Pete Martinez called Casper artist Chris Navarro one day out of the blue, maybe 25 years ago, and said they should meet. Both musician and sculptor had a shared interest in rodeo and horses.
At some point later, Navarro decided to give Martinez the basics on team roping. Martinez wanted to know how to do it safely, because, of course, the Nashville musician “couldn’t afford to lose any of his digits.”
Martinez, a man known for strong family bonds, a sense of humor and his success as a Nashville recording artist, died of cancer Dec. 10 in Houston. He was 56.
“The guy was a born entertainer, that’s for sure,” Navarro said. “Just him and a guitar and bunch of guys sitting around you know, the next thing you know, it’s a party breaking out.”
Martinez was born in Leadville, Colorado, and grew up in Casper, the oldest of three siblings, said his sister, Sandra Dixon. His parents, Pete and Isabel Martinez, raised them around music and horses, which remained lifelong passions for him, she said.
His music and business activity took him around the country and even overseas to perform. But he visited his hometown whenever he could, even if just to stop for dinner out with family before a flight out the next day, Dixon said.
People always noticed the tall, thin man in his trademark black cowboy hat, she said.
“I had to share him,” Dixon said. “I don’t think he knew a stranger; and if he did, he would make friends immediately. He had the most warm smile. People were just drawn to him.”
Martinez’s father taught him to play guitar when he was young, Dixon said. Martinez graduated from Natrona County High School in 1979, and he earned his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Wyoming and Metropolitan State University of Denver.
His albums recorded in Nashville included “Changes,” and “I Would for You” on the Rodeo Records label, and his single “Bull Rider” became a hit at rodeos nationwide.
He also recently recorded a gospel CD, Dixon said.
He was a hit with Casper audiences for his local performances including the CNFR and Ranch City Party at the Casper Events Center.
The son of a Navy veteran, Martinez performed his song “We Thank You” for a D-Day commemoration event in 2014 at Omaha Beach in Normandy, according to his Facebook page. A song he wrote called “The Horse” was featured on an IMAX film, his sister said. Hank Williams Jr. helped on one of his CDs.
She recalled he’d often send photos from Nashville and call his mother to say, “You won’t believe who I just got to watch singing or just met.”
Martinez also ran companies in Colorado and Houston, where he owned homes with his wife, Dixon said. He worked in the water resource industry with experience in mining engineering, energy development and ranch and farm brokerage, according to westernwaterresources.com.
Dixon looked up to Martinez, even as a child. He was protective and could be bossy, so she’d tell him he was her big brother, not her dad — and they’d laugh.
They’d go to the lake on the Fourth of July and jump off the cliffs. Even if everyone else said not to do something, he’d be the one to say, “Let’s do it, I’ll do it with you.”
His daring extended to competing in rodeo as a bull rider, she said.
“He was a cowboy from his soul,” Dixon said.
Martinez’ friends remember him as down-to-earth with a sense of humor and loyalty.
His childhood friend, Dick O’Hearn, said he never let success give him a big ego. He was outgoing and generous with smiles, handshakes and hugs. O’Hearn called him an active listener, paying close attention and asking questions.
“He thought you were the most important person in the room at that time,” he said. “He would just focus on you and play catch-up.”
Martinez always was eager to reunite over the years and reminisce about their years together in church, little league baseball and school — from Westwood Elementary through UW — and their times since then, he said.
“It’s always so great to see you,” Martinez wrote when he signed his “Changes” CD for his friend. “We’re like brothers.”
Navarro, too, remembers him most as a good friend. After a bad horse wreck on the trail ride in New Mexico, the first face Navarro saw when he came to was Martinez.’ Martinez also was the first person Navarro knew to arrive at the hospital. He’d had his clothes cut off, so Martinez bought him new ones.
Martinez called him a few weeks ago from Houston to tell him it would probably be the last time they talk.
“He told me he valued my friendship and that I meant a lot to him and that he wanted to let me know he loved me,” Navarro said. “Not many cowboys tell each other they love each other, you know what I mean.”
Tatiana Maxwell said she was working as an intern at a Cheyenne law firm in 1982 when a young lawyer at the firm, Ed Murray, sexually assaulted her at the office.
Murray, now Wyoming’s secretary of state, denies the allegations. Murray is considering whether to run for governor and is widely viewed as one of the leading Republican candidates, should he decide to enter the race.
Maxwell detailed the alleged assault in a social media post earlier this week and confirmed the events in a phone interview with the Star-Tribune on Thursday.
