As 2016 comes to an end, we take a look back at the year's top stories.
From the fatal shooting of a Howard County deputy to the horrific murder of a little girl in Spencer, 2016 had its share of tragedies.
The year was also marked by political upheaval, with a divisive campaign in the presidential race that ended in the election of a real estate mogul and reality TV star as the next president of the United States.
There were also triumphs to celebrate in 2016. The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 galvanized the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and central Indiana. In the end, a rookie took the checkered flag. The Chicago Cubs broke their longstanding World Series drought in dramatic fashion, lifting the spirits of the many Cubs fans in central Indiana.
Let’s take a look back at the top stories of the year as we prepare to usher in 2017. After you read the year's top stories, vote in our poll at the bottom to pick the biggest local story of 2016!
Colts Owner Jim Irsay Decides to Keep Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson – January
After a disappointing season—the Colts finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs—Colts coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson were on the hotseat. Many expected a change at the top, but owner Jim Irsay decided to keep both Pagano and Grigson, a decision that surprised many fans and sports reporters.
Irsay said he valued continuity and signed Pagano to a contract extension. The team’s lackluster season was due mostly to its inability to protect quarterback Andrew Luck, who suffered a lacerated kidney against the Denver Broncos and missed nine games. Veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck filled in admirably, but he was also injured, leading the Colts to trot out several replacements.
Principal Susan Jordan Killed in Crash – January
The Indianapolis community mourned the death of Susan Jordan, the principal at Amy Beverland Elementary School in Lawrence Township. On the afternoon of January 26, Jordan was supervising as children left the school for the day when a bus suddenly lurched forward.
Jordan pushed two children out of the way before she was fatally struck. Thousands of people paid their respects during her funeral at St. Luke’s Methodist Church. Class was canceled for several days before resuming on Feb. 1.
An investigation into her death later found that the driver got out of the driver’s seat without reengaging the parking brake, causing the bus to jump the curb. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said no criminal charges were warranted in the case.
Park Tudor Coach Arrested in Child Exploitation Case – February
On Feb. 4, 2016, Federal authorities arrested Park Tudor basketball coach Kyle Cox in a child exploitation case. The investigation began in December after the father of a student came forward with text messages that included a sexually explicit photo of a minor.
Investigators served search warrants at Cox’s residence and Park Tudor. The school had suddenly terminated Cox in December 2015; he’d also been a chemistry teacher and the school’s assistant athletic director.
Carrier Jobs Moving to Mexico – February
The state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis found themselves at the center of national attention and the presidential campaign when Carrier Corporation announced plans to move 1,400 jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico, where workers would make a much lower wage, allowing the company to cut costs. Another 700 jobs would be eliminated at a facility in Huntington.
The company’s plans to move jobs out of the U.S. drew sharp criticism in the presidential race, which was then just beginning to ramp up. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (who would later win the endorsement of the union representing Carrier workers) blasted the move, which sparked a national backlash.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the formation of a task force to help workers affected by the move find jobs. Local companies also pledged their support. Sanders, who would eventually lose the party nomination to Clinton, appeared at a rally in April to show his support for Carrier workers.
Carrier became a major talking point during the election, with Donald Trump mentioning it several times throughout his campaign and presidential debates.
The Carrier saga took a dramatic turn in late November, when Trump, having won the presidential election, announced a deal that would prevent hundreds of jobs from leaving for Mexico. He and Vice President-elect Gov. Mike Pence, announced the deal on Dec. 1.
But even that announcement was not without controversy. Union president Chuck Jones criticized Trump for overstating the number of jobs that were being saved; Trump responded with a tweet that resulted in a feud involving the president-elect and Jones.
Mother, Son Killed in Zionsville Double Homicide – February
In February, a double homicide rocked the Zionsville community, which seldom sees violent crime. Katherine Giehll and 4-year-old Raymond Giehll IV were found shot to death in their home. Giehll sent a text message to her husband that her uncle, Lucius Hamilton, was at their home. Her husband was unable to reach her on the phone.
When Raymond Giehll returned, he found his wife and son dead and called 911. Hamilton, an employee at Wabash College, became the prime suspect in the case, touching off a large manhunt in central Indiana. He was eventually found at a hotel in downtown Indianapolis, where he was involved in a standoff with law enforcement authorities.
Hamilton eventually shot and killed himself before SWAT entered the hotel room. He was angry over the terms of a family trust, investigators said.
Winter Blast – February
Winter weather wreaked havoc on central Indiana in February. On Valentine’s Day, 40 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes on northbound I-65 in Boone County, snarling traffic. Heavy snow and slick roads were factors in that crash.
A major winter storm hit on February 24, dumping several inches of snow in some areas and a nasty rain-sleet mix in others. More than a dozen Indiana counties declared some form of travel advisory before the storm hit.
The Death of Shaylyn Ammerman – March
On March 23, 14-month-old Shaylyn Ammerman was reported missing from her home in Spencer, setting off a large manhunt after her father said she was kidnapped. On March 24, police found her body in a wooded area near the White River northeast of Gosport.
Her death was ruled a homicide and her cause of death was asphyxiation. Police arrested Kyle Parker, a family friend, in connection with Shaylyn’s death. While Parker had been arrested on drug-related charges in the past, he had never been charged with a violent crime.
Parker had been at the Ammerman home the night of Shaylyn’s disappearance, where he’d been drinking. The girl’s father said he put her down for bed just before midnight and discovered she was missing the next morning.
Parker confessed to his stepfather, who later called police. Information from Parker helped investigators find the girl’s body.
Parker was charged with rape, murder, child molesting, kidnapping, strangulation and aggravated battery as well as obstruction of justice and failure to report a dead body. He’d tried to use bleach to conceal evidence, according to court documents. The medical examiner called it the “worst case of sexual trauma” she’d ever seen.
Howard County Deputy Carl Koontz Killed – March
Howard County Deputy Carl Koontz and Sgt. Jordan Buckley were shot on March 20, 2016, while serving search and arrest warrants in Russiaville. Several other law enforcement agencies were involved in the case.
Koontz and Buckley tried to make contact with a suspect at a residence in the 300 block of Chandler Street. After no one responded, they entered. Gunshots rang out, and both officers were hit. Koontz suffered fatal injuries during the encounter and died after being taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Buckley survived the encounter and later returned to active duty.
Koontz’s death sent a shockwave throughout the Kokomo community. He’d served as a resource officer at Northwestern School Corporation and was well known throughout the area. He left behind his wife, Kassie, and a young son, Noah.
Thousands paid their respects during a public memorial at the high school and hundreds more lined the route for his funeral procession, including many members of the law enforcement community. Koontz was laid to rest on March 29, a week before what would have been his 27th birthday. His widow delivered his eulogy.
Ben Davis Student Renia Woods Killed – March
The last time anyone saw 18-year-old Renia Woods alive, she said she was stepping outside. A man collecting trash found her body behind a dumpster at 14th Street and North Campbell Avenue. Her mother said Woods had been strangled.
The case went unsolved for months until police arrested 20-year-old William Mosley in connection with Woods’ death in December. Woods was an honors student who planned to enroll at Indiana State University to study finance.
Woods’ mother said her daughter was friends with Mosley, who even feigned concerned about her when she was reported missing. Woods’ mother said she suspected Mosley all along and only needed to wait for confirmation of DNA evidence in the case.
The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 – May
The Indianapolis 500 celebrated its 100th running in grand fashion in May. Fans packed the stands for one of the busiest days at the track in recent memory. Race day was filled to the brim with nostalgia, with many past Indianapolis 500 winners making an appearance for the festivities.
More than 350,000 fans came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate the legacy of the race and its many traditions, from the balloon drop to “Back Home Again in Indiana” and the drinking of the milk.
In the end, it was rookie Alexander Rossi who emerged victorious after gambling on his fuel strategy. Rossi didn’t take a pit stop during the last 36 laps, which defies logic giving the fuel window. Even Rossi was shocked, saying he had “no idea how we pulled that off.” He was the first rookie to win the 500 since Helio Castroneves took the checkered flag as a rookie in 2001.
The sweet win won him $2.5 million!
Donald Trump Decisively Wins Indiana Primary – May
For many, it seemed like Donald Trump was the outlier, a candidate who didn’t have much of a shot at winning the Republican nomination for president. But his campaign continued to pick up momentum as he racked up wins in several state primaries.
