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Crime
Armed man yells 'Kill me!' before Omaha police fatally shoot him; woman found dead inside unit

When they knocked on the door of an apartment near 24th and Evans Streets late Tuesday, Omaha police investigating a domestic disturbance heard a woman scream and then say, “No, Terry.”

The officers knocked again and repeated that they were police officers. They again heard the woman say, “No, Terry” before they kicked open the door. The officers immediately heard gunfire and moved away from the doorway.

A 57-year-old man then came out of the apartment with a gun in his hand, police said, and two of the three responding officers fired at him. The shots struck and killed Terry Hudson.

Shortly thereafter, the officers found Dana Wells, 58, dead in the apartment from a gunshot wound.

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During the incident, police said, one of the officers was shot in the left leg and taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The police press release doesn’t say who fired the shot that hit the officer, but the only people it mentions firing a gun are the two police officers.

Officer Joshua Ames, a nine-year veteran of the department, was the officer who was shot in the leg. In 2013, he was recognized for outstanding police work.

The other officers were Matthew Ajuoga and Jacob Sunderman, both three-year veterans of the department.

The three officers had gone to the fifth floor of Evans Tower, an Omaha Housing Authority property at 3600 N. 24th St., at 10:10 p.m. Tuesday to investigate a disturbance involving an armed man. After the shootings, witnesses told investigators that they saw Hudson with a gun shortly before they called 911.

One witness said Hudson and Wells were having a verbal and physical altercation when Hudson retrieved a gun from under a piece of furniture in the apartment. Another witness heard and saw the two arguing in the hallway, during which Hudson placed Wells in a chokehold. The witness reported trying to calm Hudson, but Hudson pointed the gun at the witness and then at Wells, police said.

The witness also heard the officers knocking on the apartment door and heard Hudson yell, “Kill me!” just before the shooting occurred in the hallway, police reported.

OMAHA POLICE DEPARTMENT 

A still from body-worn camera footage captured during the New Year’s Eve incident. Gunfire in Evans Tower left two people dead and injured a police officer. It’s unclear who shot the officer.

The press release noted that all officers involved were wearing body cameras, which were activated and recording during the incident. The camera footage captured Hudson yelling, “Kill me!” as he came out of the apartment, corroborating the statement of the witness, police said.

A small gun was recovered near Hudson’s body, police said.

The incident was the only shooting in which Omaha police officers fired at someone during 2019.

Joanie Poore, CEO of the Omaha Housing Authority, said Hudson didn’t live at Evans Tower, and she didn’t know how he got into the building. The building has a locked door that requires a key card to open, but residents can let in guests.

OHA board member Eric Burgin, who lives in a different OHA tower and is the designated resident representative on the board, visited Evans Tower on Wednesday afternoon. He said he had received many calls from upset and worried residents.

“They don’t feel safe anymore,” Burgin said. “They’re not safe. … We need to do more to secure these buildings, not just this building, but all of them.”

Burgin and an Evans Tower resident said someone had shot at the door of another apartment in Evans Tower about a month ago.

Burgin and the Evans resident, who is in his 60s, said they didn’t know if the door shooting had been reported to police but said the damaged door had been replaced.

Poore said the vast majority of incidents at OHA properties involve people who don’t live in them. She said the agency has been working for several months on increasing security at all OHA properties, including controlling access and adding more cameras.

Police said Officers Ames, Ajuoga and Sunderman have been placed on administrative leave, per departmental policy.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine has been briefed on the incident, police said. The Nebraska State Patrol is assisting the Omaha Police Department’s officer-involved investigation team and the homicide unit with the investigation.

State law requires a grand jury investigation of any in-custody death.

More information will be released once an autopsy, ballistic tests and officer interviews are completed, police said.

World-Herald staff writer Christopher Burbach contributed to this report.

Notable crime news of 2019

Articles
In 2019, ways to wealth got weird as rich got richer
Junkyards and 'Baby Shark' made a fortune, underscoring huge growth

The leveraging of a giant social media presence, a catchy tune about a family of sharks and a burgeoning collection of junkyards are just a few of the curious ways that helped make 2019 a fertile year for fortunes to blossom around the world.

Kylie Jenner became the youngest self-made billionaire last year after her company, Kylie Cosmetics, signed an exclusive partnership with Ulta Beauty Inc. She then sold a 51% stake for $600 million.

