Humboldt County saw its share of tragedy and triumph in 2013. Of the hundreds of stories that we covered over the last year, it was difficult to narrow the list to 10. From the arrival of two eaglets live on the web to three shocking homicides in Arcata to the homecoming of a boat that travel across the ocean to Crescent City after being ripped from its mooring during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan -- here's a look at the Times-Standard's staff choices for the Top 10 stories of 2013. Happy New Year.
Shane Miller manhunt
The search continues for Humboldt County native Shane Miller, the sole suspect in the brutal murder of his wife and two young daughters at their Shingletown home on May 7. He was added to the U.S. Marshals Service's “15 Most Wanted” list in July with a wanted poster that describes him as “an individual who has no regard for human life” and the only suspect in his family's “cold-blooded murder.”
Miller is suspected of gunning down his wife Sandy and their daughters Shelby Miller, 8, and Shasta Miller, 4, as she was preparing to leave him.
A month-long manhunt for the fugitive set the Mattole Valley community on edge in May as law enforcement agencies from several counties scoured the area's rugged terrain and shutdown the King National Conservation Area after Miller's truck was found at Mattole Road.
Authorities said Miller made contact with a woman he had a past relationship with in Petrolia the day after his family was found dead, and high school friends and others who knew him during his time in Humboldt County say he has outdoor survival skills and knows the wilderness area where he was last seen.
Federal court documents later indicated that investigators believed Miller may have fled to Oregon, where he possibly bought property using cash or a straw buyer, or to Mexico.
His wanted poster cautions that Miller is considered armed and dangerous. He has been charged with three counts of murder in Shasta County and officials said he threatened the lives of several other family members.
”Shane Miller is an individual who has no regard for human life. He is the only suspect in the cold blooded murder of his two young daughters and his wife in May 2013,” the poster reads. “Prior to this incident Miller made threats to kill his wife, daughters, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her children. Miller is a convicted felon who has convictions for weapon and drug offenses. He is also known to be an avid outdoorsman with survival skills.”
Klamath water battle
In the end, the water flowed.
Local tribes, fishermen, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and federal scientists joined forces this summer to fight for the release of Trinity River water to prevent a repeat of the massive 2002 fish kill on the lower Klamath.
A federal judge had halted the flows authorized by the federal Bureau of Reclamation to protect an estimated 270,000 returning Chinook salmon -- the second largest return on record -- after the Fresno-based Westlands Water District and the Los Banos-based San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority filed suit against the bureau, claiming the releases would decrease already low water allocations available to farmers for irrigation.
San Joaquin Valley farmers also argued that the bureau did not have the authority to authorize the flows. The Trinity River is the Klamath's largest tributary, and water is often diverted from the river to farmers and residents of Central and Southern California.
The same day the releases were slated to begin, Judge Lawrence O'Neill granted a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for tribal and government officials to show evidence on how the extra water would save fish.
He lifted his order on Aug. 23, finding the additional flows critical to preventing a repeat of the massive fish kill from 2002.
”There is no dispute and the record clearly reflects that the 2002 fish kill had severe impacts on commercial fishing interests, tribal fishing rights and the ecology, and that another fish kill would likely have similar impacts,” he wrote.
Hoopa Valley Tribal Vice Chairman Ryan Jackson called the judge's decision a victory for both tribes and fisheries.
”Without the salmon, we wouldn't be who we are today,” Jackson said at the time. “We are river people. We will fight to defend the fish and the waters that run through it.”
The small college town of Arcata was rocked by three homicides in 2013.
Eureka High School student Christina Schwarz, 18, and Alan “Sunshine” Marcet, 27, were shot inside a house on the 2400 block of Eye Street near Arcata Elementary School on May 18, and Douglas Allen Anderson-Jordet was fatally stabbed in the early morning hours of Nov. 25.
Prior to the year's deaths, the last homicide in Arcata occurred on Jan. 1, 2004.
Hundreds of people attended a memorial at Moonstone Beach in Trinidad to remember Schwarz and Marcet, who were both described as kind, loving people.
”I would describe him as one of the most kind, gentle souls that you'll ever meet,” Marcet's friend Grego Gregin said. “I'm not just saying that because he's gone now. His name was Sunshine, and he held that name for a reason.”
Tina Schwarz said her daughter was like a breath of fresh air: “She had a zest for life.”
