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Wyoming News Briefs Dec. 25

Donors pay off school lunch debt

CODY — Cody School District nutrition director Gen Sheets was in shock – in a week, multiple anonymous donors wiped clean all of the student meal debt across the district just before the start of Christmas break.

Just like that $1,355 was wiped clean.

Sheets said in her five years at the district, its the third substantial donation to pay off food debt, although more anonymous donors will swoop in during the school year to pay off all debt at a certain school.

“It blows me away because most of the time people giving these donations have no skin in the game, no kids at school, no grandkids,” she said. “They genuinely just want to build a stronger community, which is neat.”

The district has multiple ways of almost always preventing a situation where a student compiles the max $25 in debt. There are federal free and reduced lunch programs and the schools will intervene to identify the problem, but for many reasons debt can pile up, at which point schools will use extra money set aside to step in and help pay for lunches.

That money is often compiled through small donations made throughout the year.

“Our community is so wonderful,” Sheets said. “Thank you again for everyone who helps us year-round to grow a stronger community by providing love and compassion for our children.”


Cheyenne man sentenced to prison for child porn

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Cheyenne man accused of more than 50 counts of child pornography was sentenced Monday afternoon in Laramie County District Court.

Rick Allen Bennefield was originally set to face trial on the charges before he entered into a last-minute verbal plea agreement to plead no contest to two of the 56 counts the night before his trial was set to commence.

Bennefield was sentenced Monday by District Judge Steven Sharpe to 10 to 12 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a child, and five to six years suspended for three years of probation for possession of child pornography, to be served consecutively. This means after Bennefield serves his 10- to 12-year prison sentence, he will have three years of probation to complete.

According to court documents:

On Nov. 16, 2017, police began investigating Bennefield for sexually assaulting a juvenile. They received a warrant to seize all electronics that could store data of the sexual assault or child pornography.

Police confiscated several of his devices, including a cellphone, DVR systems and laptops. On the computer, police found several pornographic videos and photographs of children. Police counted more than 500 photos of child pornography on the computer hard drive.

On his cellphone, police found more child pornography dating back to February 2015.


Marbleton moves toward vape ban

PINEDALE (WNE) — The agenda listed discussion of a proposed ordinance to ban vaping and flavored tobacco products but the Marbleton Town Council voted to amend the agenda and pass its first reading at its Dec. 16 meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Mack Bradley sat in for Mayor Jim Robinson, who was absent. Councilmembers Jeff McCormick, Roger McMannis and BJ Meador were also present.

The only place in Marbleton that sells flavored tobaccos and vaping products is the Loaf N Jug, which is a large corporation with managers outside of Sublette County.

The council at Robinson’s suggestion supported writing a letter to ask the corporate bosses to reconsider sales in Marbleton.

Attorney Thayne Peterson said he tried several times to reach a regional manager “who said he sent it up the ladder.” He presented the draft Ordinance 2019-05 for discussion, adding he was recently in Boston where a year’s ban just ended and some restrictions remain in place. He said the Marbleton ordinance could read that the ban stays in place until it is revoked, modified or withdrawn.

“I’m all for pushing this through,” Bradley said.

McMannis made a motion to amend the agenda and to pass the first reading, seconded by Meador. It was approved unanimously. The ordinance will be read again for a vote during the next council meeting on Jan. 6.


Man charged in series of fires sent to treatment program

LARAMIE (WNE) — Laramie resident Samuel Pennington, 23, is scheduled to go to a high-intensity drug treatment program after being released from jail in January.

Pennington was sentenced earlier this month after pleading guilty to causing numerous fires around Laramie between September 2018 and January 2019.

Prosecutor Becky Farley had recommended at sentencing that Pennington be sentenced to 3-5 years imprisonment.

Farley said the case merited prison time because, in part, of the risk that Pennington could have injured someone.

Pennington has been in jail since Jan. 15, and Albany County district court Judge Tori Kricken ruled to suspend an 8-10 year prison sentence and have Pennington released from jail in January to attend a 12-month-minimum in-patient drug treatment program or in Laramie County’s drug court program.

The prison sentence could be reinstated if Pennington were to violate the terms of his probation or not complete his drug treatment.

After an extensive Laramie Police Department investigation, Pennington was charged in January with seven counts of third-degree arson and three counts of burglary.

The first fire in a dumpster at The Verge Apartments, since renamed to Alight Laramie, was reported by Pennington himself.

Three other fires allegedly started by Pennington — vehicle fires on Oct. 18 and Jan. 8 and a trash compacter fire Jan. 14 — were also located at The Verge near his apartment.

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