From community-rattling crimes to light-hearted nostalgia for Blockbuster video, 2018 left a mark on Central Oregon. The year was full of political drama, historic votes for mayor in Bend and an eventful visit from Stormy Daniels. Here’s a look back at the year’s top stories.
A missing persons case in Bend turned tragic when the body of 24-year-old Sara Gomez was discovered May 25 in a tarp under a tree off a dirt road east of Bend.
Gomez was reported missing Feb. 20, and police, friends and family spent three months searching a 40-mile area east of Bend and posted fliers across the city.
Police believed Gomez was killed by her ex-boyfriend Bryan Penner, 31, who died by suicide in the Deschutes County jail in March as police worked to build a case against him.
Police found blood and rope in Penner’s Bend apartment during the investigation. Penner and Gomez dated for five years, and Gomez feared for her safety after they broke up.
A hiker spotted Gomez’s body May 25 wrapped in a tarp, comforter, blanket, foam mattress and an inflatable raft, all of which were bound around her body with duct tape, according to the Deschutes County District Attorney Office.
The state medical examiner confirmed in October that Gomez died by homicide, but the exact cause of death is unknown.
House District 54 race
The race for House District 54 — left open when Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, opted to run for governor — was marred by a sexual harassment allegation against one candidate and false claims from another candidate.
Nathan Boddie, a Bend city councilor, won an uncontested Democratic primary in May, and was set to challenge Republican Cheri Helt in the November general election.
In June, the House Democrats’ political campaign committee and a number of liberal groups withdrew their support for Boddie following allegations that he’d engaged in sexist behavior and made homophobic remarks.
In July, he was accused of sexual harassment for allegedly groping a Bend women five years ago while they were talking in a bar. Boddie then lost the support of the Oregon Democrats.
In his place stepped Amanda La Bell, a Working Families Party candidate for House District 54 who immediately received support from Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
Within weeks, The Bulletin reported that La Bell had submitted a false claim in her Voters Pamphlet statement that she had received a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia. La Bell eventually suspended her campaign.
La Bell and Boddie were still listed on the general election ballot. They lost to Helt, a Bend-La Pine School Board member who won the seat by a nearly 2-to-1 vote margin.
Buehler loses governor’s election
Dr. Knute Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon who has represented Bend in the state House since 2014, entered the race for governor and won the Republican nomination. He faced Democratic incumbent Kate Brown in the general election.
Brown defeated Buehler, extending the Democrats’ 36-year winning streak for Oregon’s highest office.
The governor’s race was the most expensive in Oregon history, with nearly $40 million raised between Brown and Buehler. The record funds were fueled by a projected close race for governor.
Buehler campaigned on the message that he was a moderate with little in common with the politics of Republican President Donald Trump.
The governor race was a rematch, of sorts. Brown defeated Buehler in the 2012 race for secretary of state.
Brown then became governor in February 2015 when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid allegations of influence peddling in his administration.
A quiet Bend neighborhood this fall became the scene of a horrific crime.
Bend Police say Tyler Herrick, 31, a former G5 employee who had no criminal history, stalked two neighbors with an AR-15, killing Kyle Adams, 33, before being shot by 31-year-old Brennan Pebbles after entering the neighbor’s bedroom.
About 12:30 a.m. on Oct.20, Herrick entered the neighbor’s home at 20774 NE Sierra Drive.
He woke Adams by walking into his bedroom with an AR-15 and speaking “unintelligible gibberish”.
Adams demanded that Herrick leave, which he eventually did, before Adams texted his roommate, Pebbles.
Pebbles, who left a shift as a bartender at 10 Barrel Brewing, was discussing the break-in with Adams when a bullet flew through the front window, striking Adams in the face at about 1:20 a.m.
Pebbles ran upstairs to grab a handgun as Herrick continued to fire his AR-15. Pebbles shot and killed the Herrick as he roamed through the house, hunting for Pebbles.
It is not clear what Herrick’s motive or mental stability was at the time of the incident.
Blood samples from Herrick’s body await testing at the state crime lab, and could show what substances may have been in his system.
Adams’ family is suing Herrick’s estate for up to $10 million in economic and emotional damages, alleging intoxicants or controlled substances may have played a role in the shooting.
Stormy Daniels, the 39-year-old porn star and stripper at the center of a Trump administration scandal involving a $130,000 hush money payoff, came to Bend in May to perform at Stars Cabaret.
Her performance was delayed by hours because her luggage was lost by an airline, but she finally took the stage after 1 a.m. in front of the crowded club.
That is when a drunk patron threw his wallet at Daniels in the middle of her strip show, cutting her performance short.
