Year in review: The biggest moments and stories of 2018

A look back at the news that captivated us in the ArkLaTex and around the world

ArkLaTex Year in Review: Biggest Stories of 2018

(KSLA) - From reports of tragic violence and coverage of severe weather to moments of hope and stories that inspired us all, this year was filled with big moments at home and around the world.

As the year comes to an end, here is a look back at the stories we remember most from 2018.

The year begins with a snow day

This year brought several unique weather events, including the heavy snow that fell across the ArkLaTex on January 16.

Several major roads, including I-220, were closed around the Shreveport-Bossier area.

3-year-old becomes best friends with garbage collector

Tuesdays on Rosemont Street in Clinton are a big deal for 3-year-old Kyler as he knows he's got a smelly, important job to do. Source: WLBT
Tuesdays on Rosemont Street in Clinton are a big deal for 3-year-old Kyler as he knows he's got a smelly, important job to do. Source: WLBT

The nation was captivated by a heartwarming story of an unexpected bond between a toddler from Mississippi and the men who collect garbage on his street.

3-year-old Kyler loved watching garbage trucks so much, he got to know the men who take out the trash on his own street.

Not only does Kyler help bring out the trash on Tuesday mornings, but he also waits with snacks for his garbage pick-up friends. He will also lend them a hand with the trash by getting into the truck.

Toys-R-Us closes doors

Toys-R-Us, one of the country’s most iconic toy retailers, had 735 stores in the United States when it announced plans to go out of business in March. Stores began closing nationwide and the final stores closed at the end of June. The company had been around for 70 years.

Nation devastated by mass shootings

February 14 brought Valentine’s Day, Ash Wedneday, and the first major tragedy of the year. A gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen people were killed in the shooting. A 19-year-old former student was identified as the shooter.

The nation was shocked again as they watched another horror play out on Friday, May 18. A 17-year-old armed with two guns killed 10 people at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

Then again, in late October, more nationwide mourning came after 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The shooter, who was reportedly shouting anti-Semitic slurs, also wounded four police officers and two others.

The final devastating shooting of the year happened on November 8, when a Marine veteran killed 12 at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California. The shooter shot a security guard outside the bar before going inside and opening fire on employees and patrons.

Texas soldier killed during WWII comes home

In a homecoming 73 years in the making, a soldier killed in Germany during World War II made his return home to Texas.

Leo Husak was killed in action in 1945, his family spent decades trying to locate his remains and bring him back home.

With the help of dental records and other forensic tests, including a 99 percent match in DNA, an unidentified body in a Netherlands cemetery was identified as Husak.

“It’s unbelievable really," said Leo Husak’s brother John. “My mother would always say she wished they would find him and bring him home. He’s coming home.”

Child’s disappearance captivates a community

4-year-old Rondreiz Cortez “Junior” Phillips disappeared on April 5. He was reported missing after wandering off outside his home near Lisbon in Claiborne Parish while his stepfather was working on a vehicle, according to authorities.

There still is a $10,000 reward for any information about Rondreiz’s disappearance. If you have information that could help find Rondreiz, you can:

  • Call 911 or the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office at (318)  927-2011 or toll-free at (800) 810-2011, or,
  • Contact Sgt. Stacey Pearson, of the Louisiana Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children/AMBER, by calling (337)  962-2605 or sending email to stacey.pearson@la.gov.

Woman murdered after being forced to stream live on Facebook during standoff

Tragedy in Caddo Heights: 1 dead, 1 wounded, 1 in jail
Rannita Williams, 27 (Source: Facebook)
Rannita Williams, 27 (Source: Facebook)

During an 80-minute standoff with Shreveport police April 12, Jonathan Robinson allegedly fired close to 30 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle, including two that struck Rannita “NuNu” Williams in her midsection, killing the 27-year-old mother of three.

Facebook Live video shared with KSLA News 12 appeared to show Williams being forced to live stream during the standoff.

Tornadoes rip through the ArkLaTex

Two tornadoes touched down in the ArkLaTex in mid-April, one took the life of a 2-year-old girl.

An EF-0 rated tornado touched down six miles south of Waskom in Harrison County, Texas, traveled ten miles, and crossed the state line before reaching Greenwood, LA. The tornado had a path width of 100 yards.

The second tornado was confirmed in Caddo and Bossier Parishes. It was ranked as an EF-1 with a peak speed of 110 mph. The tornado traveled a total of 22 miles with a path width of 1100 yards. This is the storm that took the life of 2-year-old Carli Ortiz, according to the National Weather Service.

Louisiana’s Budget Crisis reaches fever pitch

Budget shortfalls and a “fiscal cliff” prompted a wage war at the Capitol in Baton Rouge this year. The State Legislature met for three special sessions in 2018 in an attempt to solve the budget crisis that plagued Louisiana.

