Slideshow: August 2013 mugshots

Mugshots and the stories of people charged with crimes in August and others whose cases were in the news during the month.

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  • In the early morning hours of July 25, Samuel Renner was primed to kill someone, authorities said. It wasn’t necessarily Todd Callies.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued the legal definition of premeditation at Renner’s Thursday morning preliminary hearing in Natrona County Circuit Court. Could premeditation — a cause for a first-degree murder charge — be used if the defendant wanted to kill someone else?

    Renner, 21, faces 11 charges for an alleged spree of threats and violence that spanned several hours. He is charged with the first-degree murder of 41-year-old Callies, the attempted first-degree murder of Stuart Campbell, seven charges of aggravated assault against a group of teenagers, and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent. The seventh charge of aggravated assault was added after Renner’s initial appearance in court.

    The defendant was present but silent throughout the hour-and-a-half-long hearing. The postage stamp-sized black eyes Renner wore at last week’s initial appearance were shrunken but still readily visible. He stole glances at the standing-room-only spectator gallery before proceedings began.

    Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen employed investigators from the Evansville Police Department and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office to walk the courtroom through the night in question. He painted Renner as a volatile, intoxicated young man, eager to brawl with anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.

    According to Evansville Police Detective Sgt. Josh Bjorklund, Renner had been out with friends for a mini bachelor party earlier in the evening. Renner’s first altercation was with his fiancée while the two were outside Taylor’s Sports Bar in Evansville.

    During the argument, a Campbell, a bar patron, said, in Renner’s words, “something smart” to the couple. Campbell would later tell investigators that this was something to the effect of “have a nice night.”

    With this, investigators say, Renner put Campbell in a choke hold until Campbell could break free. Campbell responded by punching Renner in the face several times, “until he stopped with his aggressive actions,” according to an arrest affidavit.

    At some point after the fight, Bjorklund said a waitress at Taylor’s went outside to speak to Renner.

    “He was upset, angry and he wanted to know where the subject [Campbell] lived so he could go blow up his house,” Bjorklund relayed to the courtroom. Renner then switched gears and informed the waitress he was going to go get a gun and return to the bar, the detective said.

    Renner and his fiancée left the bar and returned to his residence on the 300 block of King Street in Evansville. His fiancée later told officers she witnessed Renner retrieve his handgun and shoot it onto the ground on his property, according to the affidavit. She left the area and did not return.

    But Renner wasn’t done for the night, investigators say.

    Natrona County Sheriff’s Investigator David Hulshizer interviewed a group of several witnesses between the ages of 16 and 18 who were parked near the intersection of Curtis and Second streets in Evansville just before midnight.

    A few of the teens were standing outside smoking when they were approached by what one girl described as a “zombie” walking down the street. The man, later identified as Renner, was bleeding from the nose, and, the witnesses soon realized, was carrying two firearms, Hulshizer said.

    According to the witnesses’ account, Renner stopped at the vehicle, scanned each passenger with both guns, and said, “Do you want to die?” One of the female witnesses turned her head away and waved her arms as if to block what was happening: “No, no, no,” she said.

    Renner additionally confronted one of the male witnesses who happened to know about firearms. The witness later told officials he first saw the gun’s red laser dot in the grass and then on his own chest.

    “I’m looking for Scott,” Renner allegedly said. “I’m going to kill someone, is that all right with you?”

    The group of youths managed to drive away and called 9-1-1. They were put on hold.

    “This dude’s gonna massacre someone,” one of the witnesses said.

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    Renner made his way back to the Taylor’s Sports Bar parking lot, where Bjorklund says the defendant threatened more bystanders. Bjorklund said Renner placed the barrel of his gun between the eyes of one man and asked if he wanted to die.

    It was then that Todd Callies walked out of the bar.

    “I would imagine he saw Renner holding [them] at gunpoint,” Bjorklund said.