It has been almost two months since the Washington Nationals captured their first World Series championship, but people around the world are still singing along to the baseball team's adopted rallying cry: "Baby Shark, doodoo doo-doo doo-doo." The Korean family that helped popularize the viral earworm are now worth about $125 million.

Even car wrecks proved to be a treasure trove. Willis Johnson, the gold chain-wearing Oklahoma native who founded Copart Inc., has amassed a $1.9 billion fortune by building a network of junk-yards to sell damaged autos.

The emergence of atypical fortunes underscores just how much money the uber-rich accumulated in 2019.

And the richer they were at the start of the year, the richer they got. The world's 500 wealthiest people tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index added $1.2 trillion, boosting their collective net worth 25% to $5.9 trillion.

Such gains are sure to add fuel to the already heated debate about widening wealth and income inequality. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since 1929, prompting some politicians to call for a radical restructuring of the economy.

"The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of people's lives," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, said in a Dec. 12 tweet as the United Kingdom began to vote.

But the defeat of Britain's socialist opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whose campaign included attacks on billionaires and calls to "rewrite the rules of our economy," gave an added boost to megafortunes.

Leading the 2019 gains was France's Bernard Arnault, who added $36.5 billion as he rose on the Bloomberg index to become the world's third-richest person and one of three centibillionaires — those with a net worth of at least $100 billion.

In all, just 52 people on the ranking saw their fortunes decline in 2019.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos was down almost $9 billion, but that drop is because of his divorce settlement with MacKenzie Bezos. The e-commerce titan still ended the year as the world's richest person after Amazon shares jumped last week. The company reported a "record-breaking" holiday season, with billions of items shipped and "tens of millions" of Amazon devices like the Echo Dot sold. Here's what the year looked like for the 0.001%:

2019 winners

The 172 American billionaires on the Bloomberg ranking added $500 billion, with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg up $27.3 billion and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates up $22.7 billion.

Representation from China continued to grow, with the nation's contingent rising to 54, second only to the U.S. He Xiangjian, founder of China's biggest air conditioner exporter, was the standout performer, as his wealth surged 79% to $23.3 billion.

Russia's richest added $51 billion, a collective increase of 21%, as emerging-market assets from currencies to stocks and bonds rebounded in 2019 after posting big losses a year earlier.

2019 declines

Rupert Murdoch's personal fortune dropped by about $10 billion after proceeds from Walt Disney's purchase of Fox assets were distributed to his six children, making them billionaires in their own right.

Interactive Brokers Group's Thomas Peterffy saw his wealth slump by $2.1 billion as investors weighed a reshaped competitive landscape for brokerage businesses after rival Charles Schwab eliminated commissions and agreed to buy Omaha-based TD Ameritrade.

WeWork's Adam Neumann saw his fortune implode — at least on paper — as the struggling office-sharing company's valuation dropped to $8 billion in October from an estimated $47 billion at the start of the year. Still, SoftBank Group's rescue package left Neumann's status as a billionaire intact.

New billionaires

White Claw, the "hard seltzer" that was the hit of the summer among millennials, helped boost Anthony von Mandl's net worth to $3.6 billion.

Mastering the art of fast-food deliveries proved rewarding for Jitse Groen, whose soaring Takeaway. com lifted his wealth to $1.5 billion.

The popularity of soy milk gave eight members of Hong Kong's Lo family a combined $1.5 billion.

Despite the widespread gains, plenty of the world's richest people may be happy to wave farewell to 2019. The year included messy details of the Bezos divorce and the Jeffrey Epstein saga, which enveloped a who's who of financiers and entrepreneurs after the convicted pedophile was arrested in July by federal agents after stepping off his private jet at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

Through it all, their bank balances remained robust, as a record bull market got a December kick with an easing of trade tensions between the U.S. and China, a resolution to Britain's political stalemate and a blowout U.S. jobs report.


Articles
In 2016, Iowa swung intensely to Trump. Will it swing back?
CAMPAIGN 2020

For first time, Iowa Dems can caucus at out-of-state satellites. Midlands

DESMOINES (AP) — Few states have changed politically with the head-snapping speed of Iowa. With the Iowa caucuses only five weeks away, we'll soon know whether it has changed again.

