2006 marked by heartache and reform | NevadaAppeal.com

2006 marked by heartache and reform

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal File photo Matthew Roberts tries to keep his backyard fence wet at the end of Red Rock Road during the Linehan fire in July, but his attention is momentarily diverted as flames from the fire threaten. The Linehan Complex fire threatened 200 homes.
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With the year winding to an end, Carson City hit a milestone last week when the 1,000th baby was born at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

“As long as we’ve been keeping records, that’s the most babies that have ever been born in one year here,” a hospital spokeswoman said.

The capital city experienced a number of firsts in 2006 – some celebrated, others we wished had never come.

The year started off wet with a flood, then turned shocking when two grossly malnourished and abused children were liberated from the confines of a tiny apartment bathroom Jan. 19. The story horrified and consumed people as details of their depravation came spewing forth. City leaders were stunned, police officers were disgusted, and our community reached out to its tiny residents, sending cards and money and crying countless tears for two children most will never meet.

Last month, when two of the captors received more than 20 years in prison and a third received three times that, the response was unanimous – good riddance.

Gang violence was unavoidable in 2006. Gang-related shootings and deaths were on the rise, the most recent being the Halloween-party shooting death of a young Hispanic father. With a majority of the gang members coming from Hispanic backgrounds, Latino business owners, organizations and parents teamed up with the mostly Anglo city leaders and sheriff’s department to form a progressive gang coalition. This is the first cross-cultural group of its kind established here in modern times.

Nevada also had its share of home-grown stories hitting the national news circuit in 2006.

The June courthouse shooting of a Reno family judge in his chambers and the murder of a woman who had appeared before him for her divorce proceedings turned into a full-fledged international man hunt when the victim’s husband, and murder suspect, Darren Mack allegedly fled to Mexico. The wealthy Reno pawn shop owner surrendered to authorities and is awaiting trial.

The mysterious death of embattled state Controller Kathy Augustine in July made headlines on all the major 24-hour news networks. Her husband’s subsequent arrest on murder charges was equally compelling nationally.

The 2005 death of Army National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart in Afghanistan sparked a controversy in 2006 that reached from Fernley to Capitol Hill when the Department of Defense refused to engrave his religious symbol, a Wiccan pentacle, on his government-issued tombstone. His widow’s fight to have her husband’s religion recognized prevailed in December when Nevada officials allowed the symbol to be installed. Her federal fight continues.

On Halloween, an arson fire at a historic Reno hotel claimed the life of a dozen tenants. Valerie Moore, 47, was bound over to Washoe County District Court last week to stand trial on 12 counts of murder and one count of arson. She allegedly set fire to a mattress in the hallway of the Mizpah Hotel following an argument with another tenant.

Internationally, the suspect in a 1982 murder was extradited from the island of Trinidad back to Carson City this summer, after DNA testing allegedly linked him to the killing of 18-year-old Sheila Jo Harris. David Winfield Mitchell will be tried in April accused of Harris’ strangulation death.

On the lighter side this year, Carson City also opened its first accredited cancer center, providing Northern Nevadans with another option for cancer treatment and the first open-heart surgery was performed at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

New York Yankees pitcher, Darrell Rasner, a Carson High School graduate and former Wolf Pack pitcher, picked up his first Major League win at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 3.

Western Nevada Community College had its own sport successes in 2006. Both its baseball and soccer teams won their conference titles in the school’s first full year of competition.

And in March, Census Bureau estimates named Lyon County as one of the top five fastest growing counties in the country. The others were: Kendall County, Ill., about 45 miles southwest of Chicago; Rockwall County, Texas, east of Dallas; and Washington County, Utah, which is closer to Las Vegas than to Salt Lake City. For the second year in a row, first place went to Flagler County, Fla., north of Daytona Beach.

Just this week, Nevada lost its first-place position as the fastest growing state in the U.S. – dropping behind Arizona by 0.1 percent – 83,228 new residents to Arizona’s 213,311.

