Fourth Judicial District Court in Sheridan was the site of a resentencing hearing Wednesday for 20-year-old Wyatt Bear Cloud, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for the murder of Robert Ernst on August 26, 2009.
Bear Cloud's Defense Attorney Kirk Morgan called four witnesses to the stand to testify; Psychologist Theresa Faulkner, who performed a psych evaluation on Bear Cloud; Jennifer Paulser, who was Wyatt's juvenile probation officer prior to and at the time of the incident; Bear Cloud's father Frank and step sister Nancy.
Frank Bear Cloud, provided testimony that due to his long hours at work and his wife's addiction to pain pills, which ended up being the primary reason for the couple getting a divorce, his kids were on their own a lot and took care of one another due to the lack of parental supervision. Bear Cloud's mother, Tina, moved back into the home after learning that she had been diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after his mother died of the disease in April of 2009, Bear Cloud was expelled from school for truancy, which landed him on probation.
Once testimony concluded mid afternoon, Prosecuting Attorney for the State, Matt Redle, and District Court Judge John Fenn, discussed in open court the Wyoming Supreme Court decision to order a resentencing in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding life sentences for juveniles. The federal court ruling last year prompted the Wyoming Legislature to adopt a bill that specifies that juveniles convicted of first degree murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years. When referring to the new law that went into effect this July, Redle said that it is a bad example set by the legislature, and that it wouldn't be the first time that they would have to go back and fix one of their mistakes.
Bear Cloud addressed the Court by saying that he is hoping for the opportunity to return to society someday, adding that he can't imagine what the Ernst family has had to go through because three stupid kids wanted to play "gangsta". Before handing down the new sentence, Judge Fenn said that Bear Cloud, since being imprisoned, has shown that he's not 100 percent bad, but that his past behavior shows that he's not 100 percent good either.
Judge Fenn sentenced Bear Cloud to life with the possibility for parole after 25 years of incarceration. Fenn decided to reaffirm the original sentences on the other two charges Bear Cloud pleaded guilty to, Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary, and Aggravated Burglary. The sentence for Conspiracy will run concurrent to the First Degree Murder sentence, while the 20-25 years for Aggravated Burglary will run consecutive to the murder sentence.
If Bear Cloud receives good time while serving his sentence, coupled with time served, he will be eligible for parole at age 55.