In 2008, its voters propelled Barack Obama to the White House, as an overwhelmingly white state validated the candidacy of the first black president. A year later, Iowa's Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage, adding a voice of Midwestern sensibility to a national shift in public sentiment. In 2012, Iowa backed Obama again.

All that change proved too much, too fast, and it came as the Great Recession punished agricultural areas, shook the foundations of rural life and stoked a roiling sense of grievance.

By 2016, Donald Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Republicans were in control of the governor's mansion and Legislature and held all but one U.S. House seat. For the first time since 1980, both U.S. Senate seats were in GOP hands.

What happened? Voters were slow to embrace Obama's signature health care law. The recession depleted college-educated voters as a share of the rural population, and Republicans successfully painted Democrats as the party of coastal elites.

Those forces combined for a swift Republican resurgence and helped create a wide lane for Trump.

The self-proclaimed billionaire populist ended up carrying Iowa by a larger percentage of the vote than in Texas, winning 93 of Iowa's 99 counties, including places like working-class Dubuque and Wapello Counties, where no Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower had won.

But now, as Democrats turn their focus to Iowa's Feb. 3 caucuses that begin the process of selecting Trump's challenger, could the state be showing furtive signs of swinging back? Caucus turnout will provide some early measures of Democratic enthusiasm, and of what kind of candidate Iowa's Democratic voters — who have a good record of picking the Democratic nominee — believe has the best chance against Trump.

If Iowa's rightward swing has stalled, it could be a foreboding sign for Trump in other upperMidwestern states he carried by much smallermargins andwould need to win again.

"They've gone too far to the right and there is the slow movement back," Tom Vilsack, the only two-term Democratic governor in the past 50 years, said of Republicans. "This is an actual correction."

In 2018, Iowans unseated two Republican U.S. House members — and nearly a third — in midterm elections in which more Iowa voters in the aggregate chose a Democrat for federal office for the first time in a decade.

In doing so, Iowans sent the state's first Democratic women to Congress: Cindy Axne, who dominated Des Moines and its suburbs, and Abby Finkenauer, who won in several working-class counties Trump carried.

Democrats won 14 of the 31 Iowa counties that Trump won in 2016 but Obama won in 2008, though Trump's return to the ballot in 2020 could change all that.

"We won a number of legislative challenge races against incumbent Republicans," veteran Iowa Democratic campaign consultant Jeff Link said. "I think that leaves little question Iowa is up for grabs next year."

There's more going on in Iowa that simply a cyclical swing.

Iowa's metropolitan areas, some of the fastest growing in the country over the past two decades, have given birth to a new political front where Democrats saw gains in 2018.

The once-GOP-leaning suburbs and exurbs, especially to the north and west of Des Moines and the corridor linking Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa in Iowa City, swelled with college-educated adults in the past decade, giving rise to a new class of rising Democratic leaders.

"I don't believe it was temporary," Iowa State University economist David Swenson said of Democrats' 2018 gains in suburban Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. "I think it is the inexorable outcome of demographic and educational shifts that have been going on."

The Democratic caucuses will provide a test of how broad the change may be.

"I think it would be folly to say Iowa is not a competitive state," said John Stineman, a veteran Iowa GOP campaign operative and political data analyst who is unaffiliated with the Trump campaign but has advised presidential and congressional campaigns over the past 25 years. "I believe Iowa is a swing state in 2020."

For now, that is not a widely held view, as Iowa has shown signs of losing its swing state status.

In the 1980s, it gave rise to a populist movement in rural areas from the left, the ascent of the religious right as a political force and the start of an enduring rural-urban balance embodied by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Now, after a decadelong Republican trend, there are signs of shifting alliances in people like Jenny O'Toole.

The 48-year-old insurance industry employee from suburban Cedar Rapids stood on the edge of the scrum surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden last spring, trying to get a glimpse as he shook hands and posed for pictures.

"I was a Republican. Not any more," O'Toole said. "I'm socially liberal but economically conservative. That's what I'm looking for."

O'Toole is among those current and former Republicans who dot Democratic presidential events, from Iowa farm hubs to working-class river towns to booming suburbs.

Janet Cosgrove, a 75-year-old Episcopal minister from Atlantic, in western Iowa, and Judy Hoakison, a 65-year-old farmer from rural southwest Iowa, are Republicans who caught Mayor Pete Buttigieg's recent trip.

If such voters are a quiet warning to Trump in Iowa, similar symptoms in Wisconsin and Michigan, where Democrats also made 2018 gains, could be even more problematic.

