JAMESTOWN – There was no shortage of news, positive and negative, in 2018 and WNYNewsNow was there to cover it all.
Here’s a look back at the top stories of 2018, based on our follower’s interest as tracked in our system.
The 10th story, according to readership interest, was an August bomb threat that had Chautauqua Mall at high security.
Police said an 11-year-old from Ohio was responsible for phoning in a bomb threat to the Game Stop in Chautauqua Mall.
The store received the threatening call just after 7 p.m. The caller said “A man with a camera was coming to the store and he has a bomb.”
Lakewood-Busti Police ordered the Mall evacuated. The Mall was swept by K-9 officers from Lakewood-Busti Police and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department. The Chautauqua County Bomb Squad was also called to the scene.
An investigation turned to the 11-year-old in Ohio, who admitted to Ohio police that the call was a joke.
At ninth on our list is the story of a former Clymer Central School teacher, Scott Aikens, who was arrested and charged federally by criminal complaint for possession of child pornography.
Aikens was arrested in September but the case is at a standstill as a Rule 48B date, the deadline to advance the case, was moved to 2019. The teacher allegedly possessed material from a Thailand-based pornography website which included still photos and videos of prepubescent males.
Aikens was released on $50,000 bail, placed on home arrest and prohibited from having contact with all minors.
Our eighth-ranked story, from August, was the voluntary closure of the Route 60 McDonalds after county health officials linked 50 illnesses to the restaurant.
Several people even went to the local emergency room after experiencing nausea. McDonalds officials voluntarily closed the site and cooperated fully with the Chautauqua County Department of Health.
The illnesses were eventually believed to be linked to a breakfast sandwich but no official finding was ever released.
Posting seventh is a political story that one candidate said probably cost him votes.
Throughout his campaign for Governor, Libertarian Larry Sharpe said name recognition was a key element to his campaign. His point may have been proven when Facebook pulled Sharpe’s paid advertising hours before the election.
Campaign officials said they believe the ads were pulled because of an algorithm and a politically-motivated complaint from an opponent. The ads were restored after several hours but officials wondered how many votes the shutdown may have cost Sharpe.
Our sixth story goes back to February when two students allegedly made a rash of threats against local schools.
At the time, New York State Troopoers arrested a 17-year-old Chautauqua Lake Central School student and a 15-year-old Ashville BOCES student. Police said they were taken into custody under the state’s mental hygiene law. Both students were transported to area hospitals for mental evaluations and the investigation continues.
On that afternoon, both schools were placed in lockout protocol and Troopers swarmed to both schools to safeguard students, teachers and staff.
Our fifth story is one of a hero who protected students riding on his school bus.
Sherman School Bus Driver David Tenpas was hailed as a hero after he remmoved students from the bus he was driving just before the bus became engulfed in flames.
School officials said Tenpas noticed a problem at the rear of the bus and moved students off the bus and eventually onto another bus. Tenpas was eventually honored by State Sen. Catharine Young for his heroic actions.
Missing persons filled the news in Spring and Summer. That’s our fourth story.
The year included three high-profile missing person stories. In April, Jamestown native Sean Carpenter was reported missing. He was last seen April 12 walking along Pine Street toward First Street.
On April 30, Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies were assisting JPD with the search.
On May 22, Carpenter’s body was recovered from the Chadakoin River. There are no new updates on the case.
In July, Warren man Sven Bloomquist was reported missing from the Blue Heron Festival. His body was later found in Sherman.
Busti man Wilfredo Colon Rodriguez was reported missing April 22. His remains were discovered the following weekend on Swanson Hill Road in Randolph.
In September, Marylou Johnson, Busti, was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. Johnson allegedly struck and killed Colon Rodriguez. WNYNewsNow will continue to follow the case as it develops.
Our third most read story in 2018 involves a police vehicle chase in which a woman was allegedly held at gunpoint.
Jordan Alexander, 20, allegedly led police on a vehicle chase that went thorughout the local area. He allegedly held a woman at gunpoint during the chase. He was charged with numerous offenses and was also wanted in connection with multiple armed robberies in the Buffalo area.
Coming in at number two on our year-end list is the closing of the local Sam’s Club store on Fairmount Avenue.
The local store was abruptly closed Jan. 11, with employees only being informed that day. Customers received letters offering refunds or membership extensions at their choice.
Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin told WNYNewsNow he was caught off guard after learning of the plan to close the store, which was one of the town’s highest tax payers.
In total, Wal Mart closed 63 Sam’s Club stores across the country, including four in New York.
The top news story of 2018, as ranked by reader interest, is the hanging of a family pet.
Jamestown resident Robert Overton admitted in April to WNYNewsNow in an exclusive interview, that he killed his pit bull months earlier by hanging the pet.
Overton made the admission during an April 4 interview, the evening before his arrest. He claimed he killed the dog to protect his children. The case continues though the court system and WNYNewsNow will continue to follow the case to its completion.
There were also some important stories that made our list as honorable mentions.
The Clymer/Sherman/Panama Wildcats lived the dream season of a lifetime by beating the Moriah Vikings 26-6 to win the Class D Football State Title. The game was played in Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
In more championship action, the Jamestown Red Raiders Marching Band, who are making a habit of this, won their third Large School State Title in the last four years.
Jamestown scored 89.9 to beat Horseheads, who scored 86.9. The Band, under the direction of Meghan Murray, was given a rousing welcome home as the community congratulated the Band and celebrated their latest title with them.
No recap of 2018 would be complete without at least one political story. The election in November brought a change at the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department for the first time in more than 20 years,
Jim Quattrone upended incumbent Sheriff Joe Gerace with 23,332 votes to Gerace’s 20,572. Gerace conceded defeat at 10 p.m. at Democratic Headquarters, where Gerace said he was proud of what was accomplished during his career as Sheriff.
The final honorable mention is a local story that went national.
The first-large scale attraction telling the history of the art of comedy in the world, opened in Jamestown as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Sam Teresi opened the doors to the National Comedy Center.
Opened in August, the NCC features 50 exhibits spread over 37,000 square feet. The NCC cost $50 million, with state tax money providing $14 million.
The home area of Lucille Ball features what officials say is one of the most interactive museums on Earth.
That concludes WNYNewsNow’s look back at the top stories in our area for 2018.
Who will be the newsmakers in 2019 and how will they shape the face of Chautauqua County? WNYNewsNow will be there to report it all.
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