Wyoming News Briefs July 16


July 16, 2020

Lovell woman accused of killing husband

LOVELL (WNE) — A Lovell woman faces manslaughter charges after allegedly shooting her husband twice the afternoon of July 9.

Sandra Ford, 79, was immediately taken into custody Thursday afternoon after being determined a suspect in her husband Archer’s death by the Lovell Police Department.

The two were married for more than 50 years, according to Lovell Police Chief Dan Laffin.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, dispatch received a call at 4:17 p.m. from Sandra stating that she had shot her husband. According to a statement Sandra allegedly made to the Lovell police, the incident occurred when Archer entered her bedroom unwelcomed.

According to the affidavit, Sandra stated that Archer began throwing pillows and other items at her mirror, before starting to growl at her and approach her.

According to the affidavit, Sandra said Archer then made a fist at her, threatening to kill her.

After retrieving a gun in her dresser drawer without arousing Archer’s attention, Sandra allegedly stated to police that she shot Archer once near the right shoulder and shot him a second time when he continued to approach her, resulting in his death. According to alleged statements made in the affidavit, Sandra told officers she thought if she just pointed the gun at Archer, that he would calm down and leave and that she did not intend to kill him.


Laramie attorney disbarred

LARAMIE (WNE) — The Albany County Republican Party’s former chairman, Michael Pearce, was disbarred by the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday after a state panel governing attorneys found that Pearce had engaged in “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflects on” his fitness to practice law.

Pearce was previously suspended from practicing law in 2019 after failing to meet court deadlines and failing to comply with court rules and orders in two separate cases.

Pearce was charged with assault and battery after reportedly inciting a fight while drunk at the Wyoming Republican Party Convention last month in Gillette. The fight left Pearce with a broken ankle — which resulted in the surgery — a dislocated shoulder, and bruising on his neck and face.

Shortly after, Pearce resigned as chairman of the local party. Under the party’s bylaws, vice chair John Holtz took the helm in early July.

Pearce had been representing a Laramie couple in litigation with Big Sky Insulation, and his clients in that case later filed a malpractice lawsuit against Pearce in October after he failed to comply with numerous court responsibilities, leading to his clients being sanctioned.

Pearce also forged the couple’s signatures on a settlement agreement, which they didn’t become aware of until being served with a summons regarding a complaint to enforce the settlement agreement.

After the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended his disbarment June 2, Pearce did not file an objection.


Yellowstone bear killed after biting camper

POWELL (WNE) — A black bear in Yellowstone National Park was killed by wildlife managers after it brazenly walked into a backcountry campsite, bit one of the five campers and then began eating their food.

The incident took place around 5 p.m. on July 6, at a campsite located roughly 3 miles from the Hellroaring Trailhead in northern Yellowstone, park officials announced in a Wednesday news release.

The backpackers — three adults and two children — had been sitting outside of their tents when the bear walked up and bit a woman on her arm and head, inflicting bruises and minor cuts, the release said.

The adult sow then nipped at one of the children’s hands and got into the group’s food, which, according to the release, had not yet been hung from a storage pole.

The group left the area and contacted Yellowstone authorities. When rangers arrived at the scene on horseback, “the bear was still in the campsite eating the backpackers’ food,” the National Park Service said.

Yellowstone officials decided to kill the bear because of concerns about human safety and the fact that the bear entered an occupied campsite, bit a person and “received a considerable food reward after this behavior,” the release explained.

It was the second time this year that a Yellowstone visitor has been injured by a bear: A female grizzly attacked a hiker on the Fairy Falls Trail in June and caused minor injuries, after the lone hiker apparently surprised the bear and a cub.


Coronavirus stops Thunderbird Cheyenne appearance

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The show won’t go on this year for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in Cheyenne, but a modified air show will still take place this Cheyenne Day.

Cheyenne Regional Airport Director Tim Barth told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Wednesday evening that at least one of the airplane mechanics who is required to accompany the F-16s that make up the Thunderbirds has tested positive for COVID-19. That has caused the aerial demonstration team to cancel its participation in the July 22 Wings Over Warren Airshow.

The 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs Office responsible for the show could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, but Col. Brian L. Rico, commander of the 90th Maintenance Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, confirmed the news.

“They did cancel. It’s extremely unfortunate, and we are very disappointed; however, the air show is not canceled,” Rico told the WTE. “We still have an F-22 demo and an F-35 demo, so that will be a first for Cheyenne, those are the Air Force’s newest jets. It’s going to be phenomenal. … Even if they bring one, people will be amazed.”

Rico said the base is working on getting another demonstration team to also participate in the event, but that’s not certain yet. It’s confirmed, however, that there will also be a B-1 and B-2 flyover during the national anthem at the start of the event.


Yellowstone visits down by 32% from last year

CODY (WNE) — Yellowstone Park hosted 534,155 visits in June. This is a 32% decrease from June 2019. Although the numbers were down, visitation substantially increased over the month. In the last 10 days of June, traffic counts ranged from 90%-116% of 2019 numbers.

So far in 2020, the park has hosted 667,290 visits, down 49% from the same period last year. The Park was closed due to health and safety reasons related to COVID-19 beginning March 24. The two Wyoming entrances opened on May 18 and three Montana entrances opened on June 1, 2020. All five entrances were open for the entire month.

The following list shows the year-to-date trend for recreational visits over the last several years (through June):

2020 – 667,290

2019 – 1,358,629

2018 – 1,381,708

2017 – 1,354,137

2016 – 1,432,071

2015 – 1,298,855

There were no commercial bus visits during June 2020. In June 2019, bus passengers made up 70,461 visits.


State health lab boosts testing capacity

JACKSON (WNE) — The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has seriously increased its coronavirus testing capacity.

The lab can now process more than 750 tests per day, State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said at a press conference Wednesday. When the pandemic started, the lab could only go through a few samples per day, so that is a drastic improvement.

Now that the lab has increased its capacity, it will start processing new kinds of tests as part of the state’s surveillance testing program. Cheek swabs, rather than nasal ones, are used as part of some rapid tests, so the lab will now be able to process those.

Cheek-swab tests will be used in high-risk places that need quick turnarounds on tests, like correctional facilities, which have seen devastating localized outbreaks around the country. Wastewater surveillance, which Teton County is also doing, will be added to the state’s tools for monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

Larger cities will be first in line for the wastewater testing, Harrist said, but smaller communities will be able to send in samples once the program gets rolling.


Cody woman killed in crash

POWELL (WNE) — A Cody woman died on the Greybull Highway early Monday morning, after her truck rolled over. Kema Jamal was 48.

The crash was reported around 5:15 a.m. on U.S. Highway 14/16/20, about 8 miles east of Cody.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said Jamal had been traveling east in a 2002 Ford Ranger when the truck went off the right side of the highway and hit a delineator post. Jamal steered back onto the road before overcorrecting back to the right, causing the vehicle to leave the road a second time and roll.

“Jamal was not wearing a seatbelt and succumbed to her injuries at the scene of the crash,” the patrol said in a Wednesday news release. “Impairment and fatigue are being investigated as possible contributing factors.”

It was the 50th death on Wyoming’s roadways in 2020, compared to 87 at this same point in 2019 and 54 in 2018.


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