Archive | December, 2011

Wendover Woman Shot In Car Jacking

Posted on 31 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

Have you seen this man?

The couple wanted for the shooting of a Wendover woman have been named prime suspects of a double murder of an elderly couple in Mount Pleasent, Utah.

According to police reports officers discovered the bodies of Leroy Fullwood, 70, and Dorothy Fullwood, 69, in their home located at 399 S. 600 East in Mt. Pleasant at about 8 p.m. on Saturday. According to Mt. Pleasant Police chief Jim Wilberg, the couple died from gunshot wounds, likely sometime Thursday night or Friday morning.

He said the Fullwoods appeared to be victims of a random robbery. The couple’s vehicles were not taken, but police believe their credit cards and money was stolen by the suspects.

Wilberg said the suspects made a purchase with one of the Fullwoods’ credit cards in West Wendover. That discovery prompted the call to Mt. Pleasant police, asking them to check on the Fullwoods’ welfare.

A local Wendover woman is recovering from surgery after being shot in the head by two car theives, Saturday morning.

The woman whose name has not been released fended off two attackes described only as a Caucasion man and woman and drove herself to the West Wendover Police Depart at around 7 am Staturday morning.

After giving police a brief  report of the shooting the woman was transpoted by helicopter to a Salt Lake area hosptital for emergency treatment.

Police believe the suspects abandoned the car used in the attempted carjacking in the Wells area, allegedly stole another car and led the Nevada Highway Patrol on a high-speed chase.

The suspects are described as a Caucasian male and female driving a gray Volkswagen Jetta with a Colorado license plate number 725 WHX. They are believed to be armed and dangerous with multiple weapons.

West Wendover Police Department, Elko County Sheriff’s Department and Nevada Highway Patrol are pursuing the suspects. Utah Highway Patrol, Tooele County and Box Elder County law enforcement have also been notified.

Anyone with information should contact the West Wendover Police Department at 775-664-2930 or call 911.

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Gas Rate Hike Only 11-13%, Says Trustee

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Wendover Gas customers will not be hit by a 50 percent increase in their monthly bill said company trustee Steve Shute but rather an 11 to 13 percent hike.

“I know the city attorney and the lawyers for the casinos quoted a 50 to 60 percent rate hike,” Shute said Wednesday. “But that simply isn’t true. There is a 50 to 60 percent increase but it is only one small component in the overall calculation for the rate increase.”

According to Shute, that increase is in the margin or profit Wendover Gas would be allowed to take on every gallon of gas it sells.

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“I will send you the paper work and you can do the math yourself,” Shute added. “I don’t know why everyone got it so wrong but they did.”

Shute’s letter:

I have worked with and for Nancy Green since inception of Wendover Gas ca 1996.  I was appointed by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in late 2008 to help the utility through a tough winter.  We are still working on a long-term solution. 

As Receiver, I raised rates in January 2009, but those rates were still below the true cost of service.  The utility needed another rate increase to sustain operations this winter. 

The new rates I recently implemented are closer to that cost of service, and I believe are enough to sustain the utility.  The various reports of 50-60% increases are inaccurate.  Gas utility rates are usually 3 components, only one of which changed:

1)  Gas Cost is the actual cost of the commodity, in this case propane.  The Utility adjusts its rates monthly to pass through the exact cost of gas, which is currently about $1.80 per gallon or $2.00 per Therm.  As do most modern gas utilities, WenGas bills by the Therm (100,000 BTU) to allow customers to compare costs with other fuels.  This calculation method did not change.

2)  Monthly Charge is a fixed fee each month for service regardless of use, much like the phone or CATV companies.  This charge is $10 for Residential and $30 for Commercial customers.  This did not change.

3)  Commodity Charge is the margin charged by the utility for gas delivered, like a UPS fee to deliver a package.  This charge increased from $0.65 to $1.00 per therm for Residential customers, and the same increase for Commercials. 

The average Commodity Charge (component #3) increased by about 60%, but the average annual bill did not. 

The average Residential uses 360 Therms per year.  The average bill would increase from $1074 to $1200 per year, or $10.50 per month and about 11.7%.

Commercials use about 2500 Therms per year and would see a 13.5% increase.

At today’s rates, the utility is still distributing propane for about 20c per gallon less than typcial charges for tank deliveries of propane.