The wallet hit Daniels on her ear, and she responded by throwing a beer bottle that missed the patron and hit a nearby wall. Daniels then left the stage. The patron, Rory Honus McCabe, 28, of Bend, told police at the time, “I was being wasted.”
Daniels refused to press charges and McCabe was told to leave and that he would never be allowed to return to Stars.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel submitted a complaint in June with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission accusing the strip club of over-serving alcohol to the patron, destroying video of the incident and allowing the patron’s disorderly behavior.
OLCC concluded Hummel’s allegations were unproven and closed the case.
The Last Blockbuster
The Blockbuster video store in Bend became the last one in America in July, when two Blockbuster stores closed in Alaska.
The store on Third Street in Bend gained international attention as the last one in the nation. Visitors have come from as far away as London and Taiwan, said store manager Sandi Harding.
When the Alaska stores closed, one in Anchorage shipped a collection of Russell Crowe memorabilia to Bend that originally came from the HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
Oliver had purchased the collection from Crowe and gave the items to the Blockbuster store in Anchorage, Alaska, as a way to drum up attention for the store. Oliver kept the oddest item, a leather jockstrap Crowe wore in the 2005 boxing movie, Cinderella man, and used it for a skit with Crowe in November.
Visitors to the Bend Blockbuster can still see the hood Crowe wore in “Robin Hood,” the robe and shorts he wore in “Cinderella Man,” the vest he wore in “Les Misérables” and director chairs for Crowe and actor Denzel Washington from the movie, “American Gangster.”
The Bend Blockbuster is also the focus of a full-length documentary being created by two Bend filmmakers, Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm.
The U.S. Forest Service announced in November a proposed permit-based quota system at 30 of the 80 trailheads across the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas.
The proposal was included in a draft of the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategy Project, a two-year effort to evaluate portions of five wilderness areas spread across the Deschutes and Willamette national forests.
The list of 30 trailheads includes longtime Central Oregon favorites along the Cascade Lakes Highway such as Devils Lake and Green Lake, as well as trails such as Tam McArthur Rim.
In addition, all trailheads in those three wilderness areas will be subject to quotas for overnight use. However, a portion of the required permits would be set aside for people hoping to buy a permit within a day of their trip.
People who wished to appeal or formally object to the decision had until the end of the year to do so. Forest Service officials said the agency will attempt to resolve those objections and reach a final decision by the end of February.
Legal marijuana glut
An overproduction of legal marijuana in Oregon led to problems with the product being illegally exported to other states on the black-market, according to law enforcement authorities.
Oregon has produced so much recreational cannabis that there is enough to supply every adult with more than 5 ounces of legal marijuana and 1 million pounds remains in the supply chain.
The overabundance and low prices are fueling the black market.
Law enforcement authorities intercepted $48 million worth of black-market marijuana headed from Oregon to 37 states over a three-year period.
Deschutes County saw a six-fold increase in the amount of seized marijuana this year. The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team confiscated 600 pounds in the first 10 months of the year, a huge increase over the 100 pounds confiscated in 2017.
Officials believe it will take a multipronged approach to combat the black market sales. Some ideas include allowing Oregon-grown cannabis to be sold in other states, relieving the pressure caused by the surplus. Others argue for tightening regulations to prevent recreational cannabis from reaching the black market.
Bend elects mayor
For the first time in nearly a century, Bend residents directly elected a mayor.
Sally Russell, a Bend city councilor, won the general election Nov. 6 and became the first woman elected mayor.
Russell, 60, was originally elected to the City Council in 2012 and has served as mayor pro tem since January 2017. Now retired, Russell worked as a nonprofit executive and in marketing and spent nearly a decade on Bend’s planning commission.
Her seat on the City Council will be filled by an appointed replacement.
Voters decided in May to change the city rules and directly elect a mayor. City councilors had previously selected a mayor from among themselves following elections every two years.
The change attracted six candidates. Among the group of candidates, City Councilor Bill Moseley was Russell’s toughest challenger.
Oregon Democrats saw their majorities in the state House and Senate increase to three-fifths supermajorities, after wins in races for governor and the Legislature.
The supermajorities allow the Democrats to pass tax and finance bills without Republican votes.
Democrats last had a supermajority in the 2009 session.
In the House, Democrats picked up three seats, giving them a 38-22 majority. In the Senate, Democrats picked up one vote, giving them an 18-12 majority.
Backed by the supermajorities, Gov. Kate Brown unveiled a $23.6 billion budget proposal and policy agenda in November for 2019-21 that would substantially increase funding for education, health care, the environment and other programs.
The next Legislative session will convene Jan. 22.
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