Outlaws & Crime

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Title Article Type Author
Averell, Jim, newspaper reporting of the lynching of Encyclopedia Tom Rea

From Union Army soldier to teamster to Guernsey, Wyo., town father, John “Posey” Ryan earned a reputation as an honorable man. But his life’s path took a wrong turn when, believing they had stolen his livelihood, he publicly shot his wife and her daughter to death.

In May 1950, Louise Spinner Graf served as foreman of a jury in Green River, Wyo.—practically the first Wyoming jury to include women since 1871. The jury convicted Otto Long of second-degree murder. Afterward, Long’s attorney blamed the outcome on “those damn women.” Women have served successfully on Wyoming juries ever since.

The onset of Prohibition in 1919 not only didn’t stop drinking in Wyoming, it added new layers of lawlessness—bribery, corruption, murder. Enforcement officials had to battle crime in their own ranks, too. One high-profile federal case charged corruption at all levels in Casper, but the jury refused to convict.

In August 1922, five U.S. Marines “invaded” the U.S. Naval Petroleum Reserve at Teapot Dome in central Wyoming to evict oil drillers the government had determined were there illegally. Bribery connected with acquiring those drilling rights eventually led to the Teapot Dome scandal—one of the worst in U.S. politics.

On a jittery night in 1864, a lone warrior stole three horses from a California-bound wagon train west of present Glenrock, Wyo. Early next morning, emigrant Martin Ringo died from an accidental gunshot. His grave is still there, on private land. Johnny Ringo, his son, was later a famous outlaw. 

The 1911 murder of newlyweds Edna and Thomas Jenkins remains unsolved. But the crime on a ranch south of Tensleep still fascinates because of senselessness, the lack of hard evidence pointing at any single suspect—though three were considered—and the social prominence of the victims.

Clabe Young came with his brothers from Texas to Wyoming Territory in the late 1870s and cowboyed for prominent ranchers including Tom Sun and Boney Earnest. The Young brothers fell under suspicion of rustling by the powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association, whose leaders hired a Chicago detective, John Finkbone, to set the matter straight.

Recurring oil theft on the Wind River Reservation in the 1970s eventually led to better practices that focus on preventing such losses and protecting American Indian tribes’ oil and gas revenues.