The Herald's top stories of 2018December 31, 2018
From Local Sources
Much has happened in 2018 in and around Dubois County, and the stories that piqued the interest of Herald readers are varied.
From business closings and openings, the election and even a story about a Jasper man who mows his lawn in a checkered pattern, the list of top stories has something for everyone.
Herald editors considered website analytics — duboiscountyherald.com received nearly 8 million views this year — and significance to the community when compiling this year-in-review list, which is in no particular order. Some of the listed items are single stories, and other are more general topics that generated several stories throughout the year.
November’s election was a popular topic for Herald readers. Indiana’s U.S. Senate race among Republican Mike Braun of Jasper, Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Lucy Brenton made national headlines as Braun and Donnelly continued to degrade one another. Braun came out on top and will take over the seat in January.
Several county races were also decided in November, including the race for Dubois County Sheriff. Republican Tom Kleinhelter defeated Democrat Tim Lampert for the position.
Mayor Terry Seitz resigns
As a direct result of Braun winning the Senate seat, Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz announced in late December that he planned to resign from his post Jan. 1 to take a senior staff position with Braun.
A caucus of Republican committee members met the day after Christmas to choose a new mayor to finish out Seitz’s final year in office. Dean Vonderheide was chosen as the city’s next mayor; other candidates were Nancy Eckerle, Levi Hulsman and Bernie Fallon.
Dubois County has not been immune this year to a changing retail landscape. Carson’s, a department store owned by Bon-Ton and located on the north side of Jasper, closed in late summer after Bon-Ton’s announced bankruptcy. In October, Sear Holdings announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and would close 142 unprofitable Sears and Kmart stores across the country, including the Jasper Kmart. Just a week after the Kmart announcement, Buehler Inc. announced it had also filed for bankruptcy and would close three grocery stores in early November, including the Cash Saver Market in Jasper.
Also in Jasper, Noble Roman’s pizza restaurant served its last customer in March.
Wilson Flowers Inc., a mainstay in the city of Jasper for more than 60 years, closed in late September.
Fat & Sassy, a restaurant in Huntingburg, closed in July after 25 years in business. The same owners closed their kitchen merchandise store, The Stocked Pot, the month before.
While several businesses closed in the area in 2018, others either opened or announced their intentions to open.
In February, Ross Dress for Less announced a store was in the works for the North Ridge Shopping Center on Jasper’s north side. That store has yet to open, however, a sign says it is coming soon.
JOANN Fabrics and Crafts opened a Jasper store in May in the Germantown Shopping Center. And the week before Christmas, Germantown owner Regency Properties announced a T.J. Maxx will open in part of the former Carson’s space in September 2019.
The Wings Etc. restaurant on Jasper’s north side reopened under new ownership this summer after closing unexpectedly in mid-March.
Owners of the Calumet in Jasper announced in August that the historic dance hall would once again come to life.
Built in 1941, the building at 2210 N. Mill St. has been a dance hall, skating rink, restaurant and bar. Now, it is a venue for weddings and other events.
Larry Lillpop of Newburgh bought the 14,000-square-foot building in December 2016, and restored it to its former glory.
Checkered lawn art
Porfirio Deras-Lopez of Jasper is an artist. But instead of using paint and canvas or pencils and a sketchbook to create his masterpieces, he uses his lawn and lawn mower.
For the first mowing season in his new home at 1674 E. Third Ave., Deras-Lopez created a checkerboard pattern in the front yard, mesmerizing passersby.
Birdseye murder arrest
Two people were arrested in June and charged in connection with the July 2017 murder in Birdseye of 49-year-old Darin L. Atkins.
Jason A. Atkins, 40, 16 E. Second St., Birdseye, is charged with a count of murder and a Level 3 felony count of aggravated battery. Sarah K. Andry, 41, Eckerty, is charged with aiding, inducing or causing murder plus a Level 3 felony count of aggravated battery.
Police contend it was widely known in Birdseye that Andry was in a love triangle with Jason A. Atkins and the victim.
