Wyoming news briefs for July 22

Posted 7/22/21

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for July 22


After dogs mauled man, owner jailed

RIVERTON  A Riverton woman whose dogs mauled a pedestrian has been sentenced to 200 days in jail, with 180 of those days suspended over term of probation. 

Melissa Sue Kelly originally was cited for “dog at large” on Oct. 1, 2020, when her two pit bulls escaped and attacked Paul Bush on Park Avenue in Riverton. The dogs later were euthanized. 

However, due to the severity of the incident, the citation  which typically would have been punishable by a maximum $50 fine  was increased by Fremont County assistant attorney Ember Oakley to a charge reckless endangering, which is a misdemeanor. 

According to his interview with Riverton Police Department officer Christian Amos, Paul Bush remembered walking on West Park Avenue when two dogs ran toward him. Medical records showed that Bush had a wounded face, a dislocated left shoulder, five dog-bite puncture wounds to his left leg and four to his right leg, bruising on his outer right biceps, and a small bite puncture wound to the inside of his biceps. 

Kelly was sentenced July 9 in Riverton Circuit Court by Judge Wesley Roberts. The 180 days in jail were suspended pending a one-year unsupervised probationary term, leaving 19 days of actual jail time. During probation, Kelly may not own, keep, feed or shelter any dog or other animal. 


Cody man’s plea deal crafted

CODY Nearly three years after charges were filed, Kenneth “Val” Geissler’s solicitation of prostitution case is nearly complete, with a not guilty by reason of mental illness plea read to Judge Bill Simpson’s Park County District Court on Wednesday morning. Simpson still hasn’t formally approved the stipulation.

Geissler, 81, would avoid jail time, would receive outpatient mental therapy for the rest of his life and visit with his attorney monthly. He would not be allowed to be alone around minor females unless another adult is present. He would have to advise his attorney whenever he is leaving the State of Wyoming.

For more than a year, the defense and the prosecution had been disputing the issue of Geissler’s mental state at the time he allegedly solicited prostitution and engaged in unlawful contact without bodily injury with a female minor.

Tim Blatt, Geissler’s defense attorney, said Geissler’s condition could lead to “delusional” thinking. It was the state’s demand, not the medical experts’, that Geissler have no unsupervised contact with minor females.

The Cody man is accused of attempting to coerce a minor into prostitution in exchange for payments on a vehicle. The minor said she started receiving letters after she was loaned a $4,000 car by Geissler in July 2018, with $200 monthly payments. She said he attempted to negotiate sex with her in exchange for payments on the vehicle. The affidavit went on to say Geissler hand-delivered the letters to the minor and promised her millions of dollars in his will if she became a prostitute.


Police cheered by citizens in downtown foot chase

POWELL — As police chased a suspect who’d been involved in a downtown fight Friday afternoon, it became something of a spectator sport. 

“It sounds like they were pointing the direction he ran and yelling, ‘Go PD,’ and that kind of stuff,” said Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt. 

On Monday, the man caught by the officers, 35-year-old Lon F. Middleton, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of unlawful contact and interference with a peace officer. 

Middleton is alleged to have fought with a bartender at the Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill around 3:30 p.m. 

The bartender said he’d been speaking with a coworker when “some guy came up to him and started to ‘talk [crap]’ to him for no reason,” Powell Police Officer Paul Sapp recounted in an affidavit. 

After telling Middleton to back away and then trying to physically push him away, the bartender said he punched Middleton. 

According to the bartender’s account, Middleton took him to the ground and the bartender cut his head on a brass rail and wall. 

While the bartender was giving his statement, Middleton walked back into the Red Zone — and ran away upon seeing police, Sapp wrote.

Sapp and fellow Officer Cody Bradley gave chase, heading south on Bent Street, east on First Street and then north up the alley; Sapp caught up with the suspect as he hid behind the Rest Awhile Cafe.


Fire in Big Horns grows to 383 acres

LOVELL — A fire located 30 miles northeast of Lovell in the Big Horn Mountains had grown to 383 acres as of Tuesday afternoon.

Named the Crater Ridge Fire, the fire is burning northeast of the Medicine Wheel. It is located north of Crater Ridge Forest Road 112 and Little Big Horn Canyon, just south of the Montana borderline. 

The fire is thought to have been caused by a lightning strike and is currently uncontained. 

According to Shawna Hartman, the public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, the fire is remote. Therefore, it doesn’t directly threaten any historical, architectural or other sites of value. But with dry conditions, the fire has the potential to spread.

“It’s a very dense area, and it’s very heavy fuel. There are not many fuel breaks right in the area that it’s burning, and there’s a lot of fuel to burn in the area,” Hartman said. “The potential for the fire to grow is there due to the extremely low moisture in that vegetation.” 

Nearly 200 personnel are currently fighting the fire, involving three fire crews, two engines, two pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters. 

According to a public report by the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team released Tuesday morning, the most fire activity Monday occurred in the Cub Creek drainage, where helicopters dropped water over areas of intense

heat to keep the fire north of Cub Creek. 


Man admits to starting 2018 wildfire

GREYBULL — A Big Horn County man pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly causing a wildfire that burned timber, trees, slash, brush and grass on land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2018.

Brandon Kenneth Nyberg was sentenced on Wednesday, July 14 to two years of unsupervised probation, with conditions, and to pay restitution in the amount of $4,616.98 as well as a $25 special assessment for his role in starting the wildfires.

The sentence was handed down in U.S. District Court in Lander — almost three years to the day of the wildfire that Nyberg now admits to starting on July 9, 2018.

On May 3, 2019, Nyberg was interviewed by BLM investigators at his grandparents’ residence in Manderson. The charging document alleges that in the course of that interview, Nyberg “initially claimed he thought he had accidentally caused the fires with his cigarette or by ‘back burning.’ 

However, when confronted with the fact that the fire investigation did not corroborate either of those causes, Nyberg admitted to starting the fires with a lighter."

With the case now behind him, Nyberg continues to maintain that he was simply “backburning” his grandparents' field that day in 2018 due to concerns about the advancing Tyrek Fire.


Utah woman killed in wreck near Kemmerer

KEMMERER — A Utah woman was killed last week in a head-on collision near Kemmerer, and several others were hospitalized from the incident. 

On Wednesday, July 14, a fatal crash occurred around milepost 43 on U.S. Hwy 30, west of Kemmerer. At 2:05 p.m., Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were notified of a motor vehicle collision. A 2008 Mazda CX-9 was traveling west on U.S. 30. 

The driver attempted to pass a semi-truck and failed to see a 2008 Toyota Sienna traveling eastbound. The drivers of both vehicles tried to avoid a collision by moving onto the roadway’s shoulder but collided head-on. 

The driver of the Mazda has been identified as 55-year-old West Jordan, Utah, resident Wendy W. Stapel. Stapel was wearing a seatbelt and was transported to South Lincoln Medical Center, where she succumbed to her injuries from the crash. 

The passengers in the Mazda have been identified as 27-year-old Kearns, Utah, resident Ashlee Johnson, and three juvenile passengers. All were properly restrained and transported to South Lincoln Medical Center for injuries sustained in the crash. 

Driver inattention on the part of Stapel is being investigated as a potential contributing factor. This is the 51st fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2021 compared to 53 in 2020, 92 in 2019, and 54 in 2018 to date.