    Bjorklund said Callies basically ran at Renner and Renner started moving. The investigator said Renner fired a weapon behind him before the other patrons, including Callies, wrestled Renner to the ground in the northeast corner of the parking lot. Two more shots were fired, Bjorklund said, striking Callies in the upper left chest. Renner fled.

    According to the affidavit, police found a .40-caliber Springfield XD with a pistol-mounted laser sight and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver in the parking lot. Witness accounts along with Renner’s credit card statement lead police to the defendant, who was arrested a few hours later while trying to flee from his home.

    “When we look at the events, it becomes apparently clear that the defendant was out to kill,” Itzen said in a recap.

    Renner’s defense attorney Kurt Infanger did not rebut any of the claims made by investigators but stressed that his client never announced his intent to kill Callies.

    He additionally said there were no direct threats made against Campbell and stressed that Renner told the youths that he was looking for “Scott,” not Stuart.

    “There has to be more than idle threats made,” Infanger said of premeditation. “That does not fit the facts of this case.”

    Infanger argued that the state lacked sufficient probable cause to support first-degree murder, and asked the court not to bind over the homicide and attempted-homicide charges. Infanger did agree that there was enough evidence to move the other charges to District Court.

    Itzen said there was more than ample evidence to support the two charges. Malice and intent can still be applied, even if another victim is killed, he said. Itzen added that there were 30 seconds between the first gunshot and the last — enough to prove premeditation.

    Natrona County Circuit Judge Michael Patchen agreed with the state and bound all charges over to District Court.

    Renner will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges at a later date.

  • A 60-year-old Casper man may be spending the rest of his life in prison after admitting to molesting a 6-year-old girl.

    Monty Montoya pleaded guilty in Natrona County District Court Friday morning to one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. An additional seven charges of a similar nature were dismissed.

    In exchange for his guilty plea, the state agreed to cap its sentencing arguments at 35 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. In Wyoming, the penalty for first-degree sexual abuse of a minor is 25 to 50 years, and a maximum of 20 years for second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

    Investigators say that Montoya abused the girl on several occasions while she and other children were staying with him at his home on the 1000 block of McKinley Street.

    One of the older children, a 13-year-old girl, began to suspect something was amiss one day when she chased after a dog into Montoya’s bedroom, according to a Casper Police affidavit. The dog knocked open the door and the older girl witnessed Montoya running to the bathroom naked, claiming that he was getting in the shower. The 6-year-old girl was sitting on a table in the room with her clothes on, the 13-year-old would later tell interviewers at the Children’s Advocacy Project.

    On another occasion, the 13-year-old girl recalled getting the 6-year-old girl ready for bed, helping her put on her purple pajamas. The two girls fell asleep together in the living room, but when the 13-year-old girl awoke in the morning, the 6-year-old was gone. The older girl said she then went into Montoya’s bedroom to tell him the girl was missing, and saw the younger girl sleeping in his bed with her purple pajama bottoms on inside out.

    In the 6-year-old’s interview with the Children’s Advocacy Project, she detailed how, on several occasions, in various rooms in his house, Montoya would touch her privates and force her to touch his. She was additionally forced to perform oral sex on Montoya, she reported.

    In a police interview, Montoya eventually confessed. He was initially charged with five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

    Montoya has yet to be officially sentenced. His attorneys could argue for anything less than the state’s prescribed sentencing cap, within the legal boundaries. Montoya would be 95 at the end of his sentence if the court agrees with the state’s anticipated sentencing argument.

  • An Evansville man could spend up to 27 years in prison for his role in the sexual abuse and exploitation of two young children.

    In a deal with prosecutors, Jonathon Cummins pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit sexual exploitation of a minor and conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The deal is pending a judge’s approval.

    Cummins is the second of two co-defendants to plead guilty to the crimes. Natrona County sheriff’s deputies say that in January, Cummins asked Kelly Turner, 26, to take and send photos of her molesting an 18-month-old girl and a young boy.

