Man pleads guilty to endangering kids
A man who spent three nights lost in the Medicine Bow National Forrest with his family has pleaded guilty to endangering children.
Steve Williams, 35, of Baggs, Wyo., pleaded guilty to child endangerment and reckless endangerment in Carbon County, Wyo., Carbon County Prosecuting Attorney Dave Clark said.
Williams was found in the Whiskey Creek Drainage in Routt County on Aug. 7. His three children, ages 7 to 10, where found the day before with his girlfriend.
After pleading guilty, Williams was placed into a drug rehabilitation center and will be sentenced at a later date, Clark said. The charges, which are misdemeanors, each could come with a one-year jail sentence.
The courts also have to decide how much restitution Clark should pay, if any. The money could go toward the cost of the three-day search.
On Aug. 7, search and rescue workers found Williams naked with cuts, abrasions and scrapes to his legs and suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. Williams was transported to Clark by ambulance and flown by helicopter to Yampa Valley Medical Center.
The day before, Williams’ three children — Sierra, 10, Jacklyn, 8, and James, 7 — and his girlfriend, Christina Harrington, were found after spending two nights in the woods.
The children, who were wearing shorts and T-shirts, were in good health, hungry and slightly dehydrated, according to the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re real glad a couple of kids didn’t get hurt,” Clark said.
An affidavit signed by Carbon Sheriff Deputy Ed Foreman indicates that drug use could have been involved. While at YVMC, Williams had toxicology tests taken. Those tests have yet to come back, Clark said. He doubted Williams also would be charged with illegal drug use.
From listening to his testimony in court, Clark said, Williams doesn’t remember the incident. Williams also didn’t indicate in court what drug he was using, but he did agree to go into rehab, Clark said.
Sierra told her mother that she was aware of her father’s drug use and described her father as “freaking out” while in the woods, the affidavit states.
The mother of the children, Elizabeth Kvale, told the sheriff’s department it was not normal for Williams to not return the children on time, but that he had a history of illegal drug use.
Harrington told her mother and sister-in-law that Williams had recently used illegal drugs, the affidavit states.
After spending one night in the woods together, the oldest child, Sierra, was separated from the group when she and Williams split from them, thinking they would have a better chance to get help, sheriff reports indicate.
Later, Sierra took a nap in the woods and when she woke up her father was gone. Sierra spent that night by herself and slept near a tree.
The next morning, Sierra found an old campsite, where she sat for a while before hearing vehicles on a nearby road. She was located at about 11 a.m. on Forest Road 550, near the Wyoming-Colorado state line.
An hour earlier, a passing motorist found Harrington and Sierra’s two siblings standing along the same road, which is in Carbon County.
On Aug. 4, Williams picked up the three children from Kvale, the mother and custodial parent, with the intent to take them fishing and return them that evening, the affidavit states.
The sheriff’s office also couldn’t explain why Williams was found naked and why he left his 10-year-old daughter by herself in the woods for a night.
Clark said they still don’t have the answers to those questions.
“How many times have you asked a drunk to do something logical and he refuses?” Clark asked. “I don’t think we’ll ever get a full explanation.”
The search for the group included a private helicopter operator, an Air Force helicopter, Baggs and Routt County search and rescue teams on horses and four wheelers and the Civil Air Patrol.
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