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State Briefs


August 22, 2019

No new district judge for Campbell County

GILLETTE (WNE) — The 6th Judicial District is the second most overworked district in the state, and Campbell County officials are being proactive in trying to alleviate the issue.

Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan and Commission Chairman Rusty Bell made the case to the Joint Judiciary Committee on Thursday evening to add another district judge, but they were unsuccessful.

The committee voted it down, 8-4.

Deegan said the framework exists to add a fourth judge. In the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate File 6, which authorized a fourth district judge in the 1st Judicial District, which covers Laramie County. Deegan suggested the committee use that bill as a template.

The data supports adding a judge to the 6th Judicial District. Deegan, Judge John Perry and Judge Thomas Rumpke cover Campbell, Crook and Weston counties. Although most of their work is in Campbell County, they try to spend at least one day per month in the other counties.

According to numbers from the Wyoming Supreme Court, the three district judges in the 6th Judicial District have a weighted case load of 4.16, meaning that they’re doing an amount of work suitable for 4.16 judges. It’s a 139 percent caseload per judge.

“We run at really high RPMs,” Deegan said. “It’s not uncommon for me to have 12 settings in a day.”

There wouldn’t be a price tag associated with the bill unless the committee chooses to add one. Each district court has a budget of about $1 million per biennium, Deegan said. That includes the judge, a judicial assistant, a court reporter and a law clerk.

Body of climber killed in fall recovered

RIVERTON (WNE) — The body of a man who died in a climbing accident in the Wind River Mountains has been recovered. 

Zijah Kurtovic, 63, of Evanston, Ill., died at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, of “massive blunt-force trauma from a fall from extreme height,” Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said Friday. 

He estimated Kurtovic had fallen 500-700 feet from the Cirque of the Towers on Pingora Peak. The incident, which was reported at about 1:40 p.m. Aug. 10, also involved a 67-year-old Arizona man who fell about 45 feet while ascending the mountain, according to a press release from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office. 

The press release indicates the older man suffered “extensive injuries” and was airlifted from the area to an Idaho hospital Saturday. Reaching the deceased proved more difficult: Officials said several attempts to access the body had been “hampered by severe weather and high winds, making helicopter operations impossible.” 

Instead, on Aug. 12, afternoon a five-person team of search-and-rescue volunteers, supported by a U.S. Forest Service pack team, began hiking to the base of Pingora Peak, planning to ascend the mountain Tuesday morning and recover the deceased under the direction of the Fremont County Coroner’s office, according to the FCSO. 

Stratmoen said the climbers ascended Pingora on Tuesday, recovered the body and lowered it down the mountain, then transferred it to the horse team, which traveled to meet Stratmoen’s staff at Worthen Meadows at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Woman sentenced to prison in stabbing case

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A woman who fatally stabbed another woman last year was sentenced Friday morning to five to eight years in prison.

Tanya Pearson pleaded guilty in April to involuntary manslaughter per a plea agreement. Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell sentenced her Friday. The charge carries a five-year minimum sentence, but she faced up to 30 years in prison under the original charges, which also included aggravated assault and battery.

Prosecuting attorney Caitlin Harper said Pearson was having a long-term affair with the husband of the victim, Jennifer Pratt. Pratt was planning on moving out of the house and leaving her husband.

Harper said Pearson and Pratt got into a fight in April 2018 in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. This is when Pearson, who had a switchblade, stabbed Pratt three times.

Pratt died alone, bleeding out in the park before officers could get to the scene. She called her husband as she was dying, leaving a voicemail begging him to call an ambulance, Harper said. He never got her call because he was on the phone with Pearson, who had fled the scene and washed the blood off her car with a bottle of Gatorade.

Harper said Pratt lost her home, husband and life to Pearson. The state asked for 10 to 12 years incarceration for Pearson, which was ultimately denied by Campbell.

Defense attorney Diane Lozano said the whole situation started off as an ugly love triangle. She said Pearson told her if she could take it back she would.


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