The Dubois County Coroner’s Office’s preliminary findings from an autopsy indicated Darin Atkins’ cause of death was a closed head injury by a large, blunt object. As a result, the death was ruled a homicide.
Trials are set for both Jason Atkins and Andry in 2019.
Friz case continues
A Huntingburg dentist and his wife accused of criminal confinement and neglect are slated to face trial in February.
Motions in the case involving Alan P. Friz, 58, and his wife, Aimee Friz, 37, both of 5275 W. County Rd 700 S., Huntingburg, were heard in Crawford Circuit Court during the summer after a change of venue was granted in April.
The case is set for a jury trial Feb. 4.
The couple was arrested in October 2017 and charged with 11 felony counts of neglect and 11 felony counts of criminal confinement after authorities allegedly located a closet area of a bedroom in their home that had been converted into a lockable cage for a female juvenile. Alan Friz was also charged with four felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor after allegations of improper touching.
Connecticut-based Riverview Energy announced in February its plans to bring a $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant to more than 500 acres of land recently annexed into the north side of Dale.
According to the company, the plant would convert coal into diesel fuel and other products.
The proposal has been met with both support and opposition.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management will make a final air permitting decision on the project sometime in 2019.
Viral wedding day photoshoot
Jessica Padgett had been engaged to Kendall Murphy of Montgomery for more than a year before he was killed in the line of duty as a volunteer firefighter for the Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department in November 2017.
Kendall, who was a personal insurance agent at German American Bank’s main office in Jasper, was 27.
When the couple’s wedding day came in late August 2018, Jessica slid on her snow-white dress, had her makeup applied and embarked on an emotional experience that helped her grieve Kendall’s death and inspire others around the world to keep pushing ahead.
Top viewed “For the Record” stories
• 10 charged in bulk fuel tank thefts at Toyota
Warrants were issued Aug. 24 in Dubois Circuit Court charging 10 people in connection with thefts of fuel from a bulk fuel tank at Uebelhor & Sons Toyota.
• Court documents shed light on infant’s death
Court documents shed additional light on charges filed against two Jasper residents after the death of their 3-month-old child in July.
• Doctor arrested in 2016 opioid case pleads guilty
The August 2016 case against a Jasper doctor charged for offenses involving the narcotic drug oxycodone ended May 7 with a plea agreement involving lesser charges.
• French Lick man dies after accidental gunshot
A 21-year-old French Lick man died April 20 after being accidentally shot in the head by a friend while camping.
• Man arrested after threatening couple at mall with gun
An Evansville man was taken into custody peacefully Dec. 14 after threatening a couple with a handgun inside Eastland Mall.
Top sports moments of 2018
• Ahrens retires as Jasper’s coach
After 34 years in some sort of role with the Jasper football team, head coach Tony Ahrens announced his retirement from the Wildcat football program earlier this fall.
Ahrens was the head coach for Jasper for the past 16 seasons, where he compiled a 144-44 record along with three sectional titles, a regional title and seven outright Big Eight Conference championships.
His 144 total wins ranked 31st among all active coaches, and during Ahrens’ tenure, Jasper reached at least 10 wins seven times.
• Southridge’s first-ever trip to state
Shortly after their football team won the Class 2A state championship, the Raiders made another impressive run when their baseball team advanced all the way to the state championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Southridge defeated North Knox for the sectional crown, North Posey for the regional title and Indianapolis Scecina for the semistate championship.
The Raiders nearly pulled off an impressive comeback victory in the state championship game against Boone Grove, but Southridge was defeated 5-4.
• Forest Park’s thrilling ride to the state finals.
The Rangers boys basketball team was nearly ousted in March in its sectional opener against South Spencer, but a buzzer-beating shot by Collin Hochgesang kept Forest Park’s hopes alive.
They followed that with a game-winning three-pointer by Noah Fleck in the sectional championship game to eliminate North Posey, and cruised through the regional and semistate for their fourth state finals appearance.
While the Rangers fell to Oak Hill in the title game, players like Sam Englert and Daniel Lusk broke records along the way, and Dubois County was introduced to then-freshman phenom Curt Hopf.
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