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1:56 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

The TOP 10 Prescott-area news stories for 2015

File photo of Kayla Mueller by Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier

File photo of Kayla Mueller by Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier

The Daily Courier has covered myriad stories this year and the following rank as the biggest. How did we decide? The rankings of these stories are based on dCourier.com statistics and the consensus of the Courier's newsroom editors.

1. - Kayla Mueller dies while captive of Islamic State

After holding humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller, 26, of Prescott, captive for 18 months, the Islamic State group in Syria claimed she was killed Feb. 6 by a Jordanian air strike. Her body had not been returned, and details of her captivity emerged as others held captive but later freed told their stories. Mueller's parents and Kiwanis Club of Prescott plan to build a playground honoring her at Pioneer Park in Prescott.


Related: See Feb. 2015 story

2. - Wells arrested for killing mother, two friends

After a statewide manhunt, police arrested Jerry L. Wells Jr., 51, for the Jan. 23 slaying of his mother, Anita Wells, and Jodi Reed, as well as the beating of Mark Potter, who later died from his injuries, and Jason Wolf, who survived his injuries but was killed 10 months later in an unrelated incident. Jerry L. Wells Jr. was found incompetent to assist in his own defense and is currently undergoing treatment.


Related: See Jan. 2015 story

3. - Willow Creek Road crash kills ERAU student, injures PHS teacher

A multiple-vehicle fatal crash Aug. 25 on Willow Creek Road claimed the life of Khrystyna Gavryushenko, 19, of Oxnard, California, who was studying aviation business administration at Embry-Riddle University. Among several who were injured in the crash, Harrison Chislock, 28, of Prescott, an economics and AP government teacher at Prescott High School, suffered life-threatening injuries, but survived.


Related: See Aug. 2015 story

4. - Bicyclist Amber Harrington killed on White Spar Road

Toby Beaty, 37, of Prescott, was driving on White Spar Road near Copper Basin Road on Jan. 16 when his pickup struck and killed Amber Harrington, 23, of Santa Barbara, California. Authorities charged Beaty with one count of manslaughter and two counts of DUI - one for alcohol, one for drugs. Harrington's parents asked the court for leniency.


Related: See Jan. 2015 story

5. - Granite Mountain Hotshots benefits

Yavapai County Superior Court Presiding Judge David Mackey in January upheld the decision to award retirement benefits for fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot Andrew Ashcraft. In April, Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini divulged details about the June 2013 deaths of 19 Hotshots near Yarnell, though retired Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis dismissed the information as "third-hand" and "hearsay." The account in question reportedly came from Brendan McDonough, who later applied for Public Safety Personnel Retirement System disability benefits. In June, 12 surviving families settled a wrongful death suit against the state requiring changes to firefighting practices and awarding $50,000 in compensation to each of the 12 families.


Related: See Jan. 2015 story

6. - Parker man accused of DUI in fatal crash

Joel Brandon Neider, 39, of Parker, was behind the wheel of a truck that reportedly swerved into oncoming traffic at Highway 69 and Fain Road on April 18, killing Ronald Darnell, 69, of Dewey. Authorities charged Neider with vehicular manslaughter, seven counts of felony endangerment, three counts of DUI and felony criminal damage.


Related: See April 2015 story

7. - Cable vandalism cuts off communication in northern Arizona

Vandalism of a CenturyLink-owned optical fiber cable near New River on Feb. 25 cut telephone and Internet service for more than five hours in northern Arizona, including Prescott, Cottonwood and Flagstaff. Several businesses closed for a half-day, as the outage curtailed use of nearly all cable and DSL Internet connections as well as most telephones, though some cellular and local landline telephones continued to function.


Related: See Feb. 2015 story

8. - Wal-Mart increases starting wages

The nation's largest employer, Wal-Mart, announced in February it was increasing starting wages to $9 an hour in 2015 and plans another increase to $10 an hour in 2016. The retailer employs approximately 1,000 workers in the greater Prescott area. Wal-Mart's announcement was the first part of a $100 million plan to increase economic mobility in the U.S.


Related: See July 2015 story

9. - Bomb scare at Prescott Valley Home Depot

Employees and customers evacuated the Home Depot store and surrounding businesses in Prescott Valley on Nov. 30 after a man came into the store and made a bomb threat. The state Department of Public Safety Bomb Technician Teams discovered a device that appeared to be explosive and rendered it safe. Stores were closed for approximately five hours.


Related: See Nov. 2015 story

10. - Stores allowed to prohibit service animals from shopping carts

Changes to federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines made it clear that stores are not required to allow customers to place service animals in shopping carts. Businesses are still not allowed to inquire about a person's specific disability, nor determine what is or isn't a service animal, and business patrons are still allowed to take service animals into any publicly accessible area of a business.


Related: See July 2015 story

Daily Courier 2015 photos of the year

Click to view Les Stukenberg's 2015 photos of the year

Click to view Matt Hinshaw's 2015 photos of the year