Trump’s monumental decision tops Beehive State’s biggest stories of 2017

1 of 26 View 26 Items Aaron Thorup Photo illustration by Aaron Thorup SALT LAKE CITY — With topics spanning presidential proclamations and local politics, to sweeping action on the homeless crisis and a bubbling feud between the state's flagship university and a leading philanthropist, 2017 brought nationwide attention to the Beehive State in a year that news junkies won't soon forget. News directors at the Deseret News voted on the top 10 news stories of the year, and this is what they decided: 1. Monumental change Scott G Winterton, Deseret News FILE - The Bears Ears of the Bears Ears National Monument are pictured from the air on Monday, May 8, 2017. State and local politicians hoped it would happen, while Native Americans in southeastern Utah and environmental groups lobbied against any changes to a pair of national monuments. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News FILE - President Donald Trump, center, signs proclamations to scale back Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, as local and national leaders look on. On Dec. 4, less than a year after the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, President Donald Trump came to Utah and sided with state leaders, breaking up and shrinking the footprint of not only Bears Ears, but also Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The decision to remove millions of acres from monument status was immediately followed by a lawsuit backed by the local tribes demanding justice, saying Trump doesn't have the legal authority to shrink designated federal land. Several environmental groups and businesses followed with their own lawsuits. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News FILE - Mikaela Russell, 19, of Ogden, cheers during a rally in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. The long and contentious debate over the need for the Continue Reading

Naples family mourns loss of son who fought for five years after crash

A retired Air Force veteran and 2000 graduate of Lely High School, who was traumatically injured by a drunken driver in South Carolina in 2012, died with his family by his side.Alan George Martinez, 36, passed away Dec. 23.His family in Naples and friends held a private gathering Thursday at the home of his mother, Jeanette Lombardi, a local attorney. A larger celebration of his life will be held in May in Colorado.The family thanks the hundreds of friends who have supported them during the last five years and requests donations in lieu of flowers be made to a local no-kill shelter, to a veterans’ assistance organization, to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or any organization working to end drunk driving.The family was unavailable for comment.“His energizing spirit radiated and blessed those who knew him,” according to Martinez’s obituary in the Naples Daily News. “He was eager to offer a helping hand, not just to his friends and family but often to complete strangers.”After the 9/11 terrorist attack, Martinez decided to serve his country and received a congressional appointment to the U.S.Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He graduatedin 2006, where he was an Honor Officer and discovered a love for skydiving. He served three years as an intercontinental ballistic missile operator and retired as a first lieutenant with an honorable discharge.He pursued his love of skydiving and became a full-time skydiving coach and instructor. In 2011, he enrolled in law school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia with his brother, Michael Martinez. The two lived together during law school.Alan Martinez’s promising future was shattered, at the age of 31, on the morning of Sept. 8, 2012. He was on his way from Columbia to his job at Skydive Carolina in nearby Chester. He sent a text to colleagues at Skydive that he was running a few minutes late. When he didn’t arrive, colleagues put out Continue Reading

PHOTOS: Colorado Mug Shots — The Rogues Gallery

Office of the District Attorney, 18th Judicial DistrictRicky Lee ReasonerProvided by Aurora PoliceChristopher Tarr, 42, was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder for hitting and killing a 22-year-old pedestrian, who was in a crosswalk on Aug. 21, 2016. Dalton McCreary, 22, pushed a friend out of harm’s way before he was killed. Tarr was also found guilty of DUI, reckless driving, careless driving and two counts of vehicular homicide.Provided by El Paso County Sheriff's OfficeRomello Leach, 22, an El Paso County minister, was arrested in November 2017 on suspicion of multiple counts of sexual assault on a child is accused of impregnating a 14-year-old girl, arrest records show.Provided by Aspen Police DepartmentCourtlandt Kirk, 52, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault in November 2017 after police say he sprayed his 57-year-old neighbor in the face and head with bear spray after a confrontation.Provided by Garfield County Sheriff's Office via APMichael Lee Syperda, 52, was charged in the cold-case killing of his estranged wife in Iowa, where they used to live and where she was last seen 17 years ago. Syperda, 52, was taken into custody without incident Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, near Glenwood Springs.Provided by Denver PoliceDarius Ratcliff, 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting of Cristian Martinez, 21, at a house party near West Bayaud Avenue and South Bannock Street on a Friday night in November 2015.Provided by Aurora Police DepartmentLloyd Rickey Henderson, 38, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old J. Corey Clemons. Henderson fatally shot Clemons in the back to settle an argument the victim was having with the suspect’s cousin. Henderson was sentenced to 32 years in prison.Provided by Jefferson County Sheriff's OfficeZachary Vincent Myers, 23, was convicted in December 2017 of sexual assault of a child and other charges after he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old Continue Reading

