Nov 5, 2015

Lovell couple charged with stealing three TVs from Wal-Mart

Authorities are seeking the arrests of a Lovell couple who allegedly walked out of the Cody Wal-Mart with three stolen TVs and other items back in August. Cody police say a store manager stopped the couple on their third trip out of the store, as they tried to take a fourth television.

Authorities concluded that this surveillance footage from Wal-Mart showed Rodriguez and Jolley stealing a TV, the first of four they allegedly took. Photo courtesy Cody Police Department
A Park County Circuit Court judge recently issued warrants for Brian G. Rodriguez, 31, and Shanna Rae Jolley, 26. The Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged both Rodriguez and Jolley with a felony count of shoplifting $1,000 or more and a misdemeanor count of wrongful disposing of property.

The thefts occurred within the span of an hour on Aug. 4, with the suspected thieves fleeing after being confronted by a manager.

To help identify the suspects, Cody police posted images from Wal-Mart’s surveillance cameras to Facebook; police received several tips that the male in the pictures was Rodriguez and the female Jolley.

The couple agreed to speak with Cody Police Detective Jason Stafford on Aug. 17.

“Jolley admitted that ... she and Rodriguez needed money, so they came up with the idea of going into Wal-Mart to steal a television to sell,” Stafford wrote in an affidavit filed in support of the charges.

Rodriguez similarly said that “because they are both unemployed and their rent and other bills were due, they decided to see if they could walk out of Wal-Mart with a television,” Stafford recounted.

At the start of the interview, Rodriguez “told me that it was a stupid decision, and he was here to pay the consequences,” Stafford wrote.

“Jolley admitted that ... she and Rodriguez needed money, so they came up with the idea of going into Wal-Mart to steal a television to sell,” charging documents say.

The couple told Stafford they borrowed a family member’s vehicle for the drive to Cody, then went into the store, got a 60-inch Vizio television and walked out without paying for it.

Rodriguez said the couple then went back inside the store and split up; this time, Rodriguez said he took out a 55-inch TV and loaded that into their vehicle, too, Stafford wrote.

Rodriguez initially insisted that the 55-inch TV was the only thing he’d stolen on that trip. However, after being confronted with a photograph of his cart in a follow-up interview, Rodriguez admitted to also making off with a 28-inch television and a vacuum cleaner, Stafford wrote.

Rodriguez initially said he'd only taken a 55-inch TV on his second trip from the store, but admitted there were other items in the cart after being confronted with the surveillance footage, charging documents allege. Photo courtesy Cody Police Department
The couple then went back inside the store and got another 60-inch TV, a teddy bear and a card, Stafford wrote. On their way out, however, they were confronted by a Wal-Mart employee and took off, Stafford wrote of the couple’s account.

Shortly after the thefts, Jolley reportedly listed the 60-inch TV for sale in the “Guys Gear Swap Site” Facebook group; she allegedly asked for $600 for the originally $748 item.

According to the charging affidavit, Lovell Mayor Angel Montanez ended up buying the TV.

Montanez told police he’d messaged Jolley and asked if she would hold onto the television until he received his next paycheck. Jolley and Rodriguez instead showed up at Montanez’s home with the device and sold it to him for $200 up front and $400 later, Montanez told Stafford.

However, the mayor later saw the Cody Police Department’s Facebook post about the thefts from Wal-Mart, recognized Rodriguez and Jolley in the surveillance camera footage and contacted the authorities, the affidavit says.

Montanez ultimately turned the 60-inch TV over to Cody police and Rodriguez and Jolley turned over the 55-inch TV, which they said they’d been using at their home, Stafford wrote. As for the 28-inch TV and the vacuum cleaner, Rodriguez reportedly told Stafford they’d been sold to people he didn’t know.

The affidavit says the stolen items totaled $1,622 in value.

Hunter’s stray bullet goes through Cody area house; homeowners call for restrictions

“People really need to be a lot smarter when they’re hunting and when they’re even shooting,” said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward.

