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MAY 31 Wyoming News Briefs

Sheridan Co. flash flood watch prompts emergency declaration


May 30, 2019

Sheridan Co. flash flood watch prompts emergency declaration

SHERIDAN (WNE) — An emergency declaration was issued Thursday afternoon by the Sheridan County Commissioners in response to the flash flood watch from the National Weather Service in Billings for Friday, May 31.

The emergency declaration is bringing state assistance from the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, according to a joint press release from Sheridan County Emergency Management and the State Engineer’s Office. Additional loads of sand and sandbags are being deployed to Sheridan and will begin to arrive Thursday night and Friday morning.

This declaration is precautionary, and there is no imminent threat, states the press release. However, streams and tributaries across Sheridan County remain high, and the ground is completely saturated.

The recent flooding was due to up to 4 inches of rain that fell from May 26-28, “which is quite remarkable,” the press release states. Most of the rain fell in the foothills and lower elevations, while higher elevation areas of the Bighorn Mountains received significant snow.

Flooding throughout the county was in no way due to releases from Park Reservoir or any other mountain reservoir, the press release notes. Most of the reservoirs of significance are well below capacity as of 5 p.m. Thursday, but they may begin voluntary releases to prepare for the impending runoff.

The snowmelt runoff could be significant depending on further precipitation and warmer weather.


Tribal judge faces new drug charges

RIVERTON (WNE) — With one federal arraignment already behind her, Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Court Judge Terri Smith now is facing three new federal drug indictments - this time with two named co-conspirators.

The new federal charges of distributing cocaine, distributing oxycodone, and of using text messaging to arrange oxycodone delivery, add to her existing drug-texting and cocaine-dealing charges for a total of five criminal counts that could result in up to 68 years in prison and $3.5 million in fines, maximum.

Two of Smith's several codefendants in the case have been named in the new indictment: her sister Jerri Lee Smith, of Salt Lake City, and Thomas Brown, also of Salt Lake City.

Both Jerri Smith and Brown are accused only of count one: dealing oxycodone, while Terri Smith is accused of all three of the new charges. However, Jerri Smith is facing three more drug charges through another May 24 indictment, which she shares with co-conspirator Albert Mascarenaz, including distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine, and possession of meth and cocaine.

Judge Smith's first two indictments occurred March 19. She was arraigned in Lander March 27, where, visibly pregnant, she pleaded "not guilty" to both.


Man sentenced to 5-10 years for fourth domestic assault conviction

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A man who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of strangulation of his partner was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison on Thursday.

Daniel James’ sentence Tuesday had been recommended by the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office as part of a plea deal. For James’ guilty plea, the DA’s Office would agree not to re-file his case as a habitual offender, which would have increased his prison sentence.

Felony strangulation of a household member carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

This case marks the fourth time James has been convicted of domestic violence against his partner – his previous convictions were in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The two had been dating for 12 years and have two children together.

In this most recent case, James was arrested on July 24 after a witness saw James in a physical fight with his partner while she was driving the two.

According to court documents, the witness followed the car after seeing James assault his girlfriend, and told an officer with the Cheyenne Police Department he saw James strangle the woman while she was driving the car. A CPD officer pulled over the car and observed the woman had marks on her neck and said she had trouble breathing.

In court Tuesday, a letter was read from James’ victim before his sentence was handed down. In the letter, she said she had been through this with James on multiple occasions but wouldn’t do it again.

“I would end up dead if I do,” the woman’s letter read.


EPA agrees to Pinedale water study

PINEDALE (WNE) — The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the scope of a study on Fremont Lake and the town of Pinedale’s municipal water supply. Meanwhile, the town has applied for an Emergency Mineral Royalty Grant to help defer the continuing costs of the mandated study.

Pinedale Mayor Matt Murdock updated council members at their May 28 meeting. All five council members were in attendance including Murdock, Judi Boyce, John Paravicini, Tyler Swafford and Dean Loftus.

To date, the town has only approved $35,000 for the study even though it expects the costs to skyrocket to $280,000 as more testing is needed.

Murdock said the study does not technically meet the criteria established by the State Land and Investment Board for the emergency grant, but the board, comprised of the state’s five top elected officials, could pay a portion of the costs.

Murdock said if the study is done correctly and with credibility, it could save an emergency request next year to par for a $16-million filtration system.

The study of Fremont Lake by Jorgensen, Strike Engineering and JVA was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency with three conditions – identifying locations for bacteriological monitoring during the summer months, determining if monitoring needs to be completed for pharmaceutical and personal care products to determine if human waste is a contributing factor on the lake and also a justification for terminating total coliform monitoring.

Murdock added the town’s water supply is safe to drink and all tests from the distribution system continue to show no contamination. In addition, the council approved using the town’s newly licensed lab to conduct bacterial testing for other government agencies.


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