A 27-year-old man in Wyoming may spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of his former girlfriend’s 2-year-old son last year. Wyatt Dean Lamb on Wednesday pleaded guilty in Laramie County District Court to one count of second-degree murder in the death of young Athian Rivera.
According to a report from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Lamb’s attorney, Wyoming State Public Defender Diane Lozano, reached a deal with special prosecutors overseeing the case in place of District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove. Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend that Lamb serve at between 45 and 60 years in prison for the murder charge.
Athian’s body bruised and beaten body was discovered wrapped in a sheet, a blanket, and five separate trash bags discarded in the dumpster of an apartment complex near the toddler’s home.
During Wednesday’s proceeding, Lamb told the court that he felt “incredible anger” when Athian threw a piece of food, leading him to forcefully hold his hand over the toddler’s mouth, the Eagle reported. He reportedly asserted that he was only trying to make the child “pass out,” and did not intend for Athian to die.
Lamb also reportedly submitted an Alford plea on one count of felony child abuse. Under the terms of the deal, the parties agreed to recommend eight to 10 years in prison for the child abuse charge, with the sentence running consecutive to the murder sentence. An Alford plea is functionally equivalent to a guilty plea in that it results in a conviction but allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while conceding that the state has sufficient evidence to convict them at trial.
Authorities initially charged Lamb with 10 counts of child abuse due to the litany of horrific injuries Athian sustained, but dismissed the remaining charges in exchange for his guilty plea.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, a coroner’s report showed that Athian suffered multiple abrasions and bruises on his head, back, chest, stomach and arms. His upper legs, groin and genitals had been burned, apparently with a butane torch found inside the apartment. Officially, the coroner determined that Athian’s cause of death was brain swelling resulting from blunt force trauma, restriction of oxygen, or both.
Lamb also reportedly pleaded no contest to one count of strangulation for a 2020 domestic violence incident involving Athian’s mother, Kassandra Orona.
Lamb reportedly had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear after posting bond in the strangulation case and was not allowed to be living in Orona’s home when he killed Athian in February 2021. He reportedly told the court that due to the warrant, he was unable to work and had been “isolating” himself inside of her apartment.
Prosecutors reportedly agreed to recommend that Lamb serve eight to 10 years on the strangulation charge, with that sentence being served prior to and consecutive to the murder and child abuse sentences.
The sentencing recommendations agreed to by the parties are not binding and a judge will ultimately have the final say.
The special prosecutors in the case, Michael Blonigen and Pat Crank, reportedly sent the following statement to the Eagle following the plea hearing.
“We sincerely hope that these pleas begin to provide healing and grace to (Athian’s) mother and (Athian’s) family from the horrific events that occurred on February 18 to February 19, 2021. The pleas allow the family to not have to relive and be further injured by Lamb’s murderous behavior and the trauma of a trial.”
Crank is a former Wyoming Attorney General; Blonigen is the former district attorney for Natrona County.
Lamb’s sentencing hearing had not been scheduled as of Thursday morning.
[Image via Cheyenne Police Department]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]