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Phoenix News: 2013 Year in Review

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In case you missed out on some of the biggest news stories of the year, or just need a refresher, we've got you covered.

Check out our month-by-month review of some of the biggest news stories around Phoenix:


  • Paul Babeu struggles to regain prominence
  • It seemed like no coincidence that after it was revealed that Sheriff Paul Babeu literally had no clothes in his online dating profile, he was figuratively exposed on national TV for having no clothes, by getting called out on some of his claims by Reverend Al Sharpton.
  • A bizarre New Year's shooting death
  • In one of the strangest shooting deaths we've seen, a Phoenix man trying to pose for Facebook pictures as a gangster, with a gun to his head, was accidentally shot and killed by her sister, while they were posing together.
  • A new twist on student-teacher sex stories
  • Student-teacher sex stories seem to be a dime a dozen in Arizona, but this one from Tucson was a little different -- involving a teacher's aide having sex with several students, while even more students watched.


  • The annual Scottsdale semi-celebrity arrest
  • B-list celebrity arrests in Scottsdale don't come as a surprise. A B-list celeb defecating in a cop car might surprise some. That was Dazed and Confused actor Jason London's starring role after his arrest for disorderly conduct, before he quipped that he was "happy as shit."
  • Jodi Arias
  • Lest we forget the Jodi Arias trial. Reporter Ray Stern's live blog of Arias being questioned by prosecutor Juan Martinez was one of the most popular stories of the month.
  • Violence in Old Town Scottsdale
  • There was special attention this year to violence around the bars in Old Town Scottsdale, after several high-profile incidents, including a military veteran stabbing to death a former ASU football player, who was working security at a bar there.


  • Arizona's still the "meth lab of democracy"
  • If there's ever a year that Arizona's legislatures don't appear on the Daily Show or Colbert Report, it'll be a miracle. This time, a legislator proposed making it a crime to intentionally enter a public restroom if that restroom has a designated sex, and the person "is not legally classified on the person's birth certificate as a member of that sex." Show me the birth certificate!
  • Another horrible child-abuse case
  • Just when you thought you'd heard it all in the world of Phoenix-area child abuse, a woman allegedly shoves a vibrator into her 2-year-old son's anus, which had to be removed by doctors.
  • Bizarre events in the attempted recall of Sheriff Arpaio
  • Although the recall attempt against Sheriff Joe Arpaio failed, it certainly was strange. The strangeness hit its peak when an attorney fighting the recall effort asked the chairman of the recall effort if he's a "homo" and if he "want[ed] his nuts."


  • Boston Marathon Explosions: Joe Arpaio butts in
  • While the nation was still learning about the explosives planted at the Boston Marathon, Fox News viewers heard from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of all people. In typical fashion, Arpaio turned the story into himself, rather than the bombing.
  • Another ASU student murdered
  • There have been a handful of murders of ASU students over the last several years, and they're all equally tragic. This year, 19-year-old Rebecca "Becky" Kasper was killed in brutal fashion, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend.
  • Another child dies a horrific death
  • In addition to horrific tales of child abuse around Phoenix, some of these turn out deadly. Such was the case of a 6-day-old baby girl who allegedly was killed by her mother Nina Koistinen. She had prior run-ins with Child Protective Services and previously had said she wanted her children "to go to heaven in a vehicle accident that appeared intentional." Police believe she suffocated the 6-day-old girl, Maya.


  • An atheist in the legislature
  • Although Arizona's long seemed to be a hotbed for right-wing and God-fearing politics, Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, of Tempe, led an invocation in a House session to publicly announce he's an atheist. We were tipped off that this was going to happen, and it wasn't long before Mendez was getting national recognition for his actions, with many people commending him for his bravery.
  • A local atheist comedian does good
  • It seemed that May was the month for atheists to defy the stereotypes. While there aren't many openly atheist politicians, many religious types decry atheists for an alleged lack of charity. Not so, proved Bisbee comedian Doug Stanhope. Stanhope led an atheism-based fundraising effort for a woman whose home was destroyed in a tornado in Oklahoma. The woman gained notoriety, and Stanhope's attention, after her widely-seen interview on CNN, in which anchor Wolf Blitzer asked her if she "thank[ed] the Lord" for her family's decision to leave their house before it was destroyed by the tornado, and Vitsmun gave a response that became an instant classic -- she's actually an atheist.
  • A Sky Harbor flyer has an outburst
  • A bizarre outburst by a passenger at Sky Harbor airport became one of our most-read stories in May, likely due to her strange claim toward a police officer that her "black boyfriend" was going to have sex with the cop's family members.


  • Jeff Flake's son goes by "N1ggerKiller"
  • A source passed along screenshots of the Twitter account of 15-year-old Tanner Flake, the son of Republican Senator Jeff Flake. One of those screenshots showed the younger Flake showing the score of an online game he played with a friend. The problem was, Tanner's handle in the online game was "N1ggerKiller."
  • 19 firefighters die in Yarnell
  • Not since the 9/11 attacks have so many firefighters lost their lives in a single day.
  • A lawsuit from the live suicide
  • Recall that last year, Fox News played live coverage of a car chase in Phoenix, which ended in a suicide, which was also broadcast on live TV. It turns out that two of the man's children were told by friends at school to watch some video about a guy shooting himself on live TV. They went home and watched it, and realized that they'd seen their father's suicide. A lawsuit detailing this was filed by the family against Fox News.