We have worked to get Natural Gas to replace propane in Wendover for the last 3 years.  We had a viable Liquefied Natl Gas or LNG project in 2011 which would save the community at least $400,000 per year.  The casinos refused to discuss it in detail.

Natural Gas is currently the best long-term heating solution for most homes and businesses, but any project to bring gas to Wendover must include the casinos.

The 50 to 60 percent rate increase was mentioned by city attorney Gary di Grazia in the West Wendover City Council’s mid December meeting and was quoted in friend of the court briefs opposing the rate increase by the Wendover Casino industry.

If Shute is correct and the hike is kept to 11 to 13 percent there might be life for the company. If he is wrong far from a life line that would save her company the emergency approval to raise gas rates 50 to 60 percent could be the final nail in the coffin for Wendover Gas.

“Last year we paid Wendover Gas $216,000,” said Elko School Superintendent Jeff Zander. “If the price is increased 50 to 60 percent you are talking about a $90,000 to $100,000 increase. We would certainly looked for alternatives.”

The emergency rate increase was approved last week in Elko District Court .

The hike was sought by local business Wendover Gas owned by Nancy Green at least in part to help offset a franchise fee debt, Green has been collecting from her customers but not paying to the city of West Wendover.

According to City Manager Chris Melville the financially troubled company is about $20,000 in arrears in paying the city its franchise fee and without the rate increase may go deeper in arrears.

“They are behind two quarters,” Melville said two weeks ago. “And those were light quarters during the spring and summer when the demand is light. For the year the franchise fee is about $60,000.”

While the Elko County School District is one of Wendover Gas’ biggest customer it will not be alone in looking for alternatives to minimize the impact of the rate increase or to avoid it all together.

Already the price Wendover Gas charges its customers is higher than trucked in propane that is delivered to tanks by other gas companies. The price difference lead to loss of Wendover Gas’ largest customers, the five Wendover Casinos, over the past decade.

“When you are talking about heating an entire hotel casino a couple of cents per gallon adds up to a huge savings,” said one casino maintenance manager. “Those savings allow us to spend more on jobs and promotion of our business. We understand that Wendover Gas is a local company but we have to look out for our interests and our bottom line.”

If it is imposed the 50 to 60 percent rate hike will mean be more than just a ‘couple of cents’ per gallon and may spur many smaller businesses and residential customers to look for a different source of gas or an alternative heating solution.

“One of my neighbors gets his propane trucked in,” said one Wendover resident. “I thought about it but it really didn’t seem worth the hassle of changing over, getting a tank installed and all that. But if the increase goes into effect I will either switch over or buy an electric water heater.”

While the 11 to 13 percent increase is much less it could still tip the balance between staying with Wendover Gas or looking elsewhere.

Shute however was optimistic that the increase would not cause a decline in the company’s customer base but put it well on the way to financial stability at least for the short term.

“My number one goal is to bring natural gas to Wendover to replace propane altogether,” he said. “I did put together a deal this summer that would have linked with the pipeline and would have put Wendover gas almost completely out of the picture. It would have also saved the West Wendover, Nevada and Wendover, Utah a combined $400,000 a year in energy costs. But to work we needed the support of Wendover casino industry. We didn’t get it.”

Shute acknowledge the one of the reasons for the projects failure is the animosity between Nancy Green and some of the other principle players in town.

“There are certainly personalities involved,” Shute added. “One would think that they wouldn’t be a concern in business decisions.”

The hard feeling between Green and City Manager Chris Melville as obvious during last week’s council meeting when Melville asked the council to act on the delinquent franchise fees owed to the city.

The council did act but not in the direction Melville wanted, instead of demanding immediate payment the council gave Green until April 1, 2012 to catch up on her arrears.

In addition to Wendover Gas, West Wendover charges a franchise fee to a variety of companies providing utilities to the public such as the telephone company, the electric company, cable television and cel phone providers.

In addition to being the smallest company assessed a franchise fee, Wendover Gas is also unique from the rest because it must by a physical product, gas, from a wholesaler and store it on site.

However the council’s largesse toward Green has raised some eyebrows first from her customers who assumed that charge had already gone to the city and also by other franchise holders.

“I think keeping it could be considered illegal,” said one Wendover business owner assessed a similar fee. “The money collected from shouldn’t be touched by the business and go directly to the city.”