Top 10 stories of 2006

As chosen by the editorial staff of the Nevada Appeal in order of ranking:

Children found starved

2006 general election

Linehan fire

Gang shootings

Death of Kathy Augustine

Housing market downturn

Area growth

Hospital layoffs

Freeway opening

V&T contractor chosen

As chosen by Nevada Appeal readers on our online poll:

Children found starved 395

Death of Kathy Augustine 87

Gang shootings 44

2006 general election 40

Linehan fire 30

Freeway opening 28

Area growth 17

Housing market downturn 16

Hospital layoffs 11

V&T contractor chosen 10

Total votes: 678

Timeline

Two children found starved

Jan. 19 – 16-year-old girl weighing 41 pounds found pushing shopping cart near courthouse

• 11-year-old boy weighing 31 pounds found hiding under a bed at the family’s home

• Grandmother, mother and stepfather arrested for felony child abuse and false imprisonment

Jan. 23 – Second Chance fund established for the children

Jan. 27 – Charges filed against grandmother, mother and stepfather

Feb. 24 – Preliminary hearing, evidence comes out that children had been kept in bathroom for five years

Sept. 13 – Grandmother, mother and stepfather plead guilty

Nov. 30 – Children testify to horror; grandmother, mother and stepfather receive maximum sentences

Election changes face of nation, Nevada

May 1-12 – Official filing period begins

Aug. 15 – Primary election

Sept. 8 – Supreme court rules Tax and Spending Control initiative off ballot

Oct. 2 – President Bush visits Reno to support Dean Heller

Oct. 13 – Allegations of assault against Jim Gibbons surface in Las Vegas

Oct. 14 – Allegations that the Gibbons family employed an illegal immigrant as a maid resurface

Nov. 7 – General election

Nov. 8 – Democrats celebrate control of Congress

Nov. 9 – President Bush telephones Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to congratulate him on the Democrats’ takeover in the Senate; Reid will become majority leader Jan. 1

Nov. 9 – House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi lunches with Bush. He salutes her, not only as Tuesday’s victor but as the first woman who will ascend to the position of House speaker, next in line to the presidency after the vice president

Jan. 1 – Entire slate of Nevada’s constitutional officers to be sworn in

Fire season 2006

June 16 – Corey Canyon fire, first of season, chars 5 acres

June 26 – Linehan fire threatens 200 homes, 5,863 acres

July 2 – Flint fire burns 200 acres

July 22 – Six Mile fire, blackens 1,733 acres

Gang shootings puzzle police

March 17 – Condor Circle shoot-out

July 17 – August Drive shooting

July 31 – Wal-Mart shooting

Aug. 12 – Woodside Drive shooting

Oct. 27 – Northridge Halloween shooting

Death of Kathy Augustine

July 8 – State Controller Kathy Augustine hospitalized in Reno with apparent heart attack

July 11 – Augustine dies

July 14 – Augustine’s husband, Chaz Higgs, attempts suicide

July 15 – Augustine funeral

Sept. 29 – Higgs arrested in Virginia

Oct. 10 – Charles Augustine’s body exhumed in Las Vegas

Oct. 11 – Higgs returns to face murder charges in Reno

Dec. 7 – Higgs has preliminary hearing in Washoe County Justice Court

Dec. 22 – Higgs pleads not guilty to murder

Keeping tabs on retail and residential growth

Feb. 2 – Fandango announces theater, total planned development around casino will reach $40 million

June 14 – Bodine’s restaurant demolished

August – Lompa Ranch goes on the market with a $76.6 million asking price

Sept. 21 – Crestview Ridge development approved by supervisors

November – Bodine’s property could get new owner

Dec. 1 – Kmart building bought by Carlyle/Cypress Carson City

Tracking the housing market

Jan.-March – Following a booming 2005, average cost of a single-family home hit $348,400. Real estate agents predict a buyer’s market

April-June – Average cost of a home dips to $346,800. Fewer homes sell over the second quarter, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

July-Sept. – Home costs average $342,900. Home sellers lower prices; National report calls Carson City market “grossly overvalued when compared to household incomes”

Oct.-Nov. – Home costs average $347,540 in October and $343,800 in November. Commercial real estate steady. Private research firm predicts Carson will have one of the largest declines in median housing prices, -9.8 percent in 2007.

Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center’s first year

Jan. 1 – First baby of 2006

Jan. 18 – Medical center receives license to begin performing open heart surgery

May 30 – Layoffs announced

May 31 – Announcement of intention to cut Behavioral Health Services program

June 16 – Public outcry causes reprieve of BHS program for adolescents

Nov. 6 – Cancer Center opens

Freeway opens – finally

Feb. 11 – Freeway opens with a Fun Run/walk

Feb. 16 – Freeway opens to traffic

May 6 – First fatal accident occurs on freeway

Reconstruction of the V&T Railway

Jan. 3 – Phase one completion party

March 23 – Announcement of a Chinese worker museum to be built in east Carson City

May 9 – First light rail for phase two delivered

Aug. 12 – Inaugural run on 1.4 miles of new track to American Flat

Nov. 28 – Sierra Railroad selected to run railway operations