  • Westboro Baptist Church threatens to protest Hotshots' funeral
  • The creeps at the Westboro Baptist "Church" were "prais[ing] God" for the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and threatened to come picket their funerals. They didn't come, but people in Prescott were ready for them.
  • ABC 15 goes to Lo-Lo's
  • Out of all the places where ABC 15 could have looked for people to interview about their opinions on Trayvon Martin case, it just happened to pick Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles. Some people thought that was a bad idea.


  • Jan Brewer's fake gay-to-straight programs
  • A local media hoaxer wrote a story about Governor Jan Brewer implementing gay-to-straight programs in schools across the state. It doesn't sound real for a second. Well, it shouldn't, but it had a lot of people fooled.
  • Investigating the Yarnell Hill Fire
  • In August came the first of several New Times cover stories investigating the deaths of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, penned by award-winning former New Times writer John Dougherty.
  • Alcohol crackdown at ASU
  • There were thousands of arrests around Tempe over just three weekends at the beginning of the semester, in the heaviest youth alcohol enforcement we've ever seen.


  • Prescott's Wild-Lands Fire Commander Responds to New Times' Coverage
  • Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis refused to be interviewed for New Times' stories on the Yarnell Hill Fire, but did make time to complain about them, for various reasons. (Interestingly, allegations he made were specifically debunked in a report commissioned by the state forestry division.)
  • Federico's tries to bounce back from E. coli outbreak
  • After a "bloody diarrhea outbreak" was linked to a Federico's restaurant in the West Valley, the restaurant opened back up in September, offering free burritos, of course.
  • The vagina-branding
  • In perhaps the strangest alleged crime of the year, police say a man drugged his then-girlfriend, and used a branding iron to sear his initials into her genitals. To make things worse, sheriff's deputies alleged they later found videos of the man, Christopher Lynn Jackson, having sex with his dog.


  • Yarnell Hill Fire: The state's mistakes
  • In October, John Dougherty reported on the "major mistakes" made by the state, although a very questionable report released a month earlier by fire officials claimed no mistakes were made by anyone. Turns out, about two months after Dougherty's report, Arizona's workplace-safety agency finished its investigation into the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and assessed one of the largest fines ever against the state forestry division for "serious" violations, including "unnecessarily and unreasonably" exposing firefighters to deadly conditions.
  • Mexican-Mafia-connected attorney arrested
  • Stephen Lemons, who'd previously reported on Mexican-Mafia-connected attorney Carmen Fischer's dealings with the organization (and her love for one member), now reported Fischer's arrest on 47 counts, of various organized-crime charges, due to her association with the gang.
  • Anonymous wants justice for 2-year-old
  • After child-abuse charges, and a murder charge, were dropped against the two people accused of being responsible for the brutal death of 2-year-old Savannah Cross last year, people associated with Anonymous, the collective of Internet activists, have caused a stink. The man accused of delivering the fatal blow to the girl has since been arrested again, and is being held without bond.


  • A month of violence
  • Looking back at it, murder seemed to dominate the news in November. That included an employee of the Tilted Kilt in Phoenix stabbing to death a co-worker in the kitchen of the restaurant, as well as a Mesa man who thought he hired a hitman to kill his grandfather made Facebook posts with bloody photos, taking credit for the murder -- which never took place, since he'd actually hired a Mesa police officer.
  • A tip on Adrienne Salinas' death
  • Law-enforcement sources provided us with some insight into the death of Adrienne Salinas, a Tempe teenager whose body was found in a wash in Apache Junction, nearly two months after she was last seen. No one's been arrested in her death. Her entire body wasn't found, and a law-enforcement source pointed out there's no mention of her head and hands in the report, leading to some speculation about the kind of "person" who might have killed her.
  • CPS' biggest mess yet
  • It's never been a secret that Child Protective Services in Arizona isn't a well-oiled machine. The case-workers are very much overworked, many don't last long with the agency, and there have been complaints about a shallow budget. However, the scope of CPS' problems really hit the public eye last month when it was revealed that more than 6,500 calls into the CPS hotline never were investigated.


  • Local media myth-busters
  • We're firm believers in that adage about things seeming too good to be true turning out to be just that. It turns out that the viral local-media story of a man being banned from Walmart for life for price-matching too much just wasn't true.
  • Custom license plates are pathetic
  • After noticing a very strange anti-circumcision custom license plate on the road, we put in a records request for all the denied custom license plate requests in Arizona. The results -- including the 24 attempts to advertise an allegedly large penis on a license plate -- were absolutely pathetic.
  • Yarnell lawsuits en route
  • With reports finally admitting that mistakes actually were made in efforts to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire (despite firefighting officials' insistence no blame was to be assessed), the lawsuits on behalf of homeowners and fallen hotshots' families are likely coming soon. Notices of claim have been filed on behalf of some, which usually indicate a lawsuit's on the way.

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