Readers overwhelmingly were drawn to tragedy and mayhem last year.
From the fatal beating of a World War II veteran and the crash of a Navy jet near Harrington, Wash., to the shooting of a noisy camper by park rangers and a school murder plot hatched by armed youngsters, the Inland Northwest occupied the international spotlight at various times in 2013.
That attention helped propel a handful of Spokesman-Review articles to the top of the most-read list as national websites linked and relinked to online versions of them.
But readers also made time for a heartwarming or quirky tale or two.
As we embark on a new year, here’s a quick look back at the 10 most-read Spokesman-Review stories from 2013, as measured by total online traffic:
1. Houseboat shooting – U.S. park rangers investigating a campground noise complaint shot Casey Hartinger, 43, while trying to board a houseboat near Kettle Falls, Wash., to detain the vessel’s reportedly uncooperative owner, Michael J. Sublie, 41. Hartinger survived, and Sublie is facing federal charges of interfering with law enforcement. The case drew national interest. Federal authorities have yet to provide any explanation for what prompted the shooting, nor have they confirmed that Josh Wentz and Matt Phillipson were the rangers involved.
2. Armed youngsters – Two Colville boys, ages 10 and 11, were caught Feb. 7 with a handgun, ammunition and a knife at Fort Colville Elementary School and told authorities they’d planned to rape and stab a classmate while killing anyone who tried to stop them. Although no one was injured, the case unfolded about two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut and temporarily put Eastern Washington in the international spotlight. Both boys were convicted of conspiring to commit first-degree murder and ordered to serve three to four years in juvenile detention.
3. WWII veteran fatally beaten – Delbert “Shorty” Belton, an 88-year-old World War II veteran, was fatally beaten and robbed Aug. 21 while waiting for a friend outside the Eagles Lodge in Spokane. Two teenagers, Kenan Adams-Kinard and Demetruis Glenn, are charged with his murder and will stand trial as adults. Adams-Kinard reportedly claimed that Belton had ripped them off in a drug deal – an assertion that authorities and the victim’s family say is utter nonsense. The case has drawn international interest, particularly after a handful of Hollywood celebrities began demanding swift justice.
4. Navy jet crash – A Whidbey Island-based Navy EA-6B Prowler jet crashed during training exercises March 8 in a field near Harrington, killing all three crew members: Lt. Valerie Cappelaere Delaney, the 26-year-old pilot, Lt. William Brown McIlvaine III, 24, and Lt. Cmdr. Alan A. Patterson, 34. A military investigation into the crash has yet to be completed.
5. Former NBA star – Craig Ehlo, a former WSU basketball standout and EWU coach who spent 14 years in the NBA, was arrested Aug. 1 outside his rural Spokane home after setting fire to a pile of clothes during a domestic dispute. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was given a suspended one-year jail term.
6. Musician’s untimely death – Musician and writer Isamu Jordan, who fronted the popular hip-hop orchestra The Flying Spiders, showed that Spokane is a place where young, creative artists can flourish. But while his music and DJ services enjoyed growing success, the 37-year-old also battled deep depression and took his own life Sept. 5.
7. Northwest’s “Argo” secret – The movie “Argo,” which tells the story of how U.S. operatives created a fake movie to sneak American diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, brought back memories for columnist Doug Clark. In a Feb. 26 column, Clark shared with readers that more than three decades earlier he’d learned about the hidden diplomats, one of whom had North Idaho roots, but chose to sit on the biggest scoop of his journalism career until all were safely rescued – a decision that, to this day, he doesn’t regret.
8. Idaho shrugged – Legislation was introduced Feb. 5 in the Idaho Legislature that would have required all high schoolers to read Ayn Rand’s anti-government classic, “Atlas Shrugged,” and pass a comprehension test before being able to graduate. It was pitched by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who said he chose the book because it was what made his son “a Republican.” Goedde never pushed the bill further.
9. Creating memories – Aaliyah Johnson’s hopes of playing high school basketball crashed when the Mead student’s doctors diagnosed her with a disease that nearly left her paralyzed. But during a league championship game between Mead and Gonzaga Prep, her coach put her in the game to shoot a basket with her good arm. A Feb. 7 article described how the 18-year-old missed the shot, but also how she’ll never forget her moment on the court.
10. Spokane grifter – Leland’s Barber Shop owner Claudia Kirkebo is stunned when she is conned by Spokane’s hardest-working small-time grifter. No one steals a haircut from Kirkebo. Brandon Pier may have tangled with the wrong woman, who vows to bring justice, not just to her but to the many Spokane residents who have been suckered out of money by him. Columnist Shawn Vestal, who himself gave Pier $20, told the tale Nov. 15.