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2012 Year in Review: Part 1

Daily Press top stories of the year from January to June

Editor's note:

Part two will run in Wednesday's Daily Press.

JANUARY

• Sultana High School senior Ricky Mendez, 17, of Hesperia, performed on international television when he marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade as a saxophone player in the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band.

• After 31⁄2 years, Karen Kelly was to once again be Hesperia Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of Personnel Services when school resumed. Kelly’s return was the result of a yearslong legal battle in which she alleged the HUSD systematically treated women administrators differently than their male counterparts — especially when it came in the wake of alleged sexual relationships.

• Assemblyman Tim Donnelly was cited and released after security officials at LA-Ontario International Airport discovered a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag.

• After a hard-fought battle against cancer, Sgt. Randy Gwaltney, of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Apple Valley station, succumbed to the disease on Jan. 4. He was 51 years old.

• The city of Adelanto cracked down on its first known medical marijuana facility — Regenesis Health medical marijuana collective — in an attempt to set an example for others who may try to set up dispensaries within Adelanto’s limits.

• Nearly 50 people were arrested when San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials broke up a cockfight at a Baldy Mesa home.

• Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron, U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon and SANBAG President Larry McCallon pushed down a detonator at the groundbreaking of the La Mesa/Nisqualli interchange where plumes of smoke filled the sky as the words on the hillside changed from “Mission Impossible” to “Mission Possible.”

• Fort Irwin announced it would break ground in the summer on a new $400 million hospital, which would replace the post’s current 40-year-old facility.

• U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis announced he would retire from Congress after serving 17 terms, ending months of speculation on whether he would seek re-election in the High Desert’s new 8th Congressional District.

• San Bernardino County Fire Department officials decided to close Fire Station 301 on 11th Avenue in Hesperia after voters rejected Measure F, a five-year, $85 parcel tax.

• Members of the Bernardino County Sheriff’s Cold Case Team arrested Steven Sylvester, 57, in Texas on suspicion of the 1992 murder of Robert Dennis, of Victorville.

• For the seventh time in 10 years, the Spring Valley Lake Association named a new general manager: Leo Riley.

• A default on debt payments triggered one of the top credit rating agencies to downgrade $51 million in Southern California Logistics Airport Authority bonds another two notches, with Moody’s Investor Services predicting the airport would not catch up on debt payments until 2029.

• Boxing coach Roberto Espinoza, who volunteered at two local Police Activities Leagues, was declared Citizen of the Year by both the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville and Hesperia stations.

• DaShan Donique White, an 18-year-old good Samaritan who was stabbed after stepping in to prevent a woman and a child from being attacked in Victorville, was named California’s Witness of the Year for his bravery.

• The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was spotted at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger on Route 66 as the drivers took a break to eat before heading toward their final destination: the Super Bowl.

FEBRUARY

• Two people died and southbound Interstate 15 was shut down just north of Bear Valley Road for nearly three hours after a wrong-way driver caused a head-on collision.

• After months of public battles with the superintendent and school board president, Hesperia Unified School District’s Chief of Police Mike Graham was fired.

• Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board signed a $3.6 million agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric, dedicating half of that money to build a new water filtration system at Hinkley School.

• A Route 66 Economic Impact Study by Rutgers University indicated potential economic growth for communities along Route 66 in the future.

• Joel Green, founder and host of the award winning national PBS program ‘Curiosity Quest’ and ‘Curiosity Quest Goes Green,’ was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Youth Environmental Leadership Conference hosted by the Lewis Center for Educational Research.

• MaKayla Gregory, 9, was recognized by the mayors of Adelanto, Hesperia and Victorville for her and her family’s effort to raise awareness of heart disorders.

• At least one Oak Hills High School student had to be hospitalized after the teen ate a pot brownie, illustrating the issue of children — some still in junior high school — bringing drugs and alcohol to school. Students were caught with marijuana-laced brownies and water and juice bottles filled with alcohol at various Victor Valley campuses.

• A Victorville jury decided that 34-year-old Sherhaun Kerod Brown should be put to death for breaking into a Yucca Valley house before murdering one female resident and raping another.

• The Victor Elementary School District Board of Trustees decided to buy a $2.15 million property for a new district office.

• Organizers estimated that more than 30,000 people showed up for the 2012 Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race, a grueling 14-hour contest combining open- desert racing with rock-crawling.