Suspect Bodhi Tree was found hiding in bushes in Sunny Brae about 12 hours after the shooting. Eureka Police Department officials announced the next month that Tree was also a suspect in an earlier shooting near Eureka High School. He is currently awaiting trial.
Anderson-Jordet, 50, a chef and musician, was originally from St. Cloud, Minn.
He moved to Arcata in late 2012 and was hired as the kitchen manager of Abruzzi, where his equanimity and culinary talent made a lasting impression on his co-workers.
Abruzzi chef Hector Alicea described Anderson-Jordet as a “mellow guy,” who never raised his voice when the kitchen was under pressure.
”He was a really likable person,” Alicea said. “It was hard to come to work and him not being there.”
Two men and a woman were arrested in connection with his death.
After two years of searching, Eureka found a new police chief.
Chief Andrew G. Mills took over the department in November after coming to town from the San Diego Police Department, where he was lauded for his approach and accessibility.
”Literally, it's our loss and your gain,” said San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who chairs the city's public safety committee. “He's a good police officer. He inspires confidence and trust among the officers that serve with him and he really understands community policing. He's about communicating with the public, earning trust and getting the community to work together. ... His officers were always responsive and respectful.”
The path to Mills' arrival was not smooth.
Pointing to a lack of communication and support from the city, Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson withdrew his name from contention in August. Johnson had been expected to be sworn back in to the department he'd called home for 11 years that month. His withdrawal marked the second time in 14 months that Eureka was rebuffed by its top choice for the chief's job.
Then, just when Eureka finally had a chief in place, Panos announced he was leaving after less than a year.
Brought in to fill the shoes of retiring City Manager David Tyson, who held the post for a decade, Panos left to take a position with the Wyoming Governor's Office.
Longtime Assistant City Manager Mike Knight has stepped in for the interim while the search continues.
Two stars were born on camera in April, although Kyle, Stormy and their parents Mr. and Mrs. Humboldt Bay Eagle will never know it.
The two eaglets were born to the mating pair in a nest overlooking Humboldt Bay. Thousands of people needing a moment of Zen were able to view the event and watch the eaglets grow via the Humboldt Bay Eagle Cam.
The Humboldt Bay eagle parents are approximately 12 years old and have been nesting together since 2006. The pair has successfully raised at least six eaglets, plus Kyle and Stormy. The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, which received a grant from the Sequoia Park Zoo to put up the camera, said this is the first pair of eagles roosting on Humboldt Bay in decades. Bald eagles breed once a year and remain with one mate as long as they are alive and successful at breeding.
Canopy ecologist Jim Spickler hung the camera last December, narrowly beating the eagles' return to the nest.
Kyle was born first, and was named after the landowner's late nephew. Stormy came later the same day, and was named by first graders in Carrie Holverson's class at Freshwater School after the landowners suggested local school children name the eaglet. The name Stormy was among 29 entries from schools in Humboldt County.
Kyle and Stormy have fledged, but hopes are high for another brood this year.
Traffic safety in Eureka
The tragic deaths of two pedestrians made traffic safety loom large among community concerns in 2013.
David Wilder Pickart-Jain, 13, was hit by a car and killed while crossing J Street on March 9, less than two weeks after a Eureka High School girl was hit and injured in a crosswalk a few blocks away.
Neighborhood fixture Nina Winogradov, the wife of local personality Dave Silverbrand, died after being hit by a car while crossing at an intersection about two blocks south of Zane Middle School in Eureka.
An unscientific online poll conducted by the Times-Standard in March collected just under 100 responses in less than two weeks on two topics: Which of city's intersections pedestrians and drivers felt to be the most dangerous, and what should be done to make the streets safer.
More than 40 percent of respondents named intersections along three of Eureka's major arteries as the worst for pedestrians and drivers alike: I Street, Harris Street and Myrtle Avenue. Several more mentioned intersections along H Street and Broadway.
Last year, Eureka saw 846 vehicle accidents, with 378 individuals injured and five killed, according to statistics from the Eureka Police Department. There were 41 injury accidents involving pedestrians and 27 injury accidents involving bicyclists.
The EPD numbers showed the highest percentage of accidents -- just over 20 percent -- occurred in January and March between the hours of 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Eureka was ranked No. 2 out of 93 similarly-sized California cities for total fatal and injury collisions, No. 3 for pedestrian collisions and No. 9 for bicycle collisions in 2010, the most recent data available from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Rising awareness of traffic fatalities and demands for action prompted the city to seek grant funds for a safety campaign and additional traffic enforcement. The city's Transportation Safety Committee released a draft action plan in October. But critics said Eureka wasn't moving fast enough.