    Turner complied, but her message to Cummins was intercepted by Cummins’ girlfriend, officials say. Turner was charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of manufacturing child pornography. She was sentenced in July to 25 to 30 years in prison.

    By pleading guilty, Cummins was afforded a plea agreement that would cap prosecutor’s arguments for count two at 17 years and count one at five to 10 years. The sentences would run consecutive to one another, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Stensaas said at Cummins’ Tuesday morning hearing.

    Cummins originally faced seven charges related to possession of child porn, sexual exploitation and solicitation of sexual abuse of a minor.

    Without the plea agreement, Cummins’ could face five to

    12 years in prison for the exploitation charge, and his sexual abuse charge would carry as many as 50 years.

    The defendant was obliged to provide a factual basis for his change of plea on both charges.

    “I asked her to take the pictures and she took them,” he said of the first charge. He additionally admitted that he requested Turner molest the children.

    Cummins remains free on bond until his official sentencing hearing, where a judge will accept or reject the plea agreement and decide on an official sentence.

  • Thomas A. Phelps told police he didn’t believe any good would come from reporting a burglary in his apartment. He instead opted for vigilante justice.

    Phelps, 30, and his wife, Kari, had suspicions that the burglar was a man to whom she had sold marijuana, according to a police affidavit. The man knew where she kept her cash, and $300 of it was stolen. An acquaintance confirmed Phelps’ suspicions.

    The Phelpses were at the duck ponds near Bryan Stock Trail on June 16 when the man texted Kari, asking to buy some marijuana. The Casper couple drove to meet the man at the nearby soccer fields, where he would be waiting, the affidavit states. Only Thomas Phelps got out of the vehicle.

    The alleged victim later told police that Phelps approached him, hit him in his face, and threw him out of the car. He blacked out

    afterwards, but a witness was able to fill in the rest. After the man was on the ground, the assailant beat his head onto the asphalt and kicked his stomach several times, she said.

    Phelps then reportedly took the man’s wallet, rummaged through it for a moment, and threw it back onto the immobilized man on the ground.

    The couple drove off and went to have dinner with Thomas’ parents.

    When police arrived, the man was conscious but covered in blood and unable to speak. He later picked Phelps out of a photo lineup as the man who assaulted him.

    Phelps reportedly confessed to the assault while being interviewed by Casper Police.

    “It’s pretty much what you all saw is pretty much what happened,” he is quoted as saying in the affidavit. “I just want to kinda accept it.”

    Police say the Phelps apartment burglary investigation is ongoing.

    Casper Police arrested the couple on Tuesday, but only Thomas Phelps was officially charged by the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office. He faces robbery and aggravated assault charges.

    He is held at the Natrona County Detention Center on a $10,000 bond, according to court records. He will attend a preliminary hearing within 10 days to determine whether his charges will move forward to district court.

  • Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins found few reasons to afford Robert Simmons leniency at the man’s sentencing Friday. The stabbing of a 60-year-old man was just the latest in a history of violence.

    Police say Simmons, 30, and his co-defendant, Zacharia Lee Johnson, 26, ambushed the victim in his South Beverly Street apartment and stabbed him in the stomach, torso, leg and neck. Simmons drove his car into the North Platte River two days later on March 6 to “atone for his sins,” police documents state.

    Simmons pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and aggravated burglary in May. The state agreed to strike the sentencing enhancement Simmons could have received for a previous record. There was no sentencing cap specified.

    District Attorney Michael Blonigen argued for nearly the maximum penalty afforded by Wyoming law during Simmons’ sentencing hearing in District Court.

    Blonigen conceded that Johnson was the greater aggressor in the attack but said that didn’t minimize the gravity of Simmons’ offense.

    The victim suffered from eight or nine stab wounds, Blonigen said, and was forced to replace the furniture that was soaked with his own blood.