That’s his take on a Saturday incident, when an apparent errant shot from a deer hunter ripped through a home just north of Cody on Bohica Lane.

The bullet pierced the exterior wall of Bard and Allison Betz’ home — then the stairway, a door and an interior wall before finally coming to rest inside their master bedroom closet.

“It was obviously very disturbing,” Bard Betz said Wednesday.

The bullet zipped right past the right side of the Betzes' computer monitor, meaning that, “had I been sitting in that office space, I’d be dead,” Allison Betz said. Photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
The couple had been sitting in their living room, around 6 p.m. Saturday, when they heard a loud crack.

As they began looking around the house, thinking it might have been an exploding lightbulb, they noticed some wood chips and fragments scattered over the kitchen and the laundry. Then, they spotted the hole in the door and realized, “Oh my God, our house has been shot,” Bard Betz recounted.

The bullet passed through a small office area underneath the staircase. If Allison Betz had happened to be sitting at the computer at the time, the bullet that whizzed through the stairs and by the monitor likely would have hit her in the chest.

“Had I been sitting in that office space, I’d be dead,” Allison Betz said.

“They’re very fortunate,” said Steward.

Patrick Harrington, a hunter who was in the area at the time of Saturday’s incident, told the Sheriff’s Office he believed he’d seen the man who fired the shot that hit the Betzs home. Harrington said the man had come off of Road 2AB and later started shooting in his direction; Harrington said he’d begun waving his arms in an effort to get the man to stop, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Wednesday news release.

Bard Betz also saw the unknown man leaving the area, but like Harrington, he didn’t get a good look.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact them at 307-527-8700.

“Everybody’s explanation is, ‘Well they didn’t hit anybody,’ or ‘Well, it’s not that much damage,’” Bard Betz said. “But eventually someone’s going to be killed, and then we’re all going to think, ‘Well gosh, they had enough warning signs, why didn’t we do something?’”

In the news release, Steward warned that hunters are responsible for their bullets and that they need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

He said in an interview that some hunters wound an animal and get so focused on bringing it down that “they go to just throwing lead and not paying attention to where they’re shooting.”

It’s not the first time that a local home has been accidentally shot:

The Betzs said a neighbor’s house was struck a number of years ago.

Steward said one South Fork couple has had their home hit twice in the past five or so years. One time, he said, the woman heard a crash and opened the kitchen cabinet to find that a stray bullet had shattered some of the dishes.

The sheriff also recalled that, about a decade ago on the South Fork, a shot passed right over a bed where a girl typically did her homework; fortunately, the girl wasn’t home that night.

Saturday’s incident came up briefly at Tuesday’s county commission meeting and Clerk of District Court Patra Lindenthal wondered why someone would shoot close to a home.

“Because (of) idiots,” said county commissioner and Wapiti resident Lee Livingston. “Trust me. We have it happen all the time.”

The Betzs think it’s time to do something about it, calling for some kind of new regulations that limit the kind of firearms you can hunt with in residential areas like theirs.

“Shooting this way, you’re shooting into houses and horses and kids,” Bard Betz said.

He and his wife worry what could happen if nothing changes.

“Everybody’s explanation is, ‘Well they didn’t hit anybody,’ or ‘Well, it’s not that much damage,’” Bard Betz said. “But eventually someone’s going to be killed, and then we’re all going to think, ‘Well gosh, they had enough warning signs, why didn’t we do something?’”

As a possible example, he noted some states limit hunters to only using shotguns in certain areas. He said people he’s spoken with so far have generally agreed that “it’s just nuts that you’re firing high-powered rifles in a congested area like this.”

The stray bullet also tore through an interior door. Photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
For his part, sheriff Steward says he’s not sure what kind of regulations would succeed in solving the problem. He noted it’s already illegal to shoot in someone else’s direction.