Lawmakers met in June to try to fill the $648 million shortfall for the fiscal year that began on July 1.

After some dramatic final seconds, lawmakers failed to agree on a solution in the second special session in June, a compromise was made in a short third special session weeks later.

KSLA gives you The Good Stuff

UPS fan Spencer Harrison with KSLA's Doug Warner
UPS fan Spencer Harrison with KSLA's Doug Warner

KSLA News 12 introduced a new segment in 2018, The Good Stuff with Doug Warner.

Honoring many wonderful people and their incredible stories is the focus of the series.

There are many lessons learned by listening to their stories, whether its 99-year-old Miss Lucille, of Shreveport’s Anderson Island, who has a love story for the ages still growing throughout her backyard.

Or the Shreveport doctor who truly believes we are all put in certain places, at certain times, for certain reasons. Hers? Running in a half marathon right behind another runner who went into cardiac arrest.

Maybe your favorite story was from 20-year-old Spencer Harrison of Shreveport who showed his incredible love of all things UPS.

Their stories are inspirational and truly the kind of Good Stuff we love.

You can watch The Good Stuff reports every Monday night on KSLA News 12 at 10.

ArkLaTex veterans compete in Golden Age Games

A small crowd gathered in front of Overton Brooks VA Medical Center on a Thursday morning in August to send off a team of athletes representing the ArkLaTex in the annual Golden Age Games — a series of 21 olympic-style events for veterans 55 years old and older.

“We’re going to have a good time, and that’s what I tell people,” said Army veteran Walter Hood, “I can’t guarantee you I’ll win anything but I can’t guarantee that I have a good time I guarantee everybody does.”

The day Amanda Carney died

It was a life full of promise, but in 2017, Amanda Carney’s life was taken during a violent prison escape at the David Wade Correctional Center in Claiborne Parish.

Folks in her hometown of Homer, Louisiana, just ten miles away from the prison, say there’s still a lot of questions about what happened the day Amanda died.

This year, KSLA Investigated her death and the ongoing investigation as prison officials and law enforcement are saying little about the brutal events that that took Amanda’s life.

Our investigation revealed new details in the case, and a retired FBI agent walked us through them.

Paying respect to the Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin performs at the world premiere of "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" at Radio City Music Hall, during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in New York.
Aretha Franklin performs at the world premiere of "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" at Radio City Music Hall, during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in New York.

“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit on August 16. She was 76.

She had been critically ill recently and had been receiving hospice care in her home.

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.” the family said in a statement.

The “Queen of Soul” was an 18-time Grammy winner with gospel roots and had an inarguable impact on popular culture.

“America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring,” former President Barack Obama said in part. “In her voice, we could hear our history, all of it, and in every shade - our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each mother, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”

American hero laid to rest

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite). Members of the public walk past the flag-draped casket bearing the remains of John McCain of Arizona, who lived and worked in Congress over four decades, in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite). Members of the public walk past the flag-draped casket bearing the remains of John McCain of Arizona, who lived and worked in Congress over four decades, in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

John McCain — the Vietnam POW turned longtime Arizona politician and 2008 Republican presidential nominee — died on August 25 shortly after discontinuing treatment for brain cancer.

McCain was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center in December 2017 after experiencing side effects from his cancer therapy. He had surgery in July 2017 for a blood clot and was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same brain cancer that claimed the life of former senator Ted Kennedy.

As a Navy pilot in the Vietnam war, McCain was shot down over Hanoi in October of 1967 while on his 23rd bombing mission inside a Skyhawk dive bomber. He ejected from the plane, which knocked him unconscious and broke both his arms and a leg. He landed in a lake in the corner of the capital of North Vietnam, he said in recalling the incident.

McCain was taken prisoner and stayed in the infamous Hanoi Hilton while in captivity for more than five years.

George and Barbara Bush die months apart

A final salute is rendered by the honor guard standing watch over the flag-draped casket of the late president, George H.W. Bush, as the public viewing comes to an end at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A final salute is rendered by the honor guard standing watch over the flag-draped casket of the late president, George H.W. Bush, as the public viewing comes to an end at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Source: J. Scott Applewhite)

President George H.W. Bush died November 30 at the age of 94. His wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, died on April 17 at 92.

In his eulogy at Washington National Cathedral, former President George W. Bush mixed humor and seriousness in talking of his father.

“He was a genuinely optimistic man. ... He strongly believed it was important to give back ... For us, his was the brightest of the thousand points of light,” Bush said. “He valued character over pedigree and he was not a cynic. He looked for the good in everybody, and usually he found it.”

Bush was the 41st President of the United States.

Brett Kavanaugh elevated to Supreme Court amid controversy

Judge Brett Kavanaugh became Justice Kavanaugh following his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump and a lengthy and bitter confirmation process.