    “Even if Mr. Simmons was a lesser player, he was a very significant player,” Blonigen said.

    The prosecutor went on to detail Simmons’ lengthy criminal record, beginning with an assault of a police officer in 2000.

    “We have not only a very serious crime but an incredibly bad record of violence,” Blonigen said.

    Blonigen recommended a sentence of 22 to 25 years for aggravated burglary and nine to 10 years for aggravated assault, with the sentences running concurrent with one another.

    The top numbers on both of the recommendations are the maximum afforded by Wyoming law for their respective crimes.

    Defense attorney Curtis Cheney opened his arguments with an account of Simmons’ life.

    Simmons lost his father at a young age and has battled substance abuse issues for a good portion of his life, Cheney said. His 2-year-old son had recently been a motivator for Simmons to stay sober.

    Cheney stressed how remorseful his client was about the attack, to the extent that he tried to commit suicide and broke his back.

    Cheney asked that his client receive eight to 15 years in prison for the aggravated burglary and eight to 10 for the aggravated assault, with the sentences running concurrently.

    Near the end of the hearing, Simmons made an emotional apology to the victim and to his family.

    “I have let many people down,” he said. Simmons then asked Sullins for the opportunity to hug his son before he was taken away.

    Sullins briefly noted Simmons’ “atrocious” criminal record, and how the attack had stripped the victim of his security in his life. His sentence fell closer to Blonigen’s recommendation.

    Simmons will spend 20 to 25 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary for the aggravated burglary. An eight- to 10-year sentence for the aggravated assault will run concurrently. Simmons looked at his son through teary eyes before being led out of the courtroom.

  • A Casper woman was released from jail Wednesday, nearly a year after she was arrested for allegedly trying to lure children from their parents at Washington Park and resisting police intervention.

    Carol Palomo’s psychiatric issues stymied the case at several points in the past year. There were complex legal, ethical and community safety issues that presented challenges for the attorneys and judges throughout each stage of the proceedings.

    A judge deemed her unfit to proceed in her hearings at one point, and in December ordered her to take medication against her will.

    The case hit another snag in June when the Wyoming Public Defender’s Office denied Palomo’s attorney, Tim Cotton, the funding for a second mental evaluation for his client.

    Palomo, 46, ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, with one large provision: She would not admit to any transgressions against a child victim.

    State Prosecutor Kevin Taheri read the amended charges at Palomo’s Wednesday morning hearing in Natrona County District Court. Instead of the original two counts of custodial interference and one count of obstruction of a peace officer, Palomo would plead to one count each of breach of peace, interference and unlawful contact for spitting on an officer.

    “I’ve never hurt a child,” Palomo said of the original allegations.

    Palomo pleaded guilty pursuant to an Alford plea, a legal outlet in which defendants concede that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them, but are not required to admit any wrongdoing.

    The state additionally outlined a sentencing agreement that would potentially allow Palomo to spend no additional time in jail for the Aug. 15, 2012 incident.

    She would receive credit for six months of time served for the disturbing-the-peace charge, a one-year suspended sentence with credit for 184 days of time served for the interference charge and a six-month, suspended sentence for the unlawful contact charge.

    The balance of Palomo’s suspended sentences will only be imposed if she violates the terms of her probation.

    Palomo received a combined change of plea and sentencing hearing, and state and defense attorneys debated the terms of her probation immediately after her guilty plea.

    Taheri, the state prosecutor, said heavy regulation and psychiatric treatment were key to Palomo successfully completing her probation. He asked for 18 months of supervised probation and a court order for Palomo to continue taking her medication.

    Cotton presented a different assessment of his client’s needs. The defense attorney said Palomo harbored animosity and distrust of law enforcement, and asked the judge to consider a one-year term of unsupervised probation.

    He additionally detailed his client’s financial situation. He said Palomo would be homeless once out of jail and simply couldn’t afford her medication, thus setting up her probation for failure.

