APRIL 25 Wyoming News Briefs
Five accused of confining, abusing two women
April 25, 2019
Five accused of confining, abusing two women
RIVERTON (WNE) — Five people are in custody on charges of aggravated assault and battery following reports of confinement and assault at a Riverton residence late Saturday night
Geraldine Blackburn, 56, 32-year-old Basil Blackburn, 22-year-old Kelly Martinez of Colorado, 34-year-old Darilyn Dodge of Arapahoe, and 23-year-old Janelle Warren of Arapahoe were arrested by the Riverton Police Department.
All are women, except for Basil Blackburn.
A police report stated that two females were held against their will for approximately nine hours inside an apartment and were kicked and punched. They also had taser burn marks on their arms, necks, and facial areas.
An affidavit of the Fremont County Circuit Court of Riverton states that a woman came to police April 20 saying she had escaped confinement in the apartment by escaping through a back door, but, she said, “my sister is still in there.”
The alleged victim told police that Basil Blackburn had kicked her in the head several times, and that Kelly Martinez had stabbed her in the head with a screwdriver. Attackers then held the victim down and cut her hair with scissors, the victim said. She escaped through the rear door when attackers believed that authorities had been called.
Darilyn Dodge told police the two women had come to the residence “to drink with everyone,” and that they drank together freely, after which Geraldine Blackburn slapped one of the alleged victims, and all subjects then began “jumping” the two girls, the affidavit states.
On Tuesday before Judge Wesley A. Roberts, the five faced various charges related to unlawful confinement, including conspiracy to commit unlawful confinement, aiding or abetting unlawful confinement, and counseling or encouraging unlawful confinement. The charges are punishable by between 20 years and life in prison.
Visitor brings first Wyoming case of mumps in eight years
JACKSON (WNE) — Wyoming recorded its first case of mumps in eight years last month after St. John’s Medical Center staff diagnosed the communicable disease in a visiting Colorado woman.
“We never want to overreact but we never want to under-react either,” Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said. “This is an unusual thing, but there’s really no cause for concern for the community.”
There was no community exposure risk at the time of the diagnosis, officials from the Wyoming Department of Health, Teton County Health Department and the hospital determined. The two-week incubation period has passed.
There are only a few hundred cases of mumps, a contagious viral disease, nationally every year. So far in 2019, 426 cases have been recorded.
Symptoms typically start with fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and a loss of appetite before the salivary glands swell, leading to telltale puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw.
Although the vaccine has “drastically” reduced mumps cases — a 99 percent reduction from about 186,000 reported cases a year before 1989 — outbreaks still occur, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Such surges tend to happen among groups of people who have prolonged close contact through things like sharing water bottles, kissing, practicing sports or living in close quarters with someone who has mumps.
But local vaccination rates are only one piece of the puzzle for a town that’s a travel destination.
“We have people coming here from all over the world where these illnesses are still in high prevalence,” Dr. Jim Little Jr. said. “So we’re at a higher risk than a lot of places in the world just because we’re a tourist destination.”
Student on life support after bus accident
SHERIDAN (WNE) — A student at Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School remains in critical condition after being pulled under a school bus Monday afternoon.
Due to brain swelling, six-year-old Esperanza Lagunes-Aarstad is in a coma and on life support at Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.
According to Lagunes-Aarstad’s mother, Kayla Lagunes-Rivera, and stepfather, Terry Dieleman, the outlook on the child’s life is grim. Lagunes-Rivera and Dieleman said they will have a better sense of Lagunes-Aarstad’s prognosis Wednesday afternoon, but the family is preparing for the worst.
If Lagunes-Aarstad survives, her life will be permanently altered as a result of the serious injuries she suffered.
“She’s not going to be the same,” Lagunes-Rivera said.
According to Sheridan Police Department and from what Lagunes-Rivera and Dieleman were told, Lagunes-Aarstad was trying to catch her bus home from school. When Lagunes-Aarstad attempted to get the driver’s attention by running at the side of the bus, she tripped and was pulled under the vehicle.
SPD is overseeing the investigation into the incident with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol. SPD Lt. Travis Koltiska said based on the preliminary investigation there are no anticipated charges toward the bus driver.
Lagunes-Rivera and Dieleman said they plan to pursue legal action against the bus driver and Sheridan County School District 2.
However, the potential for future compensation provides little comfort at the moment.
“There’s not any amount of money that could undo what happened to my daughter,” Lagunes-Rivera said. “There’s nothing that could fix that.”
Suspect in Yellowstone assault sentenced to prison
POWELL (WNE) — A man who reportedly assaulted two tourists in Yellowstone National Park last summer has received a 6.5- year prison sentence.
Jackson Burley Coombs, 30, received the sentence from U.S. District Court Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal on Wednesday, after pleading guilty to one count of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of simple assault.
Coombs was arrested by Yellowstone park rangers after a report of an assault in progress at the Xanterra Cabin Community Bathrooms at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Federal prosecutors said Coombs hid in a stall in the women’s bathroom, with his face wrapped in toilet paper. After a woman entered another stall, he banged on her door until it opened and then began punching her in the face and head; at one point, he grabbed her by the jaw.
The woman was able to yell for help and her traveling companion entered the bathroom to help her. Coombs then assaulted the companion and used bear spray on both victims.
A passerby also entered the bathroom and helped subdue the suspect until park rangers arrived. The female suffered a concussion as well as many bruises and cuts to her face.
“The nature and circumstances of the unprovoked assault in this case are truly appalling,” said Mark A. Klaassen, the U.S. attorney for Wyoming.
After completing his prison sentence, Coombs will be on supervised release for 36 months. He was also ordered to pay $2,199 in restitution and a $125 special assessment.
Gillette College to offer engineering program
GILLETTE (WNE) — If everything goes according to plan, students will be able to earn the first two years of an engineering degree at Gillette College, thanks to a partnership with the University of Wyoming.
Michael Pishko, dean of UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, has been working with the college and the county for the last two to three years to make it happen, said Commissioner Mark Christensen.
Now, the county, Gillette College and UW are working on a contract, which includes hiring an engineering instructor at $120,000 a year. That person would teach part-time at the college, but also provide engineering extension services to the community.
The engineering program will begin this fall.
Christensen said the college already has one engineering position, so between the two instructors, Gillette College “could deliver almost everything you need for the first two years of an engineering curriculum.”
Whatever classes the two instructors can’t teach can be done remotely, he added. Students will then be able to finish their degree at UW.
Christensen said Pishko wants to hire someone who’s not necessarily an academic, but has had a long career in engineering.
The contract is nearly complete. The county would pay for the instructor for the first two years, and by the third year UW will take it over.
The $120,000 will put the county’s funding for the college this next fiscal year at more than $1 million.
Monday, the commissioners voted to give the college $520,000 from Optional 1% Sales Tax, and $364,000 from lottery/off-track betting money. The money will pay for instructors and custodians.