Sexual Abuse

Former Casper Mayor Daniel Sandoval addresses a victim of sexual assault as she talks about her experience during open comments Oct. 18 at a Casper City Council meeting.

Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune

Experts from law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and community organizations will host two panel discussions on how sexual assault cases are handled in Casper and Natrona County.

The first discussion, scheduled for 7 p.m. April 6 in Casper College’s Durham Hall, will focus on educating the community on how sexual assault cases are investigated and prosecuted as well as explaining what resources are available for victims.

Casper police Chief Jim Wetzel, District Attorney Mike Blonigen, members of the police department’s investigations and victim services staff, the Wyoming Medical Center’s sexual assault nurse examiner as well as representatives from the Self Help Center and the Children’s Advocacy Project will participate in the discussion. Lesley Travers, dean of Casper College’s School of Business and Industry, will moderate the discussion.

During the first event, each of the panel members will explain their role in sexual assault cases. Organizers will also pass out note cards for attendees to write down questions for the panel, though there might not be time for the panel to answer those questions at the first event, Casper police Det. John Hatcher said.

The questions could then be answered during the second discussion, scheduled for May 18 in the same location.

“We realize this is a very big discussion that can’t be done in one meeting,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said he didn’t know if the discussion was created in response to recent criticisms of how the police department handled multiple women’s rape cases. The women, frustrated with how they were being treated by investigators, took their concerns to city council meetings in the fall. In response to the women’s critiques, the police department has decided to review its policy regarding sexual assault investigations.

Follow crime and courts reporter Elise Schmelzer on Twitter @eliseschmelzer

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Features Editor

Elise Schmelzer joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 after graduating from the University of Missouri and interning at newspapers around the country. As features editor, she oversees arts and culture coverage and reports stories on a broad variety of topics.

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