“That pretty much covers all these residential areas, because you’re basically shooting at somebody’s house or towards something,” Steward said. “So the law is in place right now; people just are not adhering to it.”

Since Saturday, Allison Betz said she’s kept a closer eye on the people coming and going on their road — and she noticed her heart rate speed up a little when she went to check her email.

“We’ve been out here 16 years and it’s never happened, so the chances of it happening again are probably very slim,” Allison Betz said. “But wouldn’t that be a tragedy to have one of these little kids (in the neighborhood) shot, or anybody?”

Local author writes new book about 'McCulloch' Peaks

She’s picking up where she left off.

“Behind the Shadows: McCulloch Peaks Early History and Stories,” is a sequel to author Phyllis Preator’s first book, “Facts and Legends: Behind the McCulloch Peaks Mustangs.” The new publication connects the McCulloch Peaks’ history and horses or vice versa.

“It was just too much to put in one book,” Preator said in a recent cell phone interview one she appropriately gave as she rode on horseback in the Peaks.

"Everyone needs a place for their heart to call home,” Preator said. “Mine is the McCulloch Peaks, for it is there that my inner self can truly relax. As I once read another author's words, ‘The desert offers elbow room for one's spirit.’”

“I love it out here in the Peaks,” Preator said, while the wind murmured into the phone like soothing background music.

Author Phyllis Preator, riding in her home turf, the McCulloch Peaks. Photo courtesy Lynette Hawkins Kelley
Incidentally, the Peaks were named after a cowboy named Peter McCulloch, not McCullough, though that is the common spelling today, Preator said.

The Peaks run roughly east from Cody past Powell. Motorists heading west to Cody on U.S. Highway 14-A can look to their left to view the 200,000-acre range on the south side of the Shoshone River. Likewise those departing Cody to travel east to Greybull on U.S. Highway 14-16-20 can view the Peaks to their left (north). The wild horse management area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, occupies 110,000 acres.

McCulloch’s mustangs were largely overlooked, but they’ve gained in popularity over the last decade.

“Now our horses have gone global through artists and photographers,” Preator said.

McCulloch wild horses are descended from settler stock when free grazing was permitted in the Peaks.

“I’m not saying there weren’t horses before then,” she said.

Before homesteading began in the Big Horn Basin, Native Americans procured horses in Mexico and the local Crow Tribe traded for those horses. The Crow had an estimated 10,000 horses by the early 1800s, Preator said in her book.

“Native American tribes rode horses descended from Spanish bloodlines,” she said.

Petite equines occupied the Peaks ages ago.

Eohippus were here around 50 million years ago. Eohippus stood about 12-24 inches tall.

“They were tiny little things,” Preator said.

Preator’s book examines more than just mustangs. The stories are as real as the locals who shared their recollections in the book.

One of the most popular stories was the Japanese balloon bomb floating over the Peaks and Willwood during World War II.

With the Japanese’s air force hamstrung due to American bombing missions, the Japanese devised explosive balloons, known as Fugos. Up to 10,000 were launched with around 1,000 reaching the continental United States. One such balloon packed nearly 60 pounds of explosives, Preator said.

The FBI’s official Wyoming count was eight Fugos, but following her interviews, she believed the number of balloon bombs to be much higher, Preator said.

In Preator’s book, Keith Bloom remembers seeing Fugos remains below the Peaks near the Shoshone River in 1944. A ring of light-weight metal was found that hung below the balloon. Also recovered were bits of balloon’s skin of really resilient paper, Bloom said. They kept a fragment of the balloon for many years.

“I wish we still had it,” Preator said.

Lynette Hawkins Kelley provided many of the photographs in Preator’s book.

“Nettie (Kelley) is never found without her camera, Preator said. “She loves it out there.”

Preator is a genuine Westerner from her western garb to her pickup truck toting a horse trailer to the saddle she sits in.

Since she was a teenager, Preator has been riding the sagebrush in the Peaks. For nearly 20 years Preator organized reenactment Pony Express rides. Her father, Leonard Foxworthy, bestowed Preator the apt nickname, SageCreek Annie, she said.