“This is not a comfortable thing to talk about,” Maxwell said. “It hasn't been a comfortable thing for 35 years, but it's the right thing to do.”
Murray issued a statement to the media Thursday saying that he was “shocked and appalled” to read Maxwell’s social media post. The statement said that Murray was an advocate for women.
“This baseless claim about an encounter from thirty-five years ago is unequivocally false,” Murray stated. “There is no basis to this falsehood whatsoever and it is deeply hurtful to me and to my family, as well as to everyone I serve.”
Maxwell said in a Facebook post Monday that she was working at Dray, Madison and Thomson during the summer after she graduated from high school in Cheyenne. She said Murray was five years older than her and had taken a job at the firm after recently graduating from law school.
“He was older, handsome and from an old Cheyenne family but I didn’t really know him,” she wrote.
According to Maxwell, Murray invited her to meet him at the office after working hours and said she sat with him in the reception area of the law office. She recalled there being Domino’s pizza and beer.
She said that Murray put his hands on her and attempted to kiss her but that she resisted, told him she was a virgin and stopped him from taking off her pants.
“Ed wrestled me down to the carpet in front of the receptionist desk, opened his pants, lifted up my blouse and ejaculated on my stomach,” Maxwell wrote. “I was disgusted and horrified.”
Specifically, Maxwell stated the following in her Facebook post:
“One of the unforgettable memories was of him handing me the box of Kleenex from the receptionist’s desk to clean myself up after ... he was finished,” she wrote.
Maxwell wrote that she did not report it to the firm’s senior lawyers for fear of losing her job and did not contact the police because she had not been “physically hurt.” She said that Murray married a high school classmate of hers and was present at two of her high school reunions, where he once tried to apologize to her and a second time “alluded” to the incident.
She said that following the alleged incident she began referring to him as “Eddie the Toad” in conversations with friends.
The law firm is now called Dray, Dykeman, Reed and Healey. Gregory Dykeman, a partner at the firm, confirmed that Maxwell worked at the company for a “short period” and that Murray was an associate attorney there.
“(W)e have no employment records this far back, so I cannot give you any more accurate dates or other information,” Dykeman added.
At the time, Maxwell was known by her maiden name Laybourn. She said that her job was a summer internship and lasted a few months.
Maxwell’s husband, Peter Maxwell, told two Wyoming media outlets that the events described in his wife’s Facebook post were consistent with what she had told him in the past. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Star-Tribune. The two are currently getting divorced, Tatiana Maxwell said.
Maxwell, a real estate developer, was born and raised in Cheyenne and lived in Jackson before moving to Boulder, Colorado, where she currently lives.
Maxwell said she unaware that Murray was considering running for governor until reporters informed her after seeing her Facebook post and contacting her.
According to federal election records, Maxwell has donated about $73,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations in Wyoming, Colorado and nationally since 1998. It does not appear that Maxwell has donated to any Wyoming candidates or organizations since 2008.
Maxwell acknowledged that she has been politically active, but said her decision to share her story on social media now had nothing to do with politics.
“It supersedes politics,” Maxwell said. “It's about human behavior. It's about right and wrong, and it's about standing up for women.”
Maxwell said with many sexual assault and harassment allegations in the news, her three daughters had asked her whether she had experienced anything like that. When she told the story about Murray, her 17-year-old daughter urged her to speak out about the incident and Maxwell said that by not doing so she would be setting a poor example.
"I couldn't respond to her that it's a complicated thing because I don't want that to be her answer," Maxwell said. "It's not complicated thing. It's black and white."
Maxwell did not contact media about Murray. She made a public post about the incident on Facebook on Monday afternoon and the story was first reported Thursday morning by KGAB radio in Cheyenne, which initially ran an article about the post that did not include comment from Murray. Maxwell said the station did not contact her before publishing the article.
Murray released his statement later Thursday morning after KGAB and its affiliated stations published her account. The statement references the #MeToo movement in which women have come forward to share stories of sexual assault and harassment. Several prominent political figures have been accused of sexual harassment or assault in recent weeks, including members of Congress and state lawmakers around the country. Maxwell references the movement in her Facebook post and Murray said he was sympathetic to the underlying message.
“I struggle to understand what would motivate someone to make this kind of accusation,” Murray said in the statement. “But considering that this statement was made in the context of the #metoo movement, I want to take this moment to acknowledge the overall importance of this conversation, as well as to reaffirm my commitment to being an ally for women.”
