Wyoming news briefs for July 29


Defense attorneys for man accused of murder ask for dismissal

CODY — Defense attorneys for a Cody man accused of first degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old daughter have requested that the charges against their client be thrown out.

Dylan Rosalez and Branden Vilos, public defenders for Moshe Williams, submitted a request to dismiss the case, or at least submit a court order requiring the state to file a bill of particulars that sets out how exactly the child abuse was committed that led to the death of Paisleigh Williams.

Rosalez and Vilos have summarized the state’s response to this request as “we don’t have to.”

The attorneys have said the state has failed to delineate the elements of how the child abuse was committed and therefore said the murder charge cannot be assessed as a result of child abuse.

Rosalez also complained that Williams’ pathology report is still missing and mentioned how “the defense investigation is complex and cumbersome,” with 13 total USB flash drives and one disc filled with evidence from the case. He also requested photos from the autopsy that the defense will use for consulting with experts and provide as evidence in the case.

Hot Springs County Judge Bobby Overfield recently approved a request for an extension of time to submit transcripts in the case, setting a deadline of Aug. 5.

Overfield replaced Judge Bill Simpson on the case when he recused himself from it due to a conflict of interest.

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Jackson hospital CEO departs St. John's with $1M severance package

JACKSON — Will Wagnon will leave St. John’s Health with a $1 million severance package following his resignation as CEO, which the hospital board accepted Monday.

The hospital board provided no reason for his resignation.

At Monday’s hospital board special meeting, Chair Sue Critzer said he left under a section of his contract that allowed him to resign with “good cause.”

In the contract’s language, the reasons Wagnon could resign with good cause were limited to a substantial reduction in the scope of his job, a substantial reduction in his pay or bonuses, and a change in location for his position. 

Hospital attorney Tom Lubnau wrote in an email that Wagnon’s resignation was “in full compliance” with the contract.

Wagnon did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

His severance package includes 15 months of his base salary and retirement contribution, a $250,000 relocation allowance and 15 monthly payments of $2,912 for COBRA health insurance, a continuation policy offered to some employees after they leave a job. These numbers may not reflect the final tally Wagnon is owed and are rounded to the nearest whole. 

Including salary, benefits and bonuses for the time he spent leading the hospital, Wagnon’s overall income for his tenure totals roughly $1.4 million. His base annual salary was $547,715, with the potential for bonuses of up to 40% of his salary.

Hired in December to replace retiring CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre, Wagnon started at St. John’s on Feb. 1. He came to the role with two decades of experience in hospital administration, much of it with the Tennessee-based for-profit hospital chain HCA Healthcare.

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Lovell man arrested after breaking into home with shotgun

LOVELL — Kevin Hansen, a 40-year-old Lovell resident, was taken into custody Friday after breaking into an Idaho Avenue residence with a shotgun early Saturday morning, July 17.

According to Lovell Police Chief Dan Laffin, Hansen forced his way into the residence using his shotgun as a battering ram at 1:55 a.m., July 17. 

Upon confronting the homeowner and the homeowner’s girlfriend inside the residence, the homeowner was able to subdue Hansen by stabbing him in the side with a hunting knife.

Hansen fled the scene, was admitted into North Big Horn Hospital and transported to Billings Clinic through emergency flight services.

“It appears the homeowner used force in defense of his girlfriend and his life,” Laffin said. “At this time, he faces no criminal charges for using that degree of force.”

Hansen later fled the Billings facility against medical advice and was thought to be on the run from law enforcement.

Hansen, though, returned to Lovell on the morning of July 17 and called the Lovell Police Department to voice complaints he had about the investigation of the case. Through the phone call, officers were able to determine the location of Hansen and, in coordination with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department, arrested him for multiple felony charges at 11:53 a.m. Saturday. 

Hansen faces felony charges for aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, assault, battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon. He also faces misdemeanor charges for battery and property destruction and charges related to Hansen being registered in the sex offender registry for previous offenses.

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Driver receives two months in jail for accidentally killing pedestrian

POWELL — Having retired from a long career at Northwest College, Dennis Brophy planned last fall to travel, fund new scholarships and visit family members. 

