A Wyoming man accused of burning a toddler with a butane torch, killing him and disposing of his body in a dumpster is being held on $1 million bailBy MEAD GRUVER Associated PressJune 30, 2021, 8:06 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Wyoming man accused of burning a toddler with a butane torch, killing him and disposing of his body in an apartment complex dumpster in February has had his bail set at $1 million.Bail was set for Wyatt Dean Lamb, the boyfriend of the girl’s mother, after he made his first court appearance Tuesday in Cheyenne when he was formally informed of the charges he faces.Lamb, 27, was not asked to enter a plea to one count of first-degree murder and 10 counts of child abuse in the death of 2-year-old Athian Rivera.Lamb could face the death penalty but prosecutors have not said if they plan to seek it.Athian went missing on Feb. 19, triggering a search that ended about two hours later with the discovery of his body wrapped in a sheet, blanket and five trash bags in a dumpster near the apartment where he lived, according to a police investigative affidavit filed in court.The boy’s injuries included numerous abrasions and bruises on his head, back, chest, belly and arms — and burns to his groin consistent with a butane torch found in the apartment where the boy lived, according to a summary of the coroner’s findings in the affidavit.The details about the boy’s injuries and cause of death were not revealed until this week, when the police affidavit was made public in court.Lamb had been living with the boy’s mother, Kassandra Orona, and her three children in the apartment, Orona told investigators, according to the affidavit.Orona and Lamb used the two-burner butane torch to smoke marijuana, she told investigators.The size and shape of the torch’s burners “appeared very similar to the shape and size of the burns on Athian,” the affidavit said. The boy died two to four hours before he was found of blunt force trauma, lack of oxygen to the brain, or both, the coroner concluded.Orona told police that Lamb was watching her three children the night before her son was killed while she worked a sandwich shop shift, court documents said.She told investigators she arrived home at about 3:30 a.m. and was later awakened by Lamb, who wanted her to drive her daughter to school a few minutes away because the girl was running late, according to the documents.After Orona and Lamb got back, Orona told investigators that she went back to bed. Lamb woke her up just after 12 p.m., saying Athian was missing, according to her account provided to investigators.Lamb told police he returned to his apartment after Orona got home from work but returned by taxi later that morning when Orona called and said Athian was missing. Police said they went to an address where Lamb previously lived but that he had moved out in August 2020, court documents said.And several taxi companies contacted by investigators reported no record of a trip that day to Orona’s apartment, police alleged in court documents.Lamb was arrested and jailed after Athian’s body was found but on unrelated charges. He faced bond revocation related to a 2020 charge of felony strangulation of Orona and with misdemeanor property destruction and interfering with a peace officer.Orona had missed a hearing in that case last summer and had been prohibited from living with Orona, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.Lamb’s attorney, Ericka Smith, didn’t immediately return a phone message Wednesday seeking comment her client’s case.
The U.S. Supreme Court won’t allow Wyoming and Montana to sue Washington state for denying a key permit to build a coal export dockBy MEAD GRUVER Associated PressJune 28, 2021, 9:50 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCHEYENNE, Wyo. — The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday that it won’t allow Wyoming and Montana to sue Washington state for denying a key permit to build a coal export dock that would have sent coal to Asia.Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted in the minority in the ruling against letting the two states sue the third in a case that would have gone directly before the high court.The two major coal mining states have sought to boost exports to prop up an industry in decline for a decade as U.S. utilities switch to gas-fired power and renewable energy.The Washington state Department of Ecology in 2017 denied a permit for the export dock, saying the facility on the Columbia River would cause “irreparable and unavoidable” environmental harm.Denying the permit violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against trade protectionism between states, the coal states argued in 2020.Washington state officials were not trying to block Wyoming and Montana coal but acted because of “valid environmental concerns” about the dock, attorneys for the state argued in a court filing later that year.In any event, the developer of the Millennium Bulk Terminal project went bankrupt and the project wouldn’t proceed, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in May.Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, welcomed the Supreme Court decision, spokeswoman Tara Lee said Monday.“We are glad to today mark the end of a long chapter in the debate over coal export in Washington state,” Lee said by email.Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon in a statement Monday called the ruling “extremely frustrating.”“This case was never about a single permit or product. It was about the ability of one state to engage in lawful interstate commerce without the interference of another state,” Gordon said.Wyoming this year set aside $1 million to help Gordon’s office pursue the lawsuit and potentially file others against states with policies leading to the early shutdown of Wyoming coal-fired power plants.———Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver
A judge has halted plans for oil and gas drilling in vast areas of Wyoming and Montana, citing concerns about a sagebrush-dwelling birdBy MEAD GRUVER Associated PressJune 10, 2021, 10:14 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCHEYENNE, Wyo. — A judge has halted plans for oil and gas drilling on vast areas of Wyoming and Montana, citing concerns about a sagebrush-dwelling bird.The U.S. Bureau of Land Management didn’t adequately consider how the drilling would affect the greater sage grouse, nor an option to defer drilling in the bird’s prime habitat, Idaho U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Bush ruled Wednesday.Bush ordered more study of potential effects on the bird before drilling may proceed.The drilling would occur on over 600 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of federal land scattered across the energy-rich states. The Bureau of Land Management auctioned off hundreds of leases in sage grouse habitat in four sales in 2017.Sage grouse are a chicken-sized, primarily ground-dwelling bird whose numbers have fallen significantly from the millions that inhabited the U.S. West in frontier times. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010 that the bird deserved special protection but said in 2015 that conservation efforts led by Wyoming made that unnecessary.The environmental group that sued over the leases praised Bush’s ruling.“This ruling sends a very strong message that the BLM can no longer lease public lands for fossil fuel development without weighing the outcomes for sensitive lands and wildlife,” Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, said in a statement Thursday.BLM spokesman Brad Purdy declined to comment, citing agency policy not to discuss ongoing litigation. The agency’s allies in the case included the Western Energy Alliance industry group and the state of Wyoming, where Republican Gov. Mark Gordon was weighing whether to appeal.“The governor is dismayed by Judge Bush’s ruling but is pleased that the leases have not been vacated,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman said by email.The ruling comes amid a federal oil and gas leasing moratorium imposed by President Joe Biden’s administration while it studies the effects on climate change.———Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver