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Escapee 'sightings' in county don't pan out

Sep 17, 2013 - From staff reports

Several residents called law enforcement over the weekend to report seeing fugitive Kenneth Ward in Fremont County, but officials said none of the sightings were confirmed.

The 51-year-old prisoner reportedly escaped custody Aug. 31 while other members of a private prison transport group were using a rest stop near Independence Rock in Natrona County. No one was injured in the incident, and no one else escaped from the group.

According to published reports, Ward was being taken to jail in Sweetwater County and was still wearing handcuffs when he disappeared. Officials said they followed Ward's trail until it disappeared at the Sweetwater River.

Last week, officials said Ward is no longer wearing his handcuffs. He reportedly was spotted twice in the Rawlins area after he was driven there by a motorist on Monday, Sept. 9.

Local 'sightings'

On Thursday, Sept. 12, a Rock Springs man called the Fremont County Sheriff's Office to report possibly seeing Ward at the Wind River Casino south of Riverton. Surveillance footage revealed that the person in question was not Ward, however.

At about 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 13, two motorists called about a suspicious man walking south along U.S. Highway 20 near Shoshoni. He reportedly was wearing a long, green trench coat or rain coat and holding a stick in his hand. Officials said they contacted the person, who did not turn out to be Ward.

Another resident called at about 9 a.m. Saturday to report seeing a man matching Ward's description at a vacant residence along Wyoming Highway 789 south of Riverton. Undersheriff Ryan Lee said the report was unfounded.

Later that day, at about 1:45 p.m., a man on 17 Mile Road by Miller Lane south of Riverton said he saw someone who looked like Ward walking east on the south side of the highway. Lee said the individual in question was contacted and was not the escapee.

Finally, a resident on Rogers Lane in Riverton called at about 10:15 p.m. Monday when he reportedly saw someone "walking around in his trees."

He couldn't describe the person, but the resident thought it might be Ward. Lee said officials were unable to locate the suspicious person.

"There is no confirmation that (Ward) has been sighted in Fremont County," Lee said Tuesday.

"We contacted each (suspicious) person with the exception of one. ... The description given of the person we did not locate, did not match Ward's physical characteristics."

He encouraged people to continue calling law enforcement if they believe they have spotted the fugitive.

"If people think there's a possibility they've seen this person, they should always contact law enforcement, and we'll check any lead out," Lee said Tuesday.

Violent history

Published reports state Ward was being transported from Nogales, Ariz., to a jail in Sweetwater County. He reportedly was wanted in Sweetwater County for the 2010 felony theft of $100,000 in vehicles and equipment from Eaton Trucking of Farson.

Ward reportedly has a violent history, and officials say he shouldn't be approached.

He is described as a 6 foot tall man with brown hair and brown eyes. He weighs about 180 pounds and was last seen wearing khaki shorts, a black shirt and flip flops.

Officials said he had suffered a stab wound to his left side while he was incarcerated elsewhere.

Anyone with information about Ward's location can call the Fremont County Sheriff's Office at 856-7200 or the Natrona County Sheriff's Office at 235-9282.

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