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Wyoming News Briefs JULY 12

Cheyenne man found guilty of second-degree murder

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A seven-man, five-woman Laramie County jury found a Cheyenne man guilty Thursday of second-degree murder for fatally shooting another man after an argument over a marijuana pipe.

Charles “Charlie” Richmond, 78, was convicted of shooting John Paul “J.P.” Birgenheier three times with a shotgun after a Dec. 5, 2018, argument outside a home on Belaire Avenue.

Richmond was originally charged with first-degree murder.

During witness testimony, Laramie County assistant district attorneys had tried to prove to the jury that Richmond had time to think and plan the murder after the two men had argued, while defense attorneys said Richmond shot Birgenheier in self-defense.

Wyoming statute defines second-degree murder as a killing that is committed “purposely and maliciously, but without premeditation.”

Jury deliberations began shortly after 11 a.m. Jurors took more than five hours to reach a verdict.

Richmond was remanded to the custody of Laramie County deputies pending a sentencing hearing.

According to trial testimony, the two men were living on the same property. Richmond was renting a basement room in the house, while Birgenheier was living in a camper on the property.

Jurors on Wednesday viewed a video recording of Richmond’s interview with Cheyenne Police Department Detective Jim Harper. In the interview, Richmond painted Birgenheier as the initial aggressor, saying he came to his room and knocked him down to the floor as the argument ensued.

Richmond said after Birgenheier left the room, he went upstairs from the basement and told Birgenheier to leave the property because he didn’t pay rent. Richmond said he later shot Birgenheier only after he began to charge toward him.


Laramie man sentenced to 13-20 years for attack on girlfriend

LARAMIE (WNE) — A Laramie man was sentenced to 13-20 years of imprisonment this week for an attack on his then-girlfriend in 2017 for which he was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken sentenced Cooper Schorzman to prison Tuesday after the 26-year-old took a plea deal in January that saw him plead guilty to kidnapping, strangulation of a household member and child endangerment.

In turn, the charge of attempted murder was dropped, and attorneys argued for Schorzman to face 10-15 years for the kidnapping conviction and 3-5 years for the strangulation charge.

On Sept. 19, 2017, Albany County sheriff’s deputy Jay Peyton was dispatched to a residence on Roger Canyon Road, where he found Schorzman’s then-girlfriend, who had “observed red marks on her neck and she was visibly upset,” according to Peyton’s affidavit.

After the girlfriend picked Schorzman up from work that day, he began driving back to their house but, instead of stopping at home, continued to drive down Roger Canyon Road, the affidavit states.

When Schorzman’s girlfriend tried calling 911, the defendant broke the phone.

Schorzman later contested that characterization, saying he only broke her phone after she “called a guy to prove that she was going to leave me for him.”

When his girlfriend questioned his actions, he repeatedly stated “you’re f-ing done.”

When she tried getting out of the moving truck, Schorzman “grabbed her by the hair and wrenched her hair back and grabbed her leg to keep her in the vehicle,” the girlfriend said.


Woman hurt, man dies in Pinedale house fire

PINEDALE (WNE) — A woman was life-flighted early Thursday after a fire devastated

the single-family home at 121 N. Ashley Ave. in Pinedale. Its causes and the identity of a deceased man trapped inside are still under investigation.

Tricia Gunderson, 57, of Pinedale, was transported by ambulance to the Pinedale Medical Clinic with acute smoke inhalation and burns and then flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, according to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. She was moved to another hospital Thursday; her condition is unknown.

The fire was reported Wednesday at 10:50 p.m. by neighbor Channing Stockman,

who told the Roundup he was in his apartment playing his guitar when he smelled smoke and heard a woman screaming.

He went to the house, where he could see flames and Gunderson inside the house screaming, “Get out, get out.”

He helped her off the porch and called 911. Stockman said the woman believed a man was still inside the house but the fire engulfed the interior so he did not go in.

Sublette County Unified Fire responded with 10 apparatus and 32 firefighters; a crew tried to enter and search the home but was pushed back by heavy smoke and flames.

Noxious smoke billowed from the home and drifted through the west side of town for hours after firefighters arrived and knocked down flames that bystanders said burst up as high as trees around the property. Firefighters hosed down the house from the side and back as flames flickered occasionally in the attic and edge of the roof.


Goshen County School District considers drug-testing policy for students

TORRINGTON (WNE) — The Goshen County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees discussed at its regular meeting July 9 the merits and drawbacks of mandatory drug testing for seventh-grade through senior students involved in extracurricular activities.

On one hand, Trustees said, GCSD budgets $20,000 annually for student drug testing, and in the face of increased budget constraints, suspending the program would save the district money.

“I am of the opinion that it’s spending of funds we aren’t necessarily seeing a return on,” Trustee Christine Miller said, adding she’s heard of students figuring out how to test clean when they’ve used drugs. “I have concerns about that. I’m not sure it’s something I would like to see continue.”

Chair Kath Patrick mentioned the honor program, in which students pledge to remain clean.

Ryan Clayton worried about drug use in the area growing if the testing stops.

Carlos Saucedo explained the policy is made to prevent drug use and should not be seen as a “Gotcha!” tactic.

“If (a student tests positive), we have next steps to follow,” he said, continuing to say without the policy, students are at a greater risk of engaging in negative behavior. “This could be the last step in a couple of kids’ journey, saying ‘I want to stay clean’” and falling back on the policy, Saucedo said. “I would really hate to lose it.”

Zach Miller suggested there may be less expensive alternatives to the current policy the district could explore in the future.

No action was taken on the matter.