Yvonne slowly opened her eyes on the morning of Monday, Aug. 14. She was in her bed and her face felt completely numb.
She’d been at the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson the evening before, but didn’t remember leaving, just waking up.
KHOL is not using her full name in this story.
“I couldn’t feel my face,” said Yvonne. “And then my body almost had flu-like symptoms, like cold chills, cold sweat. I also couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was just exhausted. Like I just ran 30 miles or I was really, really sick.”
She had spent Sunday afternoon out with a friend, enjoying Concert at the Commons in Teton Village, where she said she’d probably had two or three drinks all day. She e-biked home then decided to drive over to the Stagecoach and grab another beer.
“I was hanging out with a bunch of people. It was Sunday, so they had Church, which is the swing band thing,” Yvonne said. “So there’s a lot of people that aren’t usually there. And I feel really comfortable there because, well, I’m there very frequently.”
Yvonne said she sat her beer down and went to the bathroom. And then things started getting “fuzzy.”
“The last thing I remember is crying in my car for some reason,” Yvonne said. “And then unfortunately, I don’t know how I got home, which is not the greatest thing. But I have no idea.
“The rest of the night is pretty black, blacked out.” -Yvonne
Yvonne tried to get up Monday morning and go to work. But said she only made it in for about 10 minutes.
“I was like, ‘I think I need to go to the hospital,'” she said. “And so I went to go get tested for roofies and a rape kit.”
A rise in suspected drink spikings
Jackson has seen a rise in suspected drink spikings recently. Police put out a statement Aug. 11, saying that they have responded “to several incidents that appear to involve a perpetrator spiking peoples’ drinks at local establishments.”
The town has been abuzz since. Local online group messages have been full of warnings, primarily for women, to be safe and watch their drinks. Some are sharing stories about suspected spikings that have happened to friends. Others have pointed fingers to certain local establishments.
But Jackson Police Lieutenant Russ Ruschill said there haven’t been any updates in law enforcement’s search to catch the culprit(s).
“Except to say that our investigations division is actively working on this with many resources,” he wrote in an email to KHOL.
Susan Scarlata with the Town of Jackson said, “Jackson’s Police Department has been in close contact with local establishments and bartenders are being asked to step up their vigilance of tossing drinks that are left unattended at any point.”
Local non-profit Community Safety Network (CSN) has been working with Teton County Victim Services to pass out coasters at bars that help detect some drugs that can be used in drink spikings, like ketamine and Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB).
But they don’t detect another common drug that can be used, flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol, commonly called “roofies.”
“There are lots of different drugs to use to spike someone’s drink,” said Adrian Croke, CSN’s director of education and outreach. “But you could put any type of drug in someone’s drink in order for them to act differently.”
But a week after not being able to account for hours of her night, Yvonne said she still doesn’t have answers as to what may have been put in her drink.
“I’m processing. Honestly, I just feel a little bit numb. But it’s just the one word I can really think of.” -Yvonne
One reason, Yvonne said, is this has happened to her many times before.
‘A familiar feeling’
Yvonne, who is in her early 20s, moved to Jackson about a year ago. She’s from a large U.S. city in the South, where she says drink spikings happen a lot.
“I have been roofied at least five times prior, so I know what it feels like,” Yvonne said. “I have a lot of experience, unfortunately, and I know how my body usually reacts to it. So I’m like 99 percent sure that I know what the results are going to be.”
Yvonne said when she went in for a medical test in Jackson last week, nurses and staff were kind to her and apologized for what she’d been through.
A representative for St. John’s Health wasn’t able to answer questions in time for publication about what drugs they test for and how long it may take for results to come back.
She hasn’t contacted the police.
“I’m not really a police person,” she said. “I’m not really into the cops. They kind of freak me out.”
She hasn’t told her family either. But she has spoken to some friends back home.
“They’re just like, ‘Oh shit, I hate that.’ And ‘I’m sorry that happened,’” Yvonne said. “People are a little more numb to it. Because it happens to women so much down there.”
She said co-workers and local friends she told are trying to help.
“They’ve been sending me articles and descriptions of men and asking me, ‘Is this the guy?’ and ‘when [did it happen]?’” Yvonne said. “So, they’ve been great here.”
But she said it’s hard to piece together her night at the Stagecoach.
“I always sit at the bar, but I sat by the pool table, because I just wasn’t in a great mood and I didn’t really feel like shouting,” Yvonne said. “I remember talking to one guy I knew, and then there was one other guy I didn’t know very well, which he might be the culprit. I don’t know. He was asking a lot about my life. I don’t know how we even got into that conversation.”
She said she told a staff member days later what happened, but hasn’t reached out to the bar directly.
“The people at Stagecoach are like my family, so it’s just a little tough because I’m not trying to accuse them of anything. I don’t know. It’s weird,” Yvonne said.
‘It’s tough to keep track of everyone’
KHOL reached out to the general manager of the Stagecoach, Casey Easterly, who said it was the first he had heard of an suspected drink spiking in the bar.
He said they have video cameras, but may not be able to review footage of the night, because the “older cameras” don’t always work properly.
Speaking with KHOL a day later, Easterly said he had alerted staff and that Sunday night had been especially crowded.
