World-Herald's Top 10 stories of 2013 - Omaha.com
Published Monday, December 30, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:07 pm
World-Herald's Top 10 stories of 2013

A new mayor and a veteran one, a pair of high-profile homicide suspects accused of unthinkable evil and one little Husker who raised our spirits were among the people who made headlines in 2013.

This year's top stories also included big moves (Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy stepping down from his post, and Creighton stepping up to the Big East), big blowups from Bo Pelini and the big debut of Gretna's Nebraska Crossing Outlets.

1. Anthony Garcia and Nikko Jenkins

Just two weeks after Anthony Garcia's arrest, Nikko Jenkins got out of prison on July 30. With authorities satisfied that a suspected serial killer was behind bars, a second killing spree was about to begin.

Authorities charged Garcia with first-degree murder, accusing him of the revenge killings of four people connected to the Creighton University pathology department.

Then, more killings: two men sitting in a pickup truck in South Omaha, a young man from north Omaha with a troubled past, a mother of three from northwest Omaha.

By the end of August, Jenkins was back in custody in connection with those slayings.

The Garcia and Jenkins cases captured the community's attention and are The World-Herald's top news story of 2013.

The arrest of Garcia, 40, represented a dramatic turn in a pair of double homicides that had rocked Omaha and baffled police: the March 2008 stabbing deaths of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman, the son and house cleaner of Creighton pathologist Dr. William Hunter; and the May slayings of Creighton pathologist Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary.

Documents show that William Hunter and Roger Brumback had fired Garcia for unprofessional conduct toward a fellow resident.

Garcia, who denies the murder allegations, has been described by some who knew him as a loner who could be pleasant and professional, but who also drank and displayed bizarre behavior.

Jenkins, 27, also displayed bizarre behavior. He covered his face in tattoos. He claimed to hear voices from Egyptian gods and to be an alpha male battling a pharaoh king.

The Aug. 21 killing of Andrea Kruger, a 33-year-old mother and wife, set the community on edge. Kruger was shot in the early morning hours on her way home from work.

Authorities believe that Jenkins also had killed Curtis Bradford on Aug. 19 and Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on Aug. 11.

The Jenkins case raised questions about Nebraska's system of awarding good time to prison inmates. By the end of the year, prison officials and Gov. Dave Heineman moved to toughen Nebraska's good time rules.

In all, six people were arrested in connection with the four August killings, including two of Jenkins' sisters, his mother, an uncle and a cousin. In December, The World-Herald published an investigation showing that Jenkins' extended family has been responsible for 633 crimes dating to 1979.

2. Jack Hoffman's run

Nebraska, as a state and as a football program, takes its annual spring game seriously.

But when Jack Hoffman took the field — a 7-year-old standing amid the giants of Nebraska football — it was destined to be a moment of pure happiness, a moment to enjoy life. For the young cancer patient. For the fans in attendance. And for the millions of people around the country who took joy in a little boy living out his dream.

The World-Herald's account of the play went like this:

Jack, battling a rare form of brain cancer, took a handoff from quarterback Taylor Martinez, started to the left side, cut back to the right (with a guiding hand from Martinez) and led a host of Huskers 69 yards to the end zone.

Then, just like his friend and former player Rex Burkhead used to receive, Jack got a hero's welcome — but this one was super-sized. Both sidelines emptied to converge on Jack, who was raised to the shoulders of a couple of players.

Shortly afterward, with a couple of television cameras and microphones in his face — and the game ball still under his arm — Jack summed up the day with three words: “It was awesome.”

3. Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy resigns

Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy had been considered the leading candidate to succeed Gov. Dave Heineman in 2015 and had the governor's endorsement in hand.

But a World-Herald investigation revealed that Sheehy had a secret life. Records for Sheehy's state-issued cellphone showed more than 2,000 calls were made to four women other than his wife over the course of four years.

He resigned in February after the newspaper questioned him about the calls.

The resignation threw open the 2014 campaign for governor. That wide-open campaign played out throughout 2013 as six Republican candidates (and a single Democrat) jockeyed for position.

4. Creighton moves to Big East

In the shifting world of college sports conferences, Creighton University held a good spot: a top school in the mid-major Missouri Valley Conference.

But in March, Creighton jumped to the big time of college athletics, accepting a spot in the Big East as the conference acclaimed for its basketball history was revamped to reflect Catholic institutions.

Creighton President Timothy Lannon called it “a match made in heaven.”

As Big East basketball started this fall, the men's team took the court with All-American Doug McDermott, who decided to put off a shot at the NBA to return to Creighton for his senior season.

5. Jean Stothert and Tom Hanafan

Omaha inaugurated its first female mayor in 2013, and Council Bluffs said goodbye to Tom Hanafan, who led that city for more than a quarter-century.

Jean Stothert, a Republican and City Council member, trounced incumbent Democrat Jim Suttle.

Hanafan, a Democrat, decided it was time to step aside after presiding over a period of remarkable growth for the Iowa city of 62,000.

6. Obamacare fumbles website rollout

The federal health care law — some call it the Affordable Care Act, some just Obamacare — went live with its new online health insurance marketplaces this fall. But the huge federal website was barely functional, though some states' marketplaces worked well.

As federal officials scrambled to fix the problems, concerns were unabated. Yet the law continued toward full implementation, and officials reported that the website was improving and that earlier this month about 1.9 million had completed the eligibility process.

Tuesday was the deadline to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

7. Bo Pelini: #@*&%!!! ... I'm sorry

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini has always been an emotional coach — no stranger to four-letter words. But his emotional outbursts got him in trouble twice during the Huskers' 2013 season.

Not long after a Husker loss against UCLA, the website Deadspin.com posted an audio file from 2011 of Pelini making profanity-laced comments about Husker fans and the news media. Then after the Huskers' loss against Iowa, Pelini used an expletive to describe an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against him.

Between the foul language and the Huskers' play on the field, speculation about Pelini's job ramped up. After the Iowa game, the coach proclaimed, “If they want to fire me, go ahead.”

After both incidents, Pelini apologized. And the day after the Iowa game, Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst issued a statement affirming his support for Pelini.

8. Omaha police officers fired over taped incident

The controversy started with allegations of police brutality and a YouTube video showing part of the incident. The video showed the arrest of one man on the street, and officers then chased a second man into a home.

Four officers were fired over their actions in March near 33rd and Seward Streets, and two faced criminal charges alleging that they obstructed a police investigation.

Authorities alleged that one officer threw away a memory card with a video of the incident and that a second tried to orchestrate officers' stories.

9. Hagel appointed secretary of defense

President Barack Obama crossed party lines when he nominated Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. But Hagel found himself in a tough, weeks-long partisan debate during his Senate confirmation.

Republicans delayed the confirmation vote in the Senate with an unprecedented filibuster. Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska, ultimately won a place in Obama's Cabinet after a 58-41 vote.

10. Outlet mall mania

The tired, largely empty Gretna outlet mall made way for a fresh, chock-full Nebraska Crossing Outlets just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Shoppers went crazy on opening day in November, drawn by such stores as Coach, Borsheims and Kate Spade.

In all, the outlet mall cost $112 million, has more than 70 stores and restaurants, and spans 350,000 square feet.

Material compiled from World-Herald staff reports over the past year.

Read about the top online stories of 2013.

Explosive device blows hole in windshield, damages another car
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Portion of Saddle Creek Road closed after water main break
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
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