“I like the solitude,” Preator said from her horse. “I like being out here. It’s very spiritual to me.”

Some ask Preator if she gets scared when her only company are her trusty mount, Laredo, and dog, Otter.

“What would I be afraid of out here?” Preator asks. “This is my home.”

Preator wants her ashes spread over Whistle Creek, she said.

At first blush that seems a somber request.

But Preator’s poem “The Wind Knows My Name,” illuminates her bond to the land she loves: “It is there that I wish to be turned loose to ride those winds... It is there that I’ll be able to drift forever into the draws and along familiar ridges.”

Preator will deliver a presentation about her book at the Homesteader Museum in Powell at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10.

Nov 4, 2015

Nearly a century after his death, Buffalo Bill inducted into Wyoming Business Hall of Fame

Buffalo Bill Cody was the most famous man in the world at one time, and his larger-than-life legend is forever tied to the town, dam and rodeo that bears his name. But he was first and foremost a cagey and highly effective businessman.

And that's why the Wyoming Business Alliance will be inducting Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody into the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame in November.

Buffalo Bill Cody, circa 1875. Photos via Wikimedia Commons
The announcement was recently made jointly by the Wyoming Business Alliance, Wyoming Business Council and University of Wyoming, the three entities that oversee the two-year-old Hall of Fame.

Cody will be inducted under the “pioneer” category, joining James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penny department stores as well as contemporary heroes of the business community.

“Buffalo Bill Cody was many things — a showman, a storyteller and a civic leader — but he was also a businessman extraordinaire, with a long list of successes in a variety of industries, from tourism to newspapers,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country. “Today’s town of Cody owes its prominence and prosperity to its namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody, who had the guts to think about the future, and to think big.”

Buffalo Bill Cody died in 1917, but the folks inducting him into the hall of fame say many solid lessons that can still be learned from his business history.

Wade offered the following examples of Buffalo Bill’s business accomplishments and contemporary takeaways:

Go big or get out

Cody’s brainchild, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” was so oddly fanciful, so unbelievably elaborate and so incredibly successful that few could have pulled it off. Try providing temporary housing, feeding and tending to the medical and other needs of hundreds of people and animals. The logistics of the show were daunting. Then add the marketing, scheduling and other operational needs of the massive traveling show and you have a truly formidable daily undertaking. Yet because of Buffalo Bill’s innate business acumen and leadership, the show survived and thrived for years.

Notice and capitalize on trends

In the late 1800s, the world was having a love affair with the American West as well as horse-centric performances. Wild Bill Hickok, for example, staged a buffalo hunt with American Indians and cowboys performing, and American Indian life was often theatrically showcased in circuses in the U.S. and Europe. Buffalo Bill noticed. He first dipped his toes in the world of theatrics with small, local performances he called “border dramas” and applied what he learned from those small-scale productions to the “Wild West Show.”

• Treat employees well

Buffalo Bill was known for fair treatment and good pay for all of his performers, including women, Indians and performers of various races and nationalities. All performers received fair wages. They received decent housing and three hot meals a day. And they were permitted to travel with their families. Performers repaid Buffalo Bill in loyalty and a high level of commitment with great performances time after time.

• Make lots of friends and few enemies

Buffalo Bill made very important friends, and they helped him become successful. Among them were politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt and royalty including the Prince of Monaco, as well as generals, writers and civic leaders.

• Employ creative problem-solving

The region that would eventually become Cody was perfect in all ways but one. It lacked a reliable water source. Instead of looking elsewhere, Cody and his team of investors created the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company and built the Cody dam on the Shoshone River. Construction on the massive project began in 1905, and the dam was completed in January 1910 at a cost of $929,658 (more than $22 million in 2015 currency). At 325 feet, it was the highest concrete dam in the world.

