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County attorneys busy with heavy homicide caseload

Feb 15, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Five homicide trials are set to take place in the next several months, which has resulted in some court scheduling conflicts and a hefty workload for the Fremont County Attorney's Office.

"This is a lot of murder trials, by any Wyoming county's standards," Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn said. "All in all we have a very good handle on this, assuming there are no more murders. But it's going to continue to be stressful for our attorneys for the next five to six months for sure."

The latest court proceeding that involved a homicide case occurred Feb. 14 regarding John Thomas Hereford of Lander with 9th Judicial District Court Judge Norman E. Young, who agreed to continue Hereford's trial that was originally set for March 25.

Hereford is charged with second-degree murder of his cousin Travis Armajo, 32, of Lander, stemming from a shooting Sept. 11, 2012, at a Lander residence.

Hereford, who was 24 years old at the time of his arrest, is also charged with kidnapping-confinement and two first-degree sexual assault charges that involved a second alleged victim.

Both defense attorney Robert Horn of Jackson, who listened in on the hearing by phone, and Fremont County deputy prosecuting attorney Kathy Kavanagh were seeking the continuance for different reasons.

Horn, who took over the case for Lander attorney Kate McKay, said he needs more time to prepare. Kavanagh asked for the continuance because her office is waiting for information from the Wyoming State Crime Lab.

Young said his preference is July 15 but would check with the court's schedule to assure there are no conflicts. The alternative date is Sept 16. Young also ordered Hereford to sign a waiver for a speedy trial.

Trial overload

Young said part of the issue with rescheduling Hereford's trial to mid-summer or fall is the unusually high number of trials planned in the next several months. He said he tries to set aside one week every other month for criminal trials, but it has been difficult to do so.

Among the approaching homicide trials is that of second-degree murder suspect Dustin Nickelson, which is set to begin March 25. The Riverton resident is accused in the Sept. 13, 2012, shooting death of Lucas Myhre, also of Riverton.

April is full with a two-week trial for Jonathan David Marshall of Riverton, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the July 28, 2011, death of 7-month-old Eli C'Bearing of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Two trials are scheduled for May.

The first is set to begin May 13 and is for Alma Mosho of Fort Hall, Idaho. She is charged with two counts of aggravated homicide by vehicle stemming from the Dec. 3, 2012, death of Michelle Littleshield, 35, of St. Stephen's.

The second trial scheduled in May is Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr. of Ethete, who is one of five suspects in the November 2011 double homicide, robbery and arson case that occurred in Hudson. He faces four first-degree murder charges, two counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and a single arson charge.

Hanway Jr.'s trial is scheduled to begin May 20.

Varn said at this point both trials are expected to proceed. He said Mosho's trial should not take two weeks, but Hanway Jr.'s is likely to go longer.

"I would not be surprised if (the) Hanway Jr. trial takes two weeks," Varn said. "It's not a difficult case evidence wise, but in order to tell the whole story, it will likely require a lot of witnesses."

The Fremont County Attorney's Office is working in overdrive to get ready for the upcoming trials.

"In preparation, we have spent time spreading the wealth in-house and have reassigned some cases," Varn explained. "For instance, some of our younger attorneys are picking up a huge portion of the misdemeanor case load so that the experienced attorneys can spend more time in trial preparation."

Varn said the issue right now is the office's lack of experienced attorneys for this level of crime.

"So those experienced attorneys are going to be asked to pick up even more of the trial workload," back to back to back," Varn said. "So needless to say everyone is just a little more than stressed. Fortunately, we have a very stable and very good legal secretary pool that is keeping things in line and up to date. We are very fortunate to have them."

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