Prosecutor says kids were living in ‘squalor’
Seven local men and women are facing felony charges for allegedly using methamphetamine in a filthy Cody home they were sharing with several young children.
One child found at the home on Sept. 12 was reportedly wearing an overflowing diaper, while all four were described by authorities as being dirty, dehydrated and hungry. Those children — along with a fifth child who was at school at the time — were taken into protective custody with the Department of Family Services.
“There’s just, again, no way to convey the condition of that house and the filth that it was in and the conditions of those children,” Leda Pojman, a deputy Park County prosecutor, said in Park County’s Circuit Court on Friday.
Agreeing with the prosecutor, Circuit Court Magistrate Tom Keegan set six of the defendants’ bonds at $50,000 cash each.
“This issue is that this is a very dangerous drug. These are really dangerous circumstances — we’re talking about children with methamphetamine. That’s the concern here. The concern’s with public safety,” Keegan told defendants Kyle Catanzarite and Samantha Caldwell of Cody, Nikisha Grandpre of Greybull, Travis Tunget and Jacqueline Wilcott of Basin and Edgar Hume Sr. of Cody.
A seventh defendant, Mark Moore, 29, was seen earlier in the week, with his bond set at $10,000 by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters. All seven defendants face at least one felony count of endangering children with a controlled substance, alleging they knowingly and willfully allowed children to remain in a dwelling where meth was being stored or used. Between them, the Kent Avenue residents are facing a combined total of 11 felony and 14 misdemeanor charges.
The six defendants who appeared in court on Friday all requested lower bonds, unsuccessfully arguing that $50,000 was too high.
“I think the state's blowing completely out of proportion what the quality of the house was,” said Catanzarite, 30. He was living in the home with Caldwell, 24, and their 1-year-old child.
“I think I could do more good out of jail and working on these issues than in jail,” Catanzarite added.
Caldwell, already serving a term of supervised probation for a felony count of attempting to injure a police officer, asked to be released so she could attend drug treatment.
Wilcott, 25, and Tunget, 30 — the parents of a 3-year-old and 1-year-old found at the home — said they were only temporarily staying there until an unrelated case against Tunget was resolved. They noted they were at the Park County Courthouse at the time police moved in on the Kent Avenue home.
“When we left the house, it was not in disarray,” Tunget said. “We had been gone for a short period of time, so we have no idea what the house was like when it was searched.”
Hume, 47, offered that, “I was sitting in my room with my door closed, as usual.”
Grandpre, the mother of a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old living in the house, also asked to be released to attend a drug treatment program.
“The time to get into rehab is before you use and I understand that you have that desire now, but at this point, there are some safety issues that I think need to be addressed,” Magistrate Keegan told the 23-year-old Grandpre.
Court records indicate the case began three days before the search, when police saw Moore — who is Grandpre’s husband — outside the residence.
In an affidavit submitted to the court, Cody Police Officer Patrick Geraghty says he spotted Moore shortly before 1 p.m. on Sept. 8 and knew the man had an active Big Horn County warrant. When the officer stopped and got out of his vehicle, Moore reportedly ran away.
At one point in the chase, “I instructed Moore to stop; Moore screamed back, ‘I can’t,’ and continued to flee,” Geraghty wrote.
Eventually, Moore lost Geraghty. The officer decided to wait for more officers “due to the multitude of junk, trailers, campers and vehicles,” he said. Cody police later combed the property — including the home.
“The inside of the house … was [in] complete disarray and very unkempt. As I searched each room, I had to walk over piles of clothing and other miscellaneous items throughout the house,” Geraghty wrote. The home also had “a peculiar smell” that the officer said he believed was a combination of “mold and unbathed persons.”
The police eventually gave up and left, but they returned around 5 p.m., when an anonymous caller reported that Moore was hiding on the property. With the informant’s help, officers found Moore in a shed and arrested him.
While en route to the jail, “Moore apologized for fleeing from me earlier in the day, saying he was ‘just scared and he freaked out,’” Geraghty wrote. Moore said he’d smoked methamphetamine that morning in the home’s attached garage while his two children were inside watching TV, the affidavit alleges.
Police got a search warrant to look for methamphetamine and then returned to the Kent Avenue home in the early afternoon of Sept. 12.
“The home was in complete disarray,” Geraghty wrote in another affidavit. “Contained in each room where the kids were located was trash scattered about to include but not limited to: fish crackers, dirty diapers, cookies, clothing, food wrappers and other miscellaneous items.”
“The conditions ... were very unsanitary and smelled of mold, urine and feces,” he continued. “The floor located in each room had multiple stains and wet spots, of an unknown substance.”
The four children were “extremely dirty” and “each child’s diaper appeared to be unchanged for quite some time and contained copious amounts of urine and feces,” the officer wrote.
The children were taken into protective custody and to West Park Hospital where staffers determined they were dehydrated and hungry, Geraghty wrote.
At the scene, “I advised Hume the house was in deplorable, filthy condition,” Cody Police Officer Scott Burlingame wrote in another affidavit. “Hume agreed with me and said, just prior to [our] arrival, he was going to gather all of the children in the house up and taken them outside to remove them from the filthy conditions.”
Hume told the cops he’d snorted some methamphetamine a few hours before they arrived, saying he used the drug daily “if possible,” Burlingame alleges in the affidavit.
“Usually it just shows up and we do some,” Hume allegedly said. Police also quote him as saying that meth deals were “not usually” made inside the house.
According to the affidavit, Hume said he’d been sharing a bedroom with Tunget and Wilcott — the parents of two of the children — for a few months. In that room, police say they found five pipes with residue and a bong that preliminary tested positive for meth, Geraghty wrote.
In the bedroom used by Catanzarite and Caldwell — the parents of a 1-year-old boy — police say they found three glass vials containing a white crystal substance and a glass pipe. When Caldwell was later booked into the jail, “methamphetamine was located inside her bra,” Geraghty wrote. That led to a felony charge of attempting to bring a controlled substance into a detention facility.
Meanwhile, Grandpre — Moore’s wife and the mother of two of the children — admitted to using methamphetamine the previous day, Geraghty wrote. Grandpre also reportedly told authorities she is pregnant, “which is not, oddly enough, a [separate] crime in Wyoming at this point in time,” Pojman, the prosecutor, said in court.
Preliminary hearings for the seven defendants are tentatively set for later this week and early next week. All of the defendants remained in jail on Monday. Magistrate Keegan noted they’ll have the opportunity to argue for lower bonds once they have court-appointed attorneys representing them.