The 16 Arizona News Stories That Best Define 2016

If there's one thing we know for certain, it's that 2016 won't go down in history as a dull year. From Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin to the Bern to Hillary Clinton's emails, the news this year was full of all sorts of crazy stories.

Locally, Arizona was no exception. Here are the best (and craziest) Arizona news stories of 2016.

16. Oregon standoff: The year began with high drama, as the Bundy brothers and their militia friends and supporters took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The group claimed to be taking a stance against the U.S. government, but their protest was overshadowed by a hashtag, a ridiculous fistfight, a request for snacks, and a bag of dicks.

15. Glendale teen murder-suicide: Tragedy struck earlier this year when two 15-year-olds, Dorothy Dutiel and May Kieu, died in a murder-suicide at Independence High School in Glendale. According to police, the deceased girls were found near the school cafeteria, with a gun and a suicide note nearby. The girls' romantic relationship was later detailed in notes and on social media.

14. Chris Simcox: After all manner of courtroom drama, the trial of former Minuteman and immigration vigilante Chris Simcox finally drew to a close. A Phoenix jury found Simcox guilty of two counts of child molestation and one count of furnishing pornography to a minor. He was subsequently sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison.

Tracy EliseEXPAND
Tracy Elise
Miriam Wasser

13. Phoenix Goddess Temple: Speaking of courtroom drama, Tracy Elise, head priestess of the Phoenix Goddess Temple, fought charges that she ran brothel, during what can only be described as an atypical four-month trial with no shortage of colorful characters and tales of pagan rituals and beaucoup sexual healing. In the end, the jury found Elise guilty of 22 criminal counts of prostitution, maintaining a house of prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, money laundering, pandering, racketeering, and conspiracy. Though she was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, Elise told New Times that she intends to continue her fight for justice.

12. Phoenix TV reporter poops on someone's lawn: Who can forget the time CBS 5 (KPHO-TV) reporter Jonathan Lowe was out on assignment and couldn't, er, control himself long enough to find a restroom?Suffice it to say, it was a very crappy day, and Lowe wound up losing his job.

11. Koch brothers enter Grand Canyon Monument fray: While much of the nation was focused on Donald Trump's elusive tax returns, a trail of other tax filings revealed that billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch were donating money to groups bent on stopping the proposed Grand Canyon National Monument.

10. NAACP president makes inappropriate comment: You'd think folks would know by now that they shouldn't make off-color comments or jokes when reporters are around, but apparently Don Harris, the now-former president of the Phoenix NAACP, didn't get the memo. During a press conference about racism, Harris leaned over to New Times staff writer Ray Stern and whispered that a Channel 12 (KPNX-TV) news reporter had "nice tits." Stern had a recorder going to capture the moment for posterity. Suffice it to say, Harris' message was broadcast to the world and he resigned shortly thereafter.

The 16 Arizona News Stories That Best Define 2016
Miriam Wasser

9. Arrests at Trump protest: While much of Arizona fell head over heels for Donald Trump, there were many who felt quite the opposite. And at an outdoor Trump rally on a hot spring day in Fountain Hills, a few hundred people stopped traffic on Shea Boulevard. The blockade held for more than an hour, leading to three arrests.

"Dolphins don't belong in the desert," protesters said.EXPAND
"Dolphins don't belong in the desert," protesters said.
Miriam Wasser

8. Dolphins in the desert: What's the first thing you think of when you think of dolphins? The desert, right? Well maybe if you're Dolphinaris, the Mexico-based entertainment company that decided to build a swim-with-the-dolphins center near Scottsdale. From the moment the story broke, the aquarium was the focus of intense protest. The facility opened in September, but critics vow to continue their fight.

7. Controversial ballot initiatives: From legalizing marijuana (Prop 205) to raising the minimum wage (Prop 206) to a sketchy proposal to fund public education (Prop 123), 2016 could be remembered as the Year of the Proposition. All three issues were hotly debated, and in the case of Prop 205, a whole heck of a lot of money was pumped into the effort, particularly on the anti- side. In the end, Props 123 and 206 passed, while 205 went down to defeat.

6. Accused I-10 shooter exonerated: While few Arizonans will forget how the I-10 serial shooter terrified the public and dominated the news, we'll remember 2016 as the year the Maricopa County Attorney's Office left the courtroom with its figurative tail between its legs after its case against Leslie Merritt Jr., the man they pegged as the shooter, crumbled.

Phoenix voters in line for the March 22 presidential preference election.EXPAND
Phoenix voters in line for the March 22 presidential preference election.
Miriam Wasser

5. Long voting lines: Remember the time hundreds of people in Maricopa County waited for hours to vote because the county had cut the number of polling places in order to save money? Good times! Arizona made national headlines a few times this year, but the presidential-preference voting catastrophe marked one of the more embarrassing occasions. Trump swept the Republican vote and Clinton beat out Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side (though her victory was not without allegations of potential voter suppression).

4. Maryvale serial street shooter: It's not every day that a serial killer is on the loose in your town, but beginning in March, a man the Phoenix Police Department has dubbed the "Serial Street Shooter" killed seven people and wounded two others in the Maryvale district of Phoenix. As New Times described in an in-depth feature, residents of Maryvale, a predominately Latino area plagued by crime, drugs, and gang-related violence – have been left wondering whether the situation would have garnered more attention if the killer had struck a more affluent and white area. No shooting has been linked to the shooter since mid-July, nor has any suspect been apprehended.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Sheriff Joe Arpaio

3. There's a new sheriff in town: It was a long, long time coming, but the law finally caught up with America's self-proclaimed Toughest Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. After decades of racist antics that cost Maricopa County taxpayers millions of dollars (and still counting), a federal judge lowered the boom on Arpaio, in the form of a criminal contempt charge. stemming from the landmark civil-rights case Melendres v. Arpaio. In November, voters placed the cherry on top of the metaphorical Arpaio sundae, when they ended his six-term reign by electing former Phoenix cop Paul Penzone.

2. Ducey's appointment failures: Governor Doug Ducey came into office promising to help Arizona by appointing people with a strong background in business. But as New Times has diligently documented, the plan hasn't exactly worked out. So far, scandals of various sorts have led to the firing or resignation of three appointees: Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries, Arizona-Mexico Commission president David Farca, and Arizona Lottery Director Tony Bouie.

The photo of six Desert Vista High School seniors that went viral in January 2016, sparking outrage across social media.
The photo of six Desert Vista High School seniors that went viral in January 2016, sparking outrage across social media.
Screenshot

1. High school students spell out the n-word with T-shirts: Few sights were as disturbing this past year as the photograph of six Desert Vista High School seniors spelling out the n-word on lettered shirts that circulated on social media in January and went viral. Quoth New Times' Ray Stern: "Smiling and laughing as they press shoulders together to make the word, the girls seem to be proud of their spelling skills and oblivious to the storm of criticism to come."

As the old Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times." Here's to 2017!

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