What’s the big deal with legal pot? No one knows yet

How legalized marijuana is affecting our society has no clear answers, scientists and public health experts say — mainly because we don't have enough information yet.In Colorado, state-sanctioned sales to any adult have been legal only since Jan. 1, 2014. Massachusetts, where voters approved a ballot initiative last year, won't see retail sales until July 2018.Studies have shown both increases and decreases in youth and adult use, unreliable law-enforcement data about crashes and uncertainty about whether medical marijuana does what its backers claim.While marijuana evangelists often deny that the drug could hurt anyone, some drug treatment experts say that when highly concentrated, it can cause psychosis. Medical benefitsMarijuana appears to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, nausea and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to a January 2017 report from some of the nation’s top doctors and public health experts.Commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the report said “conclusive or substantial” research backs the effectiveness of cannabis for those three conditions. ► Black market: Marijuana smuggling persists despite legalization ► Across the USA: States forge path through uncharted territory But the report also warns of dangers: Increased risk of car crashes, lower birth weights and problems with memory and attention. It found strong connections between heavy cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia and other psychoses. A variety of state and federal government agencies helped pay for the report, which included research from medical doctors, mental health practitioners and addiction specialists. Authors repeatedly noted that data on marijuana use is limited and scientists need more information as more and more states legalize medical marijuana."Conclusive evidence regarding the short- and Continue Reading

Recent Northern Colorado homicides raise question: Are we less safe?

Update 10/19/17: Since this story has been published, Larimer County has had at least four more homicides, one of which was a fatal police shooting.Sara Mondragon said her daughter still asks about great-grandmother Kathy Mondragon "all the time.""Whenever the moon comes out, she says, 'There's Grandma.' ... We talk about our memories of her. ... She misses her. We all do," Sara said.The 61-year-old woman's life was tragically cut short in a double stabbing in Fort Collins in February last year, and her family is struggling to make sense of it all. Sara, along with her daughter, lived with Kathy at the time. Sara was the other victim of the stabbing that night. Though she survived, she has at least months of recovery ahead of her.In August, Sara's ex-boyfriend Tolentino Corzo-Avendano was sentenced to life without parole for Kathy's murder and the attack on Sara. Tomas Vigil, the man with Corzo-Avendano that night, took a plea deal for a first-degree burglary charge.Sara had broken up with Corzo-Avendano, whom she'd dated for a few months after reconnecting with the former middle school classmate. But on the night of Feb. 9, 2016, she said he pushed his way into her grandmother's house after both Sara's daughter and Kathy had fallen asleep."I never expected him to actually hurt me or my family," Sara, now 27, said in an interview about her ex-boyfriend. "I never expected him to hurt anybody like that, especially me."Sara is still haunted by the fact that she believes her daughter witnessed almost everything — her mother's stabbing and assault, her great-grandmother being stabbed to death, and even at one point, the young girl herself getting thrown across the room."She had talked about seeing Grandma with blood on her face," Sara said.For Kathy's children, Shauna and her brother Adam Mondragon, Fort Collins is a very different place than it was when they were growing up.Adam remembers Continue Reading

Assaults on Larimer County law enforcement climb

Assaults on law enforcement officers in Larimer County rose 31 percent during a time when "war on police" rhetoric dominated headlines and newscasts, records from the district attorney's office show.But there should be an asterisk next to that figure.That's because the number of second-degree assaults against local law enforcement went from 36 in 2014 to 47 in 2015. That appears to be a stark climb at first glance, but those assaults represent a small fraction of the thousands of interactions police in Larimer County have with the public each year. During that same time, more officers were hired by agencies and more are on the streets.Why exactly the number of local felony filings climbed is unclear.EAST MULBERRY:  Policing Fort Collins’ uneasy street no easy taskAs of Tuesday, 18 people were charged in Larimer County since Jan. 1 with the same Class 4 felony of second-degree assault on a peace officer, records from the Larimer County District Attorney's Office show. That number is on track to mirror recent years. It captures only behavior that results in injury and warrants a more serious charge than being verbally confrontational."It’s still a small percentage of the public that’s displaying this behavior," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a telephone interview, adding a small, yet a growing percentage contacted during the most basic traffic stop or welfare check is becoming “almost anarchist in mentality."“There is somewhat of a generation that’s come up that just doesn’t believe anybody has authority over them. So we’re seeing that come out as the kind of assaultive behavior that’s driving these numbers up," Smith said.As of Wednesday, Colorado was tied with Texas and Maryland for having the highest number — three — of line-of-duty deaths in 2016. Two law enforcement officers have been fatally shot in Colorado this year and a third was involved in a Continue Reading