But even with the deadline extension and the hefty rate increase doubts remain about the continued viability of one of Wendover’s oldest family owned businesses.

A major supplier of propane in Wendover for almost half a century, Green created Wendover Gas in 1997 and began piping propane to some residences and businesses.

In order to secure funding and right of way to lay the pipes Green and the city agreed on a franchise ordinance that gave Wendover Gas a monopoly on all piped gas. Where the ordinance falls short Green complained to the council is that the monopoly applies only to piped gas. There is nothing  in the ordinance that prevents a business or a home from buying propane from another supplier and filling a tank on a regular basis.

Also by installing gas lines, Green’s pricing came under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission which had to approve each and every price adjustment Green wanted to make, while any potential competitor could slash the price of propane they were charging at a moment’s notice.

And that is exactly what happened Green told the council. Where she once had all of the five major Wendover casinos as her customers Green said now she had none.

While Green lost most of her major commercial accounts she has been able to retain most of her residential customers. That could end when the rate hike goes into effect.

This is not the first time Wendover Gas had problems securing supply are remaining solvent. PUC investigators made frequent mention of supply problems in 2005 and in 2007. In 2009 Green was just days away of losing her company to the city when at the almost the last minute she was able to secure a new source of propane after her original supplier refused to deliver more until he had been paid at least half of a $140,000 bill.

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Newmont Keeps On Giving

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

The Newmont Mining Company kept giving over the holidays with an $8,500 check to the Wendover Recreation District last week.

 

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The funds will be used for the re- felting of pool tables and the purchase of a new pool table, eight new video chairs, folding chairs and tables, a new foosball table, a new air hockey table, and new weights, explained Newmont Public relations Director Pamela Smith.

 

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The new owner of the Long Canyon Mine project located just 25 miles west of Wendover, Newmont officials told the West Wendover and Wendover city councils in November that the company would be committed to supporting the communities it impacted.

 

The day before the Recreation district donation Newmont presented a $5,000 check the the local thrift store/food bank possibly saving the charity from going out of business.

 

The check presented by Pamela Smith of Newmont Gold to Frank Sharp, Pastor Chris Lund and Deira Esparza will go toward offsetting operating costs of the thrift store/food bank.

 

Until the funding from Newmont there was rampant speculation that the charity might be closed. Times are especially tough in the winter when many Wendover casino workers see their schedules cut down to two or three working days a week.

 

And for many of Wendover’s working poor the Sharp’s food bank has meant the difference between a meal or going hungry.

 

A businessman in Wendover for over 30 years, Sharp started the thrift store and food bank in memory of his wife to cancer several years ago.

 

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Abandoned Sheep Dog Finds Home for X-mas

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

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The tale of an abandoned sheep dog found by a kind hearted Pilot Valley man ended happily this week by the dog’s adoption by an anonymous benefactor.

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“I am so happy he found a good home,” Sutton said Tuesday.

The plight of the dog was featured two weeks ago in the High Desert Advocate.

“I got more than a half a dozen call after the story and the ad ran,” Sutton said. “I certainly did not expect that. What with the time of year and the bad economic times I thought it would be a long shot to find anyone who would want to adopt him.”

“He is a beautiful well behaved large dog, looks like a Great Pyrenees,” said Sutton at the time. “He showed up at my house last week, just as friendly as you can imagine. He looks like about 18 months to two years old. I really can’t keep him but I don’t want to take him to the pound. It would be almost a sin to put him down.”

According to Sutton’s description the dog probably belongs to one of several breeds of livestock protection dogs originally from the Mediterranean Basin of southern Europe, North Africa and West Asia.

Unlike herding dogs such as shepherds or collies breeds of livestock protection dogs as their description implies protect the herd usually goats or sheep but sometimes cattle from predators.

While their lineage goes back as long as 5,000 years they are still in use and can be seen accompanying Peruvian sheepherders in eastern Nevada during the spring and summer months.

Needing very little if any training the dogs mingle with the sheep and fend off attacks from local predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions just as their ancestors fought off wolves, jackals and lions at the dawn of civilization.

The dogs success also has a tragic side however. Because they are so easily trained any pup will do and once the season is over the adult dogs guarding a particular herd are either put down or left to fend for themselves once they are no longer needed. Used to be fed regularly and having a instinctive aversion to hunting large herbivores most of these cast offs slowly starve to death over the winter or die of cold, unless they are adopted by sympathetic humans.

