Wyoming news briefs for August 25
Man pleads ‘no contest’ in Torrington murder
TORRINGTON – Family and friends of Maddie Cook embraced one another as the tears flowed after Monday’s change of plea hearing in the Eighth Judicial District Court, where Cook’s accused killer pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.
Sean Logan Pettus, the 32-year-old male accused of killing 20-year-old Goshen County resident Madison “Maddie” Cook, pleaded “nolo contendere” or no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to one count of first-degree arson, one count of felony theft and two counts of burglary, pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense.
Goshen County attorney Eric Boyer told the court an agreement had been reached between the prosecution and defense where Pettus would plead no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to the remaining counts.
In return for the no contest plea, Pettus would be subject to a joint recommendation by the prosecution and defense for a life sentence in the Wyoming penitentiary. He would then be required to serve sentences for the remaining counts, consecutive, or one-after-the-other to the life sentence.
The final condition of the plea agreement said Pettus would not be able to appeal the decision of the court. Pettus agreed to the terms of the agreement.
Tribe offers cash incentive for vaccination
RIVERTON — Through its healthcare center Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, the Northern Arapaho Tribe has been offering monetary COVID-19 vaccine incentives to its tribal members.
According to a Thursday brief by Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Jordan Dresser to the Wyoming Legislature Select Committee on Tribal Relations, tribal members have been able to claim $50 for each vaccine dose.
NABC Co-Chairman Lee Spoonhunter added in a Friday briefing before the same committee that the one-dose Johnson and Johnson shot makes tribal recipients eligible for $100.
The incentives, he said, have been made available through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant.
Spoonhunter said that the tribe has promised its members $500 each if it reaches 70 percent vaccination.
When State Sen. Affie Ellis, RCheyenne, asked Spoonhunter the current vaccination rate is among the Northern Arapaho, Spoonhunter said he did not have those figures available.
Both Dresser and Eastern Shoshone Business Council Chairman John St. Clair explained the intentions behind a vaccine mandate on the Wind River.
On Friday, the Wind River Intertribal Council, which comprises both tribes, issued a health order mandating masking indoors and outdoors, a 25 percent maximum capacity within buildings – and the requirement that all people working within or visiting buildings containing juveniles 17 years and younger must show proof of vaccination.
Dresser said that as a sovereign nation “It’s our job and our right to protect our people.”
Sweetwater County backs forest management bill
GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County is one of 90 groups supporting a federal bill its proponents say will help clean up national forests and reduce the severity of forest fires.
The Resilient Federal Forests Act was initially introduced to the U.S. House July 22 by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., a ranking member of the House Committee on National Resources. The bipartisan bill was introduced with 70 cosponsors, including Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney.
“For years, the federal government has mismanaged our forests, resulting in more catastrophic fires. We must take action now to implement effective forest management. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation, and will continue to work to find solutions to protect Wyoming from the threat of wildfires by ensuring that our forests are properly managed,” Cheney said in a statement.
The bill’s proponents say it aims to improve the health of federal forests by addressing problems with overgrown forests, the impact beetles and other insects have had, as well as curtailing what a House Committee on National Resources press release about the bill refers to as “frivolous” and “obstructionist” litigation that has tied up forest management projects. The bill’s supporters also claim the bill would help revitalize the economies of rural communities.
The bill received support from multiple Wyoming counties. Amongst the supporters are Sheridan, Carbon, Fremont, Uinta, Lincoln, Converse, Washakie, Park and Sublette counties. Sweetwater County Commissioner Mary Thoman said the Wyoming County Commissioners Association initially contacted the county and asked if commissioners would support the bill.