    A lucid, articulate Palomo addressed Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking near the close of her hearing, and reiterated her attorney’s arguments.

    She would break her probation if she were ordered to keep taking the medication, she said. She has children in college and overwhelming bills.

    “I can’t afford it,” she said.

    Wilking assumed a frank yet sympathetic tone in her sentencing. Palomo’s situation wasn’t one for the criminal system, the judge said, yet if the defendant went off her medication it was likely she would end up back in court.

    “In my observation, the medicine has assisted you in being able to go through this process,” she said. But the judge conceded that she didn’t know many people who would be able to afford the medication without insurance.

    Wilking sentenced Palomo to six months of unsupervised probation — half of the term prescribed by the defense and one-third of the state’s recommendation. Wilking didn’t order Palomo to continue taking her medication, but strongly recommended she take advantage of community aid.

    In closing, Wilking offered a heartfelt thanks to Cotton and the public defender’s office for their help. Cotton estimated that he spent hundreds of hours on the case, but asked that the public defender fees be waived.

  • A Casper man was arrested Thursday after what police say were gun threats toward the wrong targets.

    Anthony Mendoza, 34, was reportedly at the Bryan Stock Trail duck ponds when he got into an argument with another man. He left shortly thereafter on a “beer run,” a witness said.

    While he was gone, Mendoza’s friend arrived on a purple bike and armed with a pipe, according to a police affidavit. Mendoza’s friend and the man Mendoza argued with got into a fight that resulted in both men beaten with the pipe.

    Witnesses said Mendoza’s friend rode away from the fight on his bicycle, and after a little ways, stopped to lie on the ground.

    Mendoza returned to the duck ponds to find a man approaching his friend and got the wrong idea. Mistakenly assuming the man was the one who hurt his friend, he reportedly pointed a gun at the man’s head.

    “You think this is a f---- toy?” Mendoza said, according to the affidavit. “Who did this?”

    Police say Mendoza then leveled the gun at the man’s wife, who was present along with the couple’s children.

    With arms flung up in surrender, the man informed Mendoza that he was not the attacker. The man’s children were screaming at the sight, and he was afraid for his life, he would later tell police. At that point, Mendoza’s daughter reportedly approached her father to inform him that the man was right; he actually broke up the fight.

    Casper Police Sgt. Jim Wetzel said other parties in the fight are still under investigation.

    Upon police interview, Mendoza said the only firearm on his person at the duck ponds was a BB gun. He never aimed it at anyone, and at some point he dropped it, he told the officer.

    “Everything is kind of a blur,” he said, according to the affidavit. “I got real excited.”

    Police say they executed a search warrant at a North Beech Street residence where they found Mendoza and others earlier. They located a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun lodged in a recliner that the homeowner claimed was not his.

    Mendoza was officially charged with two counts of aggravated assault, but prosecutors say there could be more charges coming.

    He could face additional charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and could receive the designation of habitual criminal, Assistant District Attorney Michael Schafer said at Mendoza’s initial hearing Friday afternoon in Natrona County Circuit Court.

    Mendoza began to protest to one of the charges, but was advised by Circuit Court Judge Steven Brown to remain silent.

    Each of the two felony charges could carry as many as 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Mendoza will be held at the Natrona County Detention Center in lieu of a $50,000 cash or surety bond.

    As Mendoza was escorted out of the courtroom, a woman from the gallery called, “I love you, Anthony!” Brown promptly ordered her to leave the courtroom. She obliged, and was followed by several others.

    Mendoza’s next hearing will be in approximately 10 days, when a Circuit Court judge will decide whether his charges will move forward to District Court.

  • The jury took three hours to decide that James Edward Rogers was guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. They took six minutes to determine that he was a habitual offender — a designation that could land him behind bars for the rest of his life.

