Wyoming news briefs for May 13

Posted

Cam-Plex general manager resigns

GILLETTE — Jeff Esposito, general manager of Cam-Plex, resigned last Thursday, leaving the multi-use facility without a director as it approaches a busy summer that includes the National High School Finals Rodeo in July.

Two other management-level Cam-Plex employees also resigned in recent weeks.

Sandra Olsen, director of sales and marketing, and Paul Storiale, performing arts manager, have also resigned, said Darin Edmonds, chairman of the Campbell County Public Land Board, adding that neither of those resignations are related to Esposito’s resignation.

Esposito was hired to head Cam-Plex in April 2018 and started the job that May.

"It was really a matter of wanting to be closer to our family,” Esposito said. “We’re headed back east and this will put us within driving distance of all of our family.”

Esposito, who came to Gillette from Erie, Pennsylvania, accepted another position and is moving to Ownensboro, Kentucky.

“Where we’re at within 60 days of rodeo, we’re going to have to figure out who's steering the ship right away,” Edmonds said.

Land Board members are now tasked with finding a short-term and long-term replacement as the facility navigates the upcoming rodeo finals, pursuit of a facilities master plan, negotiates the upcoming International Pathfinders Camporee and weighs the prospect of building an indoor arena to host national finals rodeos long-term.

The land board has an agenda item to discuss the vacant general manager position.

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Torres arraigned on first-degree murder charge

SHERIDAN — Christian Torres pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency to a first-degree murder charge before 9th Judicial District Court Judge Melissa Owens Wednesday. The 15-year-old defendant’s trial is scheduled to proceed Sept. 6-16. 

Torres was initially charged with second-degree — or not premeditated — murder. However, after a second preliminary hearing determined adequate probable cause to bind the defendant over to district court on the charge, Torres is accused of the first-degree — or premeditated — murder of his adoptive father, Edgar “Eddie” Jones on July 27, 2021. 

The charge is a felony punishable by life imprisonment if the defendant is younger than 18 years of age, a $10,000 fine or both. 

If Torres is convicted of the charge this year, he will be eligible for parole in 2047, barring any disqualifying behavior. 

A competency evaluation by the Wyoming State Hospital is already underway, said Jonathan Foreman, one of Torres’ defense attorneys. An additional evaluation found Torres competent to proceed with criminal legal hearings was completed  — and Torres was found competent — in March. 

Deputy Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Christopher LaRosa expressed concerns Torres’ trial would not have commenced within 180 days of his initial arraignment for second-degree murder — which took place March 15 — and would violate Wyoming statute that requires a speedy trial take place within 180 days of a defendant’s arraignment except in certain circumstances. 

As a result, Owens scheduled Torres’ trial to begin Sept. 6, before the close of the 180-day window Sept. 11. A pretrial hearing will be conducted Aug. 1.

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Texas man’s sex-abuse trial set for Sept. 19

PINEDALE — The Texas man charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse of a minor in 2014 – when he was 30 and the minor was 8 – pleaded not guilty in 9th District Court on April 28. 

A warrant was issued in May 2021 for Jesus I. Castillo Duarte, now 38, who was apprehended in Texas and brought to Sublette County in March, court records show. 

His court file was sealed until Duarte was bound over to 9th District Court after waiving his preliminary hearing, making his name public. The victim’s identification is still confidential. 

The minor girl told a counselor last year that Duarte touched her inappropriately several years earlier when she was about 9 years old, records show. 

He allegedly came to a previous family home and sexually molested her, she said.

The Wyoming Department of Family Services reported it to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. Detective Travis Lanning interviewed the minor and parents to pinpoint the time frame as July 3, 2014 – the summer before the minor started fourth grade in another school, according to his affidavit. 

Judge Marv Tyler set Duarte’s five-day jury trial for Sept. 19 and ordered pre-sentence and substance abuse reports. Duarte remains in custody in lieu of $50,000 bond.

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Grizzly 399, cubs begin separating

JACKSON — Grizzly 399 and her four cubs appear to be separating, a behavior that's been expected since the famous fivesome emerged from the den on Easter weekend.

Grand Teton National Park Chief of Staff Jeremy Barnum confirmed in a text that 399 had been spotted Thursday with a male bear in the park near Moose.

Three of the offspring were in the same general area, he said. One was spotted farther north in the park. That official report followed similar observations from wildlife watchers. 

Arguably the most famous bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 399 has raised her young near roads in Teton Park for going on 16 years. The four-cub litter that she's reared since 2020 is the largest the now 26-year-old bear has mothered.

Grizzly females tend to raise their cubs for two and half to three years before separating. Wildlife managers have said for months that they expected the cubs to strike out on their own this spring.

A question now is where she and her cubs will roam and whether they'll get into trouble. They made waves last year getting into human food in the developed southern areas of Jackson Hole and receiving a personal detail from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they did so.

Two of the cubs were radio collared, and those collars are expected to drop off in mid-July. 

The fivesome ventured south once already this year, where they gave West Bankers a show on the Snake River Ranch just south of Teton Village.

The bears have since re-entered the park. On Tuesday, the fivesome remained in sight for a significant amount of time, giving wildlife watchers and tourists alike a chance to see them together before the separation began.