From the devastating effects of domestic terrorism to a World Series victory and a euphoric city turned Royal blue, 2015 was packed with big news and great journalism from The Kansas City Star. Here are 10 of the top examples with links to the original stories.
1. Ignoring the Terror Within: domestic terrorism
Twenty years after the Oklahoma City bombing, federal authorities have lost sight of domestic extremists and failed to prevent acts of terrorism. The violence is metastasizing, and the threat is growing.
The Kansas City area experienced that firsthand in 2014 when F. Glenn Miller Jr. shot three people to death outside two Jewish sites in Overland Park. Then the Charleston, S.C., church massacre in June highlighted what a number of experts said is a chilling reality: The greatest danger from terrorism may be from our own ranks and within our own borders.
2. John Diehl and the wolves of Jeff City: Sexual harassment at the Capitol
Text messages obtained by The Star revealed a sexually charged relationship between Missouri House Speaker John Diehl and a college freshman in a Missouri Capitol internship program that shut down abruptly. Diehl issued an apology in May for his “poor judgment” and then resigned from the General Assembly amid heavy pressure from his colleagues.
A Missouri Capitol culture dominated by men in a small city fostered a culture fueled by drinking and a sensibility of sexism. In interviews with The Star, women who worked in and with the General Assembly said they were regularly harassed. In July, Sen. Paul LeVota of Independence resigned amid sexual harassment accusations by interns.
3. Two KC firefighters are killed in a building collapse
Two firefighters were killed and two hurt in May after a burning building on Independence Avenue partially collapsed on them. People across the region mourned Larry J. Leggio and John V. Mesh, and condolences poured in from around the nation and from Kauffman Stadium.
A nail salon owner was charged with arson and murder in the blaze, and a federal agency said that the firefighters should not have been in the “collapse zone.”
4. Royalty! The Royals win the World Series
On Nov. 3, the biggest crowd you have ever seen came out to celebrate the Royals in downtown Kansas City at a parade and rally. Officials estimated 800,000 people showed up.
5. Govi’s journey: From attic to whole boy
Long after dark in a Johnson County neighborhood, four law officers search a home for a frail young boy whose mother has kept him from the world. Severely neglected children don’t heal in days or months, and they don’t do it alone. For Govi, it will take support from across the community, and especially from one family. But it won’t be easy.
Five years after his rescue from a dark attic, Govi has grown so much. He is stronger, and sure of the love that surrounds him.
6. Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich commits suicide
Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich — a lifelong high achiever who appeared poised to make a strong run to be the state’s next governor — shot himself in February in St. Louis. Schweich told his wife, “I just need to be dead” before firing the fatal shot.
Former U.S. Sen. John Jack Danforth remembered Schweich as a sensitive friend and extraordinary public servant — driven to suicide, he said, by political bullies and an anti-Semitic whisper campaign. “Words do hurt. Words can kill,” Danforth said at a memorial service.
7. Marcelo’s moment: Saving Sprint is the biggest challenge of Claure’s life
The new man at Sprint’s helm had traveled the world to build his own business. Here was a natural entrepreneur driven to work hard. A self-made billionaire relocating from fast-paced Miami. The Star took a deeper look at Marcelo Claure and found a more complex portrait.
Claure plans to shake up how the company seeks and serves customers by placing individuals in charge of 19 key cities. Dubbed One Sprint, the national effort will try to replicate what the company has done in Chicago. Meanwhile, the layoffs at Sprint began in December as the company continued to cut costs.
8. UMKC’s misleading march to the top: the fallout
A January report on the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s business school found that false data were knowingly submitted when applying for rankings and awards.
Then the Princeton Review stripped UMKC of its spots on the 2014 list of the best entrepreneurship education programs in the country. UMKC lost its place on the top 25 lists for 2011, 2012 and 2013 after Chancellor Leo Morton acknowledged fabrications in its applications those years.
9. Favored son’s decade-long sexual abuse of girl divides small Missouri town
Residents of Dearborn in Platte County took sides after a respected father was accused of the decade-long abuse of a girl. A Platte County judge sentenced Darren Paden to 50 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing the girl.
10. Missouri trooper charged in death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned in handcuffs
Special prosecutor William Camm Seay announced the charge of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree against Trooper Anthony Piercy outside the Morgan County Justice Center on Dec. 18. Piercy was charged in the 2014 death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The Highway Patrol said in a statement that it had placed Piercy, 44, on leave without pay.