• Be an expert communicator

In 1896, the primary way to communicate with masses of people was through a newspaper, so Cody started one. Still in operation today, the Cody Enterprise was the vehicle Cody used to tell the growing population of the town about his vision, update them on developments and gain their support.

• Be pragmatic

Buffalo Bill wanted travelers to visit Cody, and in order to accomplish that goal, he knew he needed a hotel. So he built the Irma Hotel (and named it after his daughter). The hotel is still in operation today, and every summer it is the gathering place for visitors to watch the nightly Wild West Gunfighters show.

Know your audience

The “Wild West Show” was relatively tame, with family-friendly performances depicting cowboy and Indian conflicts and other frontier scenes. When his show arrived in Spain, however, he added a rougher edge to the performance because the audience there — where the often-bloody running of the bulls was a cherished tradition — expected more perceived brutality.

• Be kind to animals

Although he was an accomplished and dedicated hunter, he was also committed to the health and well-being of the animals in his show.

• Always be on the lookout for talent

Annie “Little Sure Shot” Oakley learned to shoot a gun in order to feed her family, and once her skills were on Buffalo Bill’s radar, he made her one of the stars of his show. She performed in the Wild West Show for 17 years, and she had admirers around the world.

A portrait of Cody, done by artist Rosa Bonheur in 1889
• Look for beauty

Buffalo Bill Cody loved to hunt, and he found a way to feed that passion in an especially beautiful area of the Shoshone Forest. So crazy about the region, with its mountains, rock formations and river, he built a hunting lodge he called Pahaska Tepee. There, he was able to share the beauty of the region with friends such as Theodore Roosevelt and the Prince of Monaco.

• Think globally

When the Wild West Show traveled to Europe, the show had perhaps more impact on positive diplomatic relationships than any traditional politician. His friendship was sincere, as illustrated by the room-long Cherrywood bar in the Irma Hotel that was a gift from one of his biggest fans, Queen Victoria.

• Live locally

Buffalo Bill’s years-long mission to build the town of Cody was marked by a keen understanding of the importance of local buy-in. He formed the Cody Club, an early version of the Cody Chamber of Commerce which provided the town’s first formal governmental body. The club and its leaders eventually focused on the town’s needs like mail service, roads, telephone service, water works and sewers, ultimately resulting in the thriving, healthy, business-friendly town that visitors experience today.

Cody man to pay more than $62,000 for 2013 assault

Between criminal penalties and a civil settlement, a Cody man must pay more than $62,000 for attacking a man outside a liquor store two years ago.

Last month, Robert P. Pugrad, 31, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless endangering in connection with the November 2013 incident outside of Rocky Mountain Discount Liquor in Cody.

Pugrad was initially charged with a felony count of aggravated assault and battery, but it was reduced to the misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement approved by victim Matthew Schuster, said Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Sam Krone.

The incident reportedly began with an argument between Pugrad and Schuster about a woman.

Pugrad pinned Schuster against the store’s outside wall and punched him in the face, according to charging documents. Schuster’s head reportedly snapped back and hit the cinder block wall; an employee inside the store later said they heard the impact, which rattled the bottles of alcohol displayed on shelves along that wall, charging documents say.

After Schuster collapsed to the ground, Pugrad hit him a few more times before a couple people pulled him off, Cody police were told.

Schuster suffered an injury to his right eye, a concussion, damage to four front teeth and a fracture to one of his vertebra, according to charging documents.

At Pugrad’s Oct. 5 sentencing hearing, District Court Judge Steven Cranfill placed him on a year of unsupervised probation. While on probation, Pugrad must stay away from bars, alcohol and Schuster, among other conditions. He received credit for the four days he served in jail after his initial 2013 arrest, with another 356 days suspended.

Pugrad also must pay $170 in court fees and $12,120 in restitution for Schuster’s medical bills.
In addition, Pugrad also agreed to pay Schuster $50,000 to settle a civil lawsuit relating to the incident.

