Wyoming news briefs for April 14

Driver accused in fatal hit and run pleads not guilty

CHEYENNE — A Cheyenne man accused of hitting and killing a woman with his vehicle while drunk and leaving the scene pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon in Laramie County District Court.

Kyle A. Ziemer is charged with aggravated homicide by vehicle (DUI), which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death.

Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe scheduled Ziemer’s trial for Aug. 3.

After hearing arguments from both the state and Ziemer’s attorney, Ross McKelvey, Sharpe modified Ziemer’s bond to allow him to post through a bail bondsman. He is also required to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet and, if he’s released from jail, he is not allowed to drive a vehicle.

Andrea Martinez, 38, of Cheyenne was identified by Wyoming Highway Patrol as the victim in the case. Martinez was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center shortly after the incident, where she died from her injuries.

At 5:49 p.m. March 24, Cheyenne Police officer Alyssa Muzquiz responded to a hit and run involving a pedestrian near the intersection of Nationway and Hot Springs Avenue. According to court documents, Martinez was walking eastbound on the asphalt part of a median on Nationway when the driver of a red 2014 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, later identified as Ziemer, swerved into the median and struck Martinez, witnesses said.

Muzquiz later interviewed two witnesses who had been driving behind Ziemer. Both said they saw him swerve into the median, hit Martinez with his truck and continue driving on Nationway, according to court documents.


Two die in separate accidents

RIVERTON — Two people died in separate single-vehicle rollovers last weekend in Fremont County. 

Officials said Kylee Juneau, 28, was the driver and sole occupant of the passenger vehicle that rolled at about 3:25 p.m. Friday at milepost 5.1 on North Fork-Fort Washakie road, or County road 345. 

The Wyoming Highway Patrol reported that the weather was clear and the road was dry when Juneau’s northbound vehicle approached a left-hand curve and began to “drift off the road to the right.” 

“The driver overcorrected to the left, causing the vehicle to roll several times before coming to rest off the roadway,” the WHP report states. 

Driver inattention is being investigated as a possible contributing factor in the crash. Juneau was not wearing a seatbelt, according to reports. 

The WHP says Tyler D. Spencer, 43, of Shell, was the driver and sole occupant of a 2001 Jeep grand Cherokee that rolled at about 8:45 p.m. Saturday near milepost 121 on Wyoming Highway 789 south of Shoshoni. 

Officials said the Jeep was headed north when Spencer “lost control and exited the road to the left.” 

“The vehicle rolled several times before coming to rest in a ditch off the road,” the WHP report states. 

Spencer was wearing a seatbelt, according to reports, but officials said he was trapped in the vehicle. He died at the scene of the crash. 

Speed is being investigated as a possible factor, the WHP said.


Teton County vaccination rate almost double state average

JACKSON — Roughly two in five Teton County residents are fully vaccinated.

That’s almost double the statewide rate, according to Wyoming Department of Health data. Despite the rosy numbers, however, any threshold of community protection isn’t worth much if it’s only at the county level.

“Until the whole state and the people that are traveling here are fully vaccinated, you personally might be safer, but that doesn’t mean that we can get this pandemic behind us,” county Director of Health Jodie Pond said.

Still, the numbers are an encouraging sign that the county is charging forward in its vaccination campaign. The Wyoming Health Department now publishes county-level immunization estimates, and Teton County has a much higher rate than any other in Wyoming at 39.72 percent as of Tuesday afternoon, though that data may lag by up to 72 hours.

Because people register with their addresses, the data takes into account commuters who live elsewhere and those who traveled to other counties for shots early on. Hot Springs, Albany, Sheridan and Park counties, the closest to Teton, are all just above 25 percent. Overall the state has a 22-percent vaccination rate, just under the nation’s 23-percent clip.

Public health officials credit a couple of factors for the high vaccination rate: overall enthusiasm and a coordinated response.

“In the very, very beginning we had high uptake of vaccines in our county,” Pond said. “And that’s why we’ve very methodically had to go through each of the categories and do it in a really fair, equitable way according to the guidance we got from the Wyoming Department of Health.”


Western plans to fully reopen for fall 2021

ROCK SPRINGS — Western Wyoming Community College is looking forward to reopening in the fall 2021 semester, without surveillance testing, housing restrictions on roommates, or face coverings, according to a press release. Social distancing may still be required in areas such as classrooms.

The college follows directives from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office and Sweetwater County’s Public Health Department when making COVID-19-related decisions. In light of the governor’s new orders, the decreasing infection rates in the county, an increasing number of vaccinated people, and decreasing infection rate of college students and employees, Western said it is cautiously optimistic that campus and student-life can resume as it did prior to the pandemic.

Currently, Sweetwater County residents over the age of 16 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and the release said Western is confident that all those who wish to be vaccinated will have had the opportunity to do so by the beginning of the fall semester.

Western’s fall 2021 registration opened on April 14.