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Wyoming News Briefs OCTOBER 2


September 26, 2019

Campbell commissioners approve Blackjewel tax plan

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County Commissioners approved a payment plan with Eagle Specialty Materials at their regular meeting Tuesday, contingent upon the company making about 600 former Blackjewel LLC employees whole.

Eagle Specialty Materials is scheduled to take over the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines from Contura Energy Inc. on Friday, according to information presented to the commission. Commissioners Administrative Director Carol Seeger said the one of the terms in the bill of sale in the closing transaction Friday is a payment of $1.8 million to make the employees whole.

Eagle Specialty Materials, a subsidiary of Alabama-based FM Coal, will pay Campbell County 50% of the taxes Blackjewel owed for the first half of 2019, which is about $8.7 million. It also will pay 50% of taxes for the second half of 2019 up through Oct. 4, when its scheduled to take over the mines over a period of five years.

From there, it will pay the county mineral production taxes on a monthly basis.

Also part of the agreement is Contura paying the county $13.5 million of the $15.1 million it owes in unpaid production taxes.

Contura was the winning bidder for the mines during Blackjewel's bankruptcy auction. The deal was pending an agreement with the federal government over unpaid royalties.

It also has been in talks with at least two companies to take over the mines, reopen them and operate them in perpetuity. Two weeks ago, Contura announced it had a deal with FM Coal that would pay FM $90 million to assume about $250 million worth of reclamation obligations for the Powder River Basin mines.


Man who died in five-car crash identified

LARAMIE (WNE) — A Utah man was identified as the one who died Monday in a crash on Wyoming Highway 230.

The five-vehicle crash near the turn for Harmony Elementary School caused the highway to close for multiple hours in the afternoon and evening.

A Ford Superduty pickup truck was stopped on the highway around milepost 19 waiting to make a left turn onto Tumbleweed Lane, according to a Wyoming Highway Patrol news release.

Also driving eastbound behind the Ford Superduty was a 2000 Peterbilt tractor-trailer, driven by 52-year-old Utah resident Matthew Anderson, and a 2012 GMC pickup driven by 37-year-old Laramie resident Brandon Chimenti.

Chimenti pulled out to pass Anderson’s tractor-trailer. Although he completed the pass, he did “not notice that the Ford pickup was stopped, waiting to make a left turn,” the news release said.

The GMC pickup collided with the rear of the Ford pickup, pushing the pickup into the westbound lane of travel and into the path of a 2015 Peterbilt, resulting in a head-on collision.

The collision caused the 2015 Peterbilt, driven by 56-year-old Bayard, Nebraska, resident William Bennett, to lose control and drift into the eastbound lane, where it collided head-on with Anderson’s tractor-trailer, causing it to roll one time.

Officers are investigating driver inattention, unsafe passing and Chimenti’s speed as possible contributing factors to the crash, according to the news release.


Two Green River residents die in accident

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Two people from Green River died Friday night in a head-on collision on an Interstate 80 exit ramp around milepost 91 near Green River.

Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched to the area for a motor vehicle collision around 11:10 p.m. Sept. 27.

Robert Wiley, a 30-year-old Green River resident was driving a 2013 Dodge Ram westbound on Interstate 80 and exited onto Exit 91. Investigators said 42-year-old Kelly Walk of Green River was driving a 2013 Dodge Dart that was traveling the wrong way on the same exit ramp, and the vehicles collided head-on.

Walk and passenger Michelle Powers, 41, of Green River were both wearing their seat belts but succumbed to their injuries at the scene of the crash.

Wiley was not wearing his seat belt and was transported by helicopter to University of Utah for injuries sustained in the crash.

Driver impairment on the part of Walk is being investigated as a possible contributing factor, according to a press release.

This is the 122nd and 123rd fatalities on Wyoming’s roadways in 2019 compared to 86 at the same date in 2018, 109 in 2017, and 91 in 2016.


Torrington murder trial set for February

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Jamie Snyder will stand trial on Feb. 10, 2020, for the murder of Wade Erschabeck in May 2018.

After extensive evaluations on Snyder and his mental state when the murder occurred, Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Patrick Korell ruled the defense would be allowed to obtain its own forensic evaluation, but “that the case may now proceed to trial with no further suspension of proceedings for a mental evaluation.”

When the case does go to trial, the prosecution will not be seeking the death penalty. Goshen County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Boyer filed a motion on Sept. 17 to announce the state would not be seeking capital punishment.

“After a thorough review of the relevant issues, … (the state) does not intend to seek the death penalty,” Boyer wrote in the motion.

The trial date comes after more than a year of legal posturing by both sides.

Snyder is accused of fatally stabbing Wade Erschabeck in May 2018.

According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed in the case by Sheriff Kory Fleenor, an eyewitness to the stabbing said Snyder aggressively followed a pickup truck the eyewitness and Erschabeck were riding in to a friend’s house. The eyewitness said the victim approached the driver’s side of the truck Snyder was driving and said he could tell “Snyder was psyching himself up for a confrontation.”

The witness reported he saw Snyder exit his truck, and that Snyder then “aggressively and very quickly moved around the front of the pickup and stabbed Erschabeck in the chest,” the affidavit said.


Business owners accused in drug investigation

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Two Rock Springs business owners are accused of working with out-of-state sources to sell methamphetamine and heroin for redistribution in Sweetwater County.

Since September 2018, special agents from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Southwest Enforcement Team (SWET), task force officers with Green River Police Department, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Evanston Police Department, Uinta County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol, in cooperation with the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office, began an investigation into the illegal distribution, transportation, and use of methamphetamine and heroin in Sweetwater County.

DCI agents identified Alexis “Lexi” K. Morgan and Albert E. Morgan as alleged sources of supply for methamphetamine and heroin. The Morgans are accused of bringing in multiple pound quantities of methamphetamine and heroin for redistribution in Sweetwater County, according to a press release.

Agents conducted controlled purchases of methamphetamine from the Morgans and several co-conspirators, totaling over 1 kilogram of methamphetamine, according to a press release. Lab analysis revealed the purchases proved to be 99% pure methamphetamine.

DCI agents learned Lexi and Albert Morgan both own and/or manage the A&M Pawn Shop located at 431 N. Front St. in Rock Springs, and were allegedly operating the drug trafficking organization through the shop.

On July 15, DCI agents, in cooperation with GRPD and Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, served five residential search warrants in the Rock Springs area and arrested 26 members of the organization, according to the release.


Cheyenne schools hire diversity facilitator

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Laramie County School District 1 has filled a new position designed to address discrimination issues after racist and homophobic fliers distributed by students at Cheyenne’s McCormick Junior High earlier this year sparked an investigation and district-wide discussions.

Patti Paredes started working as the district’s diversity facilitator and coach after the LCSD1 Board of Trustees approved the hire during its Sept. 16 meeting.

The position was created in May as part of the district’s action plan developed in the wake of racial and homophobic harassment at McCormick Junior High. Paredes’s job will focus on promoting equity, diversity and inclusion within the district and providing training for staff.

“I would say we are not unique,” Paredes said in a prepared statement. “Many communities across the nation are struggling with changes in their demographics and addressing issues of diversity, race, equity and inclusion.”

Paredes comes to the district after spending eight years with Denver Public Schools, where she served as a principal supervisor and chief of staff for a DPS assistant superintendent.

Paredes’s office is located at McCormick Junior High School, where the incident occurred in March, but she will work on issues throughout the district and eventually transfer to an office in the LCSD1 administrative building.


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