The settlement, which was finalized in August, calls for Pugrad to pay Schuster $100 a month.
Pugrad can pay more per month if he wants, but if he’s ever late, Schuster has the ability to demand full payment on whatever amount is left.

At $100 per month, it would take Pugrad about 41 and a half years to pay off the civil judgement.

Report critical of assistant chief ‘cherry-picked’ the facts, City of Cody says

A recent critique of a 2010 strip search conducted by a former Cody police official misconstrued the facts, according to lawyers for the officer and the city of Cody.

The report in question came from an expert hired by Juan P. Flores, who’s alleging in a federal lawsuit that then-Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig violated his civil rights in a September 2010 search.

Last week, attorneys for the city and Menig said Flores’ expert’s critical report “cherry-picked” the facts and, in being filed publicly, violated an order of confidentiality in the case.

Menig has denied doing anything wrong.

According to police reports, the incident began when Flores flagged down a Park County Sheriff’s Office deputy near the Cody Law Enforcement Center on Sept. 13, 2010. He told the deputy he was a member of the Taliban who was going to “blow things up.” He was then uncooperative with responding officers, including by refusing to give his real name.

Menig was ultimately summoned to the scene. He pulled off Flores’ clothes to look for the supposed explosives and shocked the handcuffed man with a Taser when he refused to open his mouth. (Flores had claimed to have swallowed nitroglycerin in order to blow himself up, according to police reports.)

Flores’ designated expert — former Bellevue, Washington, police chief D.P. Van Blaricom — wrote in a September report filed with the court that using a Taser on a handcuffed suspect “amounts to coercive torture.”

Van Blaricom was given access to confidential Cody police documents for his report, including some from Menig’s personnel file and from the department’s internal investigation into the incident.

Apparently summarizing the confidential documents, Van Blaricom wrote that the department launched an internal investigation three years after the fact, when an officer brought a video of the altercation to the attention of City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke. In 2014, Menig was found to have violated department policy and disciplined for strip searching Flores, Van Blaricom said. He also said the three other Cody police officers who responded to that night’s call disagreed with Menig’s tactics.

“Van Blaricom’s expert report omits information, including information favorable to Menig,” wrote attorneys for Menig and the city of Cody.

However, the attorneys representing Menig and the city of Cody say Van Blaricom’s report is “a piece of advocacy on behalf of (Flores) that cherry-picks references within the confidential documents to portray (Menig) in a negative light.”

“Van Blaricom’s expert report omits information, including information favorable to Menig,” Senior Assistant Wyoming Attorney General Theodore Racines and Cody City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke wrote in their Oct. 28 filing.

While criticizing Van Blaricom’s report, their main point was to complain that Flores’ attorney — John Robinson of Jamieson Robinson in Jackson — disclosed information that the parties had agreed would remain confidential.

Robinson filed Van Blaricom’s report as a public court document on Sept. 21.

“The plaintiff’s publication of confidential information and the plaintiff’s selective use of that information to publish a document which attempts to tarnish the image of the defendant (Menig), undermines the very reasons for the Stipulated Protective Order, which was to protect the parties’ expectation of privacy and confidentiality,” Kolpitcke and Racines wrote. “In addition, it potentially jeopardizes (Menig’s) opportunity for a fair trial.”

The attorneys noted that the Powell Tribune wrote about Van Blaricom’s report on Oct. 1 and that many other media outlets followed.

Beyond using information from the internal investigation, Van Blaricom’s report quoted from a psychiatric evaluation Menig underwent before being hired as the assistant police chief — a document the city had resisted turning over to Robinson.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin had ordered the city to turn over the evaluation in July after finding it was relevant to the case, but he also added that, “all information contained in the file is subject to the existing protective order.”

Robinson had Van Blaricom's report sealed on Oct. 2, after the Tribune published its story.

Racines and Kolpitcke have asked Judge Rankin to punish Robinson. They say both Menig and the city have been harmed by the public release of the confidential information.

Robinson must file his response to the request for sanctions by Nov. 23.

