Aleanna Siacon Detroit Free Press
Published 6:00 AM EST Dec 28, 2018
As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to hit rewind.
This year was jam-packed with impactful news stories that have started conversations and garnered hundreds of thousands of online page views — from historic court decisions and the legalization of recreational marijuana to sexual assaults in Jamaica, the death of the Queen of Soul and much more.
Here’s a look at the top stories that racked up the most page views on the Free Press website — Freep.com — this year:
1. After 30 years in U.S., Michigan dad deported
Jorge Garcia, 39, was a landscaper from Lincoln Park who had lived in the U.S. for 30 years until he was deported to Mexico on Jan. 15. He had no criminal record and paid taxes every year.
Garcia, who was brought to the U.S. by an undocumented family member at the age of 10, has a wife and two children who are all U.S. citizens. Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo documented Garcia’s story from his struggle to find a pathway to citizenship to his order of removal and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) supervised departure from the Detroit Metro Airport.
The Free Press later traveled to Mexico to write about Garcia’s challenging new life separated from his family.
2. Legal marijuana in Michigan
Following the November election passing of Proposal 1, which legalized recreational marijuana use in Michigan, Free Press reporter Kathleen Gray gave a detailed “what you need to know” about the adult use market.
Whether folks were wondering where they could smoke marijuana, what the rules are for recreational marijuana, if they could grow marijuana, or where they could buy recreational marijuana — the Free Press offered answers to the most pressing pot proposal questions.
3. Fox 2 meteorologist Jessica Starr dies by suicide
Fox 2 Detroit (WJBK-TV) announced on air Dec. 13 that meteorologist Jessica Starr had died by suicide, leading to an outpouring of grief from her colleagues and fans.
“All of us here at FOX 2 are in deep shock and cannot believe that such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us,” Fox 2 wrote in an online statement.
Starr had been with Fox 2 Detroit since 2012.
She began her career at WLNS-TV (Channel 6) in Lansing as the weekend meteorologist. She came to Fox 2 after four years covering weather and community events for WBFF-TV (FOX 45) in Baltimore.
[If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.]
4. Oatmeal, breakfast foods contain unsafe amounts of weed killer
In August, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy organization, released the results of a study they conducted that found glyphosate was found in all but five of the 29 oat-based foods they tested.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the most heavily used herbicide in the U.S., Monsanto’s roundup, Marc Daalder of the Free Press reported.
5. Judge dismisses female genital mutilation charges
In a historic case that involved minor girls from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota who underwent a cutting procedure conducted by Dr. Jumana Nargarwala, a federal judge in Detroit dismissed charges against Nargarwala and the girls’ mothers in November.
Free Press reporter Tresa Baldas described how the defendants argued that they did not actually practice female genital mutilation, but instead performed a benign procedure that involved a minor “nick.”
A Michigan female genital mutilation law, which applies to both doctors and parents who take the child to have it done, was passed last year — but this case’s defendants cannot be retroactively charged under the new law.
However, Nagarwala also faces a conspiracy charge and obstruction county in a case set to go to trial in April of 2019.
6. Death on foot: America’s love of SUVs is killing pedestrians
A Detroit Free Press/USA TODAY NETWORK investigation released June 28 found that the SUV revolution is a key, leading cause of escalating pedestrian deaths nationwide, which are up 46 percent since 2009.
Almost 6,000 pedestrians died on or along U.S. roads in 2016 alone — nearly as many Americans as have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. Data analyses by the Free Press/USA TODAY and others show that SUVs are the constant in the increase and account for a steadily growing proportion of deaths.
Read the full study:
7. Wardrobe malfunction threatens Novi ice dancer’s Winter Olympics debut
In Feburary, Yura Min, a figure skater who trains at the Novi Ice Arena, was competing in front of the world in her Olympic debut skating for South Korea — when the hook in the back of her costume came undone five seconds into her routine in the figure skating team event.
Columnist Jeff Seidel, who covered the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea as part of the USA Today Network, spoke to the skater after she completed her entire routine, while trying to keep her costume from coming completely off.
“I was terrified the entire program,” Min said.
8. Delta passenger declared dead after flight returns to Detroit
A Delta Air Lines flight heading to Shanghai returned to Detroit for a medical emergency in October, and a passenger was declared dead by airport medical staff.
The passenger was identified by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office as Yury Rubel, who was found to have hypertensive cardiovascular disease. According to Free Press reporter Marc Daalder, the medical examiner’s office ruled that Rubel died of natural causes.
9. Trooper uses taser on teen riding ATV
Damon Grimes, 15, was driving an ATV at 35 mph when Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Bessner fired his taser at the teen during a chase on Detroit’s east side.
