Wyoming news briefs for July 5

Posted 7/5/21

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for July 5


Native American veterans memorial to open on reservation

CASPER — After 14 years of preparations, a Native American veterans memorial will open Aug. 12 on the Wind River Reservation.

The Path of Honor will be located at the Frank B. Wise Business Center in Fort Washakie. The Aug. 12 opening kicks off with a dedication ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m. honoring all military service members living on the Wind River Reservation. The public is welcome to attend.

The memorial, the first of its kind dedicated to Indigenous veterans in Wyoming, features a collection of stones symbolizing military service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Post Vietnam and Gulf War eras. The stones feature a winding red path, representing the Native American symbol of courage and commitment to living a purposeful life.

“We originally thought we had about 700 veterans,” said Jennifer Ford, who’s helping publicize the event. “But when we did a call for names in 2019 and then in 2020, we found that there are well over 800 folks who have served in any of our armed forces that also live within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation.”

The Path of Honor started in partnership between the Wind River Economic Development Fund and American Legion Post 81 after building the Frank B. Wise Business Center in 2008.

In 2017, however, Eastern Shoshone tribal member, veteran, and American Legion Post 81 President Lyle Wadda kicked plans into motion after receiving a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Ford said.


Man who walked up to Old Faithful while waving flag sentenced to jail

JACKSON — A Yellowstone tourist who was a little too jacked up on America while visiting last summer recently wrapped up jail time earned for antics that involved flag waving and a coonskin hat near the cone of the Old Faithful geyser.

Madison, Maine, resident Aaron Merritt was clearly looking to create a spectacle when he reportedly left the boardwalk and ran up onto Old Faithful “more than once” with the hat and flag on July 7, 2020. The 37-year-old’s legal plight was publicized in a press release distributed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday.

Merritt caught the attention of not just fellow geyser-gawkers, but also park rangers, who struggled throughout the summer of 2020 with rampant “thermal trespassing” — i.e., people who left boardwalks for illegal, up-close looks at geysers, hot springs and other geothermal features. Those illicit walkabouts can damage fragile thermal crusts, and can also put human lives at risk.

Merritt’s sentencing was delayed nearly a year. He failed to appear for his court hearing on July 23, 2020, but a warrant was issued and he was arrested in Maine on June 5.

Merritt subsequently appeared at the Yellowstone Justice Center. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, fined $240 and banned from Yellowstone for an unspecified length of time, according to the press release.


Woman says she owns Walmart, so shoplifting isn’t theft

GILLETTE — A California woman accused of taking more than $5,000 worth of merchandise from Walmart told police that it couldn’t be considered shoplifting because she owned the store.

Police found Sina A. Dailey-Sykes, 31, outside of the Gillette store June 18 after Walmart workers had seen her walk out of the store with a cart full of items that she hadn’t paid for. Among them were a hot pink bag, a blue-striped bag and a suitcase, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Sykes admitted to police that she hadn’t paid for the items, but didn’t need to because the FBI had given her Walmart and she owned the entire contents.

Inside her car, police found the suitcase and the striped bag.

They also found more than 400 other items that had been taken from the store. No receipts were found and nearly all the items still had tags on them, according to court documents.

The total value of the merchandise was $5,099.23.

Surveillance footage showed that she had arrived in the parking lot June 13 and had been living there for the past five days.

She was charged in Circuit Court with felony shoplifting, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


Man accused of threatening to kill woman pleads guilty to assault

CHEYENNE —  A man originally charged with attempted murder after being accused of assaulting a woman and threatening to kill her pleaded guilty to lesser charges June 29 in Laramie County District Court. 

Charles Webster Mathisen pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated assault and battery with serious bodily injury as part of a plea agreement. 

Mathisen was originally charged with five felonies: first-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted murder, unlawful entry into an occupied structure, being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a habitual criminal, which requires having been previously convicted of two or more felonies in separate cases. 

According to court documents: At about 6 p.m. Jan. 16, a Cheyenne Police officer responded to a report of a prior domestic disturbance that occurred Jan. 13. 

A woman said Mathisen pushed his way into her home without permission. Once inside, Mathisen continued pushing the woman, attempting to strangle her and eventually hitting her, causing bruising and a bloody nose. 

Mathisen then grabbed a pistol and, while pinning the woman against a wall, placed the loaded pistol in her mouth and pulled the trigger. After the gun did not discharge, Mathisen put it to the woman’s head and attempted to fire again, with the pistol again misfiring. 

Mathisen then attempted to shoot himself in the head three times, but the gun malfunctioned and would not fire. He dropped the pistol and left the home. 

On Jan. 16, Mathisen again showed up at the woman’s home and assaulted her. He then attempted to chase her car as she drove away.