Vilsack has seen his state change dramatically. After 30 years of Republican dominance in Iowa's governor's mansion, he was elected in 1998 as a former small-city mayor and pragmatic state senator.

An era of partisan balance in Iowa took hold, punctuated by Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's 4,144-vote victory in Iowa in 2000, and George W. Bush's 10,059-vote margin when he was reelected in 2004.

After the 2006 national wave swept Democrats into total Statehouse control for the first time in 50 years, the stage was set for Obama's combination of generational change, his appeal to anti-Iraq War sentiment and the historic opportunity to elect the first African American president.

"We were like a conquering army, prepared to negotiate terms of surrender," said Cedar Rapids Democrat Dale Todd, an early Obama supporter and adviser.

Todd was one of a collection of Iowa Democratic activists who gathered at a downtown Des Moines sports bar last year to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Obama's historic caucus campaign.

Just across the Des Moines River at the State Capitol, there was a reminder of how much the ground had shifted since those heady days.

Republicans control all of state government for the first time in 20 years. Part of their wholesale conservative agenda has included stripping public employee unions of nearly all bargaining rights, establishing new voter restrictions and outlawing abortion six weeks into a pregnancy.

It was in line with Republican takeovers in states such as Wisconsin that were completed earlier but traced their beginnings to the same turbulent summer of 2009.

On a Wednesday in August that year, throngs flocked to Grassley's typically quiet annual county visits to protest his work with Democrats on health care legislation.

Thousands representing the emerging Tea Party forced Grassley's last event from a community center in the small town of Adel to the town park, where some booed the typically popular senator and held signs stating, "Grassley, you're fired."

The events became a national symbol for uneasiness about the new president's signature policy goal.

The previous April, Iowa's nine-member Supreme Court — Democratic and Republican appointees — had unanimously declared same-sex marriage legal in the state. A year later, Christian conservatives successfully campaigned to oust the three Supreme Court justices facing retention, waving the marriage decision as their cause.

In 2014, Democrats had high expectations of holding the retiring Harkin's Senate seat. But Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley lacked Harkin's populist appeal and was beaten by State Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iraq War veteran from rural Iowa who painted Braley as an elitist lawyer.

By 2016, Republicans had completed their long-sought Statehouse takeover, in part by beating longtime Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.

"We tried in many cases to win suburbia, but we just couldn't lay a glove on it," Gronstal said. "We just could not figure out how to crack it in Iowa."

The answer for Democrats in Iowa is much the same as the rest of the country: growing, vote-rich suburbs.

Dallas County, west of Des Moines, has grown by 121% since 2000, converting from a checkerboard of farms into miles of car dealerships, strip malls, megachurches and waves of similarly styled housing developments.

It had been a Republican county. However, last year, long-held Republican Iowa House districts in Des Moines' western suburbs fell to Democrats.

It was the culmination of two decades of shifting educational attainment with political implications.

Since 2000, the number of Iowans with at least a college degree in urban and suburban areas grew by twice the rate of rural areas, according to U.S. Census data and an Iowa State University study.

Last year, a third of urban and suburban Iowans had a college diploma, up from 25% at the dawn of the metropolitan boom in 2000. Rural Iowans had inched up to just 20% from 16% during that period.

"The more that occurs, the more you get voter participation leaning toward Democratic outcomes than has historically been in the past," Swenson said, noting the higher likelihood of college-educated voters to lean Democratic.

Since 2016 alone, registered Democrats in Dallas County have increased 15%, compared with Republicans' 2%. Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the county, but independent voters have leaped by 20% and for the first time outnumber Republicans.

"There is now a third front," Gronstal said. "We can fight in those toss-up rural areas, hold our urban base, but now compete in those quintessentially suburban districts."

Though Trump's return to the ballot in 2020 shakes up the calculus, his approval in Iowa has remained around 45% or lower. A sub-50% rating is typically problematic for an incumbent.

Another warning for Trump, GOP operative Stineman noted, is the Des Moines Register/CNN/ Mediacom Iowa Poll's November finding that only 76% of self-identified Republicans said they would definitely vote to reelect him next year.

With no challenger and 10 months until the election, a lot can change.

"Still, that's one in four of your family that's not locked down," Stineman said.

