Feb. 24—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne Police have a suspect in the death of Athian Rivera, a 2-year-old found dead Friday in a dumpster in the 400 block of Desmet Drive.
CPD detectives have sent an affidavit of probable cause to Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove supporting charges of murder and aggravated child abuse against Wyatt Dean Lamb, CPD spokesperson Alex Farkas said in a news release early Tuesday afternoon.
Laramie County Coroner Rebecca Reid said the cause of death is pending autopsy results, which will likely take six to eight weeks.
The case remains under investigation by police, Farkas said.
Lamb, 27, of Cheyenne was arrested by police on unrelated charges at 6:15 p.m. Friday at his residence in the 500 block of Desmet Drive. He was taken into custody on a felony warrant for failure to appear through Laramie County District Court, as well as a misdemeanor warrant for parole violation, according to Laramie County jail records.
Lamb was contacted by police during the search for Rivera.
According to court documents, Lamb was charged in February 2020 with felony strangulation of a household member, identified as then-girlfriend Kassandra Orona, who is the mother of Rivera. He was also charged with misdemeanor property destruction and interfering with a peace officer.
A booking sheet from Lamb's Friday arrest lists Orona as his "next of kin," and identifies her as his girlfriend.
At about 1 p.m. Friday, Cheyenne Police responded to a report of missing 2-year-old Athian Rivera near the 500 block of Desmet Drive. After an "extensive" search of the surrounding area, officers found the child dead in a nearby dumpster.
Along with CPD, the search for Rivera involved a K-9 unit, members of the Laramie County Sheriff's Department, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, Cheyenne Fire Rescue and Laramie County Fire District 2, Farkas said at a news conference about the incident late Friday afternoon.
Farkas said a reverse 911 call was sent out to locate the child within half a mile of his last known location. Social media was also used to try to find Rivera, and the child's name was included in a national missing children database.
Farkas said during the Friday news conference that there was no danger to the public.
Anyone with information about Rivera's death should contact CPD's dispatch center at 307-637-6525.
Past charges against Lamb
Documents filed in Laramie County District Court detail a yet-to-be-resolved case involving Lamb, in which he allegedly strangled Orona, broke her cellphone and resisted arrest by police officers.
At 1:23 a.m. Feb. 28, 2020, Cheyenne Police responded to a report of domestic battery on Desmet Drive. Orona told officers she was "attacked" by Lamb, who she had been dating for about five months, according to court documents.
Orona said she and Lamb had been in an argument about an ex-boyfriend when Lamb hit her in the back of the head and put her in a chokehold from behind, preventing her from breathing. She said she lost consciousness for a few seconds and began yelling, "Don't hurt my kids." Lamb then began hitting her in the face, according to court documents.
An officer said Orona had injuries consistent with strangulation, as well as scratches and bruises.
Officers found Lamb "sleeping in an apparent state of intoxication" in a bedroom in the home, according to court documents. Lamb denied fighting Orona and said they'd been in a verbal argument, though an officer observed what they believed to be defensive wounds.
Lamb became uncooperative during questioning, later physically resisting arrest and placed in a full body restraint.
Bond conditions filed April 17 prohibited Lamb from having contact with Orona and from being within one block of her home, according to court documents.
Community response to toddler's death
Hours after Cheyenne Police shared news of Rivera's death on Friday, Cheyenne residents held a small vigil at the state Capitol, huddling over candles in the bitter cold.
By Monday, the fence surrounding the dumpster where Rivera's body was found had been covered in stuffed animals, toys and messages to the toddler from grieving members of the community.
As of Tuesday evening, a private Facebook group called "Justice for Athian Rivera" had more than 500 members. The initial post from CPD informing the public that Rivera was missing, later updated to say he was found deceased, had about 1,200 comments and had been shared about 3,700 times.
A Facebook user named Tela Teppert shared in the "Justice for Athian Rivera" group that a vigil would be held from 7-9 p.m., or later, Wednesday at the 100 building at Lexington Hills Apartments, 514 Desmet Drive.
"I will be giving a prayer in his name," Teppert said in her post. "Everyone is welcome, (and) there will be no hate."
Orona, Rivera's mother, posted a message Tuesday morning expressing grief on her otherwise private Facebook profile, writing: "Every day I wake up and I still just can't accept this... I can't believe I'm never gonna see your beautiful smile ... Your little run as I chase you and you chase me back ... Never get to hear what your favorite things will be, god I just hope you know that you are my light, I hope you know how much I loved you and I hope you know how perfect and special you are! This world is so cruel ... I'm going to the funeral home today ... I don't think I can walk through the door without dying ... I'm barely holding on right now ..."
In a screenshot of a comment Orona appeared to have left on a CPD Facebook post, she wrote that "the only thing I'm guilty of is trusting the wrong person with my kids" and that she blames herself "for his horrible death."
"I'll never stop hating myself for leaving him with someone who did such horrific things, but seeing these lies spread like I don't care for my children is more hurtful than anything," Orona continued. "... I hope people can find some compassion in their hearts and just think positive thoughts and prayers for my boy and our family."
Orona did not return a message seeking comment by press time.
A family member of Orona's declined to make a statement Tuesday afternoon, but shared a GoFundMe organized by Rivera's grandparents, which is online at https://tinyurl.com/riveragofundme.
Hannah Black is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahcblack.