NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019

Three snowmobilers rescued from Teton Wilderness

JACKSON (WNE) — Three men stranded in the Teton Wilderness are safe but in trouble after authorities concluded that the party rode snowmobiles into a wilderness area where the motorized activity is prohibited.

The snowmobilers — Brandon Breck, 33, Ryan Cruscynski, 33, and Tim Zieschang, 39 — became stuck Monday near Angle Mountain and had to stay the night in the Bridger-Teton National Forest backcountry.

“Teton County Search and Rescue received a request for assistance from the Forest Service at 1 p.m. Monday, after two additional members of the group returned to Togwotee Mountain Lodge and reported that the other three members of their group might have been stranded,” said Billy Kirk, Teton County’s public information officer.

Rescuers set out on snowmobiles Tuesday morning at Kelly Warm Springs and reached the party a few hours later. Hampered by road closures and a snowstorm, rescuers had to snowmobile through the Gros Ventre to reach the men.

“Air rescue was not an option due to conditions,” Kirk said.

Rescuers then had to ski down a gully to get to the snowmobilers because snow machines could not make it back up the incline.

The Denver men had no injuries and were taken back to Togwotee Mountain Lodge on Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Matt Carr said.

“There were multiple agencies working together today to make this rescue a success,” Carr said, “and we are truly grateful for that collaboration.”

Citations for snowmobiling in a protected wilderness area can carry a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail or both. Motorized equipment is prohibited in the Teton Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964.


Bill addressing expulsion timeline passes

RIVERTON (WNE) — A bill addressing expulsion hearing timeline issues the Riverton school board experienced last year was signed into law Tuesday. 

Senate File 120 requires that expulsion hearings take place within 10 business days after a lengthy suspension or expulsion is recommended – unless the student and school board agree to an extension. 

Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, sponsored the legislation after speaking with a local school board member about the 2018 expulsion of three high school wrestlers. Those expulsion hearings took months to schedule due to a string of legal delays, according to published reports. 

The proceedings finally were held mid-year, though the students had been suspended from school since January. 

“That’s not fair to the victim or the perpetrator,” Bebout said this month.

When he introduced the bill last month on the Senate floor, Bebout said SF 120 brings “some finality” to the proceedings so they don’t “go on and on like happened in Fremont County.” 

“This is the result of a bad situation that existed in my school district in Riverton,” Bebout told his fellow legislators. “It was not a good situation for anybody. And as it went on and on and on you could see the tension building on both sides.”

Child abuse plea brings 105-year prison term

RAWLINS (WNE) — Kevin George Tuttle, Jr., a Hanna man who pleaded no contest to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in 2016, was given an additional 105-year provisional sentence on Friday in Albany County District Court.

Tuttle, 37, a former Wyoming State Penitentiary and Sinclair Refinery worker, who was in good standing in the community, was already serving a 7- to 15-year stretch for his no contest plea, which was made in Carbon County District Court.

The charges alleged he sexually assaulted a young girl several times at a daycare his wife operated out of their Hanna home.

In July 2017, however, the Carbon County Sheriff’s office received a text from Tuttle’s wife, citing more allegations. She said Tuttle had sexually assaulted their two daughters during various incidents in Hanna, Laramie and Salt Lake City.

During a subsequent interview with authorities, according to court records, Tuttle’s daughter said that in June 2017 her sister saw her in bed and “under the covers” with her father when she went to put something away in her parents’ bedroom.

Tuttle’s daughter further explained to authorities that while on a family trip to Yellowstone National Park in July 2017, her sister admitted to her mother’s new boyfriend that Tuttle touched her inappropriately while on a family business trip to Salt Lake City the year prior.

Tuttle’s other daughter also admitted to her mother that her father sexually abused her inside a Laramie hotel that same year, in February 2016.

Tuttle was sentenced on charges of two counts of third degree sexual assault, and two counts of incest. Sentences of either 7-15 and 12-15 years were attached to each count respectively, with some overlapping.


Goshen County looks for new court clerk during investigation

TORRINGTON -- The Goshen County Republican Party will be forwarding a pair of candidates to the Goshen County Board of Commissioners for consideration to be the next Clerk of the Eighth Judicial District Court. 

The position was vacated earlier this month by Kathi Rickard, who cited health concerns as her reason for resignation. Since her resignation, the Goshen County Attorney’s Office issued a press release confirming an investigation by the State of Wyoming into the records of the court clerk. 

The process of selecting a new clerk begins with the Goshen County Republican Party. Interested candidates submitted their applications to the party for consideration. The party then refers the candidates to the county commission.

According to Corey Steinmetz, chairman of the Goshen County Republicans, the process for nominating a new clerk isn’t complicated on the party’s end. 

“It’s a politically-partisan position,” he said. “The person leaving is a Republican, and the Republican Party has the task of coming up with three names. What we do is we hold an interview process. Any Republican can apply. “

As of press time, the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation. Goshen County Commission Chairman Wally Wolski declined to comment on the investigation and referred inquiries to the Goshen County Attorney’s Office. 


Bill will allow construction of gas lines to Tongue River Valley

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The state Legislature last week passed a bill that will remove a potential legal obstacle to efforts to build natural gas lines to the Tongue River Valley.

The bill — which has passed three readings in both the House and the Senate and will head to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for final approval this week — clarifies language in the state statute that describes the authorities of joint powers boards. Ranchester Mayor Peter Clark, who serves as the chairman of the Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board, said conflicting interpretations of the state’s Joint Powers Board Act jeopardized the participation of Sheridan County School District 1 on the TRVJPB.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, had previously cast doubt on the legality of the school district’s inclusion on the board because, if the board succeeded, it would give the district partial control over a utility service.

“The state does not know what to do when natural gas is provided by a municipality — which is what we are, we’re a political subdivision of the state,” Clark said.

The removal of SCSD1 would have dealt a significant blow to the TRVJPB, which has been working to build a natural gas line to the Tongue River Valley for the better part of a decade.

“The cost of running a joint powers board, because we have no way of getting money, has to be funded by the participating members,” Clark said. “…Ranchester, Dayton and the school district have contributed to the Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board almost $100,000 to get the board running.”


Planned silica mine near Wheatland put on hold

WHEATLAND (WNE) — An informational meeting at First State Bank Conference Center was held last week about a possible silica mine opening next to the Platte River in Glendo. 

Darek Farmer of Wyoming Hunters and Anglers called the meeting to discuss the application submitted by Zachary Crawford of the Crawford Mining Company. 

Crawford wishes to mine the sandstone in the Cassa Deposit. It contains a high-quality silica that is used in the manufacturing of fiber optic cables, electronics, solar panels, road surfacing materials and many other things. 

The proposed mine site would be south of the Glendo Dam along the Platte River. 

Crawford assures that the project would provide jobs and create a positive impact on the community. He pointed out in his proposal that the world is relying more and more on technology and this mine would open the door for Wyoming to be on the leading edge of supplying the materials for a high-tech future.

Farmer points out that this area is filled with wildlife including elk, deer, waterfowl, and bald eagles to name a few. Along with disrupting their habitat, outdoor recreation activities would be impacted and perhaps curtailed. 

“We weren’t absolutely opposed to it,” explained Farmer. “We just wanted to get public engagement and the stakeholders involved so we could raise all the concerns and they could be properly vetted.” 

Soon after the meeting was held, Crawford withdrew his application.