• City officials use a $990,000 state grant to fund the North Adelanto Sustainable Communities Area Plan. Through decisions about issues including land use, circulation, development standards and transit, Adelanto would set out to develop a model for desert communities in San Bernardino County.

• Several maps of the High Desert Corridor were on display during a community meeting at Victorville City Hall. The $6.9 billion project would be a 63-mile interstate linking Highway 14 in Palmdale to Highway 18 near Lucerne Valley and could open for traffic in 2020.

• WeTip, the anonymous crime-tip telephone line that by the beginning of the year had assisted various California law enforcement agencies to make nearly 16,000 arrests and contributed to more than 8,000 convictions, celebrated its 40th anniversary.

• Chelsea Emma Franko, of Apple Valley, was crowned L.A.’s Next Great Stage Star 2012.

• An Oak Hills substation for Southern California Edison caught fire, causing several small explosions as burning mineral oil sent thick black smoke into the air.

• Stevie Ryan, 27, of Victorville, starred in a new sketch comedy show, “Stevie TV” premiering on VH1.

• Lareece Chambers, 15, of Victorville, bowled a perfect game during junior league play at Victor Bowl in Victorville. She was awarded with a 300-game ring and a Hall of Fame gold plaque by Victor Bowl and the United States Bowling Congress.

• Kyle Lee Smither, 21, of Hesperia, was sentenced to five years in state prison for a stabbing that authorities believe was a gang initiation for a white supremacist group.

• After battling more than a year to get a new trial, John Yablonsky was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering a Lucerne Valley woman in 1985.

• When the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors announced its appointment of Phyllis Morris as interim public defender, her co-workers at the meeting gave a standing ovation. Backed by overwhelming support and popularity from fellow lawyers, Morris became the county’s first black public defender in December 2010, overseeing a $32-million budget and 245 positions.

MARCH

• Teachers and students at Apple Valley Christian School consoled each other as word spread that teachers were laid off and the school would shut its doors permanently in June.

• Mathew James Santos, 19, convicted of shooting and killing 17-year-old Sultana High School football player Steven Gonzales in 2008 was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

• Spc. Edward J. “Doc” Acosta, 21 — a Hesperia soldier and the father of an infant daughter — died March 5 at a hospital in La Jolla from wounds he received during an explosion in the Wardak province of Afghanistan. Acosta, a light infantry line medic, was honored posthumously with the Bronze Star — the fourth highest medal for valor.

• The Newell Rubbermaid distribution center at SCLA announced plans to expand. It will increase the warehouse by 52 percent and may offer more jobs.

• Mesa Linda Middle School students of the Kids Taking Action community service club helped plant trees and shrubs for an animal play area at the Victor Valley Animal Protection League in Apple Valley.

• A Victorville man was airlifted to a trauma center after allegedly shooting his wife and then barricading himself in his home for more than five hours as the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s SWAT Team tried negotiating with him.

• The federal government pumped more than $7 million into agencies serving the homeless throughout San Bernardino County.

• Joseph Flores, 16, an Academy of Academic Excellence student, and his grandfather, Jack Moore, 80, participated in the L.A. Marathon. This was Moore’s fifth time running the event. Flores was among 20 or so AAE students to run as part of Students Run L.A., an organization that sponsors teenagers to run the marathon and provides guidance.

• The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated whether bond broker Jeff Kinsell illegally funneled campaign contributions to Victorville officials who approved taking on more than $400 million in taxpayer-supported bond debt over the past decade, according to records from U.S. District Court.

• Eight students from Phoenix Academy were hospitalized after they reportedly ingested a prescription sedative on campus.

• Charlie Barcio, of Victorville, celebrated his 108th birthday March 22 and credits his long life to never smoking or drinking alcohol, and riding a bicycle almost every day of his life.

• California is in the middle of a far-reaching demographic shift: Hispanics, who already constitute a majority of the state’s schoolchildren, will be a majority of its workforce and of its population in a few decades.

• Don Trapp, who has been with the San Bernardino County Fire Department for 23 years, was named Victorville’s new fire chief.

• When his administrators gave him more freedom in his lesson plans this year, Options for Youth English teacher Martin Votruba decided to make a big change: He switched out some traditional novels for the latest popular young adult series, “The Hunger Games.”

• Victor Valley College suspended its federal loan program amid climbing default rates.

