Sholly:  No timed park entry for now

CODY — Timed entry restrictions on travel into Yellowstone National Park will not be a policy to expect anytime soon, but it’s well within the realm of possibility in the future, said Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.

“I don’t think it needs to be implemented next year or the immediate future,” he said.

Timed entry was introduced in major corridors at Glacier and Rocky Mountain national parks this summer. Sholly said if such a measure were introduced at Yellowstone, it would be most likely limited to the busier West and South entrances where traffic lines sometimes stretch as long as a mile, rather than the East and Northeast entrances closest to Cody.

Traffic mitigation is a very present issue in Yellowstone. This year, the Park is on pace to see a record 4.5-5 million visitors and broke its June visitation record with nearly 1 million attendees in that month alone.  There were 1.08 million visitors in July, an all time record for any month at the Park.

These crowds have slowed down traffic flows, while the “bear jams” and “bison jams” make matters even worse. But Sholly added, even on some of the worst traffic days, congestion usually dissipates by midday at the busiest gates.

Traffic is not evenly distributed throughout the Park, most problems occurring in certain hotspots like Old Faithful, Midway Geyser, Norris and Canyon Village. Other locations, especially on the eastern half of the Park, are usually much less clogged with vehicles.

When it comes to managing traffic jams in the Park, Sholly said the Park will opt for lower hanging fruit when it comes to restrictions, with parking limits likely one of the first solutions.


Man on probation for crash alleged to have gotten in another

POWELL — A Powell man on probation for a high-speed crash in a residential neighborhood in May is now facing allegations that he hit a vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol. 

Riley S. Birky, 20, was arrested on the evening of Aug. 6, after he reportedly rear-ended a vehicle and then drove back to his home on Avenue C. 

Powell police say Birky appeared to be intoxicated and that, after his arrest, he attempted to flee the booking area. That has led to four misdemeanor charges: driving while under the influence of alcohol for a second time in 10 years, underage drinking, failure to stop and report damage to an attended vehicle and interference with a peace officer. 

The Park County Attorney’s Office is also seeking to revoke Birky’s probation from the May 13 crash. In that incident, police said Birky had been driving 40-45 mph on Sunlight Drive and looking at his cellphone when he drifted to the wrong side of the road and collided with a parked Ford Mustang. 

As of Monday, Birky remained in the Park County Detention Center, with bond set at $5,000. 

A citizen called Powell police on the evening of Aug. 6 after being hit by the driver of a silver 2003 Infiniti FX45. Officers found the FX45 parked at Birky’s residence. Birky was ultimately arrested and a breath test pegged his blood alcohol content at 0.186 percent. 

At that time, Birky was on probation for possessing a controlled substance and driving with a suspended license; both of those offenses — plus a citation for careless driving and a failure to report a crash — stemmed from the May 13 crash on Sunlight Drive and a separate collision on Avenue C.


Woman wants her purse taken to jail; meth discovered inside

CODY — When Kelsey Spencer was being arrested for breaking her probation, she demanded her purse go with her to the Park County Detention Center. Inside that purse lay an unused syringe and meth.

Spencer, 28, had been brought to the Detention Center on June 30 after the state submitted a petition to revoke her probation after failing to show up to two probation meetings and admitting to using meth twice.

Spencer had previously told authorities they would find no syringes in the purse.

When Powell Police Sgt. Dustin DelBiaggio searched the bag, he also came across an old pill bottle with its label peeling off. 

A test of the bottle found 22.5 grams of liquid meth.

When given a urine test, Spencer tested positive for meth and amphetamines.

She is being charged with possession of a felony amount of meth and being under the influence of meth.

Spencer has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled for a Sept. 9 pretrial conference and Oct. 13 jury trial in this case. She is currently serving a suspended 2-4 year sentence that could be reimposed if she violates her probation.

Spencer will be released from jail on Aug. 16 so that she can start attending Park County Drug Court immediately. Her attorney Sarah Miles said there is a strong likelihood she will also be recommended for inpatient treatment.

The state submitted a petition to revoke her probation in May for not showing up to two probation meetings and admitting to using meth twice. Spencer had sold .25 ounces of marijuana and 5.8 grams of mushrooms to an informant in May 2020.