With Lance Armstrong on the offensive, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is in the fight for its life

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency charged Lance Armstrong with doping, an epic wildfire erupted in the mountains just west of the organization’s headquarters, racing down a dry canyon and incinerating hundreds of homes before stopping just short of USADA’s nondescript, evacuated offices. Along with the inevitable jokes about dousing the flames with urine samples, the fire prompted dark commentary in the cycling world about the misfortune that frequently befalls those who dare attack Armstrong; by going after an iconic athlete with many admirers, lawyers, and dollars, USADA was meddling with the primal forces of nature. “The United States Congress has no role in determining whether an individual athlete doped, but we do have a great interest in how taxpayer money is spent,” wrote Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in a July 12 letter to the ONDCP, demanding answers about USADA’s Armstrong probe. That’s right: with the London Games one week away, and the United States notorious worldwide for fielding Olympic teams populated with dopers who have all but ruined the credibility of track and field and cycling, Sensenbrenner is asking if USADA’s tiny slice of federal revenue - less than one twentieth of the Yankees’ annual player payroll - is wastefully spent. It’s a weird logic, given how disgusted voters have become watching federal courtrooms serve as the venue for determining what drug or hormone fueled the superhuman feats of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Now Lance Armstrong has sought a jury trial to short-circuit the USADA arbitration process that Congress has endorsed, and at least one congressman thinks the solution is to hold the nonprofit agency’s feet to the fire. None of this appears to have done much to intimidate Armstrong’s newest nemesis, Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive officer. A former high school athlete from Florida Continue Reading

Plea agreement delayed again in race driver’s DUI case

ST. GEORGE – Perhaps 11 will be lucky for a former professional race car driver accused of leading Nevada, Arizona and Utah law enforcement officers on a high-speed, drug-influenced run along Interstate 15 to a forced finish line at St. George’s Bluff Street exit.Timothy Tyler Andrew Walker, 35, of Hermosa Beach, California, was scheduled to submit a plea agreement by mail to the 5th District Court on Tuesday, the 10th time a resolution to the case has been contemplated since Walker was charged with three felonies and five misdemeanors in January 2013.Deputy County Attorney Rachelle Shumway asked to delay entry of the plea agreement on Sept. 30 after receiving word new criminal charges had been filed against Walker in California, but on Tuesday she told Judge Eric Ludlow she has been unsuccessful in getting California law enforcement to cooperate with her request for information about the new case.“So we have gone ahead without (the information),” she said, indicating a new delay was necessary to send an amended version of the plea agreement to Walker in California for his signature. The terms of the amended plea agreement have been accepted by both prosecution and defense, she said.Defense attorney Trevor Terry said he will be in California next week and will meet with Walker to secure a signature and wrap up the case.Ludlow scheduled an 11th resolution hearing in the case for Nov. 18.Arizona prosecutors have already resolved their charges related to the incident, although reports of a new criminal case in California could result in a probation violation if they are found to be true.Walker appeared in Kingman, Arizona's Mohave County Superior Court on Aug. 29, where he pleaded guilty to one count of endangerment as part of an agreement that dismissed a second count of unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle.Walker was sentenced the same day, receiving a year of supervised probation and no jail time.The endangerment count Continue Reading

Corrections & Clarifications

To report corrections & clarifications, contact:Please indicate whether you're responding to content online or in the newspaper.The following corrections & clarifications have been published on stories produced by USA TODAY's newsroom: February 2018Life:An earlier version of this report incorrectly credited the 1996 Summer Olympics performance of The Power of the Dream. Celine Dion sang the theme at the opening ceremony; the song was performed again at the closing ceremony by Rachel McMullin and a choir of other children.​ Sports: A previous version of this graphic incorrectly located hockey player Megan Keller's hometown on the map. Sports: An earlier version of this story misidentified the U.S. hockey player who is quoted in the third paragraph. Opinion: An earlier version of this column mischaracterized who could receive a tax credit for campaign donations. It would be refundable and available to all Americans who file taxes. Sports: A photo in some editions Feb. 8 incorrectly identified the person next to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The person was special teams coach Joe Judge. Sports: A headline in some Feb. 12 editions had an incorrect result of Serena and Venus Williams’ doubles match in the Fed Cup. The sisters lost. Twitter: On Feb. 11, a previous tweet misidentified Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson. Continue Reading