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On-Line Gaming Threat To Wendover?

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

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New laws and regulations legalizing some forms of internet gaming could be a boon to large Nevada based gaming corporations but a bust for the proverbial border boom towns such as Wendover.

This week the Nevada Gaming control Board  unanimously approved rules that allow companies in the state apply for licenses to operate poker websites.

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“We estimate the U.S. online poker market at $5 billion in revenue, relative to the current $24 billion global Internet gaming market and (the) $33 billion commercial casino market in the U.S.,” Union Gaming Group analyst Bill Lerner wrote in a research report. “In our opinion, the commercialization of online poker is a 2013 event.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that  some sites could begin operating by the end of 2012.

The guidelines were mandated by the state Legislature’s approval of Assembly Bill 258 earlier this year, which dictated that Internet poker regulations be established by Jan. 31.

Licensed gaming companies seeking online poker licenses will have to prove that their technology will be able to limit play to state residents of a legal age. Online poker sites are also required to establish procedures to detect money laundering, fraud or other criminal activities, and to establish a cash reserve to complement money deposited by customers in their accounts.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp. have already submitted proposals to be licensed once regulations are ready, along with casino equipment manufacturers such as International Game Technology, Bally Technologies Inc. And Cantor Gaming.

According to the regulations, companies new to Nevada would be vetted with full licensing investigations, which usually take several months.

Casino industry representatives applauded the vote despite online poker being illegal in the United States.

The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits companies from accepting payments related to online wagering, but allows several exceptions, including intrastate wagering and fantasy sports.

However earlier this week the Obama administration cleared the way for states to legalize Internet poker and certain other online betting in a switch that may help them reap billions in tax revenue and spur web-based gambling.

A Justice Department opinion dated September and made public on Friday reversed decades of previous policy that included civil and criminal charges against operators of some of the most popular online poker sites.

Until now, the department held that online gambling in all forms was illegal under the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders.

The new interpretation, by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said the Wire Act applies only to bets on a “sporting event or contest,” not to a state’s use of the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within its borders or abroad.

“The United States Department of Justice has given the online gaming community a big, big present,” said I. Nelson Rose, a gaming law expert at Whittier Law School who consults for governments and the industry.

The question at issue was whether proposals by Illinois and New York to use the Internet and out-of-state transaction processors to sell lottery tickets to in-state adults violated the Wire Act.

But the department’s conclusion would eliminate “almost every federal anti-gambling law that could apply to gaming that is legal under state laws,” Rose wrote on his blog at www.gamblingandthelaw.com.

If a state legalized intra-state games such as poker, as Nevada and the District of Columbia have done, “there is simply no federal law that could apply” against their operators, he said.

The department’s opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, said the law’s legislative history showed that Congress’s overriding goal had been to halt wire communications for sports gambling, notably off-track betting on horse races.

Congress also had been concerned about rapid transmission of betting information on baseball, basketball, football and boxing among other sports-related events or contests, she summarized the legislative history as showing.

“The ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘sporting event or contest’ does not encompass lotteries,” Seitz wrote. “Accordingly, we conclude that the proposed lotteries are not within the prohibitions of the Wire Act.”

The department expressed no opinion about a provision in the law that lets prosecutors shut down phone lines where interstate or foreign gambling is taking place.

Many of the 50 U.S. states may be interested in creating online lotteries to boost tax revenues and help offset the ripple effect of a federal deficit-reduction push.

The global online gambling industry grew 12 percent last year to as much as $30 billion, according to a survey in March by Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy, based on the Isle of Man, where online gambling is legal.

But while the changes are being lauded in Las Vegas smaller casino operators are not as optimistic.

“We don’t need anymore competition especially now,” said one local casino executive. “Our market is the day tripper or the people who come out for the weekend. A lot of them have a fixed gaming budget. If they can gamble on line from their homes in Salt Lake we could lose a nice chunk of our business.”

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The Worst of Times

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

While we applaud the city council’s compassion regarding Nancy Green not paying the franchise money she collected but never passed back to the municipal coffers the action does make us wonder.

If instead of being Nancy Green it was any one of a number of West Wendover businessmen or women would the council have been so accommodating?

We doubt it.

Time and time again we have heard “the law is the law’ or something to that effect as justification when sticking it to a small business owner the council didn’t like.

And that small business owner could only sputter and swear and claim that the law was being applied unfairly and unjustly and in an arbitrary manner.

Well the proof is in the pudding.

Nancy Green may have broken the law by collecting those fees and not paying them to the city. As a reward the city council gave her another four months of grace with only her word that she would come up with about a years worth of payments on April Fools Day.

We only wish the council had been so compassionate with Steve Weinstein when he offered to pay extra taxes to the city just to get his business open. They refused, Weinstein closed before he opened and the city was out hundreds of thousands in annual revenue and some 50 new jobs.

But hey the law is the law.

And we certainly have a lot of them in Wendover.

Indeed we have more laws, rules and regulations than one can shake a stick at and if one doesn’t watch it, watch out.

As it was written the Gas Franchise ordinance was ready made to be a disaster for Wendover Gas.

They won the franchise but since the franchise didn’t give exclusivity it was almost worthless.

The casinos were the first to jump at cheaper rates from trucked in propane and from then it was a slow slide on a slippery slope.

We doubt with the possible exception of the company’s trustee Steve Shute that anyone believes Wendover Gas will exist by the end of 2012.

Perhaps that is why the council was so compassionate.

Another local business will fold and be taken over by the city without the city doing anything provocative.

 

We usually take a ‘best of times, worst of times’ approach to the passing of a year but even Pollyanna would be hard pressed to say the good evened out the bad in 2011.

In addition to the continuing rough economy 2011 will forever be remembered in Wendover as the year Mickie Costanzo was brutally murdered by a boy who was and is an absolute waste of space.

Unfortunately the wounds of one year are not magically healed by a change of a number. They last. But at least for the Costanzo family they will have the opportunity to see justice done in the trials of Toni Fratto and Kody Patten early next year.

The same cannot be said for Glenn Taylor whose son James was cut down at 23 yet whose killer was not even arrested and a month later given a get out of jail free card.

Like we said 2011 was a on the whole a bad year.

We hope the same will not be said for 2012.

But unlike any previous year we are not overly optimistic.

With the drums of war sounding in Iran, another global economic crisis looming and a nincompoop in the White House who still believes the answer to our nation’s myriad of troubles is a clever catch phrase in a speech even his wife isn’t listening to anymore, there is not a whole lot out there to be really excited about.

On the other hand 2012 will mark the arrival of our first grandchild.

So all might be pretty okay with the world, with a little bit of luck.

Happy New Year

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Toni Fratto To Reno For Psychiatric Evaluation

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

Confessed murderer Toni Fratto will be transferred to the Washoe County Jail in Reno while she undergoes a psychiatric evaluation, said her attorney John Springgate.

The Reno based attorney stressed that Fratto’s examination would be done by metal health practitioners contracted by her defense team and not by psychiatrists at the state run facility Lakes Crossing for the criminally insane.

Lakes Crossing was the facility that did the mental evaluation for Kody Patten, Fratto’s lover and accomplice in the murder of 16 year old Micaela Costanzo this March.

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After less than two weeks at the facility Patten was found mentally competent to stand trial. The finding was not unexpected, the number of accused offenders that have been found mentally incompetent or criminally insane over the past 30 years at the facility can be literally counted on one hand.

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The mental evaluation of Fratto however is not expected to address whether the girl is sane or knows the difference between right and wrong, at least not exclusively. Rather and perhaps more importantly it will be used as evidence that Toni Fratto does have the personality to confess to a crime she may not have committed to either help save her lover, gain some form of notoriety or buckled under pressure by someone else.

Both Patten and Fratto confessed to the murder of Mickie Costanzo but gave widely different time lines.

In his confession taken just days after the murder Patten suggest that the killing did indeed take place shortly after 5 pm perhaps no later than 5:30 pm on the afternoon of March 3rd.

Patten also does not mention Fratto even being at the scene of the killing and in a throw away line to detectives says he left the gravel pit after the killing to pick up his girl friend.

In her confession made some six weeks after the murder, Fratto parrots Patten’s words except for the time of the killing putting it well after 7 pm that day. The reason for the difference in time lines is quite simple until Fratto’s where abouts are known from 5 pm to 7 pm and she was not with Patten and thus could not have been murdering Costanzo.