There are also signs that Iowa Democrats have shaken some of the apathy that helped Trump and hobbled Clinton in Iowa in 2016.

Democratic turnout in 2018 leaped from the previous midterm in 2014 from 57% to 68%, according to the Iowa secretary of state. Republican turnout, which is typically higher, also rose, but by a smaller margin.

Overall turnout in Iowa, as in more reliably Democratic-voting presidential states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, was down in 2016, due mostly to a downturn in Democratic participation.

"The trend was down, across the board," said Ann Selzer, who has conducted the Register's Iowa Poll for more than 25 years. "So it doesn't takemuch to create aDemocratic victory in these upperMidwestern states."

"I think the success in the midterms kind of made people on the Democratic side believe that 'we can do it,' " Selzer said.

Perhaps, but Trump has his believers, too.


Crime
The 2010s: The region's criminal and civil cases were unimaginable and unforgettable

It’s staggering to remember. Two murder cases involving four victims each — practically overlapping each other.

In 2013, Omaha endured a summer of coldblooded, craven chaos. That July, Omaha police closed in on Dr. Anthony Garcia, the former pathologist responsible for the May 2013 deaths of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65. Their capture of a killer came after they missed tips that could have led them to Garcia as the culprit in the March 2008 slayings of Thomas Hunter, 11, and Shirlee Sherman, 57.

Just a couple of weeks after Garcia’s arrest, another lightning bolt of a killer struck. Nikko Jenkins was released from a Nebraska prison after spending more than half of his 12 years there in solitary confinement. Within three weeks, he had killed four Omahans.

Seemingly lost in that summer shuffle was a meth-addled gunman walking down South Omaha streets and shooting four bystanders — killing Anthony Vazzano, 25, who was mowing a lawn near 34th and F Streets, and Pascual Bautista-Raymundo, 25, in an alley near 33rd and E Streets. Jorge Abraham Zarazua-Rubio had walked about a mile and undoubtedly would have killed more, prosecutors say. But he was stopped when Omaha Police Officer Coral Walker opened fire and killed him.

“We had three serial killers in Omaha, Nebraska, that summer,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said. “It was a crazy time.”

Yes, 2013 was an incredible, can’t-make-this-stuff-up year in crime and court cases. In deference to that unbelievable year, the World-Herald has compiled 13 criminal or civil cases that were the most unsettling of the past decade.

Anthony J. Garcia

1. Anthony Garcia

On March 13, 2008, a man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase killed Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in Dr. William Hunter’s home, rocking the idyllic Dundee neighborhood.

Five years later, on Mother’s Day 2013, the killer struck again, killing the retiring chairman of Creighton University’s pathology department and his wife.

Omaha police formed a task force and zeroed in on Garcia as one of a handful of potentially disgruntled former residents of the pathology unit. A Terre Haute, Indiana, stripper and a trove of evidence in Garcia’s home led to his 2016 conviction in all four murders. Garcia now sits on death row.

A 2018 Omaha World-Herald book revealed that Omaha police could have had Garcia in their sights after the first set of killings. 

Nikko Jenkins

2. Nikko Jenkins

The tattoo-faced felon took his disturbing behavior in prison — where he attacked guards and was such a disciplinary nightmare that he was in solitary confinement for more than half of his stay — to the streets of Omaha.

Within 10 days of his release, he struck.

After his sister and cousin lured Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena to a South Omaha park on the pretense of having sex, Jenkins executed the men with shotgun blasts to their heads. He then killed a former prison mate, Curtis Bradford, in northeast Omaha and shot and killed Andrea Kruger, a mother of three, at 168th and Fort Streets.

Law enforcement ultimately connected him to the four murders through 12-gauge ammunition that was found at all three scenes. Jenkins’ sister declared him the state’s Frankenstein — and Nebraska’s Legislature held several hearings to examine his treatment, or lack thereof, in prison.

Robert Butler Jr.

3. Millard South shooting

The American epidemic of school shootings hit Omaha in 2011. Robert Butler Jr., son of an Omaha police officer, had been suspended from school for 19 days for driving on the football field. The morning he was informed of his discipline, the younger Butler went to his father’s apartment, took his dad’s duty weapon, returned to Millard South and shot the school’s then-principal, Curtis Case, and vice principal, Vicki Kaspar. Case survived. Kaspar died. Butler, 17, then shot and killed himself.

