What a year it's been! As 2019 gets closer, we've reflected on some of our best stories over the past year.
While some of the stories are fun and cheerful news, some remind us of the struggles and growth the state has gone through in 2018. For good or for bad, these are Arkansas's top stories for the last year.
1. Finding Ebby Steppach
The nearly three-year search for a missing 18-year-old girl in Little Rock ended when officers found remains in a drainage pipe at Chalamont Park.
Ebby Steppach was last seen Oct. 24, 2015. Her vehicle was later found at Chalamont Park, just feet away from the drain her remains were found in. November 2016 was the last time Little Rock police searched that park in connection with her disappearance, before finding her remains.
A week after her remains were found, Ebby’s mother talked to THV11’s Laura Monteverdi, discussing the hardship the Steppach family went through during the search. Friends of Ebby also questioned how LRPD handled the investigation, which is now being treated as a homicide.
2. Sen. Rapert says 'very cold day in hell' before Baphomet statue allowed on capitol grounds
A self-described Satanic Temple drove a statue of Baphomet to Arkansas State Capitol, hoping to someday see it placed on the same grounds as the state’s Ten Commandments monuments.
Meanwhile, the Ten Commandments stood behind a screened fence rimmed with caution tape, during a religious right’s rally on the steps of the capitol. Upstairs in the air-conditioned capitol, state senator Jason Rapert (R- Conway) attended meetings while the crowd derided him outside. Rapert is the driving force behind erecting the Ten Commandments monuments, leading a group that secured the private funding and pushing the tablets through using a new law that gave the legislature the power to authorize monuments on the grounds.
Though Rapert led the efforts in the Ten Commandments religious monument, the site of Baphomet received anything but a warm welcome.
“It will be a very cold day in hell before we are ever forced to put up a permanent monument on the state capitol grounds that's as offensive as this group that hides behind fake names as they travel the country,” said Rapert.
3. Saving a Generation | The new face of drug addiction
A personal experience for one of our morning anchors turned into a multiple-story series on the dangers of opioid abuse. This Emmy-winning story touched the hearts of many in Arkansas and has become an integral part of THV11 storytelling.
Our own Laura Monteverdi lost her boyfriend in 2015 to drug addiction. This year, she shared her story with the world and launched a series of stories aimed at Saving a Generation. Her story evolved beyond our prime-time showing and expanded into a community-based viewing and panel, where people came to watch the special and ask questions to reputable sources.
Within this series, we’ve done stories delving into preventative and rehab measures people can take, and even stories of those who lost the battle with drug addiction.
4. 100-year-old celebrates birthday by running down the hall
We had a little fun in June with Mrs. Bertie, an Arkansan who turned 100-years-old and celebrated by running up-and-down the hallway. Clad in her tiara and birthday pin, Mrs. Bertie said turning 100 was wonderful and said she believes God is why she’s so fit at her age.
She also said she does exercises with her cane every day to make sure she stays in the best shape possible. Craig O’Neill teased the possibility of opening a “Mrs. Bertie’s Fitness Studio” and she seemed interested…we’ll have to see if she goes for it in 2019.
5. Arkansas officer fired after telling group of black men they 'don't belong' in his city
An England police officer was fired after a video was posted on Facebook of him telling a group of black men that they “don’t belong” in his city.
Although the video was posted on Aug. 7, it was filmed on July 21 by Demarcus Bunch in his hometown. He and his cousin Shannon Scribner were in town shooting a music video.
They told THV11 that the from the first moments they entered the small town of nearly 3,000 people, Officer Mike Moore was on their heels.
In the video recorded by Bunch that was posted on Facebook, the group talks to Moore.
Below is a transcript of the conversation in the video:
Ofc. Moore: "I'm Mike Moore."
Bunch: "We are Dale Scribner's nephews."
Scribner: "We are here just trying to record a video."
Ofc. Moore: "Okay, and?"
Bunch: “We just noticed you’ve been following us everywhere.”
Ofc. Moore: Are you recording right now?”
Bunch: “Yeah, we are.”
Ofc. Moore: “You know why? Because you don’t belong in my city.”
Bunch: "We're from here."
Ofc. Moore: "But you understand, I know who my people are, right, who belongs here and who doesn't? We've got gang wars going on, we've got all kinds of stuff. I come from the big city where this stuff is small, okay? So, that's cool. Do your thing."
Bunch: "You said we don't belong in your city, though?"
Ofc. Moore: "Can I say something? I have never seen you here before, and I know almost everybody here."
Bunch: "I grew up here, in 101. I graduated from England High."
Ofc. Moore: "Well good for you, my name is Mike Moore. I'm not from here. Step away from my car, I'm about to get my dog out."
On Aug. 8, a press release was sent out saying that Officer Michael Moore was terminated from his position on the police force.\
6. 26-year-old Harding University alum shot and killed by Dallas officer
On Thursday, Sept. 6, a Dallas police officer was going home after her shift, when she walked into the wrong apartment and shot the man inside.
The victim has been identified as 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean.
Jean was a 2016 alumni of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
According to police, the Amber Guyger was in full uniform just after 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, she walked into an apartment unit she believed to be her own at the 1200 block of South Lamar, about a quarter-mile from the Dallas Police Department.
While inside, she pulled her firearm and shot Jean. He later died at the hospital from his injuries.
7. Arkansas police and others around the nation take on the lip sync challenge
The lip-syncing law enforcement challenge took Texas by storm. This first started when a video was posted on June 19 on the Bexar County Sheriff Department’s Facebook page in Texas. Then, an Arkansas department jumped on board, followed by many other police departments.
Songs from the 70's, 80's, 90's to the hits of today could be heard throughout the state of Arkansas as each department decided to show their personalities by participating in on the fun.
8. 'We get our own beds': Arkansas couple adopts set of 7 siblings ahead of Christmas
An Arkansas couple fought long and hard for a set of seven siblings in Arkansas' Foster Care System, now those children have a forever home.
In April 2018, the couple adopted a set of two siblings, Korgen and Haizlee. On Monday, Dec. 3, they won their biggest challenge and added the team of seven to the mix.
For years the kids spent their days dreading going home, hopping from foster home to children’s home but found hope in a family that would love them one day.
9. Frank Scott Jr. is the first black mayor to be elected in Little Rock
A banking executive and former highway commissioner has become the first African-American elected to lead Arkansas' capital, six decades after it was the center of a school desegregation crisis.
Frank Scott defeated Baker Kurrus in the Dec. 4 runoff for Little Rock mayor.
"To the voters, who voted for Frank Scott Jr, I'm just so grateful to them, and to the voters who did not vote for Frank Scott Jr. I have work to do to earn their support,” Scott said.
10. Nearly 17,000 Arkansans kicked off state's Medicaid program
The Department of Human Services said nearly 17,000 people have been kicked off Arkansas's Medicaid program over the new work requirements since it was enacted in 2018.
The rule requires people to work 80 hours a month and would lose coverage if requirements aren't met for three months in a calendar year.
A helpline has been set up to help people report work hours after initially only being able to report hours online.
Read more here.