Meanwhile, Menig is due to file his own expert’s report by Nov. 11. He resigned his post as Cody’s assistant chief in September.

Woman arrested for altercation over cat

A woman who once ran into trouble for helping keep more than 150 cats is now in trouble for a a dispute over a single feline.

Cody police arrested 68-year-old Maureen “Michelle” Nesbit last week after she reportedly caused a disturbance at her Pioneer Avenue apartment complex. Charging documents allege Nesbit falsely accused her next-door neighbor of stealing her cat — screaming at the man through their shared wall, kicking his door and banging her cupboards.

Maureen Nesbit
Nesbit ultimately found the cat in her own apartment, charging documents say. However, she indicated to responding Cody Police Officer Scott Burlingame that she still believed her neighbor had stolen the animal before somehow putting it back.

Nesbit pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of breach of peace last week. Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters has set Nesbit’s bail at $750 cash. A family member posted that amount today (Wednesday) and she was released.

In an affidavit filed in support of the Oct. 27 arrest, officer Burlingame said one reason he took Nesbit into custody is that he saw it as an worsening situation. Burlingame said Nesbit had called the department around 15 times in October.

“All the calls have concluded in unsubstantiated claims in reference to Nesbit's increasing paranoia,” Burlingame wrote.

The day of the altercation, police logs indicate Nesbit apparently called to report her cat had been “kidnapped.”

The neighbor ended up calling police, too.

“(The neighbor) advised he was at his (wits’) end and felt he could no longer safely live in the apartment complex,” Burlingame wrote.

The neighbor said Nesbit had become fixated on him over the past few months. He added that residents in the complex had seen Nesbit walking the halls with a pistol.

Nesbit told Burlingame she owned a pistol, but that she’d given it to a leader at her church a couple days before the altercation.

She reportedly described her neighbor as being “out to get her.”

“Nesbit said (the neighbor) watches her with surreptitiously placed cameras, (the neighbor) has pumped poisonous gas into her apartment and (the neighbor) somehow has Tased her while she is in the bathtub,” Burlingame recounted.

Nesbit repeated many of those accusations in the margins of her application for a court-appointed attorney after her arrest, including writing that she’s been “constantly harassed and threatened for two months by six or more people.”

In August 2010, authorities seized 157 cats from the Powell area home Nesbit was then sharing with her twin sister and her sister’s husband. Nesbit pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of animal cruelty in connection with that case. Authorities said then that Nesbit’s sister was primarily responsible for collecting the cats.

A trial in the new, breach of peace case has tentatively been set for Jan. 28.

(Update: Nesbit was re-arrested on similar allegations on Nov. 8.)

Nov 2, 2015

Commission recreates Park County Fair Board

For a brief moment last month, commissioners did away with the Park County Fair Board.

However, just a few seconds later, they recreated it and reappointed all of the old board’s members to the new, slightly different one.

The unusual maneuver basically formalized changes commissioners made to the fair board earlier this year.

In February, county commissioners did away with having a fair director and staff controlled by the board and shifted the grounds’management to an events coordinator and staff who answer to the commission.

“When we took all of that over, we were operating in violation of state statutes,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

“Arguably in violation,” threw in Commissioner Loren Grosskopf, before the commission’s unanimous Oct. 13 vote to effectively recreate the board.

“When we took all of that over, we were operating in violation of state statutes,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

Commissioners’ problem in taking over the fairgrounds’ management is that old fair board had been set up under a state law that gave it the authority to “control, maintain and manage the fairgrounds.”

In other words, the commissioners were taking powers they’d previously delegated to the board.

In creating the “new” board, commissioners made it clear that the body only advises commissioners on the planning, preparation and production of the fair — and that the commissioners control all staff on the fairgrounds.

“Basically, this just clarifies their (board members’) responsibilities more definitively,” explained Commissioner Lee Livingston.

Park County Commission Chairman Joe Tilden
While the most dramatic changes took place this year, county-directed buildings and grounds crews had — with the agreement of the fair board — taken over much of the fairgrounds’ maintenance in 2011.

Commissioners made the additional changes, in part, because of continuing conflict between their buildings and grounds staff and board-directed fair staff. Commissioners had also been unhappy with the state of the grounds under the board.

“They were in charge of building maintenance and everything going on down there, and they weren’t doing their job,” Tilden said. “As simple as that.”

Three of the five board members quit in April in response to commissioners’ takeover, laying off the fair’s then-director in their final act.

Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner has been heading up the fair’s operations since then.

“The fair has seen many changes over the past 103 years, but it’s still the Park County Fair,” Renner said in a recent email. “We have one of the best fairs in the state. We have an excellent fair board, and they are doing a great job. I’m confident we can continue to work together to produce a fabulous Park County Fair in 2016.”

The “new” Park County Fair Board (made up of the same members as the old one that met last month) held its first official meeting on Tuesday night.

The fair board members had learned of their pending dismissals and reappointments in an email some time before the commissioners’ vote — which caught some off guard.

“I sure would have liked some face-to-face time with the commissioners discussing what was happening,” said Fair Board Vice Chairman Troy Wiant.

Wiant said he’d like to discuss a proposed fair board job description with commissioners, saying their initial draft may minimize the board’s role in setting the fair’s budget. Fair Board Chairman Steve Martin said he also has questions about how things are going to work.

Because commissioners abolished the old “Board of Trustees of the Park County Fair Association” and created the new Park County Fair Board, the board will likely need to rename or change its bank accounts — a process board treasurer Sara Skalsky said may be messy.

The fair board hopes to meet with commissioners soon.

Commissioners remain confident that they made the right choice in shuffling the fair’s management.

“I think it was handled just right,” Tilden said.

County doubles the number of striped rural roads

Staying in your lane should now be a little easier on some rural Park County roads.

Hoping to make some of its statistically more dangerous roads a bit safer, county officials recently added yellow centerlines to more than 60 miles of roads around Cody, Powell and Clark.

Park County recently added yellow centerlines to a number of roads, including these along Lane 8. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The project — almost entirely funded with federal dollars — cost $57,841.20.

Traffic data suggests that adding center stripes reduces crashes by close to a third (around 33 percent) and “if the program saves one life or prevents any serious crashes, it was well worth it,” said Assistant Park County Engineer Jeremy Quist.

The county officially closed out the striping project at a recent commission meeting.

Commissioner Tim French said the county has received some good comments about the new dividing lines, which were added by Cody contractor Pavement Maintenance Inc.

“It surely helped on the Lower Southfork (Road),” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden. “Keeps everybody over on their proper side of the road.”

The addition of some new double-lines does mean there are fewer places to legally pass.

“People were driving too fast and passing where they shouldn’t be, in my opinion,” Quist explained. He said he tried to allow for as many passing zones as were safe.

Prior to the project, the only county roads with centerlines had been Lane 9, Road 2AB, Road 3LE (a.k.a. the Lower Greybull Road) and Road 6WX (a.k.a. the main Southfork Road).

Now, portions of the following roads also have stripes: Road 1AB, Road 2BC, Road 3DX, Road 3EX, Road 5, Road 6QS (a.k.a the Lower Southfork Road), Road 6UU, Road 6WXE, Lane 8, Road 8H, Lane 10, Road 11, Lane 11, Lane 11H and Lane 20.

The federal High Risk Rural Road Program covered 90.5 percent of the cost of adding the new centerlines, with Park County paying 9.5 percent (about $5,500).

The county got the funding through the Wyoming Department of Transportation in late 2013, but, because several of those roads were chip sealed last year, the work didn’t take place until this summer, Quist said.

Maintaining the new stripes will cost somewhere between $13,000 and $20,000 a year, depending on whether they’re freshened every two or every three years, Quist said. The county is responsible for the maintenance.

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