Fratto’s confession is especially crucial to the prosecution because other than it, there is simply no evidence whether forensic or even a witness linking Fratto to the crime.

Patten however is caught on video tape stalking the halls of Wet Wendover High School shortly before Mickie Costanzo disappeared, it was Patten and not Fratto seen driving the borrowed SUV whose tracks were found at the murder scene. Patten’s DNA was found on a bloody shirt at the crime scene.

On the other hand the only evidence against Fratto is Fratto herself.

And while Fratto appears to be adamant in sticking by her confession her attorneys may be building a case that while the girl is certainly sane she should simply not be believed.

Fratto’s attorneys have contended that her confession is not only false but was drilled into her  by Kip Patten, Kody’s father.

Both in motions to the court and in the line of questioning of Kip Patten during Fratto’s preliminary hearing Fratto’s attorneys have strongly implied that for the six weeks he drove Toni Fratto to visit his son at the Elko County Jail, Kip Patten pressured the girl to confess to the murder.

 

The mental evaluation could be offered as proof that not only was Fratto susceptible to pressure she may have even been able to convince herself that she was telling the truth.

 

A very partial transcript of Fratto’s confession confirms the general belief that whether lying or not Fratto confessed not because of any overwhelming guilt to the crime but rather to “help” her boyfriend.

 

It is also clear that Fratto is under the impression that she, her boyfriend Patten and Patten’s attorneys are on the same team and even if they cannot officially represent her, they will take care of her.

 

From the minute the news broke the overwhelming feeling from those who knew her was that far from a criminal mastermind with ice water for blood, Toni Fratto was confessing to a crime she didn’t and some say could not have committed at the behest of her jailed lover.

 

Patten certainly had the opportunity to make such a request. Fratto visited him as often as twice a week making the four hour round trip to Elko on Wednesdays and Sunday ever since Patten was arrested n May 7th.

 

She also talked to him at least once a day thanks to a collect calling plan purchased by her father. The frequent and continued contact the girl had with Patten also

 

Far from the black widow who directed Patten to kill a romantic or social rival, friends and acquaintances of both Fratto and Patten describe her as a mouse of a girl who was “barely there”.

 

Indeed some friends relate the Patten held the whole Fratto family in thrall and what official records exist tend to support the allegation.

 

He moved into the home after his own parents threw him out and bragged to classmates how he verbally and emotionally abused his benefactors.

 

So complete was his domination of the family, friends relate, that even when Patten was caught on school grounds strangling Toni Fratto just months before the murder, Claud and Cassie Fratto refused to press criminal charges and allowed the very disturbed young man back into their home.

 

By all accounts Fratto’s parents were oblivious to the point of denial that there was anything wrong with the future killer.

 

Then a juvenile Patten was suspended and than readmitted to the high school where he was put on probation.

 

According to one well placed source Patten was just one infraction away from being expelled at the time of the murder and like his girlfriend Patten also withdrew from the school’s social life in his senior year.

 

A possible reason as to why Patten would ‘suggest’ to his girlfriend to confess to the crime may be found in the mitigating factors regarding the death penalty. According to Nevada law juries may take into account the fact that a convicted murderer acted on the suggestion of another involved in the crime. And according to Fratto’s charge sheet that is exactly what she is accused of doing.

 

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Wendover Gas To Up Rates 50 to 60 Percent

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

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The price for propane or natural gas will increase 50 to 60 percent for Wendover homes and businesses following a hearing that approved the rate hike in Elko district Court Wednesday.

The hike was sought by local business Wendover Gas owned by Nancy Green at least in part to help offset a franchise fee debt, Green has bee collecting from her customers but not paying to the city of West Wendover.

According to City Manager Chris Melville the financially troubled company is about $20,000 in arrears in paying the city its franchise fee and without the rate increase may go deeper in arrears.

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“They are behind two quarters,” Melville said two weeks ago. “And those were light quarters during the spring and summer when the demand is light. For the year the franchise fee is about $60,000.”

In addition to Wendover Gas, West Wendover charges a franchise fee to a variety of companies providing utilities to the public such as the telephone company, the electric company, cable television and cel phone providers.

In addition to being the smallest company assessed a franchise fee, Wendover Gas is also unique from the rest because it must by a physical product, gas, from a wholesaler and store it on site.

