East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, December 31, 2016, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 12A, Image 12

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    Page 12A
East Oregonian
Saturday, December 31, 2016
2016: Four murders in first half of year
Continued from 1A
sell most of the land to AgriNorth-
west, a farming company based in
the Tri-Cities, to grow wheat, corn
and potatoes. The remaining trees
will be harvested as they become
mature and ready for processing.
One-third of the property also
sold to California dairyman Greg te
Velde, who is proposing a 30,000-
cow dairy east of where Homestead
Lane intersects with Poleline
Road. However, the state must first
approve a confined animal feeding
operation, or CAFO, permit which
regulates how the operation would
handle wastewater and manure
generated on site. More than 2,300
comments have been submitted
so far, mostly in opposition of the
Don Rice, director of North
American operations for Green-
Wood Resources, said it could take
several years to finish milling all the
trees. He said the decision to sell
was met with mixed emotions, as
the tree farm has become a capti-
vating landmark for visitors and
photographers along Interstate 84.
“A Very Poplar Run,” a 5K and
10K race to benefit the Agape House
in Hermiston, was held for the
final time in October. The Collins
Companies also permanently shut
down its Upper Columbia Mill, with
most of the facility’s 67 employees
laid off in September.
The top viewed stories on the
East Oregonian website in 2016.
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
The Boardman Tree Farm was sold to make way for more conventional crops and, possibly, a second
mega-dairy in Morrow County
1. Pendleton home invader
takes a naked leap
(March 7, 47,791 views)
2. Coach, teen dead in
Hermiston; woman shot
(Aug. 18, 42,508 views)
3. Dark Days
(Jan. 27, 40,347 views)
4. Evacuations ordered for fire
on Interstate 84
(July 30, 22,948 views)
5. ‘Idago’ still improbable,
would sway U.S. politics
(Oct. 4, 21,061 views)
6. Police arrest man in
Meacham murder
(Jan. 28, 20,524 views)
7. Counselors provide comfort
to community in mourning
(Aug. 19, 18,647 views)
8. One dead, two injured in
I-84 semi crash
(March 15, 17,872 views)
9. Ellen Show invites
Pendleton teacher Youngman
(Feb. 15, 17,277 views)
10. Wreck shuts down traffic
on Highway 730
(March 30, 16,291 views)
4. EOTEC opens in
After years of planning and
millions of dollars in public and
private investment, construction
was completed on the first building
of the Eastern Oregon Trade and
Event Center in May.
The event center started hosting
events soon after, giving a glimpse
of the project’s potential after frus-
trations over construction delays
and budget overruns.
committee finished its goal of
raising an additional $2 million in
private donations during 2016 while
the EOTEC board chose contractors
for the other major components and
began discussing what the operating
budget and staffing for the center
will look like.
Construction on the rodeo arena
— future home of the Farm-City
Pro Rodeo — began in the fall, and
contractor G2 Construction placed
an order for the prefabricated metal
buildings that will make up the barns
used for the Umatilla County Fair
starting (if all goes well) in 2017.
5. Pot sales pass in
2016 was a comeback year for
pot in Pendleton.
After the Pendleton City Council
nearly banned marijuana sales in
2015, local voters resoundingly
passed local ballot measures legal-
izing recreational and medical mari-
juana sales as well as a 3 percent
tax on marijuana products in the
November election.
In December, two prospective
businesses filed with the city for a
license to open shops in town.
Opening a pot shop won’t come
cheap. Citing the costs of back-
ground checks and tax collection,
the council approved $1,550 and
$600 business licensing fees for
recreational and medical marijuana,
6. #YoungmanOnEllen
Pendleton High School students
launched a Twitter campaign in
January to get a beloved teacher on
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Youngman, who was fighting
cancer for the third time, had long
admired the comedienne for her
positivity. Youngman frequently
encourages her students to be kind.
The hashtag trended with tweets
originating around the world.
A producer finally invited the
teacher and family members to
fly to Los Angeles and observe an
“Ellen” taping. During the show,
DeGeneres approached Youngman
in the audience for an on-the-air
conversation about attitude and
facing challenges.
The day the show aired,
Youngman spent the morning in
chemotherapy, but made it home in
time to watch the show. The teacher
has since finished treatments and is
back to teaching full-time.
7. Naked intruder
survives river leap
A naked home invader found
himself hanging from a tree by his
foot after fleeing police and falling
off a cliff.
On March 5, Steven Burton,
30, entered the Pendleton home
of Gail Wilson, who has muscular
dystrophy and was sitting in a living
room chair eating soup. The naked
Hermiston man grinned at Wilson
and tried to give her a hug. Wilson,
fearing rape or murder, managed
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Visitors enter the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center during
an open house May 13, 2016 in Hermiston.
Photo contributed by Monty Severe
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Pendleton residents voted in the November election to allow both
medicinal and recreation marijuana dispensaries in the city.