The shooting left questions as to why the elder Butler hadn’t locked up his duty weapon and why Butler, who had lived in Lincoln with his mother and had been getting in trouble at Lincoln Southwest, had transferred to Millard South for his senior year.

4. Aubrey Trail and Bailey Boswell

The 25-year-old Boswell is accused of luring Sydney Loofe, 24, a clerk at a Lincoln Menards, in November 2017 on the pretense of dating her, then participating in her killing and dismemberment. Loofe’s body was found spread out in several garbage bags across a rural area 50 miles west of Wilber, Nebraska.

Boswell’s boyfriend, Aubrey Trail, 54, was convicted this year of first-degree murder and is awaiting a death penalty hearing. Testimony from three women who hung out and traveled with the couple said the duo claimed to have a harem of a dozen “witches.” Trail disrupted his own trial by slashing his neck. Boswell is awaiting trial.

Zachary BearHeels

5. Zachary BearHeels

BearHeels was acting erratically in June 2017 when he was kicked off a bus in Omaha on his way from South Dakota, where he was visiting relatives, to his mother’s home in Oklahoma City. Three Omaha police officers found him speaking gibberish and licking the window of a business that afternoon. They gave him water and let him walk away.

Hours later, four Omaha police officers found him outside a Bucky’s gas station, dancing and incoherent. After putting him in handcuffs and into a cruiser, an Omaha officer spoke with his mother, who informed her that BearHeels suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and was off his medications.

Scotty Payne

The officer asked Sgt. Erik Forehead if they should seek to commit BearHeels to a mental health facility as a danger to himself or others. The sergeant declined and the officer decided to try to put him back on the bus. As she opened a cruiser door to put his seat belt on, BearHeels walked out of the car. Officers tried to corral him, a struggle ensued and Officer Scotty Payne fired his Taser 12 times.

BearHeels died minutes after paramedics were called. After a November 2018 trial, a jury acquitted Payne. Now Payne and three other officers — Jennifer Strudl, Ryan McClarty and Makyla Mead — are awaiting an arbitrator’s decision to see if they get their jobs back.

Brandon Weathers

6. DNA collection leads to serial rapist’s conviction

In May 2017, The World-Herald revealed that for 20 years, state corrections officials had allowed 73 prisoners to defy state law by simply saying “no” when jailers asked them to submit DNA samples that are required to be collected from convicted felons.

A push by Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine resulted in state officials’ collecting the DNA. Months later, sex offender Brandon Weathers — who was convicted in the repeated rapes of a 13-year-old foster daughter — tried to refuse to submit his DNA. Corrections officers held him down and, voilà, the DNA they collected led to Weathers’ arrest in the serial rapes of four Omaha women from 2002 to 2004. Convicted of those vicious crimes, Weathers will spend the rest of his life in prison.

7. Teachers/school authorities accused of behaving criminally

Shad Knutson

Teasing and texting. Grooming and groping. Reeling in minors and, in some cases, raping them. Four Omaha Public Schools teachers — Shad Knutson, Brian Robeson, Daryl Clark and Greg Sedlacek — all were convicted after abusing current or former students.

Andrea Lightfoot Knecht

A Millard South High School assistant principal, Matt Fedde, was convicted after he repeatedly had sex at the school with a 15-year-old sophomore.

And a former Omaha Marian assistant basketball coach, Andrea Lightfoot, now Andrea Knecht, is awaiting trial on allegations that she sexually assaulted a then-freshman at the all-girls private school.

8. Doctors accused of behaving badly

Dr. Mark Dietrich — a former orthopedic surgeon who practiced throughout Omaha — is awaiting trial in several civil cases on accusations that he touched girls’ and women’s private parts with his gloveless hands while they were under anesthesia. Four former patients have filed lawsuits against Dietrich, OrthoNebraska or Nebraska Medical Center. Dietrich has denied wrongdoing. Authorities have not charged him criminally.

In another set of civil cases, about 15 women have sued Dr. Gerard Stanley Jr., accusing him of not being qualified to perform plastic surgery and of disfiguring the women. Stanley’s attorneys have called the claims meritless. The lawsuits are pending. Stanley closed his clinic in late 2017 and filed for bankruptcy in July, listing $59,000 in assets and $800,000 in debts.

9. Undocumented immigrants accused of behaving criminally

Eswin Mejia

Two young women lost their lives, allegedly at the hands of undocumented immigrants. Their families responded in opposite ways.