• As many around her cheered, Valentine, a 10-month-old pit bull found badly abused in February in Lucerne Valley, was too busy playing and healing to even notice that the person officials believe inflicted serious injuries on the small pup, a 17-year-old Lucerne Valley boy, had been caught and was finally behind bars.

• Pearl Nichole Coleman, 34, of Victorville, was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for stabbing her husband to death in 2004 after a lovers’ spat over a movie and a toilet seat.

• Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group opened a new urgent care facility that will provide some of the diagnostic services performed in hospital emergency rooms.

• Joseph Ray Rice, a 30-year-old Crips gang member, was sentenced to 90 years to life in prison for shooting and killing Delvon Williams at Karma Nightlife to benefit a gang.

• Carol Burnett, Tracey Walczak, Jaclyn Parslow, Jillynne Allison, Trish Watkins, Linda Glaudel, Kim Summers, Irene Gagne and Becky Otwell were featured in a series profiling some of the High Desert’s most Inspiring Women, as voted by Daily Press readers.

APRIL

• Wrightwood fifth-grader Reagan Mackenzie Slomback’s anti-bullying video went viral. The 10-year-old was inspired by the death of a Long Beach girl, Joanna Ramos.

• Less than 15 percent of students enrolling in Victor Valley College were ready to take college-level courses, according to data from the school’s institutional research department.

• Former Hesperian of the Year Becky Otwell received another accolade for her wall: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly named her the 2012 Woman of the Year for the 59th Assembly District.

• The Helendale Community Services District launched a teen center, offering a place for junior high and high school students in Helendale to hang out and initiate community services.

• The Desert Trails Parent Union, seeking to become the first in the nation to force a major school overhaul by invoking the “Parent Trigger” law, filed a lawsuit against the Adelanto School District and its Board of Trustees.

• It had been 20 years since Apple Valley resident Jean Moore went missing, and despite the case going cold, her friend Jack Fales had not given up hope he will be able to find her.

• While numbers indicated the economy was recovering slowly, the lack of qualified local workers and the state’s elimination of redevelopment money were the main concern of local business leaders who attended the High Desert Economic Summit.

• The Victor Valley College’s Model United Nations team brought home the highest honor of Outstanding Delegation, which put the Victorville community college in the top 10 percent of participating schools. It marked the seventh time VVC students won the award. They also earned four Outstanding Committee Position Paper awards and one Outstanding Committee award.

• State Controller John Chiang brought his message of economic uncertainty and hope to 90 regional and local leaders during a luncheon hosted by the Desert Mountain Chapter of the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.

• Cries of sadness were heard from the back rows of a Victorville courtroom as Judge Eric Nakata sentenced Michelle Gomez to 25 years to life in prison for killing her husband — the final chapter in a controversial, two-year trial.

• Three brothers were airlifted to trauma centers after they were struck by a vehicle near Liberty Elementary School while crossing the street in a marked crosswalk.

• Jose Alcala and Guillermo Barajas, both employees with the Victorville Public Works Department, volunteered their time and spent 30 hours to renovate the large ‘V’ on the hill behind Victor Valley Community Hospital. The ‘V’ has been on display on the hillside since 1943, according to the date inscribed on the landmark.

• Convicted of murdering 18-year-old Michael Subacz after a fight among children escalated, Rayford Newsome, of Apple Valley, was sentenced to 74 years to life in prison.

MAY

• Sixty-eight people were arrested and $20,000 was seized when members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Rural Crimes Task Force broke up a cockfighting operation in Hesperia.

• About 50 protesters lined up on the sidewalks in front of the Victorville courthouse as 22-year-old murder defendant Collin Lee McGlaughlin — who’s facing the death penalty if convicted — appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing. They held signs claiming the victims’ right to a speedy trial and asked passers-by to honk their horns for the slain teens, Bodhi Sherzer-Potter and Christopher Cody Thompson.

• A Mariachi band played and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies watched as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio squared off with a handful of protesters during a campaign rally to endorse 8th Congressional District candidate Phil Liberatore.

• The Daily Press was recognized in six categories during the California Newspaper Publisher Association’s annual Better Newspapers Contest in San Jose, including a first place finish in the features category for papers of similar size.

• Terri Smethers helped make a Facebook page to raise $2,500 for a wheelchair for 2-year-old Tyler Canedy and his family. Within 19 hours, they raised the amount needed for the wheelchair and then hoped to raise enough for other equipment.