Steven S. Burton hangs from a tree above the Umatilla River in
Pendleton on March 5, 2016 as Pendleton firefighter Jared Usel-
man and Umatilla County Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Johnson try to
help him down.
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Teacher Kathryn Youngman waves to the crowd gathered at
Pendleton High School Feb. 15, 2016 when she announced she
will be attending a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Seaport ceased all flights in September while it began liquidating
its assets. Boutique re-started air service from Pendleton to Port-
land Dec. 19.
to call 9-1-1 when Burton dragged
the family’s affectionate Labrador
retriever into a back room.
When Burton heard police
arrive, he dashed away. He scaled
a cyclone fence and plunged off the
side of a 40- or 50-foot bluff that
borders the Umatilla River near the
Riverside Bridge. Officers found
the apparently drug-intoxicated
man at the bottom, his left ankle
wedged in a tree and his head about
five feet from the bank.
Rescuers finally dislodged the
combative man, secured him on
a stretcher and took him to St.
Anthony Hospital, Pendleton.
Burton faced charges of burglary,
harassment, disorderly conduct and
resisting arrest.
The story, and photo that accom-
panied it, was republished in media
around the world.
Umatilla County Circuit Court
records show Burton took a deal in
April and pleaded guilty to burglary,
resisting arrest and harassment and
agreed to go through drug court.
He had nine hearings in the drug
diversion program and made each
one. His next is Feb. 10.
8. A violent start to the
Four murders in the first half of
2016 marked the year as the most
violent in recent Umatilla County
Thadd Nelson, 44, died from
gunshot wounds the morning of Jan.
27 at his property in Meacham.
Joseph Aaron McIver of
Umatilla and Edward Duarte Ayala
and Armando Ruben Vargas, who
were new to Hermiston, face federal
weapons charges stemming from
Nelson’s homicide. Vargas also
faces federal assault charges.
Attorney Dan Primus charged
McIver on Jan. 28 with Nelson’s
murder, then dropped the case
days later when federal prosecutors
indicted McIver and his co-defen-
The federal trial for McIver,
Ayala and Vargas begins May
16 in Portland pending delays.
Primus said he could bring back the
murder charge after the federal case
Federal prosecutors charged
Julian Darryl Simpson, 23, with
murder and gun crimes for shooting
and killing Tony Jimenez, 27, the
morning of March 19 at the home of
Beau Welch on the Umatilla Indian
Reservation. Co-defendant Victor
Joseph Contreras faces assault
and gun charges for shooting and
injuring Welch.
Federal Judge Anna J. Brown set
their trial to begin Feb. 7 in Portland.
Oscar Pastor Garcia Villegas, 26,
of Milton-Freewater, faces murder
and related charges for the May 26
stabbing death of his wife, Maria
Villegas, 24. The state also accused
Oscar Villegas of trying to stab and
murder their two young children.
Circuit Judge Lynn Hampton on
Dec. 21 sent Villegas to the Oregon
State Hospital, Salem, to undergo a
mental health evaluation. His next
court date is Jan. 24 in Pendleton.
And the state charged Evan
Freel, 17, of Milton-Freewater with
murder by abuse and first-degree
criminal mistreatment in the June 8
death of his infant son. Freel also is
to undergo an evaluation at the state
hospital. Circuit Judge Christopher
Brauer set a hearing for Feb. 15 in
Pendleton to discuss the next steps
in the case.
9. SeaPort bankrupt,
Boutique flies in
A year’s worth of bad news
for Pendleton’s commercial air
provider meant Round-Up City
residents went without air service
for three months.
Following SeaPort Airlines’
February decision to file for Chapter
11 bankruptcy, the U.S. Department
of Transportation announced that it
would strip Pendleton of its Essential
Air Service subsidy unless it could
convincingly assure the agency
that the airport could improve its
flagging boarding numbers.
Despite public statements of
support for SeaPort, the city council
selected Boutique Air of San Fran-
cisco in August, causing SeaPort to
cease flight operations in September
while it began liquidating its assets.
After the city successfully
appealed the DOT to hold onto its
EAS subsidy, Boutique re-started
air service from Pendleton to Port-
land Dec. 19.
10. Two new Pendleton
With the beat of tribal drums
and the cutting of ribbons at grand
opening ceremonies, the Pendleton
School District fulfilled a promise it
made to taxpayers in 2013.
The district opened the new
Washington and Sherwood Heights
elementary schools to students in
September, completing the center-
pieces of a $55 million bond.
Besides replacing aging facilities
that were starting to fail, the new
Washington and Sherwood Heights
schools have modern security
systems, separate rooms for the
gym, cafeteria and music classes,
and a shared space for each grade
level for group work.
The new facilities, which cost $17
million each, allowed the district to
consolidate Lincoln Primary School
and West Hills Intermediate School.
The district moved its central
office to the old Lincoln building
and West Hills will become the
Pendleton Tech and Trade Center in