Top local stories of 2014

Dec 31, 2014 5:43 PM by Brian Johnson

2014 has been a year of compelling stories here in the North State, from ferocious wildfires to tragic and unexpected fatalities on our roadways.

On a state level, the biggest story of 2014 belongs to the drought.

After a record dry 2013, Governor Brown issued a State of Emergency in January, a sign of things to come.

Back home in the North State, community members anxiously awaited good news after a 6-year-old Australian Shepherd was stolen from a Chico backyard, but ultimately Cody was found dead in its owner's front yard days later. No arrests have been made.

The New Year began tragically for Chico State when two students died after the driver, another Chico State student, drunkenly drove his car into Big Chico Creek.

In February, another school, the Chico School of Rock, saw its owner arrested, charged with exposing himself to a teenage girl.

In March, Action News Now cameras were rolling as F-1 tornados touched down in Glenn County, causing significant damage to orchards and homes.

Apart from nature's wrath, Glenn County also saw total human tragedy in April, after a FedEx big rig crossed I5's median and slammed head-on into a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area high school students on their way to tour Humboldt State, leaving the drivers and eight others dead.

Dry conditions continued through the summer, which didn't help North State firefighters as they battled wildfires, more than 800 in all. The Bully Fire burned more than 12,000 acres and killed one person. The Eiler Fire near Burney charred 30,000 acres. And the most destructive of them all, the Boles Fire in Weed, destroyed 150 homes and several businesses.

Rebuilding costs are in the millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Ronald Marshall will stand trial after being charged with starting the fire.

Chico State women victimized by former physician's assistant and convicted rapist Lonnie Keith may have found some relief after Keith was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Also in September, 23-year-old Chico mother Angelica Weems went missing, last seen in Willows.
In October, family members found her body near the Sacramento River. After weeks of public suspicion that her husband murdered her, 29-year-old Zir Weems was finally brought into custody on unrelated animal cruelty charges. He was ultimately arrested for her murder in November. He plead not guilty this month.

Also this fall, the body of 25-year-old outspoken Chico State student Marc Thompson was found in a burned car in rural Butte County. His death was ruled a homicide but investigators have yet to make an arrest.

More violence spilled onto the busy commercial streets of Chico in October with an Asian gang-related drive-by shooting. Days later on Highway 70 in Oroville, another known Hmong gang member shot and killed one man, and injured another, mistaking them for other gang members.

While it wasn't the $10 million dollars' worth of gold found by a Northern California couple earlier this year, someone found a six pound nugget in the hills of Butte County, eventually selling to an unnamed buyer for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another piece of history, a time capsule, was discovered inside a historic marker at Bidwell mansion, but its contents have yet to be revealed.

The low water levels at Lake Oroville unearthed several pieces of history this year, and while not necessarily for the best reasons, images of Lake Oroville made the rounds on the Internet.

And while a few more states elected to legalize recreational pot this year, Butte and Shasta Counties voted to scale back medicinal marijuana grows, both under ballot initiatives known as Measure A.

Shasta County now outlaws outdoor grows, while Butte now strictly limits them.

In Chico, voters brought in a new council with a conservative tilt not seen in years.

The North State finally received the rain we needed earlier this month, but storms overwhelmed Tehama County with severe flooding, causing major damage to homes and businesses.

But the rain added to the snowpack, and Mount Shasta Ski Park finally had enough snow to open, after being closed last year.

Most recently, heavy winds on the ridge toppled hundreds of pines.

One struck a moving car, killing a woman, and another landed on a converted shed, killing a man who slept inside.

Earlier today, a tree fell on a home in Redding, killing another woman.

Also this month, it was decided that the trial for Quentin Bealer, the man accused of killing Red Bluff teen Marysa Nichols, will be moved to Sacramento County.


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