Wyoming news briefs for Feb. 22

Posted 2/22/21

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for Feb. 22


Missing toddler found dead in Cheyenne dumpster

CHEYENNE — Following a missing child search that began early Friday afternoon, Cheyenne Police discovered the body of 2-year-old Athian Rivera in a dumpster.

The search for Rivera – which involved multiple law enforcement agencies, as well as two local fire departments – began following a report of the child being missing at about 1 p.m. Friday. 

CPD, along with members of the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, Cheyenne Fire Rescue and Laramie County Fire District 2 were involved in the search, according to information shared by CPD Public Information Officer Alexandra Farkas at a news conference about the incident late Friday afternoon.

Farkas said a reverse 911 call was sent out to locate the child within half a mile of his last known location; social media was used to try to find Rivera; and the child’s name was included in a national missing children database.

A K-9 unit was also involved in the search for Rivera, Farkas said.

The search ended when Rivera’s body was found in the dumpster.

“This is an active investigation,” Farkas said, noting that she would not be taking additional questions from reporters. “There is no danger to the public.”

Friday night, several Cheyenne residents held a small candlelight vigil at the state Capitol to pray for Rivera’s family and for swift justice in the matter.


UW, FBI investigate ‘Zoom bombing’

LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming Police Department and FBI are currently investigating the racist Zoom bombing that took place Monday during a UW Black History Month forum hosted by the Black Studies Center and African American and Diaspora Studies.

During the event, racist pornographic images were displayed that disrupted the panel discussion on cinematic racist propaganda.

Chad Baldwin, associate vice president for marketing and communications, said in a phone briefing Friday that UW police officials and the UW Information Technology Office are conducting a forensic analysis to determine how the perpetrators were able to navigate the Zoom platform.

“So far they found three perpetrators came in through virtual private networks (VPNs),” said Baldwin, adding a fourth used a Maryland internet provider.

Baldwin said there is no evidence to support UW involvement, but officials are still considering potential ways they might further identify the individual in Maryland.

Speculative evidence suggests the individual(s) responsible for Monday’s attack may also be connected to similar attacks that have occurred during other university-hosted virtual Black History Month programs across the nation. Commonalities between the attacks include repetitive racial slurs, Zoom usernames with mocking phrases, racist and homophobic pornographic images/ videos and racist remarks in the chat rooms.

Other universities that have been Zoom-bombed during the month include Penn State, Rutgers University, Rider University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of South Florida and Seattle University. All are conducting investigations, either with local law enforcement or FBI.


Woman faces eight charges in alleged burglary, vehicle theft

RIVERTON — A 41-year-old woman has been arrested on eight different criminal charges – seven of them felonies – after what appeared to be a thwarted UTV theft, property damage, a failed truck theft, a pistol theft and armed entry, presumably while under the influence of alcohol. 

Shawnda Frazier faces the charge of aggravated burglary, which alleges that she broke into a truck while armed with a pistol and intending to commit a felony in the truck. 

Frazier also is charged with burglary theft of a firearm, attempted theft of a UTV, felony theft, and felony property destruction. 

She also faces one misdemeanor count of interference with peace officers, and a felony driving-while-under-the-influence charge. 

According to court documents, on Jan. 29 at about 8:58 p.m., FSO deputy Kelsi Sullivan was dispatched to Power Toys on Highway 789 north of Riverton due to the attempted theft of a 2021 Polaris RZR utility vehicle, valued at $21,000. A passerby had spotted the RZR stuck in the security fence gate with the engine running and the headlights on. 

Later, A white 2005 GMC truck was reported stolen and was last seen traveling north on Highway 789 toward Shoshoni. Fremont County Sheriff’s Department and Shoshoni Police Department officers performed a traffic stop on the truck in Shoshoni. 

The driver pulled into a parking lot on the east side of Shoshoni, got out of the vehicle and ran south to the train tracks. She was apprehended, handcuffed and identified as Frazier. 

In the truck was a garbage bag containing .22-caliber pistol, a matching magazine and holster later reported stolen.


CWC bachelor’s program exceeds expectations

RIVERTON — Eighty-six students enrolled last fall in the first semester of the new four-year degree program at Central Wyoming College. The enrollment total is more than four times larger than administrators anticipated. 

“We (expected) 20 students that first year,” Kathy Wells, CWC’s vice president for academic affairs, said during a board meeting Wednesday. “So we very much exceeded our one-year guess. … We had (an) overwhelming success.”

CWC also thought most students would enroll part-time in the four-year program, which was designed specifically for people in the workforce. But this week Wells said the majority of students were enrolled full-time. 

“That was very encouraging,” Wells said. “I’m hoping that trend holds true for those that are enrolled in the spring.” 

She guessed that the college’s new remote learning options necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic made it possible for more students to enroll on a full-time basis. 

“(That’s) one thing we learned from COVID,” Wells said. “We have to be flexible in our course offerings. … It has been a good thing for students.” 

About half of the fall-semester students in the four-year bachelor of applied sciences program had completed some college courses in the past but had not yet earned a degree, Wells said.

“(They are) those individuals who go to college but didn’t complete an identified program of study,” she explained. 


Gillette man’s $3 bet leads to nearly half-million win

GILLETTE — A Gillette man won big earlier this month when he won nearly half a million dollars at Wyoming Downs and set a state record.

On Feb. 5, Clint Hoffman was at the Wyoming Downs location on South Douglas Highway, in the former Mingles building. He put down $3 at a historic horse racing machine, and won a $490,685.58 jackpot.

The haul was a Wyoming record for the largest jackpot ever won at a historic horse racing terminal. The machines have been in Wyoming since 2013, and each year hundreds of millions of dollars in wagers are placed.

“We are so excited to be a part of this record setting jackpot,” Rick Cook, chief operating officer at Wyoming Downs, said in a press release. “We are thrilled Wyoming Downs is home to the state’s largest jackpot win.”

A portion of each wager made on historic horse racing terminals across the state goes toward the jackpot and builds up over time. Cook said this particular jackpot had been accumulating for about a year.

From 2017 through the first seven months of 2020, a total of $2.1 billion was wagered on historic horse racing in Wyoming, and $1.9 billion has been paid out to winners.

In 2019, a total of $793,477,137 was wagered on historic horse racing and 17% of that, or nearly $140 million, was wagered in Gillette. Through the first seven months of 2020, $61 million was wagered in Gillette.

Both years, Gillette bet the second highest dollar amount in the state, trailing only Cheyenne.