After having just graduated from Bellevue University, Sarah Root, 21, died in January 2016 after Eswin Mejia drove drunk and crashed into her car near 33rd and L Streets in Omaha. Officials say the 19-year-old from Honduras was in the country illegally. Judge Jeffrey Marcuzzo set Mejia’s bail at $5,000 — and Mejia posted the money to get out and never returned.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera

In Iowa, a University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was kidnapped and killed in July 2018. Officials say a man in the country illegally — Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24 — killed Tibbetts.

In the wake of Sarah Root’s death, her family has joined President Donald Trump’s calls for tougher immigration laws. Tibbetts’ parents have rejected attempts to “politicize” Tibbetts’ death, noting that American citizens are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants.

10. Murder cases without a body

Joshua Keadle

Joshua Keadle, a troubled college student with a history of sexual assault, is awaiting trial in the disappearance and presumed death of Ty Thomas, a 21-year-old Peru State student who was last seen in December 2010.

Shanna Golyar

Shanna Golyar was convicted after a bizarre case in which she posed as the woman she killed: 43-year-old Macedonia, Iowa, resident Cari Farver. After killing Farver in November 2012, it appeared that Golyar wrapped her body in a tarp and burned it, though no body was ever found. She then tried to keep authorities at bay for years by posing as Farver, vandalizing her own property, setting fire to her residence and shooting herself in the leg.

Marvin Young

Camisha Hollis disappeared in April 2018 after a turbulent relationship with her boyfriend, Marvin Young, a man described as abusive and controlling. Numerous searches have not turned up Hollis. Young, who has pleaded not guilty, is expected to go to trial in 2020 on a charge of first-degree murder.

11. Embezzlers

Thieves took their embezzlements to staggering six- and seven-figure dollar levels over the past 10 years.

The former pharmacy director at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Lisa Kwapniowski, devised a scheme in which she set up a fake company and billed the hospital for a fake drug. The 49-year-old took more than $4.6 million from 2010 to 2018.

Patrick Meschede

Other embezzlers of the decade included:

  • The late Patrick Meschede, who was convicted in 2010 of taking $900,000 from the Moylan Ice Complex at Tranquility Park.

Jerome P. "Joe" Bonnett

Patricia Urbanovsky

  • Patricia Urbanovsky, a wedding planner who conned about $4.7 million via a bogus airline voucher program.

Caroline K. Richardson

  • Caroline Richardson, who stole $4.1 million while serving as accountant at Colombo Candy & Tobacco.

Attorneys say Kwapniowski used her theft to relieve financial stress and kept stealing because it was intoxicating; Meschede and Urbanovsky used their thefts to buy lavish goods; Bonnett used his in sort of a Ponzi scheme; Molnar used his as a rainy-day fund; and Richardson used hers to feed her casino gambling compulsion.

THE WORLD-HERALD 

Firefighters continue to battle a fire at the M’s Pub building located near 11th and Howard streets on Jan. 9, 2016.

12. M’s Pub

The 2016 fire did not cause any deaths or serious injuries, but it destroyed the historic building that housed M’s, the next-door retail shop Nouvelle Eve and upstairs condos. The result gutted the heart of Omaha’s Old Market district and left the area cordoned off for months as workers investigated the fire and rebuilt the building.

M’s reopened in 2017 and Nouvelle Eve reopened in 2018. The fire started as a fiber-optic contractor was drilling beneath the streets and sidewalks. It was fed by a ruptured gas line that kept spewing gas as Metropolitan Utilities District workers struggled to find a shut-off valve.

Fifteen lawsuits were filed over the fire and are pending trial in Douglas County District Court.

THE WORLD-HERALD  

Morning light falls on the ice-covered building in the aftermath of a three-alarm fire at the M’s Pub building near 11th and Howard Streets on Jan. 10, 2016.

13. Students behaving criminally

A number of juveniles got into trouble in the past decade — two for shooting at police officers.

But the strangest crime occurred when three Omaha Westside High School students hatched a plot to add a bodily fluid to their frosting in a high-school cooking class in December 2016. Two admitted going through with it; a third said he chickened out. None of them said anything before their teacher, a woman, tasted the frosted turnover. The three freshmen were disciplined and their cases were handled in juvenile court.

20 of our most-read stories of 2019