    Attorneys made their closing statements in the Evansville man’s trial Thursday afternoon, before a Natrona County judge, jury and various local attorneys that lined the benches of the spectator gallery.

    Assistant District Attorney Joshua Stensaas and defense attorney Tracy Hucke debated whether Edwards was guilty of all components of each of his three charges: first-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

    An eight-woman, four-man jury found Rogers guilty on all counts.

    Stensaas rehashed the alleged rape and its aftermath in explicit detail.

    The visibly disturbed attorney had trouble speaking through the more explicit portions of the girl’s assault.

    Rogers dropped by the girl’s residence on April 11, Stensaas recounted. The girl’s guardian left to run errands, and the girl, who has a cognitive disability, was left coloring a picture — a neon pink peace sign — that he displayed to the jury.

    Rogers kissed and groped the girl on the couch, then took her by the wrist to her bedroom and shut the door. He undressed her, performed and received oral sex and had intercourse with her, Stensaas said. The girl confided in a teacher the following day.

    One of the most vehemently contested points by the defense and prosecuting attorney was the issue of whether Rogers used physical force to induce the girl into submission. Proving this would be required by the state for the first-degree sexual assault charge, as outlined in Wyoming law.

    “The defendant caused submission,” Stensaas maintained, as submission is relative.

    To the girl, Rogers leading her into the bedroom and pushing her down on the bed was enough to cause submission.

    “Resistance by a victim is not required,” Stensaas said, and asked the jury to find the defendant guilty of all three counts.

    Hucke began her closing statements in the same fashion co-counsel Robert Oldham opened his arguments on Monday: “James Rogers is not guilty of sexually assaulting [the victim].” The statement was announced as well as displayed in large font on a PowerPoint presentation.

    The defense team chiseled away at each of the state’s arguments.

    Hucke frequently referred back to Wyoming legal definitions, and maintained that the state failed to meet their burden of proof on each count.

    Rogers never used force, she said. An original statement by the lead officer that stated Rogers forced the girl to perform oral sex was a lie, Hucke said.

    None of the officers testified that actual force was used, a nurse found no injuries on the girl, and the girl did not tell Rogers to stop at any time.

    Hucke additionally attested that Rogers was in no position of authority, a requirement for the second count; and that Rogers did not knowingly take indecent and immoral liberties with a minor, required for the third count.

    Consensual sex is legal for a man Rogers’ age and a girl the alleged victim’s age, she said.

    The defense team additionally attempted to instill doubt in jurors’ minds as to the accuracy of DNA results. Witnesses testified that the likelihood that the DNA found in the rape kit was from anyone other than the defendant was 1 in 26.5 million.

    “They want you to convict him based on passion, not on the evidence,” Hucke said in closing.

    Rogers, in a slightly wrinkled pale gray dress shirt, whispered with his attorneys after the verdict was read.

    The courtroom immediately launched into a separate proceeding to determine whether Rogers should be tagged a habitual criminal. According to Wyoming law, a habitual criminal with three or more previous convictions shall be punished by imprisonment for life. Even without this enhancement, Rogers faces a maximum of 80 years in prison if all of his recent convictions run consecutively.

    Stensaas introduced a procession of witnesses, many in law enforcement or the court system, to attest to Rogers’ previous criminal record. Witnesses told the court Rogers has already been convicted of several crimes, including arson, indecent liberties with a minor and felon in possession of a firearm.

    The jury left to deliberate for a second time at 6:02 p.m. They had a verdict by 6:08. Rogers was, indeed, a habitual offender as well.

    An official sentencing hearing will be held at a later date.

    Defense attorneys Oldham and Hucke declined to comment at the conclusion of the trial.

    Stensaas spoke briefly with reporters to laud the victim’s courage in testifying.

    “I’m proud of the victim in this case, and how strong she was in her ability to stand up and face the person who sexually assaulted her,” he said.

  • Robert J. Parks may be spending the rest of his life behind bars for kidnapping and sexually abusing 2-year-old Glenrock girl.