• Sgt. Brian L. Walker, 25, of Lucerne Valley, was killed on Mother’s Day while serving in Afghanistan.

• Apple Valley High School student Sydney Toney put in the key that started a 2012 Jeep Patriot that was given away as part of the “It’s a Gas to Go to Class” campaign for perfect school attendance.

• Elias Llerenas was recognized by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and awarded the Medal of Valor for saving his neighbors’ life when Frank and Diane Masi’s estranged son-in-law attacked them in their home in December 2011.

• Granite Hills High School graduate Patrick McElree passed auditions to join the Blue Man Group.

• Jackie Salcido, 13, along with a 14-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy identified as Ricardo Saldana — all Ranchero Middle School students — were booked for attempted murder, conspiracy and burglary when San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia station investigators learned of the teens’ plan to murder the girl’s mother.

• San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia deputies, Fish and Game officials and Animal Control officers from Adelanto and Hesperia spent two hours locating and tranquilizing a roaming 200-pound brown bear.

• Victor Valley High School’s “Super Jairo Brothers” — Jairo Fuentes, Keith Butler, Joseph Echevaira and Victor Wyatt — won a national gaming competition with an educational game they created.

• More than 800 people from as far away as Brazil took part in the Operation Lion Claws Military Simulation series at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville.

• Danielle Hendrix, of Apple Valley, served as a massage therapist for Team USA during the 2012 London Olympics.

JUNE

• A father doing construction work in the backyard of his Hesperia home accidentally ran over his twin sons, killing one and slightly injuring the second.

• The city of Hesperia paid a $200,000 settlement to a family that rescues slaughterhouse-bound horses two years after the city seized animals from the property for code enforcement violations.

• Steve McHugh, who owns Express Super Pawn on Hesperia Road, and business partner Antonio Palazzola were set to be stars of A&E Network’s new 13-episode reality show “Barter Kings.”

• An annual survey on public opinions revealed that two-thirds of San Bernardino County residents considered the county a pleasant place to live. But Victor Valley residents continued to fear increasing crime and gang activities, while complaining there was nothing to do in the area.

• Diley Greiser, of Spring Valley Lake, was set to be one of the featured firefighters on a new Oprah Winfrey Network show “Lives on Fire.” The show focused on women working for Cal Fire. Greiser is a firefighter/paramedic out of a Riverside station.

• Sherhaun Brown, convicted of murdering a Yucca Valley woman, raping and attempting to kill her daughter-in-law, was sentenced to death.

• Nationally, violent crime dipped in 2011, according to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report. However, data showed crime in the Victor Valley increased during the same period of time. Violent crimes — which include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — declined 4 percent across the U.S., the report indicated. However, numbers released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department earlier in the year showed a nearly 10 percent jump in violent or Part 1 crimes.

• Students and staff mourned the loss of Tamara Dawe, a 40-year-old English teacher from Mesa Linda Middle School, who was found dead in her classroom.

• The Air National Guard held a ceremony to unveil its new $5 million hangar at Southern California Logistics Airport. The 163rd Reconnaissance Wing will conduct MQ-1 Predator operations at the facility, specifically designed for unmanned aerial systems.

• Apple Valley residents Philip and Sharon Rogone, of High Desert Church, were in shock after they discovered their home Bible study was in violation of town law, according to a citation found on the their front door. A code enforcement manager later cleared the citation and informed the Rogones that their private Bible study at their residence was not a violation.

• St. Joseph Health, St. Mary was on track to open its new Victorville hospital in early 2016 as the City Council easily approved the project.

• Sid Hultquist received a hearty round of applause as the 27-year fire veteran was named Apple Valley Fire Protection District’s newest fire chief.

• Dropout rates decreased at every Victor Valley school district for the 2010-11 year, according to data released by the California Department of Education.

• Fino Hernandez, 48, and his nephew, Miguel Ortiz Jr., 9, both of Hesperia, died after the boy fell into the aqueduct near Main Street and his uncle jumped in to save him.

• The San Bernardino County grand jury issued a 100-page report blasting Victorville for decisions that have jeopardized the city’s solvency, including mishandling bond funds, losing track of $13 million and potentially breaking the law by financing failed energy ventures with restricted money.

• In a surprising turn of events, bankrupt Victor Valley Community Hospital agreed to a $33.8 million purchasing offer by Riverside-based KPC Global medical group, who had once failed to close a deal.


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