None was more important than his decisive victory in Indiana, which effectively secured the GOP nomination for him. Trump became the presumptive nominee after trouncing Ted Cruz in Indiana, leading Cruz to announce he was dropping out of the race. While Trump didn’t technically have the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination—those would come later—Cruz’s decision to end his campaign left no serious contenders in Trump’s path.
Trump drew large crowds during campaign rallies in Carmel, Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Indianapolis. His Indianapolis rally was particularly memorable as former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight delivered a speech calling Trump the “most prepared man in history to step in as president of the United States.” In a role reversal, Knight didn’t introduce Trump—Trump introduced the legendary basketball coach.
Brownsburg Teen Arrested, Accused of Trying to Join ISIS – June
Terrorism in the heartland. The arrest of a former Brownsburg High School student accused of trying to join the terror group ISIS rocked central Indiana in June. Investigators said Akram Musleh, 18, tried to board a bus from Indianapolis to New York, where he planned to fly to Morocco and make his way into ISIS territory.
According to federal investigators, Musleh watched videos on YouTube to “further his understanding of the history of Islam.” The school and FBI took steps to prevent his radicalization, but those attempts proved unsuccessful. He purchased an ISIS flag and later photographed himself in front of it.
The FBI was keeping a close eye on him, even as he tried to recruit others to his cause at Williams Park in Brownsburg in 2015.
According to federal court documents, he researched pressure cookers and explosives. He later communicated online with a confidential source and expressed his desire to travel to ISIS territory and join the group. FBI agents found files about jihad, martyrdom and ISIS on his cell phone. He was indicted on federal terrorism charges. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Gov. Mike Pence Chosen as Donald Trump’s Running Mate – July
Who would Donald Trump pick as his running mate?
Several names were floated, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In the end it was Gov. Mike Pence who got the nod. He emerged as the front-runner relatively late in the process, and Trump met with Gingrich and Sessions in Indianapolis before formally disclosing that he’d picked Pence. Trump planned to hold a news conference to make the announcement but pushed it back after a terror attack in Nice, France, killed dozens of people.
Pence’s selection as Trump’s running mate had a ripple effect on Indiana. Because of a state law, Pence couldn’t run simultaneously for governor and vice president. He dropped out of the gubernatorial race against Democrat John Gregg. The state Republican Party chose Pence’s lieutenant governor, Eric Holcomb, to replace him on the ballot.
Pence would go on to win the vice presidential post and Holcomb would win election as governor of Indiana.
Kokomo Tornado Outbreak – August
Tornadoes devastated Kokomo in August, causing widespread damage and prompting a state of emergency. The most dramatic video from the tornado outbreak was the sudden collapse of a Starbucks store, a video that drew national attention.
The outbreak affected 1,000 structures, destroying 81 of them. More than 170 sustained major damage, and neighbors endured the constant sight of heavy construction equipment in their community after the outbreak. Gov. Mike Pence toured the damage the day after the tornadoes hit. He commended emergency responders for their quick and decisive action.
While more than a dozen people were injured after being hit by flying debris, no one was killed despite the widespread devastation.
The tornado that hit Kokomo was an EF3, according to the National Weather Service. The Howard County community wasn’t the only one hit. An EF2 tornado touched down in Montgomery County, causing damage to dozens of homes and barns.
ITT Tech Shuts Down, Closes All Campuses – September
Carmel-based ITT Technical Institutes stunned students and staff in September when it announced that all classes were canceled and the for-profit college would close permanently. The college chain stopped all new registration in August after the federal government banned ITT from accepting any new students.
The decision was a major blow to the school, which got most of its money from that aid. The decision affected 40,000 students and 8,000 employees, leaving them with all manner of questions concerning obtaining transcripts and transferring credits.
Several schools announced programs to help the displaced students, including reduced tuition to help those students get their degrees.
Mother Kills Two Children in Amber Alert Case – September
In a story that drew national attention, a Fort Wayne mother is accused of smothering her two children in September. The children, Liliana Hernandez, 7, and Rene Pasztor, 6, were the subject of an Amber Alert after police said they were believed to be in extreme danger.
The alert said their non-custodial mother, Amber Pasztor, 29, may have taken the children. She later arrived at the Elkhart Police Department, where she told police the children were dead in the back of her car. Pasztor said she smothered them in order to “usher them onto heaven.”