After a contentious, angst-ridden conversation, the Northern Humboldt Union High School District trustees voted 3-1 in September to ask Trustee Dan Johnson to resign in the wake of a plagiarism controversy that gripped the district for months -- but he stayed on board.
Johnson, who took his seat on the board after running unopposed in 2011, came under fire after people attending Arcata High School's graduation ceremony noticed that his speech closely resembled a famous commencement address given the previous year in Massachusetts. During his speech, Johnson called his daughter -- a member of the graduating class -- to the stage and told the audience he was going to read a “personal letter” he'd written her. Large portions of the letter appeared to have been taken from the address David McCullough gave at Wellesley High School's 2012 graduation.
McCullough's speech, titled “You are not Special,” was widely publicized, with a video of it going viral on the Internet, with one version drawing more than two million views on YouTube.
Six weeks after Arcata High's commencement ceremony, Johnson issued a statement apologizing for not crediting McCullough for his words and saying he was inspired by McCullough's speech and that it gave him ideas that he tried to personalize for his own graduation speech.
The statement drew further criticism rather than having a calming effect due mostly to the last paragraph, in which Johnson referred to his critics as “self-appointed referees of good and evil” in the community who are intolerant and have a “far more profound flaw” than him.
After a bloodied man flagged down motorists on State Route 299 on Sept. 8, several law enforcement agencies took to the woods near Samoa searching for a pair of suspects in a grisly crossbow killing.
One day later, the manhunt ended in the arrests of Phoenix Triton King, 21, and his girlfriend, 16-year-old Rosalie Adams, who had hitchhiked to Humboldt County from Clear Lake and had been camping on the Samoa Peninsula for a couple of weeks prior to Sept. 8.
King, who now faces charges of murder and attempted murder, reportedly confessed to fatally shooting James John James, 44, and wounding Matthew Blaine Lewis, 41, but claimed he acted in self-defense, according to testimony.
Prosecutors allege that Adams and King believed Lewis and James -- both of whom had lived in an encampment out on the peninsula for six years -- had stolen something from their camp. The young couple allegedly purchased crossbows and confronted the two men.
Testimony in King's case indicated he shot the arrow that killed James, but that both defendants shot their crossbows at Lewis, who was hit in the head, shin and back.
Adams, who has also pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder, is currently undergoing a fitness process in which the court will determine if she will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
King faces a potential sentence of 40 years to life in prison if convicted in the case, as does Adams if she's tried as an adult. If convicted as a juvenile, she faces a maximum sentence of eight years in a juvenile detention center.
Betty Chinn Center opens
The culmination of its namesake's three-decade personal crusade to lift up the area's homeless, the Betty Chinn Day Center opened its doors to the public at the corner of Seventh and C streets in Eureka in November.
After decades delivering food, clothing and warmth to hundreds of Eureka's less fortunate, local philanthropist Betty Chinn's dream of founding a place where the homeless to help themselves came true with the new center. Together with a diverse group of supporters and volunteers, Chinn worked in tandem with the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa to develop and open the 4,000-square-foot, two-story center.
The facility, Chinn said, was designed to help homeless children and homeless adults ready to change their lives, offering not meals but connections to medical and educational services and job training for the adults, and a safe place to study for the kids.
”We have to prove to the public we can make a difference,” Chinn said in November. “We have to prove their donations were worth it.”
Tsunami boat homecoming
“We do not want to be forgotten. This is our hope.”
Those were the words of Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba in a message posted on the Internet to “our friends overseas” after the March 11, 2011, tsunami swept away most of the once prosperous Japanese city.
Two years later, a barnacle-encrusted boat ripped from its mooring there washed up just south of the Crescent City -- forever uniting the two cities.
Due to the efforts of Del Norte High School students, the boat has been returned home.
The 21-foot panga boat from Rikuzentakata was the first documented piece of tsunami debris to reach California's shores -- joining more than two dozen others found in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia.
Amya Miller, Rikuzentakata's global public information officer, told the Times-Standard that the boat's find was a cause for celebration in the devastated city.
”For those of us in Rikuzentakata, these are experiences we will never get used to, and for giving us something to be absolutely joyful about, to talk about, to laugh about, and to be absolutely giddy -- we are grateful,” she said.