Wyoming news briefs for September 28

Lummis says COVID serious, but mandate is overreach

JACKSON — U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis in her monthly newsletter reiterated her stance on COVID-19, the deadly virus which has hospitalized as many Wyoming patients in recent weeks as it did at the height of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is serious. It has already taken the lives of too many people in Wyoming, and each death is a travesty. My heart breaks for those who have lost family members to this devastating illness,” the Wyoming Republican said in her letter to constituents.

Despite that loss, the senator said she still doesn’t support “overreaching” vaccine mandates.

“This pandemic does not make the Constitution irrelevant. It does not mean our rights as private citizens are up for discussion,” she wrote. “I believe getting vaccinated, like any medical decision, is a decision you should make in consultation with your doctor, not because of a mandate from the federal government.”

Lummis’ stance is consistent with other Wyoming leaders, including Gov. Mark Gordon. Mandates for masks and vaccines are not politically popular, especially in Republican states. Local counties (and school districts) making difficult safety decisions have received outspoken opposition from constituents at public meetings and through written letters.

Even in Teton County, which is majority Democratic, nearly 300 people wrote in opposition to a countywide mask mandate.

Sen. Lummis said she has received similar correspondence from people who are “concerned about COVID-19, the vaccine, and mask and vaccine mandates.”

She also said “each state should be responsible for managing their reaction to the pandemic,” rather than a federal government led by President Biden.


Money raised for headstone for undersheriff

SHERIDAN — As a longtime police officer, chief of police and undersheriff, William McPherren played a significant role in Sheridan and the surrounding county. Now, his story will be remembered thanks to the help of local philanthropists.

While preparing a cemetery tour on Sheridan Law Enforcement, museum Collections Manager Jessica Salzman discovered the former undersheriff did not have a headstone.

“When I realized he had no stone I felt that we, as the museum, needed to do something to preserve his story,” Salzman said.

McPherren was the second, and most recent, peace officer to be killed in the line of duty in Sheridan’s history. He was killed in October 1921.

“We knew this was a project that we’d need community support on,” said Museum Executive Director Mikayla Larrow, who wrote a column about McPherren in September. “The article was our way of sharing local history and reaching out for help raising these funds to purchase the headstone to honor his sacrifice for Sheridan County.”

The proposed headstone, visible on the museum’s website, states McPherren’s full name, date of birth and death, along with the epitaph: He died in the line of duty.

Within 24 hours of the story being published all funds needed have been raised.  

Champion Funeral Home donated the cost of installing the headstone and retired law enforcement officers Jim and Angie Navarro covered the remaining cost for McPherren’s headstone.


Man charged with repeatedly assaulting minor

RIVERTON — A former Riverton man accused of molesting a girl for 12 years could face life in prison.

The Riverton Police Department received word on Aug. 25 from an attorney alleging that David Wayne Munda, born 1978, had raped a minor child several times between her ages of 5 and 17.

According to an evidentiary affidavit written by Riverton Police Department detective James Donahue, a child forensic interview was scheduled with the alleged victim for Sept. 13, with interviewer Katelyn Peterson of Utah. Donahue watched the interview by remote link.

The witness said Munda had raped her.

This first offense happened in Greybull, she said, when she was 5 years old.

The assaults escalated in frequency and severity for the next 12 years, she said, with the last encounter being June 2021 when she visited Munda's home in Laramie before going to tour a college.

Munda was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, each punishable by 50 years in prison.

He also was charged with fourth-degree sexual abuse of a minor, soliciting a sexual act from a minor, attempted sexual abuse of a minor, and misdemeanor battery.

Munda's case was transferred to Fremont County District Court last week for felony-level prosecution.