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Eaton lawyers attack death penalty in hefty brief

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Lawyers for Wyoming's lone death row inmate have filed a massive court brief asking a federal judge to overturn his death sentence.

Inmate Dale Wayne Eaton is challenging the constitutionality of the death sentence he received in 2004 for rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Mont.

The Wyoming Supreme Court already has upheld the 68-year-old's conviction but the federal court has put the execution on hold.

Eaton's current lawyers don't dispute that he killed Kimmell in 1988. But they claim he didn't get an adequate defense from public defenders.

Eaton's lawyers filed the 300-page brief in federal court last week. Echoing testimony at a hearing this summer, it claims his defense team didn't present adequate mitigating evidence of Eaton's tortured personal history and mental health issues.


2 Kemmerer teens dead in crash on icy road

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Two teens from Kemmerer are dead after a crash on icy stretch of highway.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said Monday that 18-year-old Moeniqa (MON'-i-ka) Produit and 13-year-old Michelle Allen died in the crash Saturday afternoon on U.S. Highway 20/26 50 miles west of Casper.

Sgt. Stephen Townsend Produit was driving a 2002 Buick LeSabre with Allen and two other passengers on board in light snow when lost control when she tried to slow down because of a jackknifed horse trailer blocking part of the road. She crossed into oncoming traffic and a Toyota Tundra pickup hit her car.

Two passengers in Produit's car - a 38-year-old woman and a 9-year-old girl -were hospitalized. Three passengers in the Tundra suffered minor injuries.


Campbell County hit hard by flu

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Campbell County is being hit hard by the flu.

The Wyoming Department of Health says it has recorded at least 460 cases of flu in Wyoming so far this flu season. More than one-third of those have been in Campbell County.

Campbell County Memorial Hospital has imposed visiting restrictions in its maternity ward to help control the spread of flu.

The Gillette News-Record reports hospital officials are urging people who feel ill not to visit the hospital. They say others should wear a mask and use hand sanitizer if they have flu symptoms such as fever, cough or diarrhea.

Campbell County had 495 reported flu cases last winter and 132 cases the winter before that.


Power co-op members seek to hasten break-up

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge is being asked to hasten the break-up of a Montana power cooperative that went bankrupt after a failed attempt to get into the power generation business.

The Southern Montana Electricity and Generation Transmission Cooperation serves more than 10,000 customers in central and eastern Montana.

Its members want to go their own way after building an $85 million power plant that has since sat idle. But creditors who loaned the money to build the plant near Great Falls want Southern Montana to stay together so they can be repaid.

In court documents filed Friday, attorneys for two of its members asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher to allow the prompt liquidation of Southern Montana.

That would block a reorganization plan offered by creditors including Prudential Insurance.


Wyo. cities, towns back Mead's local funding hike

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming cities and towns are backing Gov. Matt Mead's request to boost state funding to local governments but they want more flexibility in how to spend the money.

The Jackson Hole Daily reported Monday that members of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association wrote to state lawmakers last week in support of the proposal.

Mead has proposed giving cities and towns $175 million, $20 million more than this year. Forty percent would go to infrastructure and 60 percent would go to operational expenses.

Towns and counties, however, don't want to be limited to that split.

Jackson Mayor Mark Barron says local leaders have a better sense than state lawmakers of where the money would be best spent.


Senators ask DOD to delay nuclear missile study

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Montana's U.S. senators have joined six others in asking the Defense Department to hold off on an environmental assessment on Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

The Great Falls Tribune reports the study is required before the Air Force can make any changes to the structure of the ICBM force.

The 450 ICBMs are in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Last week, President Barack Obama signed legislation allowing the Defense Department to begin the study.

The legislation withholds half the funds until the department gives Congress options for the nuclear force structure under the New START treaty with Russia.

Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus are asking the department to await a decision by Congress on funding for 2014 before beginning the study.


Wyoming beginning 2014 free of extreme drought

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming will start the New Year free of extreme drought conditions.

Snow in April, one of the state's wettest Septembers and early season snow have improved conditions in much of the state. A large swath of the state is still considered abnormally dry - the least severe ranking on the U.S. Drought Monitor - and only small pockets are considered to be in moderate drought.

Last year at this time, much of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that Laramie County has been drought free for nearly four months.

Meteorologist Steve Rubin says Cheyenne has had 18.1 inches of moisture through Thursday this year compared with 10.2 in all of 2012.


Chickens take heat for coop fire in Riverton

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - They say Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In Riverton, it's some chickens that are taking the heat.

A fire broke out Thursday evening in a chicken coop that was attached to a workshop and a dog kennel.

Riverton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Hutchison says the fire was apparently started by a heat lamp inside the chicken coop. The fire destroyed the workshop but no people or animals were hurt.

The Riverton Ranger reports firefighters arrived to find flames leaping 20 feet into the air. Chickens and a domestic goose ran around while firefighters fought the fire and neighbors gathered around to watch.