UW dorm overhaul measure survives first reading
LARAMIE (WNE) — House Bill 293 has no shortage of support among the Legislature’s leadership, but the bill that would overhaul the University of Wyoming’s dormitories got a more tepid response during its first vote on the House floor Monday.
Just 33 of 60 legislators in the chamber voted to advance the bill on first reading, barely keeping alive the bill that’s the product of a 2018 legislative task force, convened to form a plan to construct new dorms to house 2,000 students.
Several legislators expressed opposition to the plan, suggesting UW should rely on the private sector to house students.
The UW housing task force spent several meetings exploring the possibility of using a public-private partnership to build the dorms, but legislators on the task force determined that approach would cost UW more while compromising quality.
Other legislators opposed to the bill cited the state’s recent economic woes as a reason to delay more capital construction in the state.
“I just think we should hold off in this economic time,” said Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette.
Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, echoed the same concerns Laramie officials raised last week about a section of the bill that would appropriate $3.5 million in grant funding for the city to mitigate the “restricted access” to 15th Street created by the construction.
In 2017, the Legislature included a footnote in the budget bill that required UW to pursue a permanent closure of the section of 15th that runs through campus.
After significant backlash in Laramie, legislators dropped the idea, and Brown questioned HB 293’s apparent resurrection of the proposal.
“It seems to me that we are now doing exactly what we said weren’t going to do two years ago,” he said.
Man sentenced to 40 years in murder case
CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Cheyenne man was sentenced Monday to serve 40 years in federal prison for shooting and killing a 19-year-old man.
Armando Ramirez-Serna, 22, pleaded guilty in October to killing Justin Robinson in November 2017. After the shooting, Ramirez-Serna took 4 ounces of marijuana and $200 from Robinson.
Investigators believe Ramirez-Serna then drove Robinson’s body to a reservoir east of town and set fire to Robinson’s mother’s Lincoln MKX.
Ramirez-Serna pleaded guilty to interfering with commerce by robbery, and using a firearm and causing murder during the robbery.
As part of the plea agreement, he will not be able to appeal his conviction or sentence.
Ramirez-Serna was also ordered to pay more than $19,000 in restitution to the victim’s family and to the Wyoming Division of Victims Assistance.
“The prosecution of this case represents a successful collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime in our communities,” U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen said in a news release.
The case was investigated by the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Man charged in assault that left woman with brain injury
POWELL (WNE) — Authorities allege a Cody man repeatedly hit his girlfriend’s head against a vehicle console and the floor, drug her around and strangled her in an assault that left her with a traumatic brain injury.
Brian A. Foss, 42, is facing three charges in connection with the New Year’s Eve incident: felony counts of aggravated assault and strangulation of a household member, plus a misdemeanor count of domestic battery. In a separate case, he also faces a misdemeanor count of property destruction.
Last week, Foss agreed to let his felony case proceed to Park County District Court. He remained in jail on Monday, with bail set at $30,000.
Foss’ girlfriend had been spending the New Year’s Eve holiday at a friend’s house in Cody. However, around 9:30 p.m., Foss showed up and allegedly kicked in the door to the Sheridan Avenue residence, took his girlfriend and left.
Charging documents allege he then assaulted the woman on the way to and at his residence on Stagecoach Trail; she reportedly suffered a life-threatening brain bleed.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office was called to Foss’ trailer — just west of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir — shortly before 11 p.m. When deputies arrived, they heard Foss yelling and his girlfriend came out of the residence.
Although her face was red and swollen in spots, she initially told the officers everything was fine and they could go, Deputy Tom Toohey wrote in a statement in support of the charges.
However, out of earshot of Foss, the woman later acknowledged that Foss had hit her and dragged her around by her hair; the 36-year-old said her jaw and shoulders hurt.
Cody woman sentenced to prison in meth ring case
CODY (WNE) — A Cody woman will spend the next 3-5 years in prison for her role in a large-scale methamphetamine ring.
Wendy Lee was sentenced Friday in Cody by District Court Judge Bill Simpson for conspiring to possess meth with intent to deliver and for possession of meth with intent to deliver.
“I regret deeply everything that has happened,” Lee told the judge at her sentencing.
The sentence was part of a no contest plea Lee and her public defender Timothy Blatt made with the state, which dropped one intent to deliver a controlled substance felony originally charged against Lee.
Although a pre-sentence investigation report recommended extended supervised probation for Lee’s punishment, the state disagreed.
Lee has no prior felonies and one domestic violence charge which she pled guilty to.
Police say they found Wendy Lee, 50, with 4.6 grams of meth – over the three-gram felony threshold – and a few doses of LSD – a misdemeanor – in March 2018. After entering an initial not guilty plea to those charges in Natrona County District Court, Lee had a change of plea hearing July 25.
Wendy Lee’s husband Bill Lee was allegedly found holding just over 30 grams of meth when he was arrested with her in Casper.
Bill Lee is alleged to have retailed more than $38,000 worth of the drug in a two week period as Colorado meth distributor Brian Bland was allegedly selling to Lee at $6,500 per pound or roughly $406 per ounce.
Bill Lee was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Casper on Jan. 3 to 11 years in prison along with alleged co-conspirators Howard Shull and Phillip McGuire.
From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers