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Wyoming Man Accused Of Bashing Neighbor In Face With Bat Has To Face Trial

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Wyoming Man Accused Of Bashing Neighbor In Face With Bat Has To Face Trial


A Wright, Wyoming, man accused of whacking his neighbor’s face with a baseball bat during a two-family brawl last Fourth of July doesn’t get to avoid trial on a self-defense argument, a judge ruled Tuesday.

John S. Harris, who turns 65 this year, was charged with aggravated assault last July on allegations that he beat his neighbor’s adult son Josh Springer with a baseball bat, after Springer and John’s wife Melissa got into a shouting match in front of the Harrises’ home the night of July 4, 2023.

A lengthy hearing stretching across three dates last week and Tuesday ended with Campbell County District Court Judge Stuart Healy III ruling that Harris may argue he acted in defense of self and family before a jury — but he can’t use that argument to dodge prosecution.

“Before anybody knew what was happening, Mr. Harris took a swing with a bat at Mr. Springer,” said Healy, referencing what he believed was the most credible testimony to emerge from Harris’ self-defense hearings. “I’m certainly not finding that’s what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. But … the court will find that the state did carry its burden.”

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Wyoming self-defense hearings have two parts: first the defendant must provide evidence showing at first glance that he acted with reasonable self-defense.

Then the prosecutor must try to show by a preponderance of the evidence (a higher standard than the defendant shoulders) that the defendant did not behave reasonably to defend himself or others.

Harris made his case at first glance, but Healy defeated it with the evidence he showed, Healy ruled.

And yet, Healy said this self-defense argument is appropriate to go before a jury, should Harris go to trial.

First, Huge Fireworks

Melissa Harris had called police multiple times on July 4, 2023, to report that her neighbor Debbie Souza’s party guests were shooting off fireworks that battered her house, according to court documents and testimony.

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Springer is Souza’s son. He was preparing to drive away from his mother’s home after the fireworks shows that night with his two sons in his vehicle. But he stopped in or along the road, got out of his vehicle and had an argument with Melissa Harris instead.

Melissa Harris told the court that Springer called her cruel and sexist names. Springer said she called him names.

Melissa Harris said Springer punched her multiple times and pulled a gun out of his truck to brandish it at her, her son, or her husband multiple times. At some point prior she had called John Harris to tell him how severe the Souza party fireworks were, she testified.

John Harris rushed home from his work at the coal mine, and emerged from his truck with a baseball bat in hand, according to court testimony.

Roads Diverged

Here’s where the testimonies diverge.

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Melissa Harris described Springer attacking her, knocking her down and her young adult son Tyler Harris trying to intervene. John Harris arrived in his truck to find Tyler helping Melissa off the ground, her testimony indicates.

Tyler testified that John pulled up to witness Springer attacking them both.

And John testified that when he pulled up, he saw Melissa trying to get up from the ground while Tyler held an enraged Josh Springer back.

All three testified that Springer had charged John, growling, shortly after John pulled up. Springer is reportedly several pounds heavier and about a foot taller than John Harris.

John Harris’ attorney Christina Williams argued to the court that Harris could not possibly win a fistfight against Springer, that he pulled up to a scene of violence, and that he acted reasonably to defend himself.

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The Neighbors

Souza and Springer recounted it differently, telling the court that Melissa Harris and Springer were merely exchanging words just before John Harris pulled up.

Tyler was watching but not engaging at all, Souza claimed. She also claimed the Harris men attacked her 11-year-old grandson at some point.   

There were inconsistencies in all testimonies, Healy noted.

Williams had exposed inconsistencies, for example, in which Souza’s version of events did not align perfectly with what her two grandsons allegedly told police last July after the incident.

But Souza’s and Springer’s testimonies aligned more closely with one another than did the Harrises’ three testimonies, Campbell County Chief Deputy Attorney Greg Steward argued.

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Healy said he agreed with Steward’s assessment of “witness credibility.” He voiced some trepidation about Springer’s testimony, noting Springer could gain by casting himself in a favorable light.

Springer had also told investigators hours after the incident that everything was “fuzzy,” according to court testimony and documents.

But Healy said he found Souza’s testimony credible and “largely consistent.”

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Campbell County Deputy Tyler Stearns arrived after the incident the night of July 4 to find John Harris sitting on the ground with blood coming from his mouth and nose, according to the evidentiary affidavit in the case. He saw Springer walking in the street, bleeding from wounds above his eye.

Springer had what Stearns called “significant pain, multiple cuts on his temple and right cheek, and temporarily lost consciousness while I was speaking with him.”

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Both Springer and John Harris were taken to the hospital.

On Scene

Healy wondered aloud why, if Springer had punched Melissa Harris, she did not tell Stearns that when Stearns arrived on scene after the fight.

“One would think that if this detailed story that Mrs. Harris told occurred — with all the violence — that would have been the first thing out of her mouth when she spoke to Deputy Stearns,” said the judge. Rather, she noted that Springer had pulled a gun on them, but didn’t say when, the judge recounted.

Melissa Harris had testified earlier that she didn’t feel comfortable telling investigators her story at first because they had allegedly treated her unpleasantly.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Wyoming

Wyoming Police investigate fatal shooting over the weekend | Newsradio WOOD 1300 and 106.9 FM | WOOD Radio Local News

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Wyoming Police investigate fatal shooting over the weekend | Newsradio WOOD 1300 and 106.9 FM | WOOD Radio Local News


WYOMING, Mich. — Wyoming Police are investigating a fatal shooting over the weekend.

The Department of Public Safety said 34-year-old Marquise Reid-Moore of Grand Rapids was gunned down around 8:20 Friday night on Woodward Avenue near 34th Street. That’s east of Clyde Park Avenue and south of 32nd Street.

There is no word yet on what prompted the shooting, or any suspect information.

Wyoming Police detectives continue to investigate this incident. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Wyoming Police at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345; 1-866-774-2345; or https://www.silentobserver.org.

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Getting Wyoming’s Iconic 1 Million Pound Big Boy Locomotive Ready For Summer Tour

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Getting Wyoming’s Iconic 1 Million Pound Big Boy Locomotive Ready For Summer Tour


There’s a race underway in the Union Pacific Steam Shop, getting the largest locomotive every built — Big Boy 4014 — ready to go on its Summer 2024 Tour, set to begin June 30.

Evidence of that race could be seen during last weekend’s Depot Days in Cheyenne, where Union Pacific’s Heritage Operations Manager Ed Dickens had a crew going over what he called some “minor issues.”

The minor issue is actually kind of a big deal. It’s called Positive Train Control.

PTC systems were required in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, though the deadline was extended to 2020.

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The technology is meant to safely stop trains and prevent collisions resulting from human operator errors. The legislation was sparked by several high-profile crashes, among them the 2008 Chatsworth Metrolink crash near Los Angeles.

Investigators determined that the train’s engineer had been sending and receiving text messages seconds before his train ran through a red signal, colliding head-on with a freight train. Twenty-five were killed and 135 injured in what authorities said was the worst train accident since 1993.

“PTC is kind of standard on diesels now,” Paul Guercio told Cowboy State Daily.

He was among Union Pacific personnel on site May 18, talking with the people touring the Steam Shop during Depot Days. “It’s a very complex system electronically. You have to feed in the data to the computer system of all of the track data where exactly you are, so there’s GPS to tell the system where it is. There’s a database that tells it whether the track is going uphill, downhill, and how fast the train is going.”

And stopping the heaviest locomotive ever at more than 1 million pounds is no small matter.

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With all that data, the PTC system can calculate how far away the train needs to start stopping, if it’s approaching a red light signal.

“If you’re not slowing down, it will just override that and do it for you,” Guercio said.

Not Standard For Steam Engines

The systems are standard on diesel engines these days, but not on 1940s-era steam engines.

“It’s a much bigger challenge to make the system operable on a steam engine, and that’s what they’re working on now,” Guercio said. “It’s pretty complex, and there’s many different failure modes and all of that kind of stuff it has to anticipate. So that’s what they’re trying to test.”

The system needs to be ready by this week, so that Big Boy can make a test run before its summer tour.

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“We’ll just go out to Borie and back,” Guercio said. “We’ll run back and forth a few times, just to make sure everything’s OK, that everything that’s been worked on is working the way it’s supposed to.”

Borie is a railroad junction that makes what’s called a “Wye.”

“That’s where you have three tracks going like this,” Gurecio said, making a triangular shape with his hands. “So, you can go almost any direction, and it’s a place where you can turn around. You can go out that way toward Laramie and then back down the track to Denver, and then come forward to take the track to Cheyenne, and just come back.”

All About Winning The War

Big Boy is the world’s largest steam locomotive at 133 foot tall and 16 foot 4 inches wide. It was one of 25 that were built for the war effort in 1941.

They were as tall and wide as bridges and tunnels would allow, and they were as long as practical given curves that the trains had to navigate at the time to give them the extra power needed to haul freight west for a looming World War II.

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“It hadn’t started yet, Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened yet,” Guercio said. “But people could kind of see things coming up, and they could see they were going to need to haul a lot of freight out to the West Coast and back in both directions.”

Mountainous terrain between Ogden, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming, required a really heavy, big train to haul large loads, Guercio said.

“They based the first 20 in Green River,” Guercio said. “And in 1944, they built five more because they just had so much traffic.”

By then, diesels were already replacing steam engines, but Union Pacific couldn’t get diesel engines. Those were all going directly to the war effort.

In the beginning, Big Boy’s name was Wasatch, because it was going to go over the Wasatch Mountains. Someone in the Public Relations department thought that up.

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But a machinist in the factory had a better idea. He wrote “Big Boy” in chalk on the front of the steam engine, and the name stuck.

“There’s really a lot in the name that has made it famous,” Guercio said. “And people always argue about what’s the biggest. There’s all kinds of ways to measure big. By horsepower, by weight, by pulling power, by physical size. This has the biggest physical size.”

It also weighs tons — literally. Fully loaded with water and fuel, it’s 600 tons of sheer power. Without fuel and water — just the metal — it still weighs 440 tons.

A few steam engines have more pulling power or horsepower, Guercio said. But Big Boy’s name gave it an edge in the media.

“These were very reliable machines,” Guercio said. “They ran until 1959, and Big Boy was the third engine in the last run, on the same day. They came from Laramie over here (Cheyenne) and kind of got put into storage.”

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After a few years, Union Pacific started giving away the steam locomotives, and the Big Boy headed to a new home at a museum in California.

The Original Big Boy Race

The present-day race to get Big Boy ready for its summer tour reminded Guercio of the even bigger race to get the locomotive ready for the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion in 2019.

Guercio was among volunteers who helped with that task, ensuring Big Boy could make its inaugural trek west to Ogden for a celebration that Union Pacific dubbed the “Great Race to Promontory.”

Behind the scenes, it was more of a race than anyone outside of Union Pacific realized.

“Time became a critical thing,” Guercio recalled. “And those last few months were pretty intense, because there was still a lot to do.”

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Union Pacific had reacquired Big Boy in 2014. The plan was to take Big Boy and 844, a smaller steam locomotive that had been retained by the railroad, to Ogden, where they would sit face to face as part of the anniversary for laying the golden spike in Promontory on May 10, 1869.

The tracks to Promontory were torn up long ago, making Ogden the nearest location that Union Pacific could get to with its big steam locomotives.

The 844 ended up taking a lot longer to get ready than anticipated, leaving less time than anticipated for the extensive rebuild that Big Boy required.

“I mean this was completely disassemble every nut and bolt,” Guercio said. “Literally everything was taken apart and cleaned up, right down to bare metal.”

It was important to look at the bare metal, Guercio said, to ensure there were no tiny hairline fractures or other defects.

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“Anything that was worn or damaged in any way was replaced,” Guercio said. “And then it had to be painted and put back together.”

The schedule was grueling, Guercio recalled.

“The normal hours are 7 to 3,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “There were a lot of days we were in here at 5 or 6 p.m. and we’d work until it was like 10, 11, 12 o’clock.”

The union guys had a contract, so there were limits to what they could work. That meant managers working around the clock, as well as volunteers.

“I was a volunteer, so no limits for me,” Guercio said, smiling. “And so, we often just slept in here (the Cheyenne steam shop).”

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Even with all that extra work the team put in, things were uncomfortably close.

“May 1 was the first time we got it to move under its own power after 55 years or whatever of being inactive,” Guercio said. “So we just moved it from where it was sitting right here, backed it out the back and then came back and forth a few times. Just to make sure.”

That was the first time Big Boy had moved all by itself. It’s a moment Guercio will never forget.

“It was really late at night though,” he said. “So, we were like ‘OK, that’s enough for tonight.’”

After a little much-needed rest, Big Boy was then put through all of the paces and passed with flying colors — much to everyone’s relief.

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“That date was not going to change,” Guercio said. “It’s like a 150-year-old fixed in history date. So, if you’re not ready, you’re not ready, you know? It’d be missed. So, getting out on time was absolutely critical, and it went right down to the wire.”

That Big Boy Sound

During that first test drive, Guercio got to hear for the first time what the Big Boy sounds like when it’s going all out.

It’s an unforgettable sound of power.

“When we went under the bridge, (the engineer) started opening up a bit, giving it a little more throttle,” Guercio said. “And when it went under the bridge and by the Depot, because the building would just echo right back at you and the bridge, it was like hearing this chuh-chuh-chuh.”

The breaks between the sound disappeared as the steam locomotive picked up speed.

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“Each train has its own unique sound, and this one just sounds strong,” Guercio said. “I don’t know how else to describe it except powerful. It’s more like a roar than a cute little choo-choo. It just turns into a steady roar.”

“Each time the piston reaches the end of a stroke, it releases the steam and that’s what you hear,” Guercio said. “And then steam goes in and pushes it back the other way. So, it’s just pushing back and forth. And the faster it goes, the quicker it’s happening, until eventually they just merge all together and you just hear this roar.”

A Wednesday test run was a success, and thrilled onlookers who saw the impressive locomotive chugging along the Wyoming rails again.

Renée Jean can be reached at renee@cowboystatedaily.com.



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2024 Wyoming Music Ambassadors at the Underground Music Showcase

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2024 Wyoming Music Ambassadors at the Underground Music Showcase







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 2024 Wyoming Music Ambassadors selected to perform at Underground Music Showcase – UMS in Denver in July 2024.




The Wyoming Arts Council is launching a new partnership with the Underground Music Showcase. The Wyoming Arts Council will bring 5 Music Ambassadors to perform at the festival, which will take place July 26-28th in Denver, Colorado. Each band’s participation includes two opportunities to perform over the course of the festival, as well as access to UMS’s Impact Days, which are two days focused on providing professional development opportunities for the participating artists.

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The five participating Music Ambassadors include: 

Missy Jo (Jackson)

SGRNY (Laramie)

Christian Wallowing Bull (Lander)

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It Gets Worse (Laramie)

Shotgun Shogun (Laramie)

 

As part of the Wyoming Independent Music Initiative (WIMI), this collaboration is aimed at assisting artists in performing and touring beyond state borders, thereby expanding their audiences and outreach.

 

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The Underground Music Showcase is Denver’s largest and most beloved music festival and is set to take over Broadway for its 24th annual event. Featuring three outdoor stages and an additional 13 indoor stages, the festival offers a total of over 200 shows. UMS showcases a diverse range of musical genres across various venues, providing a vibrant and dynamic experience for attendees.





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