Kavanaugh’s nomination was embroiled in sexual assault allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh assaulted her while he was in High School.

The tense confirmation battle came to a climax with dueling testimonies by Ford and Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27.

After much debate, the Committee voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination and he was confirmed by the full Senate before being sworn in on October 6.

A crisis at the Southern border

ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15: A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
ESQUIPULAS, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 15: A caravan of more than 1,500 Honduran migrants moves north after crossing the border from Honduras into Guatemala on October 15, 2018 in Esquipulas, Guatemala. The caravan, the second of 2018, began Friday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with plans to march north through Guatemala and Mexico en route to the United States. Honduras has some of the highest crime and poverty rates in Latin America. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) (Source: John Moore)

From a caravan of migrants to family separation, 2018 was marked by an ongoing crisis at the country’s southern border.

In June, images of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border haunted both the public and elected officials.

In October, thousands of migrants marched north as part of a caravan that originated in Honduras and headed fore the U.S.-Mexico border.

The border battle turned even more tragic in December when two children from Central America died while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody.

KSLA investigation reveals distraught mothers still searching for justice

Extended: Unfulfilled Justice

KSLA Investigates filed a public records request with the Caddo district attorney’s office to see how man murder cases get dismissed by the grand jury.

We found that 1 in 4 murder suspects arrested in Caddo Parish since the beginning of 2016 walked away free.

We revealed these numbers in a three-part investigation and shared the heartbreaking stories of three mothers as they continue to search for justice.

Slain couple found in burning car

Kelly and Heather Jose were found in a burning car in Shreveport in November. Investigators believe that the couple were murdered after giving a man a ride when they were shopping at Mall St. Vincent.
Kelly and Heather Jose were found in a burning car in Shreveport in November. Investigators believe that the couple were murdered after giving a man a ride when they were shopping at Mall St. Vincent.

The bodies of Kelly Jose, 43 and Heather Jose, 33 were found in a burning vehicle on Penick Street in Shreveport on November 8.

Investigators believe that the couple were murdered after giving a man a ride when they were shopping at Mall St. Vincent.

Dewayne Willie Watkins, 34, was charged in connection of the Jose’s deaths.

Watkins was taken into custody following a nearly six hour standoff inside a home in Penick Street.

According to SPD, Watkins was trying to escape by burrowing through the floor of the home.

Devastating wildfires scorch California

President Donald Trump talks to Mayor Jody Jones as he visits a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks to Mayor Jody Jones as he visits a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A massive wildfire killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes in Northern California after burning for more than two weeks in November.

The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century killed at least 85 people, and 249 are on a list of those unaccounted for.

The fire began Nov. 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles (620 square kilometers), destroying most of Paradise in a day.

Massive fire engulfs Bossier City Church

On the morning of December 10, a Bossier City megachurch went up in flames.

Crews got the call to First Bossier Church, located in the 2800 block of East Texas Street about 5:30 that morning.

According to Bossier City Fire Department Spokeswoman Traci Landry, the fire was placed under control around 7:45 a.m.

An investigation determined the origin and cause of the fire was an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery back-up for a computer in an office space.

The fire then rapidly spread to the attic and other buildings on the property, based on fire patterns at the scene.

No injuries were reported.

Flames were visible from Interstate 20 at the height of the fire, while a total of 19 Bossier City fire units and along with 11 from Shreveport arrived on scene to to assist with efforts.

Keachi church destroyed in fire

Blaze destroys nearly 140-year-old church in Keachi

Another ArkLaTex church was also affected by a fire this year.

The Mount Sinai Baptist Church was severely damaged when the building was engulfed in flames in April.

No injuries were reported.

Ron Young says farewell to KSLA viewers

November 30 was Meteorologist Ron Young’s last day at KSLA News 12. He retired after working for the station for 15 years.

Young earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas and his broadcast meteorology credentials from Mississippi State University.

“My fear of storms has been replaced with a respect for the many faces of weather,” he said.

Young says he believes in volunteerism in the communities KSLA News 12 serves and always tries to give back what has been afforded him.

Shreveport elects new mayor

Adrian Perkins elected Mayor of Shreveport
Adrian Perkins elected Mayor of Shreveport

Adrian Perkins defeated incumbent Ollie Tyler in Saturday’s runoff election to win the race for Shreveport Mayor on December 8.

Perkins won the race by a wide margin, receiving 64 percent of the vote, compared to Tyler’s 36 percent.

Tyler and Perkins emerged as the top two candidates in the November 6 general election, advancing to the runoff ahead of six other candidates. Perkins received 29 percent of the vote in November compared to Tyler’s 24 percent.

“If anyone wondered whether Shreveport lost hope, tonight is their answer," said Perkins on election night.

Perkins will assume office before the end of the year.

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