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Casper woman faces two counts of vehicular homicide
She allegedly was under the influence of an anti-anxiety drug

A Casper woman who allegedly took anti-anxiety pills July 15 has been charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide in the deaths of two Michigan men.

Sydney N. Peterson, 33, is accused of crashing into a minivan carrying the two men on Highway 50 about 23 miles south of Gillette.

Stephen Biddle, 29, and Alex Gill, 24, were traveling from South Dakota to the Tetons about 4:30 p.m. July 15 when Peterson’s Dodge Ram crossed into their lane of travel and hit them almost head on, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Biddle, who was driving, died at the scene of multiple severe blunt traumatic injuries, Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem said in July. Biddle was wearing a seat belt.

Gill died several days later at a Colorado hospital, where he’d been taken for major head trauma. Gill, who was sitting in the backseat of the van, also was wearing a seat belt.

Another passenger told Wyoming Highway Patrol Troopers that he was sitting in the front seat writing in his journal when Biddle said something like, “Oh, s---,” and he looked up.

“He saw the Dodge in their lane of travel and Biddle turned the steering wheel to the right in an attempt to avoid a crash,” according to the affidavit. “Then there was a loud bang.”

The Honda Odyssey van had major damage to the front driver’s side through to the rear.

The Dodge Ram that Peterson was driving had damage at the front driver side through to the driver’s door.

The trooper noted that there were no skid marks on the northbound lane, but there were tire marks to the Honda and Dodge in the southbound lane.

In the cab of Peterson’s pickup, the trooper found a bottle of Clonazepam pills prescribed in her name. They had been refilled that day for 62 pills, and the bottle indicated Peterson was to take one pill twice a day for PTSD. Only 53 pills remained in the bottle, according to the affidavit.

“A total of nine pills were missing the same day of the prescription refill,” according to the affidavit.

Clonazepam is used to treat seizures or panic disorders.

Peterson told troopers that she was headed to Gillette from Casper to pick up a friend. She broke her right ankle in the crash when her legs were trapped between the dash and driver seat, according to the affidavit.

She told the trooper that she didn’t remember what had happened, but that someone told her it was not her fault.

A blood test showed a Clonazepam level of 72, which a physician with the Nebraska Regional Poison Center said was high and considered above the therapeutic level.

“Dr. (Ron) Kirschner advised Peterson’s high levels would be consistent with her being impaired by Clonazepam,” according to the affidavit.

The maximum penalty for aggravated vehicular homicide is 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count.

Peterson remains in the Campbell County jail with a $300,000 cash-only bond.


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Board approves 3% raise to Cam-plex general manager
Board split on upping compensation a month after passing 2% raise

The Campbell County Public Land Board voted to give Cam-plex General Manager Jeff Esposito the second raise in a month after meeting in executive session Thursday evening.

In October, the board OK’d a 2% raise for Esposito also after a discussion in executive session, which increased his annual salary from $110,000 to $112,200. On Thursday, they voted 3-2 in public session in favor of increasing the raise another 1%, which would be to $113,300.

The raises were the first Esposito received since he joined Cam-plex in May 2018.

The total 3% increase will be applied to the $110,000 Esposito was making before the October vote, Cam-plex financial specialist Gina Carpenter said.

Board members Charlene Camblin, Troy Allee and Robert Quintana voted in favor of the additional increase.

Board members Kevin Couch and Chairwoman Heidi Gross voted against it.

Taking up Esposito’s raise again came at the request of Camblin, who serves as the Land Board’s secretary.

“It was my opinion that the increase of 2% was not enough and we should revisit the subject, so we did,” Camblin said. “Jeff Esposito, our GM, has done a great job and works hard at following the directive of the Land Board and he should be compensated accordingly for his efforts.”

But the split vote shows the board didn’t all agree with Camblin.

“I voted against changing our original decision as I thought our original decision was sound and I did not see a compelling reason to change our original vote,” Gross said.

Board member Skyler Pownall was absent and didn’t vote.


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City, county join forces for Saturday's live auction

Gillette city employees walked through Campbell County’s old Weed and Pest building on Stocktrail Avenue on Thursday, preparing for the city and county’s joint live auction Saturday.

Old stationary bikes and elliptical machines filled up one corner of the building. Chairs, desks and filing cabinets were seemingly everywhere.

There were copiers and printers, refrigerators and TVs, as well as a 66-inch tall fireproof safe.

The city used to do an annual live auction, but it moved to eBay to sell surplus equipment for a number of reasons, said city spokesman Geno Palazzari.

A lot of staff time was spent gathering the items and cataloging them, and certain items weren’t being bid on because their uses were limited. For example, there was automated equipment from Gillette Public Access that didn’t have a use anywhere else in Gillette.

The city started doing the auction online to reach a larger audience, and it was “seeing a pretty good return,” Palazzari said.

But this year, the city had a lot of office equipment because of a remodel of City West, and that was “the genesis” behind the decision to do a live auction, he said.

“We figured it’d be a good idea to have that for people to pick up here in town,” he said. “The idea is to try to move as much of this as possible.”

If something isn’t sold Saturday, it will most likely be thrown away, Palazzari said.

The city was looking for a place to store all of the stuff, because the abandoned warehouse the city had previously used for storage has been repurposed. The city reached out to the county, which had already been using the old Weed and Pest building on Stocktrail Avenue for storage.

“Since they already had that stuff there, that gave us the idea to join forces on that and share some costs,” Palazzari said.

The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at 203 Stocktrail Ave. Justin Biesheuvel of Biesheuvel Auction & Appraisal will oversee the auction.

“We’ll have a good crowd. I bet we have 250 people,” he said, adding that his goal is to bring in at least $25,000 Saturday.

Some of the more interesting items that will be up for bid come from the Police Department’s evidence division, he said. There are iPads, a Nintendo DS, a new iPhone, a security system and various tools.

The Police Department has gone through the necessary legal steps to make sure the items can be sold to the public, Palazzari said.

Two cars are part of the sale, including a red 2016 Ford Taurus with only 17,000 miles on it. Both cars have severe hail damage, but “we’ve already had a lot of interest in those,” Biesheuvel said.

Palazzari said he doesn’t think the city will go back to having an annual live auction, but does not rule it out for sometime in the future. In the meantime, it will continue doing online auctions.