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Animal attack may have killed woman south of Riverton

Nov 13, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

A 40-year-old woman died Wednesday evening in Riverton after she was found unconscious in the 800 block of Rendezvous Road south of town.

Officials believe the Fremont County residents died as the result of an animal attack, or a combination of animal-inflicted trauma and hypothermia. The temperature at the time was near zero.

Deputy Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen issued a public health and safety alert Thursday warning residents about the potential presence of a vicious animal or animals in the area.

"Use caution and be alert for any observations of predator wildlife, or any groups or individual feral domestic animal in the general area," the alert states.

He requested that any suspicious animals displaying aggressive behavior be reported to the Wind River Police Department, or other law enforcement.

Humans not involved

Stratmoen was unsure what kind of animal may have been responsible for the attack, but he was relatively confident that humans were not involved. He said the victim suffered "severe trauma" in the incident.

"So that kind of gives you an idea that it wasn't small animals," Stratmoen said.

Several dogs were observed in the area where the woman was found, but Stratmoen said they weren't necessarily the aggressors in the attack.

"Like with any other animal investigation, you have your initial event and then you may have other animals coming by later (who) are opportunists," Stratmoen said. "I'm not ruling anything out, (but) those sort of questions will be answered by the people doing the professional examination."

Autopsy Friday

The woman is scheduled for an autopsy Friday in Loveland, Colo. Stratmoen hopes the examination will help determine the type of animal or animals involved, when the attack occurred, and whether additional animals injured the woman after the initial incident.

She was found at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, and responders at the scene were unsure whether she had been outside overnight.

Public safety

Stratmoen said he issued the public advisory due to the presence of homes and schools near the spot where the woman was found.

"There's no serious, public, general threat, but it's something the public needs to be aware of so they're alert for anything that looks out of the ordinary," he said. "At this point it's a public safety issue. ... Regardless of what type of animal is involved, this is serious, when the death of a human is involved."

He said the woman was pronounced dead Wednesday evening at SageWest Health Care at Riverton.

The scene

Emergency responders at the scene Wednesday afternoon could be heard describing her wounds, which resembled deep lacerations like those inflicted by a knife, according to scanner traffic. A male responder said he couldn't tell whether she had been attacked with a knife or by an animal. Ambulance personnel said the woman was unconscious when they arrived, and she appeared to have hypothermia. Her pulse was light at the scene, and crews were heard discussing the woman's footwear. One early report indicated she may have been wearing only a shoe and a sock.

One responder stated the woman looked familiar, but he wasn't sure who she was. Later, a female responder left the scene and headed for the hospital to try to identify the woman.

Emergency personnel said they had to stay at the scene after the woman was transported, because they had found footprints in the snow. A brown-and-black dog on scene apparently had blood on it, but emergency personnel said they were not sure whether the blood was from the incident or if the dog had come into contact with the woman after the attack.

There was a trailer near the scene as well as a red log house surrounded by shacks, tires and furniture. A larger, concrete structure was next to the log house, with a bigger blue house behind it.

Witnesses Wednesday afternoon saw Bureau of Indian Affairs vehicles at the scene and heard barking coming from the home at 888 Rendezvous Road. A black car was in the area farther away from the home. About four dogs in a pack ran toward two more law enforcement vehicles that arrived at the scene.

An officer exited one of the vehicles and approached a light brown truck, where a man was sitting in the driver's seat. The officer then produced a roll of yellow tape and began to block off the perimeter of the property with the help of a female officer. Later, an officer interviewed a woman in the black car. The woman said her name was Christy and that she was there picking up her daughter. She then left to speak with the man in the brown pickup truck.

-- Staff writers Kelli Ameling and Alejandra Silva contributed to this report.

RELATED CONTENT

Jan. 8: Autopsy says woman died from dog attack

Nov. 19: Allegation vs. verification: In the case of a bizarre death, we must take care to recognize the difference

Nov. 18: Investigators say pack of dogs killed woman
 

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