Wyoming news briefs for April 27

Woman still faces charges in toddler’s death

CODY — Carolyn Aune is still being charged with first-degree murder despite some ambiguity surrounding her role in the death of a 2-year-old partly in her care. Her case was bound over to district court.

The decision to keep the charge came after a more than two hour back-and-forth discussion in Judge Bruce Waters’ circuit court on Thursday morning. Although Waters said there is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence present in the case, the fact that a young child died while in Aune’s care was enough to sway him. Under Wyoming law, anyone who perpetrates child abuse against someone 16-years-old or younger that results in their death can be charged with first-degree murder, whether they intended to kill the child or not.

“As far as who actually inflicted the injury or injuries to the child, the state doesn’t know that, but we do have the responsible party of the child,” Waters said. “The court does find that probable cause exists, but Aune’s involvement in that crime is an issue.”

The state is prosecuting Aune and Moshe Williams jointly for their alleged roles in the death of Williams’ daughter, Paisleigh Williams, 2.

Thursday’s discussion centered on whether the state must know if it was Aune or Moshe Williams who caused the physical harm.

“If the state wants to say they don’t have to prove who did it, they have to prove whether it was intentional or reckless,” said Travis Smith, Aune’s public defender attorney said. “They can’t prove by probable cause the predicate (child abuse) offense.”


Greybull man killed in crash

POWELL — A 73-year-old Greybull man died last week, after he lost control of his vehicle on a snowy road and crashed into a truck.

Alvaro Serna Zamudio had been traveling north on U.S. Highway 20, north of Worland, when the crash occurred. Troopers were dispatched to the scene at 10:25 a.m. on April 19. 

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said Serna Zamudio had been negotiating a left-hand curve when his 2001 Buick LeSabre crossed into the southbound lane. It collided with a 2016 Volvo Conventional commercial truck. 

Serna Zamudio, who was not wearing a seatbelt, succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash, the patrol said. 

The driver of the Volvo commercial truck has been identified as 68-year-old Alberta, Canada, resident Eugene G. Klein. Klein was wearing his seatbelt and not injured.

Serna Zamudio’s speed is being investigated as a potential contributing factor to the crash. 

It was the 26th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2021, compared to 22 at the same point in 2020 and 45 in 2019.


Budget cuts close Gillette group home

GILLETTE — The Greenhouse Group Home will no longer house residents beginning July 1 as a result of statewide budget cuts that reduced funding for behavioral health programs throughout the state.

The six-bed group home in Gillette, operated in partnership between the Council of Community Services and Campbell County Health, will relocate its residents and lay off its seven full-time workers by the start of July, said Mikel Scott, executive director of the Council of Community Services.

As part of a more than $15 million cut from the Wyoming Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Division, CCH had about $800,000 cut from its Behavioral Health Services Community Mental Health Center Grant for fiscal year 2022.

The Greenhouse Group Home’s funding was slashed by more than half with the cuts, forcing it to close and prompting both organizations to evaluate other uses for the Greenhouse facility, according to a CCH press release.

CCH has subcontracted the Council of Community Services to run the group home for the past 15 years. The home has given housing and stability to adults experiencing mental illness and homelessness with the goal of transitioning them into the community.

Both organizations sought solutions to keep the group home open in some capacity, but could not find a feasible way given the cut in state money, Scott said.


Airport could be named after Coe

POWELL — After the Wyoming Legislature rejected a proposal to name a stretch of highway after the late Sen. Hank Coe, a pair of local leaders are suggesting the Yellowstone Regional Airport terminal be named in his honor. 

Park County Commission Chairman Lee Livingston and Cody Mayor Matt Hall proposed the idea at an April 14 airport meeting, and board members are set to consider it next month.

“Hank ... was about air service to Cody, he was about air service to this county,” Livingston said of Coe. “And we just thought that [naming the terminal in his honor] might be a gesture for all the good stuff he did for this community.” 

Though he was best known as a lawmaker — representing Park County in the Senate for 32 years — Coe also served as a county commissioner, a volunteer firefighter and as an advocate for commercial air service to Wyoming, among other roles.  In January, just days before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer, a long line of the state’s top political figures paid tribute to Coe and his record of public service. 

The Legislature appeared to be on the verge of naming a portion of Wyo. Highway 120 in recognition of the Cody Republican. A proposal to create the Hank Coe Leadership Highway around Cody passed the House overwhelmingly — 54-6 — and drew initial support in the Senate. 

But after some delays, in the Senate, the bill came to an abrupt halt on its third and final reading April 2. HB 135 ultimately failed on a 12-17 vote.