A squirrel-ignited brush fire and a multimillion dollar drug bust are among the top local stories of 2012. Here’s a look at the Journal-World’s top 10 most-read stories, based on the number of online page views.
Page views: 34,004
The combination of a squirrel caught in a power line and record drought conditions sparked a large brush fire near Langston Hughes School, 1101 George Williams Way. The fire forced the evacuation of the school as well a number of homes in the 6200 block of Palisade Drive. No homes were damaged, but smoke from the 20-foot tall flames could be seen for miles, and it took firefighters nearly three hours to get the blaze under control.
Page views: 29,769
In the culmination of a four-year federal drug investigation, police arrested eight Lawrence residents accused of being involved in a conspiracy to distribute 1,000 or more kilos of high-grade marijuana. So far, 35 defendants from Lawrence, Kansas City, Johnson County and across the country have been indicted as part of a drug ring that had distributed an estimated $16.9 million in marijuana and cocaine in Johnson and Douglas counties since 2005.
Page views: 29,382
On April 2, Free State counselor Aimee Ziegler died after a southbound Union Pacific train collided with her silver Honda car near North 1800 Road and East 1450 Road, west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 24-40 and 24-59.
“She had a great relationship with all of the kids,” Free State Principal Ed West said of Ziegler. “She was someone who could relate well with kids and was full of life.”
Page views: 26,847
Lawrence police arrested Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52, and Deborah Martha Gomez, 43, both of Northlake, Ill. after finding two of their children, ages 5 and 7, bound and blindfolded near their Chevrolet Suburban in the Walmart parking lot, 550 Congressional Drive. Police were tipped off about the bound children by a Walmart customer.
Page views: 26,555
Then-Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, ended up in some hot water last January after sending out an email that referred to Michelle Obama as Mrs. YoMama and compared her appearance to the Grinch. O’Neal issued an apology for the email.
Page views: 19,075
Kansas University fans rushed to Massachusetts Street to celebrate the improbable victory of the Kansas University men’s basketball team over Ohio State, 64-62, in the Final Four. The basketball team eventually lost to Kentucky in the national championship.
Page views: 18,490
Douglas County authorities identified the body of 23-year-old Lawrence man and former Kansas University student Yelekal Alemu, found east of Douglas County Road 1057. Alemu had been missing for nearly three weeks. Authorities said no foul play was suspected in the man’s death.
Page views: 14,996
Adolfo Gomez Jr. and Deborah Martha Gomez were charged with aggravated child endangerment for inflicting “cruel or inhumane corporal punishment” after two of their children were found blindfolded and bound in the Walmart parking lot at 550 Congressional Drive.
“This is a very unusual and disturbing type of event. It’s certainly not something that many of us have seen,” Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley said.
Page views: 13,797
The National Weather Service predicted that Kansas would have a high risk of tornadoes and severe weather on Saturday, April 14. The storm system eventually spawned more than 122 tornadoes in the Midwest, including one that damaged 100 mobile homes in Wichita.
Page views: 12,801
Kansas entered national headlines after the State Objections Board convened to investigate whether President Obama was a U.S citizen and to discuss whether the president's name should be removed from the ballot for the Nov. 6 election. The objection to the president being on the ballot was brought to the board by Manhattan resident Joe Montgomery, who later withdrew his objection.