She faces two counts of murder. Her attorney filed a motion to use an insanity defense when the case goes to trial.
82-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot in Zionsville – September
In September, 82-year-old Jac Clements was fatally shot outside his home in Zionsville, leading to a lockdown for area schools as police searched for the gunman and a white Chevy Impala seen leaving the scene.
The case went unsolved for several weeks even after federal authorities became involved in the investigation. Police eventually zeroed in on a suspect—Damoine Wilcoxson. Investigators said the shooting appeared to be a random act from a “very angry man.”
Police took Wilcoxson into custody after a SWAT standoff in October in which he’s accused of firing at police officers.
Incredibly, Wilcoxson also emerged as the prime suspect in two shootings at Indianapolis Metropolitan Police facilities. He’s charged with murder in Clements’ death in Boone County and faces attempted murder and criminal recklessness charges in Marion County in connection with the IMPD shootings and subsequent SWAT standoff.
Indianapolis Colts in London – October
The Indianapolis Colts headed to London to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. But the trip wasn’t a sightseeing excursion—the players were there to get down to business.
Unfortunately, “business” was bad for the Horseshoes, who lost 30-27 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at London’s Wembley Stadium.
IKEA Breaks Ground on First Indiana Store in Fishers – October
Central Indiana will soon have its own IKEA store. In 2015, the Swedish furniture retailer announced plans to build a store in Fishers. On Oct. 18, 2016, officials from IKEA and Fishers broke ground on the site at I-69 and 116th Street.
The store is expected to open in fall 2017. It will span nearly 300,000 square feet and employ 250 people. Customers will find 50 room settings, three model homes interiors, a play area for children and a restaurant serving up the chain’s signature meatballs.
Even better, Hoosiers won’t have to drive to Cincinnati or Chicago—the closest cities to Indianapolis with IKEA stores. Those who live nearby say they’re happy to have the store here but are worried about increased traffic in an area that’s already congested.
Chicago Cubs Win World Series – November
Say goodbye to the curse.
No longer will Chicago Cubs fans lament the lack of a World Series championship since 1908. Their 108-year championship drought ended in dramatic fashion during the 2016 World Series. The Cubs faced the Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic and fell behind 3-1.
For many, it looked like the team’s bad fortune would continue. However, the scrappy group of young players and veterans wouldn’t give up. The Cubs rebounded with wins in Game 5 and Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7.
Things were looking great in Game 7. The Cubs took a 6-3 lead and trotted out ace reliever Aroldis Chapman to seal the deal in the eighth. However, Rajai Davis shocked fans with a three-run homer that tied the game.
Fans then had to endure a nail-biting finale that included a nearly 20-minute rain delay and extra innings. Hits by Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero made it 8-6. Cleveland managed to score another run in the bottom of the tenth, but the Cubs held, leading to a euphoric celebration in Chicago.
Our favorite story was this viral video of a Hoosier Cubs fan who couldn’t believe he’d lived to see his team win the championship.
Farmers Band Together to Help Connersville Farmer – November
The Indiana farming community came together in a big way to help a Connersville farmer in the wake of his granddaughter's death. Steve Wollyung was preparing to harvest the last 112 acres of his farm when tragedy struck.
His granddaughter, Ayla, was playing in a grain wagon when she became trapped. She succumbed to her injuries. A longtime friend heard about Ayla's death and rallied others to help Wollyung. Together more than 60 people from several counties donated their time and manpower to help the family harvest its crop on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Donald Trump, Mike Pence Win Presidential Election – November
All the polls indicated that Hillary Clinton would win a decisive victory in the presidential election, but election night turned out very differently from what most political analysts expected.
When the votes came in, it was Donald Trump—not Clinton—who won the Electoral College. Trump, who positioned himself as a political outsider who would take on a “rigged system” and “drain the swamp” of political corruption, was declared the winner in the early morning hours after Election Day, delivering a stunning blow to Clinton and her supporters.
With Gov. Mike Pence at his side, Trump gave his victory speech around 3 a.m., delivering a message in which he pledged he’d be a president for all people. Since then, every move he’s made has been closely watched and dissected, from his various cabinet appointments to his positions on international matters.
While Trump won the Electoral College 306 to 232, Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes.