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Wyoming News Briefs SEPTEMBER 13

Man killed in crash with bus

RIVERTON (WNE) — An Arapahoe man died Tuesday night after driving his vehicle into the back of a school bus south of Riverton, officials said Wednesday.

No one else was seriously injured in the crash, but there were students on the bus, eight of whom suffered minor injuries, as did their driver, according to reports.

All were treated and released from local hospitals Tuesday evening.

The man who rear-ended the bus, Merlin George Black, 44, of Arapahoe, was pronounced dead at about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday after being transported to a local hospital, according to reports.

The crash took place at about 8:35 p.m. Tuesday at the traffic light on Wyoming Highway 789 and Rendezvous Road.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Travis Hauser said the southbound school bus, which was carrying the Lander Middle School football team home from a game in Worland, was stopped at the light when Black's Ford Escape "smashed right into the back of them."

"There was no sign of braking or trying to swerve out of the way or anything," Hauser said. "He just ran right into the back of them."

Black was not ejected from the vehicle and was wearing a seatbelt, but the shoulder strap was tucked underneath his armpit, Hauser said.

He noted that investigators found open containers of alcohol on the driver's side floorboard of Black's vehicle.

"We do think alcohol was involved," Hauser said, adding that speed may have been a contributing factor as well.


Couple sentenced for selling land they didn’t own

EVANSTON (WNE) — A married couple has been ordered to pay nearly $10,000 in restitution to an Evanston woman after the woman paid them a down payment toward construction of a home on property that did not actually belong to the couple.

Robert and Mary Clark appeared separately in Third District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 10, for change of plea hearings and sentencing in the case.

The Clarks were charged in May after the victim in the case, Terry Brooks, met with Evanston Police Detective Jake Williams about payments she had made to Robert Clark. Brooks had written four checks totaling the $9,800, paid between Jan. 14 and Apr. 22.

Further investigation into the supposed real estate deal revealed the Clarks had met with a local realtor to discuss the purchase of property in the Twin Ridge area from Yellow Creek Ranch Company Inc., which is owned by Evanston developer Mike Pexton. However, that sale had never actually transpired.

As the result of a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office, Mary pleaded no contest to the count of conspiring to obtain property by false pretenses and the count of wrongfully taking or disposing of property was dismissed. She was sentenced to 18-36 months of incarceration, which was suspended, and placed on three years of supervised probation in addition to being ordered to pay restitution to the victim.

The State’s recommendation for Robert Clark was a sentence of four to eight years of incarceration, the bulk of which would be suspended, with Robert Clark serving 180 days in jail followed by three years of supervised probation, along with the restitution.


WBC to ask for 10 percent funding increase

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Wyoming Business Council’s Board of Directors voted to request a 10 percent budget increase from the state for the coming biennium to support a more robust economic diversification push during its quarterly meeting Wednesday.

The budget request reflects the WBC’s commitment to a new strategy, which the board adopted in May, that intends to focus on adding value to the state’s current core economic sectors and create programs and services to activate new economic sectors in the state.

The approach requires a shift in the WBC budget, however, WBC Chief Operating Officer Amy Grenfell said.

The WBC’s current budget allocates 60 percent of its total funding to the Business Ready Communities grant program and the remaining 40 percent to internal operations and payroll.

Executing the WBC’s new strategy would require either changing those allocations to create room for more economic diversification programs or requesting a larger overall budget to fund those new programs, Grenfell said.

BRC grants provide funding for publicly-owned infrastructure that promotes economic development.

The 10 percent budget increase the board settled on will still require a slight reduction to the BRC program, and board co-chair Megan Overmann Goetz asked that the board make its budget request contingent on hearing feedback from WBC stakeholders.


Man sentenced to probation in assault on minor

EVANSTON (WNE) — An Evanston man appeared in Third District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 10, changing his plea to guilty to a charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree.

Andres Aguilar, who was 32 years old at the time, was originally charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree in addition to the third-degree charge stemming from an incident that occurred in 2018 involving a female victim who was between the ages of 13 and 15 at the time.

An affidavit filed at the time of arrest by Evanston Police Detective Scott Faddis indicates Faddis was called to Evanston Regional Hospital on June 25, 2018, to meet with the victim and her mother. The victim said she had been babysitting at the home of a family friend when Aguilar came to the home and sexually assaulted her. The victim also told detectives it was not the first time Aguilar had sexual contact with her and described an incident that had occurred about a month prior when he had touched her over her clothing.

With the three counts, Aguilar was initially facing up to 55 years in prison and $30,000 in fines; however, through a plea agreement he was sentenced to 18 to 48 months, all suspended other than the 186 days he had been in custody at the Uinta County Jail, and three years of supervised probation.

Judge Joseph Bluemel said he has seen what it does to victims when they have to testify in court and said Aguilar’s decision to plead guilty, accept responsibility and not make the victim testify weighed favorably on his sentence.