The Wyoming Public Employees Association handles many workplace grievances related to sexual harassment in the state government. Executive director Betty Jo Beardsley said she was unaware of any sexual harassment cases in the secretary of state’s office since Murray took office in 2015.
Through a spokesman, Murray did not respond to a detailed list of questions sent by the Star-Tribune, including whether he knew Maxwell, whether the two had a social relationship while working at the Cheyenne law firm or whether any parts of Maxwell’s account were accurate.
A Cheyenne businessman, Murray was elected secretary of state in 2014. Along with State Treasurer Mark Gordon, he is considered a leading contender to be Wyoming’s next governor if he chooses the enter the GOP primary. Murray has said in the past that he hopes to make a decision by the end of the year.
While in office, Murray has been known for his fierce defense of Wyoming’s low corporate filing fees, which he argues encourage economic growth in the state and generate revenue, but which some critics argue enable fraud.
Murray has also bucked a request by the Trump administration to turn over election and voter information to a federal commission on voter fraud, saying that he was worried doing so might open the door to unconstitutional federal overreach.
He said in the statement Thursday that the allegations by Maxwell were upsetting and false but said that they were a reminder about the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“As a husband of thirty-one years and the father of four incredible daughters, I take my role as an advocate for women with utmost importance,” Murray said in the statement. “While I am deeply disturbed by this false allegation, I choose to allow this to serve as a reminder of how important it is to be an advocate for the courageous women and men who have spoken out against a very serious problem in our country.”
Staff writer Elise Schmelzer contributed to this report.
Wyoming ranked as the 26th healthiest state in the country according to a 2017 national study, dragged down by its nation-leading rate of occupational fatalities and poor record of immunizations.
Wyoming — which hit its lowest score since 2001 — was the one of the least healthy states in the West, beaten out only by Nevada (37th), New Mexico (36th) and Arizona (31st), according to the study by the United Health Foundation. While Wyoming’s excellent rating for air pollution — the best in the nation — helped buoy its ranking. Occupational fatalities, a high level of uninsured and poor immunization rates among children dragged the state down.
The study evaluated the states using 35 different factors — from immunizations to birth weight and violent crime — across five categories: behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and outcomes.
The largest cluster of unhealthy states was in the South. Mississippi ranked dead last in the nation, followed by neighbors Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. Georgia was 41st, and South Carolina was 44th.
Meanwhile, the Northeast was home to the healthiest cluster, generally. Massachusetts claimed the top spot. Vermont was third and Connecticut fifth.
Utah at fourth, Colorado at seventh and Oregon at ninth were the brightest spots west of the Mississippi River.
While Wyoming’s just-under 80 percent high school graduation rate was low — 37th in the country — the Equality State was hit hardest by its health record, according to the study. Wyoming ranked 48th and 50th for percent of females and males, respectively, with the HPV vaccine. It was also dead last for percentage of people with the meningococcal vaccine and 49th for percent of children with immunizations.
Wyoming has repeatedly been hit by national studies for children’s health. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count survey ranked it dead last in that category for 2015, noting its nation-leading teen death rate. A separate study by the same foundation found Wyoming’s children — especially those of color — lagged behind their peers in other nations.
The health issues aren’t isolated to the state’s youth: Wyoming ranked 43rd for the percentage of its population that was uninsured — 11.3 percent. The state is one of 19 that has chosen not to expand Medicaid.
Adding more weight to a concern long brought by state health officials, the study also ranked Wyoming 48th for its number of primary care physicians, with 105.7 per 100,000 people. It was 34th for its percentage of adults — 18.9 percent — who smoke.
Still, Wyoming’s health rankings weren’t all bad. Cancer deaths were the seventh lowest, at 170.3 per 100,000. Diabetes was sixth. While low birth weight continues to plague the state — which health officials have had a hard time explaining — the state was 12th for mental health providers.
But drug deaths have jumped over the past decade — from 6.6 per 100,000 people to 17.6 — a problem that’s affecting states across the nation amid the growing opiate epidemic. Excessive drinking also inched up in Wyoming to nearly 20 percent of adults.
Some of Wyoming’s best scores came in the study’s community and environment section, though its nation’s-worst score in occupational fatalities broke that trend. In addition to being the best in the U.S. for air pollution, Wyoming was:
After spending the early part of the 1990s in the mid-teens, Wyoming’s overall health ranking has generally hovered around the low to mid-20s over the past 20 years. It was 17th as recently as 2013, but stuck at 25th until this year.