“It’s tough to keep track of everyone,” Easterly said. “But you get busy trying to keep everyone happy.”
Easterly said that Stagecoach staff took CSN’s Safe Bars program in June, which gives bystander-intervention training.
“We look for predatory scenarios,” Easterly said. “But dropping something into someone’s drink is more difficult to monitor than stopping visible harassment.”
Easterly said CSN had also dropped off coasters to detect spiked drinks last week, and are now on display for customers to see.
Alyson Spery works with KHOL and also bartends at the Stagecoach. She wasn’t at the bar the Sunday of the alleged drink spiking incident, but said she’s typically doing her best to keep an eye on patrons.
“The safety of everyone who walks in my door is really important to me. And it’s really frustrating that you only have so much control over that.” -Stagecoach bartender Alyson Spery
Spery said that people often think being the one serving alcohol means she can “turn it on and off for people.”
“Certainly, I can cut people off, but I have no idea what else they’ve put into their bodies and what else they’ve consumed before they came in my door,” Spery said. “And while my head is always on a swivel looking around, I can’t see everything. And I’m confined to one space and what’s happening in front of me.”
Spery said when she is able, she tries to “lean in” on situations she thinks might require her attention and “observe a little closer as to what’s going on and then pull someone aside and check in with them.”
“Often if I don’t have the capacity to do that, I’ll ask one of the other people at the bar that I know to check in. Often, women rendezvous in the bathrooms to check in on one another,” Spery said.
Adrian Croke with CSN said these are also steps anyone can take at a bar to help look after one another, even if it’s a stranger.
“Being aware of people’s body language and what their eyes are doing can say a lot,” Croke said.” That could look like someone being sort of dragged or led from one place to the next, and just sort of having what we call, ‘empty eyes.’ If someone doesn’t have those things but one person involved does, then that’s a red flag.”
Croke said, when it feels safe, if fellow bar patrons intervene when they see suspicious behavior, even if it feels uncomfortable, it can help a victim.
“Just check in and have a simple question that interrupts the moment,” Croke said. “It can make the difference of giving that person an out that lets them know someone is here for you and someone’s concerned for you.”
Croke said that Jackson police notifying the public of an increase in suspected drink spikings is a positive first step in curbing the rise.
“I fully believe that violence will thrive in silence and in darkness. And if we don’t call it out, then we aren’t able to address it. And so I was just so happy to see the police department just letting the community know that this was going on.” – Adrian Croke, Director of Education and Outreach, Community Safety Network
KHOL reached out to several prominent Jackson staples of nightlife — the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Silver Dollar Bar & Grill, The Rose and Virginian Saloon — about efforts they may be making to promote nightlife safety. Only Marc Canzoneri, the new owner of The Rose, responded.
In an email, Canzoneri wrote, “We removed the tables around the dance floor where people were able to place drinks so that they are forced to hold onto their own drink and not leave it unattended.”
Canzoneri said staff are tossing any drinks left unattended in the garbage. This includes not letting people leave their drinks to go smoke outside.
“I have security posted throughout the entire venue,” Canzoneri said. “My security all have two-way radios so we can communicate quickly and efficiently if there is an issue. I have a guard posted outside the bathrooms all night making sure only one person goes into a stall at a time, and the bathrooms are only being used for what they are intended for, to go to the bathroom.
Canzoneri said staff are constantly scanning the crowd for “‘creepers.”
“If we see behavior we don’t like we address it immediately,” Canzoneri said. “My bartenders are instructed to watch out for people buying multiple drinks and keeping an eye on who the end user is. My security at the front door watches every guest as they leave to make sure they are leaving at their own will with whomever they are leaving with.”
Canzoneri said The Rose also has drink testing coasters available.
‘I’m way more observant’
A day after Yvonne spoke with KHOL, she reached out saying she had reflected more on her experience with drink spikings.
“I came to the realization that it has always made me feel like filth. No matter how many times I shower or how hard I scrub, I continuously feel filthy,” she wrote in a text.
Croke with CSN said it’s common for victims of an assault to feel a flurry of emotions.
“Unfortunately, just like any extraordinary trauma, like grief, we have to feel the hard things in order to move through it, in order to move beyond it. And that is so much easier said than done with any type of trauma,” Croke said.
Yvonne said she’s not going to let her experiences deter her from enjoying nightlife again.
“I have gone back out,” Yvonne said. “I’ve been a lot more cautious now. I used the coasters. I’m way more observant.”
And Yvonne said she’s looking forward to enjoying more of what Jackson Hole has to offer as the seasons change.
“It’s been really hot and I’m ready for cooler weather,” Yvonne said. “I like to snowboard and paint. It’s beautiful here. So there’s that.”
A representative for Teton County Victim Services said if bar patrons use a drink-testing coaster change and it changes color, notify the bartender. Ask for another coaster and test again, and then call Teton County Sheriff’s dispatch at 307-733-2331.
Teton County Victim Services can be reached at 307-732-8482.
The Community Safety Network advises that if someone out at an establishment suspects themselves or a friend have had their drink spiked, get to a safe space immediately and assess if anyone needs medical attention. They have a helpline 307-733-7233 (SAFE).
Miranda de Moraes contributed to this story.