Cheyenne man pleads not guilty to first-degree murder, child abuse charges

CHEYENNE – In his first appearance in Laramie County District Court, a man accused of killing a local 2-year-old and putting his body in a dumpster pleaded not guilty to 11 felonies Monday afternoon.

Wyatt Dean Lamb is currently charged with first-degree murder and 10 felony counts of child abuse with injury. The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death, with each child abuse charge carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe scheduled Lamb's trial for Jan. 4, 2022. State Public Defender Diane Lozano, who represents Lamb in the case, and Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove agreed that the trial was likely to take two weeks.

There was no discussion of bond at Monday's hearing. Lamb's bond was set at $1 million cash in the murder case at his initial appearance in June, and he remains in detention at the Laramie County jail.

Lamb was arrested in February for violating bond conditions in a separate case. He has been held without bond at the jail since March and is awaiting trial in that case.

Athian Rivera, 2, was reported missing by his mother, Kassandra Orona, around 1 p.m. Feb. 19. His body was discovered around 3 that afternoon in a dumpster just outside an entrance to Orona’s apartment, located in the 400 block of Desmet Drive.

The toddler died from brain swelling caused by blunt force trauma, restriction of oxygen or both, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Laramie County Coroner Rebecca Reid determined Athian died between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 19. His body was wrapped in a fitted bed sheet and a blanket, which were inside five black plastic trash bags, according to the affidavit.

Forensic pathologist Dr. James Wilkerson noted “scattered blunt force injuries over much of the body,” including multiple contusions and abrasions, as well as burn marks on the toddler’s genitals, upper legs and groin area consistent with a handheld torch found at Orona’s apartment, according to an autopsy conducted by Reid and Wilkerson.

Wilkerson issued the autopsy report, signed on May 6, which ruled Athian’s death a homicide. 

He advised Reid that the cause of death was cerebral edema with herniation, with three contributing factors: blunt force injuries, suffocation and thermal injuries. He said Athian was the victim of “non-accidental trauma,” according to the affidavit.

Wilkerson also observed complete or partial collapse of a lung or lung area, which he said was caused by suffocation or manual strangulation.

The autopsy, conducted Feb. 20, was observed by two Cheyenne Police detectives.

Lamb was identified as a suspect in Athian’s death by the Cheyenne Police Department on Feb. 23, when the department announced it had recommended charges of murder and aggravated child abuse against Lamb to the Laramie County District Attorney’s office.

Bond conditions set in March 2020 in a separate case by a Laramie County Circuit Court judge prohibited Lamb from having contact with Orona and from being within one block of her home, according to court documents. 

Lamb was charged with felony strangulation of a household member, misdemeanor property destruction and interference with a peace officer after an incident involving Orona.

On March 4, 2021, Lamb entered a denial to two bond revocation accusations filed by the state, including that he violated his bond conditions in the strangulation case by living with Orona since August 2020.