Brophy was walking to a mechanic’s shop when, in front of Rimrock Tire, he was struck by a Toyota Camry driven by Shay Dillon. 

Dillon later explained to police that, while he’d looked to his left for oncoming traffic, he never looked right for oncoming pedestrians before pulling onto Coulter Avenue. When his car came to an unexpected stop on Sept. 23, Dillon got out and saw that his tires appeared to be fine. 

But he did not see the 75-year-old Brophy — who was trapped under the front of the car and banging on the bumper. Dillon then got back into his vehicle and tried pulling further forward, dealing further injuries to Brophy that would prove fatal. 

At a hearing in Park County Circuit Court last week, Dillon pleaded no contest to vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor offense that applies when someone drives in “a criminally negligent manner” by making “a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.” 

After hearing a request from the defense for probation and a request from the prosecution for a year-long jail sentence, Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters ordered Dillon to serve a total of two months behind bars, followed by roughly 10 months of unsupervised probation. 

While saying he had no doubts that Dillon was remorseful, Waters said he did not believe probation alone was appropriate given the loss of life.

“I’m just trying my hardest to keep straight and not cause any more trouble,” Dillon said. The 22-year-old also apologized to Brophy’s loved ones. 

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Murder suspect wants to withdraw plea, stand trial

RIVERTON — An Arapahoe man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder now seeks to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial. 

Seth Thomas Blackburn, who is approximately  31 years old, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl on May 21 for the Aug. 5, 2019, murder of Victor Dale Addison on the Wind River Indian Reservation. 

Skavdahl has not yet ruled on whether Blackburn may withdraw his confession. 

“Well, early August (2019),” began Blackburn, “Victor Addison’s family told me about some past events that raised my suspicion of Victor Addison being a bad person. And upon that –– a short while after that, my long-time friend, Martika Spoonhunter, passed away, and the Spoonhunter family raised my suspicion that it was Victor (who killed her). And then upon confronting Victor, I took things way too far. I tried to take justice into my own hands, and I went too far, and I shot him in the head.” 

Blackburn’s guilty plea was given in exchange for a sentence of between 50-65 years in prison, with the other charges against him, including kidnapping and felon in possession of a rifle, to be dropped. 

Skavdahl warned Blackburn that guilty pleas are hard to take back. 

According to the motion to withdraw guilty plea filed by Blackburn’s new attorney, Thomas Fleener, Blackburn’s former attorney, Thomas R. Smith, coerced Blackburn into pleading guilty, although Blackburn himself maintains that he is innocent and would like to go to trial.

U.S. Attorney for Wyoming deputy Timothy W. Gist filed a counter-argument in court on July 26, stating that Blackburn was placed under oath, found to be sober, claimed to have understood his rights and his plea agreement –– then pleaded guilty. 

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Pro-life billboard in Park County defaced with graffiti

CODY — Sheila Leach has an unexpected plan for the graffiti paint scribbled across Park County Right To Life’s billboard on the Belfry Highway.

“My thought is to leave it for awhile,” the chapter vice president said. “I want people to see what the message is. See what has been done to it. Hopefully it will make people angry.”

The anti-abortion billboard shows a smiling baby with a “Save the Babies” headline running across the top. Across the baby’s face and a ProLife Across America logo, “F..k the babies,” was written in lime green spray paint, along with a couple of smiley faces drawn on – one with devil horns.

“It’s very vulgar,” said Leach.

Leach and Carol Armstrong, another Right to Life member, said they would have much preferred, and taken more seriously, an oppositional pro-choice billboard, rather than have their own property being defaced.

“If you don’t like the message, do your own billboard,” Armstrong said.

It is unknown who is responsible for the act and how exactly they did it. Although the vandalism appears sloppy and rushed, a certain amount of work and planning had to have gone into the effort. A barbed wire fence separates the base of the roughly 15-foot-high billboard from the highway shoulder. To reach the upper reaches of the billboard, the culprits would have had to have brought a ladder and/or possibly a truck to do the job, and would have had to trespass on to Paul Lanchbury’s private property to reach the west side of the sign.

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