Wednesday Wyoming Briefs


February 10, 2022

New Wyoming Supreme Court Justice sworn in

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Former 4th Judicial District Judge John Fenn was officially sworn in as a Wyoming Supreme Court justice Friday, surrounded by friends, family and members of Wyoming state government.

Appointed to the court in December 2021, Fenn left his position as 4th Judicial District Court Judge in Sheridan County to start his new role at the Wyoming Supreme Court Jan. 17.

“I can tell you with the utmost confidence and certainty that Judge — now Justice — Fenn is the whole package. We are indeed getting a good one, and our team remains strong,” said Justice Lynne Boomgaarden.

Fenn recited his new oath of office — promising to obey and defend the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions — and his wife, Armella Fenn, bestowed the justice’s new black robe.

“It’s with great honor and humility that I am here today and to serve on the Wyoming Supreme Court,” Fenn said before the crowd. “It’s also been a great honor to serve Sheridan and Johnson counties as their judge.”

Fenn promised to continue his strict adherence to the rule of law and to retain his impartiality as a new justice.

As Fenn took his seat with the other four justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kate Fox offered him a warm reception.

“Welcome to the bench, Justice Fenn,” Fox said.

This story was published on Feb. 8, 2022.


Hero passerby rescues family from fire

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — A passerby is being lauded as a hero for rescuing a local family after their Jamestown home erupted into flames early Tuesday morning.

A 34-year-old mother and her four young children, ages 12, 8, 6 and 4, were asleep in their house on the 1600 block of Highway 374 in Jamestown when a child’s hoverboard is believed by investigators to have somehow malfunctioned and started the home ablaze.

Ryan Pasborg, 32, of Green River, was running late for work Tuesday morning when he smelled smoke and saw flames coming from a bedroom window of the home. Pasborg pulled into the driveway where he saw a young girl and two boys walk outside of the house.

After the three children told Pasborg that their mother and 4-year-old little brother were still inside, he entered the residence without hesitation. Pasborg told authorities that he could not see anything inside because of heavy smoke, so he crawled on his hands and knees on the floor several feet into the kitchen before he bumped into the small child. He immediately picked him up and carried him outside.

With a windchill temperature well below zero, Pasborg quickly put all four children in his truck to keep them warm before entering the burning home a second time, this time crawling through the kitchen deeper into the house in search of the children’s missing mother.

Moments later, Pasborg found the woman lying on the floor, badly burned and struggling to breath. After dragging her outside, he noticed that she was no longer breathing, so he performed lifesaving measures until she suddenly took a gasp of air and sat up.

Pasborg later purchased several hundred dollars’ worth of clothing and necessities and personally delivered them to the family.

“There are no words to adequately express the magnitude of Ryan’s bravery other than he is a perfect example of what it means to be a real hero,” said Sheriff John Grossnickle.

This story was published on Feb. 9, 2022.


Man sentenced to jail time, anger management after stabbing at the Cowboy Bar

JACKSON (WNE) — Teton County District Court Judge Timothy Day sentenced Manuel Vargas to 180 days in jail for an August brawl at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Vargas will be credited with the 83 days he has already served and will have one year of supervised probation, including an anger management and mental health assessment, upon his release.

Vargas was convicted in Teton County District Court of aggravated assault, battery and reckless endangerment. He entered a plea of no contest to the misdemeanor offenses of battery and reckless endangering.

Police arrested Vargas on Aug. 18 for allegedly stabbing one person, trying to stab another and punching a third at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

At around 12:45 a.m. a Cowboy Bar manager called police dispatch to report a fight inside the bar, according to a probable cause affidavit signed by Jackson Police Officer Stephen O’Donnell.

One man told officers that Vargas punched him in the mouth, then tackled him to the ground on the dance floor.

While Vargas was being restrained he allegedly pulled out a 3-inch utility knife and attempted to cut a second alleged victim, according to the affidavit. Cowboy Bar staff managed to take the knife away from Vargas, but not before a third man found a 1-inch laceration on his right thigh from the knife.

Upon arriving at the bar, police officers found Vargas facedown on the dance floor being restrained by several Cowboy Bar staff members, the affidavit states.

This story was published on Feb. 9, 2022.


Charges amended for domestic violence felony prosecution

PINEDALE (WNE) — A woman who was allegedly strangled and assaulted by a Bondurant man last September is not cooperating with his prosecution, leading to a motion to amend the strangulation and domestic violence charges against him.

The defendant, Mark S. Estrada, has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 13 at the Elkhorn Lodge complex in Bondurant. His bond is set at $50,000.

Estrada pleaded not guilty in 9th District Court to 16 charges – felony strangulation of a household member, 13 misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and two misdemeanors of unlawful contact and breach of peace. The strangulation charge named Estrada as a “habitual offender” with prior domestic violence convictions, according to court records.

The woman is apparently unwilling to testify on her behalf at his planned May 8 jury trial.

Despite ongoing efforts to contact the woman before trial, if successful deputy county attorney Clayton Melinkovich’s Feb. 1 motion would dismiss the strangulation charge and all but one domestic battery charge.

The unlawful contact misdemeanor, that Estrada urinated on the victim, and breach of peace misdemeanor, that Estrada used violent, threatening actions and language to disrupt community peace, would then proceed in Circuit Court.

On Sept. 13, numerous law enforcement and Sublette EMS responded to a call about a distraught woman in the bar with multiple contusions on her face and hands after having argued with Estrada, with whom she was living, according to court records.

At that time, she was “very anxious and reluctant” to speak with law enforcement, an affidavit says. She had signs of manual strangulation and hair had been pulled out, it says. She was “very frightened” of Estrada and wanted to get her belongings, the affidavit says.

This story was published on Feb. 8, 2022.


Ranger, Journal, and Wind River News ownership transferred to employees

RIVERTON (WNE) — Nearly a month after The Riverton Ranger, Lander Journal, and Wind River news were sold, local businesswoman Grace Andrus has followed through on her commitment to transfer the ownership of the company to its employees.

As of February 1, 2022, Wyoming Media LLC, who purchased The Ranger and its sister newspapers The Journal in Lander and Wind River news, has transferred its stake to Edwards Group Holdings—an employee-owned company that owns five local radio stations (KTAK, KvOW, KFCW, KDnO, KWYW).

That transaction brings more than 20 employees onboard with Edwards Group, joining more than 100 employees across the country as owners of the company.

Andrus initially partnered with Edwards Group Holdings to consult on her newly acquired newspaper operation.

“When I first reached out to Jerry, I didn’t know that his company was already an employee-owned company. When I found that out it just made sense to partner with and eventually merge our company with theirs. They have the experience and the resources to help make these newspapers the best they can be, and our local employees get to have a stake in that,” Andrus said.

Andrus had once owned a small newspaper but knew it had been a long time and things would be different today. Through mutual acquaintances she reached out to

Jerry Edwards, longtime owner of Edwards Group and current C.E.O. of the company, to see if he would be interested in helping. Edwards said he was happy to assist Andrus.

The Edwards Group owns and operates dozens of newspapers and radio stations across four states.

In July of 2021, longtime owner Jerry Edwards gave the company to its employees when he converted Edwards Group Holdings to an E.S.O.P., which stands for employee stock ownership program. Edwards remains with the company in the role of C.E.O. and Chairman of the Board.

This story was published on Feb. 8, 2022.


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