Wyoming news briefs for September 20


Man pleads ‘no contest’ in fatal wreck

CHEYENNE — A man pleaded no contest Wednesday in Laramie County District Court to killing three people and severely injuring another while driving in the wrong lane on Happy Jack Road. 

Jason R. Hanson had been charged with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of attempted aggravated vehicular homicide. 

On the evening of April 19, 2019, a vehicle driven by Hanson struck a motorcycle head on, causing a second motorcycle to crash, as he drove westbound in the eastbound lane while negotiating a blind left-hand curve in the roadway and going about 65 miles per hour, according to a state trooper and crash reconstructionist with the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s Crash Investigation Team. 

The driver and passenger of the first motorcycle were killed in the collision. The driver of the second motorcycle, who was not killed, suffered serious injuries, including three broken vertebrae, a broken left shoulder, broken ribs, approximately 28 fractures to his skull and a traumatic brain injury, according to court documents. 

The passenger in the vehicle driven by Hanson was killed when the collision with the first motorcycle caused the vehicle’s roof to collapse. 

A blood test conducted on Hanson after the crash was negative for alcohol, but was positive for THC. A glass pipe and marijuana residue were found in the vehicle driven by Hanson, according to court documents. 

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Man who bear sprayed officers charged with felonies

JACKSON — Alvaro Mancia, the 24-year-old man arrested after a Tuesday standoff with police who said he bear sprayed two officers, had a knife and barricaded himself in an East Jackson residence for a few hours, has been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor.

His bail has been set at $50,000 — what Clay Kainer, chief deputy prosecutor for the criminal division of the Teton County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, recommended.

“The state has concerns for community safety,” Kainer said during Mancia’s Thursday in-custody hearing. “This is a violent matter. There are three separate victims involved in this case.”

The stand-off lasted nearly three hours Tuesday.

Two of the felony counts with which Mancia was charged Thursday were for interfering with a police officer, specifically “intentionally and knowingly” causing or attempting to cause “bodily injury to a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties.”

Those counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

One of the felony counts was for aggravated assault and battery, specifically threatening to “use a drawn deadly weapon on another unless reasonably necessary in defense ... or to prevent serious bodily injury to another.”

That charge carries the same sentence as the first two.

The misdemeanor count was for unlawful contact, which is when someone “touches another person in a rude, insolent or angry manner without intentionally using sufficient physical force to cause bodily injury.”

That charge carries a sentence of six months in jail, and a fine of up to $750.

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Tongue River Cave reopened

SHERIDAN — Access to Tongue River Cave is now open to individuals that register and obtain the lock passcode, which will change frequently.

An updated management order was released by the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region in Golden, Colorado. This management order states that all caves in the region — which includes Colorado and parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas — require mandatory registration. The new order also changed the annual seasonal closure for Tongue River and Cliff Dwellers Caves to April 15 through Aug. 31. Other significant caves in the Bighorn National Forest will be closed Oct. 15 through April 15.

The reasoning behind the change of the seasonal closure comes from the last few seasons of monitoring and learning how bats use caves in the Bighorn National Forest. After the 2019 discovery of a maternity roost of Townsend’s big-eared bats in Tongue River Cave, scientists were able to monitor bat activity during the temporary cave closure.

It was also found that few bats were utilizing Tongue River and Cliff Dwellers Caves for hibernating. 

In addition to monitoring bat use, surveillance of the area noted vandalism and damage to the sensitive cave ecosystem. Vandalism to the cave closure and a break-in occurred in early July 2021, resulting in expensive repairs to federal property and suspected mineral theft. This not only impacted taxpayer funds to fix what was damaged, it also removed part of the cave that took millennia to build and is not replaceable, thus forever altering the experience of future visitors.

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