Wyoming news briefs for June 16

Posted 6/16/22

News from across Wyoming.

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Wyoming news briefs for June 16


Man gets 8-10 years for father’s beating

CHEYENNE — A man will spend up to 10 years in prison for severely beating his father, a Laramie County District Court judge recently decided. 

Robert Cook Bunten III was sentenced June 10 to eight to 10 years in prison by Judge Catherine Rogers. 

Bunten pleaded guilty in March to aggravated assault and battery with serious bodily injury, a felony, as part of a plea agreement. 

Bunten had been accused of severely beating his father last September. 

The attack left Bunten’s elderly dad with multiple broken bones, two brain bleeds and lungs filled with fluid, along with several large bruises, according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Bunten’s father was apparently left alone on the floor of his home for about 18 hours following the attacks, court documents say.

The charge to which Bunten pleaded guilty carries up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, per Wyoming statute. 


Yellowstone backcountry closed for now following flooding

JACKSON — Yellowstone National Park has fully closed its expansive backcountry and contacted or determined the whereabouts of every backcountry user currently in the park, officials said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there was only one group remaining in the northern range of the park, where the flooding and resulting damage was most extreme.

“We were prepared to do helicopter evacuations if necessary,” Superintendent Cam Sholly told reporters Tuesday. “That hasn’t been necessary up to this point.”

As of Tuesday, Sholly said there were still 12 people left in Yellowstone’s backcountry that “we know are safe and that are making their way out.”

Sholly’s announcement comes after historic flooding wiped out bridges and roads in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and led park officials to evacuate over 10,000 visitors from Yellowstone’s front country.

Those people and their cars were out of the park by Tuesday afternoon, Sholly said.

Sholly said the Park Service knows where people are in the backcountry based on permits issued to those campers and where the backcountry sites are.

But he also said park officials flew “several missions” out to backcountry sites to determine where backcountry campers were and were able to communicate with some outfitters who had “some type of communication device.”

When the backcountry will reopen is uncertain, Sholly said.

There are hundreds and hundreds “of bridges in the backcountry we’ll have to do evaluations on going forward,” he said, pointing to the Rescue Creek Bridge as an example.

Sholly said there also were workers still inside the park, roughly 800 to 1,000 Park Service employees and volunteers and somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 concessionaire employees who run the hotels, restaurants and gas stations.


Election filing busy -- except in Frannie

CODY — The filing for this summer’s primary election was as busy as any in recent years in Park County.

However, that rush of enthusiasm didn’t extend to the town of Frannie. No one filed for either mayor or any of the open town council positions.

CJ Baker with the Park County Elections Office said those positions will become write-in races, at least for the primary.

In municipal races with no candidates, someone can qualify for the general election ballot if he or she receives three or more write-in votes in the primary, he said.

“In fact, two people per race could advance to the general election that way,” he wrote in an email.

That means that all candidates who are currently unopposed after the initial filing may still face an independent challenger in the general election.

Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, knows that full well as she ran unopposed in her first run for House District 50 in the primary, and then faced an independent challenger in November.

She’s again one of a number of candidates unopposed in the primary, although only two of them, county sheriff candidate Darrell Steward and City Council Ward 3 candidate Lee Ann Reiter, are unopposed as new candidates, rather than as incumbents.

As for Frannie, Baker said if no one gets three votes in the primary – or if those who receive three or more votes decline to run – then the general election ballot will have no candidates listed and it will come down to whoever gets the most write-ins.

Of course, the winner would still have to be someone who wants, or can take, the office.


Detention center reports 2 fentanyl overdoses

LARAMIE — Two inmates at the Albany County Detention Center were hospitalized last week after overdosing on fentanyl, said Albany County Sheriff Aaron Appelhans. 

A third inmate was suspected of smuggling the drug into the detention center in a body cavity and then sharing it with others. 

The inmate was charged and is awaiting a trial for the offense. 

The two inmates who overdosed have recovered, Appelhans said, adding the department is responding to how the drugs got into the jail. 

“It’s unfortunate, and we’re doing everything that we can at the center to adjust our search processes and practices to limit introduction of controlled substances within our detention center,” he said of the incident. 

He explained that the presence of fentanyl is a relatively new issue at the local detention center. 

“Substance abuse is still an issue amongst a lot of people who come into the (detention center),” Appelhans said. “We do everything we can to help the inmates out, but some people are just so hooked on a drug that they’re willing to break the law and put other people’s lives in danger just so they can have their drug.”


GoFundMe started for families of victims in Monday crash

GILLETTE — Two fundraisers have been started for the families of the victims of a car crash earlier this week. 

Halie Everts, her husband Aaron Godines and their 3-month-old daughter, Tessleigh, were three of five Gillette residents who died in a four-car crash in Colorado Monday afternoon. 

A GoFundMe campaign has been started by a friend of the Everts family. Any money raised will be given to the families to help pay for funeral costs.

Additionally, a GoFundMe for Aaron's parents, Emiliano and Christina Godines, who also died in the crash, has been started by their niece.

The crash occurred in Weld County, Colorado on Interstate 25 near mile marker 243 around 1:30 p.m. Monday.

The 2015 Ford Edge, with the five Gillette residents inside, was in the left lane driving north and is believed to have slowed down for traffic, according to the press release.

A 1999 Kenworth semi-truck, also traveling north, then rear-ended the Ford Edge at an unknown speed, causing the midsize SUV to veer off the roadway to the left and into the center median.

The semi-truck then rear-ended a 2013 Ford Focus which knocked it into a 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander. Investigators believe the semi-truck hit the Edge a second time before slamming into the cable rail in the median.

Four of the Gillette residents were declared dead at the scene of the crash. 

Aaron Godines, who was driving the Edge, was pronounced dead at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado.

The drivers of the semi-truck, Focus and Mitsubishi all sustained minor or no injuries, the release said.

The investigation is open and no charges have been filed. Drugs, alcohol or speeding are not believed to be factors.