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In re NP

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: NP, a minor child,
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner). CP, Appellant (Respondent),

         Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Timothy C. Cotton of Timothy C. Cotton, PC, Casper, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Misha E. Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Shawnna M. Herron, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Herron.

          Representing Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State Public Defender, and Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem Program, a division of the Office of the State Public Defender.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          FOX, Justice.

         [¶1] Mother challenges the juvenile court's finding that she neglected her seventeen-year-old son, NP. She contends that the juvenile court improperly denied her motion for jury trial because, although she did not file a jury demand, she called the judge's chambers and the clerk of court informing them that she wanted a jury trial, and she contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding of neglect. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] 1. Did Mother waive her right to a jury trial when she failed to timely file a jury demand?

         2. Was there sufficient evidence for the juvenile court to determine that Mother neglected NP?

         FACTS

         [¶3] At the time of the events giving rise to this matter, NP was approximately seventeen-and-a-half years old and attended Kelly Walsh High School. He had been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and anxiety, but was relatively high functioning. CP, NP's mother (Mother), is a single mother of six children, including NP.

         [¶4] The evening of December 14, 2015, NP and his brother were attending swim team practice, and Mother had returned to Casper from Sheridan, where she had a meeting earlier that morning. Mother went to Kelly Walsh High School to check on NP because NP had been skipping practice. Mother testified that when she got there, NP gave her "a dirty look and ignored" her. She could tell that NP had had a rough day and noticed that he had stopped swimming. A swim coach asked if he was OK and NP "lashed out at her verbally." When Mother reprimanded NP for his behavior, NP began calling her names. One of the coaches asked him to "take it outside." NP got out of the pool, removed his flippers and mask, and went outside of the pool area and into the corridor with Mother.

         [¶5] There, the situation escalated. School custodian Duane Stover testified that around 4:30 p.m. he heard yelling in the lobby of the swimming pool, believed the disturbance was between students, and headed toward them to intervene. When he got closer, he saw Mother "[y]elling, shouting, screaming" with NP backed into a corner. According to Mr. Stover, NP did not yell back. However, when Mother grabbed NP by the arm to take him outside to her car, he broke free of her grasp and ran further into the building.

          [¶6] Mother testified that once NP ran into the building, she attempted to run after him, but he was gone; she then went back into the pool area and told her other son that she would return when practice was over. She went home to check on her other children. Mother returned twice, once at the end of practice to pick up NP's younger brother, and again with her neighbor to look for NP. When they could not locate NP in the school, Mother called the police and then went home to her other children.

         [¶7] At approximately 7:00 p.m., Casper police officers Adrian White and Jeff Bullard responded to a call from dispatch notifying them of a missing male juvenile who was last seen when he ran off into Kelly Walsh High School. It was reported that NP was seventeen, had autism, and was only wearing swim trunks at the time. Officer White testified that because he needed a better physical description of NP, he called Mother, who was "belligerent" on the phone and repeatedly called him a "n*****." Officer White hung up before getting a description of NP. The officers searched the school and eventually found NP sleeping in a bathroom, wrapped from head to toe in toilet paper. After locating NP, the officers took him to the swimming pool locker room where he had left his bag containing his clothes. They were unable to find his bag or his clothes. It was a very cold and snowy evening, so swim coaches who remained on the pool deck gave NP their sweatshirt and sweatpants to wear, and the officers found a pair of shoes in the school's lost and found.

         [¶8] It was snowing heavily when Officer Bullard walked NP to the door of his home. He rang the doorbell and knocked several times, receiving no answer for over a minute. Mother then opened the door and said, "What the f*** do you want?" Officer Bullard testified regarding what happened next:

[Officer Bullard]: And I was wearing a Casper Police Department uniform. I was easily identified as a police officer. I had [NP] standing right next to me. I said, you know, [CP], if I may, may we step inside so I can talk with you about what's going on with [NP] tonight?
And she said, No, you may not, get the [f***] off my property.
So at that time, she began to slam the door, and I stuck my right foot in the door, used my foot to block the door from it being shut.
Q. [Attorney for the State]: Why did you do that?
A. Because I wanted to continue my conversation with [CP]. I wanted to give her options. I wanted to explain that, you know, there were different things that could have occurred that night besides him coming home immediately, recognizing that she might have needed a time-out, [NP] might have needed a time-out. We engineer those things all the time in the course of our duties, taking kids to YCC [Youth Crisis Center] or other family members or we research other ...

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