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State Briefs


November 28, 2019

Teen charged as adult for threats against schools

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A 15-year-old boy accused of making a bomb threat at Cheyenne schools had his preliminary hearing Friday afternoon in Laramie County Circuit Court.

Charles Reese Karn is being charged as an adult for allegedly making terroristic threats against several schools. The crime carries up to three years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Karn is being held in custody on a $5000 cash only bond.

Circuit Judge Denise Nau bound the case over to Laramie County District Court after finding there was probable cause for the charge.

During Friday’s preliminary hearing, Triumph High School Resource Officer Joseph Johnson testified he got a text message from a Triumph administrator at 8:41 a.m. Nov. 12 saying Karn had cut off his ankle monitor and left the school.

Later, a secretary at Triumph stated Karn called police after allegedly receiving a call from Karn in which he said he had bombs at Triumph, South High and Johnson Junior High.

During the phone call, he said he would be the next “Columbine shooter,” started to count down like he had a bomb detonator and said he would kill himself.

Officers responded to Johnson Junior High, where Karn was allegedly vandalizing faculty and staff vehicles in the school’s parking lot.

Johnson said Karn had admitted to officers that he had called in the bomb threat, and said he was “joking,” wanted to kill people and then said he just wanted to scare people.

Man convicted of mother’s murder

CASPER (WNE) — A Natrona County jury on Friday afternoon took 101 minutes to convict a man of murder for the February killing of his mother in her central Casper home. 

When a court clerk read the jury’s verdict at 5:15 p.m., Andrew Steplock, 28, put his right hand near his opposite wrist, rubbing the base of his left hand. He otherwise remained expressionless and largely motionless, as he had through the course of the five-day trial.

The audience of two dozen, including a mix of prosecutors, a public defender and family members, likewise remained silent while a court clerk read the verdict: guilty of felony murder. And guilty as well of second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent. 

His lawyers did not contest a prosecution request to hold Steplock without bond in advance of sentencing, which due to his felony murder conviction will either be life imprisonment or life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

The jury found for the purposes of that conviction that Steplock had both burglarized and attempted to burglarize his mother’s home on Feb. 26, when he shot and killed her. He drove a Toyota SUV to Colorado, where, he told detectives after his arrest, he had planned to live on the street. But police arrested him asleep in the SUV parked near a northern Colorado gas station. 

He confessed shortly after the arrest but eventually took the case to trial, where his court-appointed defense team acknowledged he shot and killed his mom.

Laramie teacher wins national math education award

LARAMIE (WNE) — Helen Ommen, a teacher at Spring Creek Elementary School, was recently honored with a national award for excellence in teaching elementary math.

Ommen, who teaches in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education program, also called the GATE program, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching earlier this fall, along with a trip to Washington, D.C.

The award included a signed certificate from President Donald Trump and a $10,000 prize from the National Science Foundation.

The presidential awards recognize up to 108 teachers a year for their work in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science. The program was established by Congress in 1983.

Ommen, who has taught at Spring Creek for the last four years, said the rigorous application process required her to submit a video of herself teaching and answer questions about her own teaching practice and math theory. Applications were reviewed by teachers and scientists.

Ommen didn’t decide she wanted to be a teacher until after taking a graduate-level math class at the University of North Carolina. Up to that point, she was an engineering student who hated math.

“I had a couple professors who pushed us to embrace more problems that were open-ended and required making connections to lots of different types of math,” she said. “The language aspect of the class — math is a language that can describe the world around you — was really emphasized.”

After a “transformative” experience as a student, she started tutoring kids in math.

Attempted murder case bound over to district court

GILLETTE (WNE) — The woman accused of shooting her husband after he said he wanted to end their 30-plus year relationship had $5600 in cash on her when she was arrested by police Nov. 11, according to testimony in her preliminary hearing Thursday.

Paulette Iliff, 54, was bound over to District Court at the hearing after Circuit Judge Paul S. Phillips found probable cause to suspect her of attempted first-degree murder of her husband, Robert “Bobby” Iliff, and aggravated assault and battery against him when she pointed a gun at him Nov. 7.

She also had been seen throwing away documents near Powder River Dental after leaving the house and going to a friend’s house, where police arrested her, said Gillette Police Cpl. Dan Stroup.

Stroup testified Thursday that when police arrived at the house to arrest her, Paulette Iliff made the unsolicited comment that “she shouldn’t have shot her husband.”

Police knew she was at the house because the friend had called them shortly after Robert Iliff drove himself to the emergency room with a gunshot wound to the chest. The friend told police later that Paulette Iliff had called her to say she had shot her husband, and the friend told her to come to her house. When police arrived, Iliff had self-inflicted knife wounds on her neck and wrists, Stroup said.

Sheridan College to pursue 4-year degree

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Northern Wyoming Community College District Board President Walter Tribley announced that the college will pursue approval for an applied baccalaureate degree in management and leadership with an emphasis in either business or industrial technology at the NWCCD Board of Trustees’ November meeting.

Tribley submitted a draft resolution to the board and asked that they consider it at their Dec. 12 meeting. If the resolution is approved, the college will then begin developing the curriculum.

“Four-year degrees will float all boats in our state,” Tribley said. “They will help the University of Wyoming, they’ll help our citizens, they’ll help our business, and we have a real good opportunity to help the people in our district achieve.”

Should the Board of Trustees approve the resolution, the resolution will be forwarded to the Wyoming Community College Commission in February to request permission to seek the change from the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the college.

“Mainly what they look at is the capacity of the institution,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Estella Castillo-Garrison said. “As an institution we want to be ready for our students in all of our advising and pathways [to the degree programs].”

The March 2019, legislation authorizing AB degrees at community colleges limits offerings to two degree programs per college.

Wyoming’s colleges will have to coordinate admissions, and especially transfer, processes to adapt to the changes.


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