Grimes hit the back of a parked truck, flew off the ATV and was killed. His death sparked a Free Press investigation by reporters Elisha Anderson, John Wisely and Ann Zaniewski and Executive Video Producer Brian Kaufman to better understand what happened on Aug. 26.
The Free Press used the Michigan Freedom of Information Act to request extensive records related to the crash, and received almost 11 hours of footage captured by cameras in patrol cars, police body cameras and surveillance video from nearby businesses.
Bessner, who resigned from MSP after Grimes’ death, was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. In October, a judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the case.
10. Central Michigan University shooting
James Eric Davis Jr. shot and killed his parents in a dorm room on the fourth floor of a campus residence hall at Central Michigan in March.
The university was placed on lockdown, as authorities searched for Davis, Jr., who was a CMU student. Free Press reporters David Jesse, Aleanna Siacon and Brandon Patterson tracked the developing news from the initial reports, social media posts, police statements and university updates.
Davis Jr. was later reported by an individual who spotted him near the train tracks that cut through the north end of campus, and taken into custody.
11. Jamaica resorts facing ‘historic’ sexual assault problem
Reporter Tresa Baldas shed light on a series of heart-wrenching accounts from numerous women who reported they were sexually assaulted while on vacation at resorts in Jamaica. After the initial story of two Detroit women who were raped at gunpoint at a 5-star hotel, numerous other victims came forward.
According to the report, it is estimated that one American is raped in Jamaica each month. Baldas has continued to document these victims’ search for justice, as well as attempts by resorts to cover up the attacks with nondisclosure agreements and payoffs.
12. Joe Murphy: Once the Red Wings’ No. 1 pick, now homeless
Columnist Jeff Seidel shares the journey of Joe Murphy, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 1986, but is now homeless in Kenora, Ontario — sleeping on a blanket under a gas station sign and taking showers at a nearby shelter.
Seidel details Murphy’s struggle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, and efforts to help him.
13. Mustang hits 150 mph on Colorado interstate
Turns out classic Ford Mustangs are “mighty fast,” according to a report by Autos, Business and Planning editor Randy Essex. Colorado State Patrol gave up chase when a driver behind the wheel of a dark, colored, older-model Mustang hit 150 mph in April.
14. Aretha Franklin dresses like a queen, even in death
A two-day public viewing was held at the Charles H. Wright Museum following the death of the Queen of Soul in August.
Crowds lined up for a last look at the legend who was dressed to the nines in a solid bronze Promethean casket plated in 24-karate gold. Reporter Phoebe Wall Howard wrote about one of Franklin’s ensembles: Christian Louboutin 5-inch patent leather pumps, a tea-length ruby red dress made of lace with a tulle skirt and chiffon overlay, plus custom-designed beaded earrings.
After that she wore powder blue. The following day, rose gold. And for her funeral, she was in gold.
15. Detroit Tigers’ Mario Impemba, Rod Allen have ‘severe’ physical incident
A ‘severe’ physical altercation erupted between Detroit Tigers broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen in September.
Reporter Anthony Fenech described the incident that took place following a Tigers vs. White Sox game in Chicago. Impemba and Allen traveled back to Detroit separately.
A little more than a month later, Fox Sports Detroit announced that Impemba and Allen would not be returning to the airwaves in 2019.
16. Michigan pharmacist refuses medicine to woman having miscarriage
Reporter Kristen Jordan Shamus was first to report the story of Rachel Peterson, a 35-year-old Ionia woman who was about 11 weeks into her first pregnancy in July when she had a miscarriage.
Peterson’s doctor prescribed a drug called misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) to help her complete that miscarriage. Peterson told the Free Press a Meijer pharmacist working at a store in Petoskey refused to fill the prescription because of his personal religious views and refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.
Meijer later announced that the pharmacist was no longer an employee.
17. F-150, Ram, Silverado: ‘The best 3 trucks ever built’ go to war
In September, reporters Phoebe Wall Howard and Mark Phelan unpacked the three-way competition to dominate the truck market in Detroit as the new Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado aimed to challenge the Ford F-150 and F-Series pickups.
18. Michigan does not monitor 3,000 civilians who look like real cops
They have guns, wear badges and patrol Michigan’s streets. They’re even in uniform. But they’re not real cops.
Detroit Free Press investigative reporters Gina Kaufman and Jim Schaefer found there are no state-established training requirements for reserve officers, as they are commonly known; no standards for screening their qualifications, and no process for monitoring their conduct. The state agency responsible for police licensing and training was not regulating reserve officers, despite gaining authority last year to do just that. It also did not know how many such unlicensed volunteers there are statewide.
This lack of oversight continued despite numerous incidents of questionable — even illegal — conduct by reserve officers in recent years. Following the Free Press report, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards formed a committee to study making changes.
Read the full Free Press investigation here.
Contact reporter Aleanna Siacon at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @AleannaSiacon.
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