    A Converse County judge recently sentenced the 23-year-old Casper man to 44 to 50 years for the charge of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and 60 years to life for aggravated kidnapping. The sentences will run concurrently.

    Parks in May had entered “Alford” guilty pleas to both counts, meaning that he acknowledges the state has enough evidence to convict him but does not admit wrongdoing. An Alford plea carries the same weight as a regular guilty plea.

    In exchange for his pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of felony larceny related to the theft of a vehicle Parks used to take the girl from her home.

    Converse County deputies say Parks took the girl in the early morning hours of May 19, 2012, drove her in a stolen Jeep Patriot to near the Duncan Ranch off Boxelder Road, and left her there.

    The girl’s mother reported her missing around 9:30 a.m., and an Amber Alert was issued shortly thereafter.

    She was found hours later, alone and naked.

    Biological evidence, cell phone records and Parks’ identification card tied him to the crime.

  • A Casper man suspected of fatally shooting his wife on their neighbor’s doorstep remains on track for a fall trial.

    Thomas Miller appeared Monday in Natrona County District Court, where a judge set an evidentiary hearing for next month. His trial would follow on Oct. 28.

    Authorities say Miller killed his wife about midnight on March 27 following an argument at their home. Natalie Miller attempted to flee to a neighbor’s house, calling 911 along with way to report that her husband was going to shoot her.

    Thomas Miller is accused of shooting her multiple times while she tried to get help. Prosecutors have charged him with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and two counts of child endangerment.

    Miller pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness. However, his competency to stand trial isn’t at issue, said Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen.

    The Millers’ young children were home at the time of the shooting, and Monday’s court hearing was initially set to consider whether they were competent to testify in the case. That issue proved moot after both Blonigen and defense attorney Rob Oldham said they didn’t intend to call the children to the stand.

    Miller hung his head during the hearing, but looked up and appeared to mouth the words “thank you” after Blonigen said he wanted to spare the children from having to appear at the trial.

    The defendant remains in custody.

  • A Casper man charged in connection with a string of break-ins on Casper Mountain pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a deal that could keep him out of jail.

    James Tuschling admitted to aiding in the burglary of a home on Crimson Dawn Road late last summer. His plea deal calls for probation, and if he stays out of trouble, he won’t be convicted of the crime.

    Tuschling appeared briefly in Natrona County District Court, where he entered his plea and answered mostly procedural questions from Judge Thomas Sullins. As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped a second burglary charge against him.

    He could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

    Police arrested Tuschling and three other suspects while investigating a series of burglaries that occurred on the mountain in August and September 2012. Residents reported a number of stolen items, including a television, stereo, antique bow and poster of two wolves.

    The Natrona County Sheriff’s Office also received reports of $50,000 worth of property damage.

    Tuschling remains free on bond while awaiting sentencing. That should happen in the next few months.

  • A Casper man charged with barging into an apartment and repeatedly stabbing a 60-year-old tenant will undergo a mental evaluation.

    Natrona County District Judge Daniel Forgey ordered the evaluation Wednesday at the request of Zacharia Johnson’s attorney. The attempted murder case against Johnson will be put on hold until he’s deemed competent to proceed.

    Defense attorney Tim Cotton declined to comment afterward on why he made the request. It isn’t his first. Last month, he failed to convince a circuit court judge to order an evaluation for Johnson.

    At that earlier hearing, Cotton said his 26-year-old client had difficulty focusing when the two discussed legal strategies. Johnson would suggest legal fillings that had no bearing on the case.

    Johnson announced in July he planned to fire Cotton, his court-appointed attorney. He’s claimed Cotton “hoodwinked him” and won’t follow his wishes.

    A different judge refused to appoint a new attorney. Johnson briefly decided to represent himself but ultimately accepted Cotton again as counsel.

    For a moment Wednesday, the conflict appeared like it would once again play out in court. At the end of a brief hearing, Forgey asked Cotton and prosecutor Dan Itzen whether there were any other issues that needed to be addressed.

    Neither lawyer indicated there was more to discuss. Then Johnson spoke.

    “I have some stuff I’d like to address,” he told the court.

    Forgey did not allow him to continue.

    The mental evaluation is only the latest twist in a bizarre case that began when Robert Masterson suffered eight stab wounds during a March 4 attack inside his Casper apartment. Masterson later identified Johnson as one of his two attackers.

    The other man, Robert Simmons, drove his car into the North Platte River two days after the stabbing. He told police he was trying to atone for the stabbing.

    Simmons pleaded guilty in May to aggravated burglary and aggravated assault, and a judge earlier this month sentenced him to 20 to 25 years in prison.

    Johnson, meanwhile, saw prosecutors raise his charges to attempted murder less than a week after he attempted to fire Cotton. He now faces a possible life sentence if found guilty.

  • A Casper man will likely avoid prison for swinging a pipe at a man who asked to bum a cigarette from his wife.

    Stephen Koch pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated assault as part of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed not to recommend he serve penitentiary time. The plea bargain doesn’t eliminate the possibility Koch will spent time at the county jail or a halfway-house program.

    Appearing in Natrona County District Court, Koch said his family was being evicted on the day of the attack. He’d drunk too much and then got into an argument with another man outside an apartment complex.

    “I was trying to scare him,” he told the court.

    Witnesses told police Koch, 35, aimed for the man’s head and swung the pipe like a baseball bat. The man blocked the blow with his left hand, breaking it.

    Before the attack, the man had asked Koch’s wife for a cigarette, according to her statement to police. That angered the defendant, who thought the man was hitting on his wife.

    The man went to talk with two other people, and a few minutes later, they all shared a laugh. Koch later told police he thought they were laughing at him.

    Koch fled after the attack, but officer found him sitting in a yard about six blocks away. He was carrying two knives, along with a meat cleaver in his pants pocket.

    Police say he admitted to confronting a man, but not striking him.

    Koch remains held at Natrona County Detention Center. He’s expected to be sentenced in several weeks.

  • When officers found Daniel Teel, he was bleeding from a wound on his right arm.

    He told police he’d been bitten by a dog. But authorities suspect he may have actually been shot by a man he’d just beaten.

    Teel stuck with his story, and prosecutors on Thursday charged him with aggravated assault. The man he’s suspected of attacking suffered multiple facial fractures.

    The incident began about 9:20 p.m. when police received a shots-fired call. They met with a man who later told investigators he was talking to a woman in an alley near his McKinley Street house when Teel drove up and called him over.

    A police affidavit described what allegedly happened next:

    When the man leaned into the car window, Teel punched him in the face. Teel exited the car and started to punch and kick him. The attack continued as the man retreated to his house.

    The man told police Teel threatened to kill him. Once inside his house, the man retrieved a .22-caliber rifle. Teel returned to his car, but when he started to get out again, the man fired a shot through the back window.

    Teel started to drive away, but then reversed. The man shot a second time, later telling police he was scared and accidentally fired.

    Officers found Teel on the 1400 block of East Second Street. They noticed a bullet hole in the door of his car, but Teel maintained the wound on his right arm was caused by a dog.

    At Wyoming Medical Center, officers say they asked Teel if he wanted to pursue criminal charges for the shooting, but he continued to deny that anyone had fired a gun at him.

    Teel faces aggravated assault and burglary charges and up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A judge set his bond at $50,000.

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(1) Comments

  1. Alannah Hollis
    Report Abuse
    Alannah Hollis - July 28, 2015 1:13 am
    He has some pretty serious charges against him to face and i don't think of him as an easy man to handle. The worst ones are the seven charges of aggravated assault against a group of teenagers. he definitely deserves punishment. The helps him alot.
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