Tuesday over the reservations of Melville the West Wendover City Council extended the deadline for Green to become current on her owed franchise fees by April 1, 2012.

But even with the deadline extension and the hefty rate increase doubts remain about the continued viability of one of Wendover’s oldest family owned businesses.

A major supplier of propane in Wendover for almost half a century, Green created Wendover Gas in 1997 and began piping propane to some residences and businesses.

In order to secure funding and right of way to lay the pipes Green and the city agreed on a franchise ordinance that gave Wendover Gas a monopoly on all piped gas. Where the ordinance falls short Green complained to the council is that the monopoly applies only to piped gas. There is nothing  in the ordinance that prevents a business or a home from buying propane from another supplier and filling a tank on a regular basis.

Also by installing gas lines, Green’s pricing came under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission which had to approve each and every price adjustment Green wanted to make, while any potential competitor could slash the price of propane they were charging at a moment’s notice.

And that is exactly what happened Green told the council Tuesday. Where she once had all of the five major Wendover casinos as her customers Green said now she had none.

While Green lost most of her major commercial accounts she has been able to retain most of her residential customers. That could end when the rate hike goes into effect.

“It’s the middle of winter and all of a sudden you are hit with a 50 percent rate hike,” said one consumer. “You are either going to cut down or look for alternatives, probably both.”

This is not the first time Wendover Gas had problems securing supply are remaining solvent. PUC investigators made frequent mention of supply problems in 2005 and in 2007. In 2009 Green was just days away of losing her company to the city when at the almost the last minute she was able to secure a new source of propane after her original supplier refused to deliver more until he had been paid at least half of a $140,000 bill.

The rate hike was approved only as a six month temporary messure with a mandated review at the end of the period.

 

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Newmont Saves Local Food Bank/Thrift Store, Donates to Recreation District

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

With a $5000 check Newmont Gold may have helped save a Wendover charity that has been vital to so many local families.

The check presented by Pamela Smith of Newmont Gold to Frank Sharp, Pastor Chris Lund and Deira Esparza will go toward offsetting operating costs of the thrift store/food bank.

Until the funding from Newmont there was rampant speculation that the charity might be closed. Times are especially tough in the winter when many Wendover casino workers see their schedules cut down to two or three working days a week.

And for many of Wendover’s working poor the Sharp’s food bank has meant the difference between a meal or going hungry.

A businessman in Wendover for over 30 years, Sharp started the thrift store and food bank in memory of his wife to cancer several years ago.

Her treatment involved three to four trips per week to Salt Lake City’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, Sharp said, and those travel costs piled up. After her death, he saw others fighting similar battles and wanted to help.

“My first idea was to raise money some way,” Sharp said, “So I started a thrift store.”

In response to community needs, that effort grew and Sharp soon added a food bank and social-service resource office.

The next day Newmont kept the holiday spirit going with an $8,500 donation to the Wendover Recreation District.

The funds will be used for the re- felting of pool tables and the purchase of a new pool table, 8 new video chairs, folding chairs and tables, a new foosball table, a new air hockey table, and new weights.

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Manhunt On For B.M. Killer

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Howard Copelan

 

A search is on throughout all of northen Nevada for a suspected murderer on the run from Battle Mountain.

According to Mike Kolsch, police chief for the Western Shoshone Department of Public Safety, officials are looking for Daniel James Draper, 47, as a suspect in the homicide. Draper should be driving a black, 2001 Ford Ranger pickup with possible license plate NR8764.

Draper is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He is slim with a clear complexion. He has most recently been seen with a mustache.

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Kolsch said a federal warrant was being sought for Draper’s arrest. He was not releasing the identity of the victim until he was sure the next of kin had been notified. He also would not say what may have prompted the shooting, but did say Draper and the victim knew each other.

Kolsch said an eyewitness statement led authorities to name Draper as the suspect. A search warrant for Draper’s residence was conducted Tuesday afternoon. Kolsch said Draper was not at that residence.

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A firearm believed to have been used in the shooting has been recovered, Kolsch said.

The Western Shoshone DPS has been working with sheriff’s offices from Lander and Washoe counties, as well as the Reno FBI office. Anyone who has seen Draper since the time of the shooting should call their local law enforcement agency.

 

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