As the year draws to a close, we bring you the annual look back at some of the big news stories that garnered the most attention in 2020 --- except for any of those related to the pandemic, because we're all tired of hearing about COVID-19.
The year began with the recognition of a hero who stopped a church shooting followed by the shocking and tragic death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and the lighter story of a (failed) demolition of a building that has come to be known as the Leaning Tower of Dallas.
Lone Star NYE
Join NBC 5's NBC 5 Katy Blakey and KARK’s D.J. William for 'Lone Star NYE' from NBC 5 and Nexstar airing Dec. 31, 2020 from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and streaming live on NBCDFW.com.
North Texans also logged-on and tuned-in to read about the death of George Floyd and the turning-point in a worldwide movement combating police brutality and racism -- and that led to protests at home and around the country. Readers also read about the loss of icons like Charlie Pride and soldiers like Vanessa Guillen, but also of the capture of two accused killers who had eluded the authorities for years. Of course, there were more offbeat stories that made news as well -- things like Murder Hornets, mysterious sea creatures, UFOs and fireballs. Without further delay, here are the most viewed articles of 2020 -- except for those that had anything to do with the pandemic.
Jan. 13 -- Good Guy With a Gun Gets State's Highest Honor
Jack Wilson, the armed churchgoer who stopped a gunman who opened fire inside a White Settlement church in December 2019 killing two people, was awarded the state’s highest honor, the Governor's Medal of Courage, at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
Jan. 26 -- The Loss of a Legend: Kobe Bryant, Daughter Killed in Helicopter Crash
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The Los Angeles Lakers star played 20 years in the NBA, inspiring athletes everywhere. With cans of spray paint, brushes and a ladder, local DFW artist Theo Ponchaveli brought Bryant and his daughter to life in a mural in Dallas.
Jan. 28 -- Dallas' Purple Slime Mystery Solved
Neighbors thought a passing plane was to blame for the purple slime that landed on vehicles near Dallas Love Field on Jan. 9, but that was not what turned out to be the cause.
Jan. 31 - Quick Fix to Bad Credit Ends in Jail
Some ads suggest a CPN (Credit Privacy Number) is a magic solution, a way to boost your credit score, so you can get that new credit card, a new car or a new house. NBC 5 Investigates found using a CPN to establish credit is in violation of federal law that could land you in jail.
Feb. 7 -- Arlington Teen Killed Days After Standing Up to Bully
Arlington High School sophomore Samuel Reynolds, 16, was shot and killed near his home days after police said he broke up a fight between the juvenile suspected shooter and a “smaller boy” who was being picked on.
Year in Review
Feb. 8 -- Grand Champion Steer Goes for Record-Breaking $300k
Bids rolled in for the Grand Champion Steer on the last day of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. In the end, 'Cupid Shuffle' went for $300,000, the highest amount ever paid in the Junior Steer Competition, and Ryder Day will get to keep every penny.
Feb. 14 -- Aggressive Passenger 'Tased,' Arrested at DFW Airport
A man smoking at a customer service counter inside DFW Airport began punching an American Airlines employee after being asked to put out his cigarette. The man tried to hit officers before being stunned and taken into custody.
Feb. 16 -- The Leaning Tower of Dallas
The Leaning Tower of Dallas was born on Feb. 16 when the planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services building didn't fully collapse upon detonation. When the dust settled the building's core, containing the stairwell and elevator shaft, remained upright at an angle. For the next two weeks, people traveled from near and far to take whimsical photographs with the tower in the background. The building finally collapsed in a cloud of dust on March 2 after two weeks of being whacked with a 5,600-pound wrecking ball.
Feb. 28 -- Desmond Jones Sentenced Following Outburst in Shavon Randle Trial
After two outbursts during the punishment phase of his trial where he was found guilty of organizing in criminal activity, a Dallas County jury sentenced Desmond Jones to 99 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of 13-year-old Lancaster girl Shavon Randle. Randle was kidnapped in June 2017, in what authorities believe was retaliation for a drug deal turned robbery. Her body was found four days later. Though four people have been charged in the case, none face murder charges.
April 2 -- Radio Host Gets 25 Years in Ponzi Scheme
William Neil "Doc" Gallagher, a 79-year-old Texas radio host and financial consultant who admitted to conning elderly listeners out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
April 23 -- Dak Prescott's Brother Jace Dies
Jace Prescott, the older brother of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, died by suicide at the age of 31. In September, Prescott was the featured guest on NBC 5's In Depth with Graham Bensinger where he gave Graham a behind-the-scenes look at his home, favorite places to ride off-road vehicles and fish, and even explains why he had a football field built in his backyard. In the interview, Prescott also opened up about his brother's suicide and was widely praised for offering a very public message of hope for others struggling with mental illness.
April 27 -- Pentagon Releases UFO Videos
The Pentagon officially declassified three videos showing “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAPs. The videos were shot in 2004 and 2015 by military pilots and were released after officials determined they showed no sensitive or revealing military information and to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the videos were real.
May 3 -- Murder Hornet Invasion
The first spotting of the two-inch Asian giant hornet, or vespa mandarinia, was verified in the United States in December, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The insect does not generally target people or pets, but is a deadly threat to the already at-risk honeybee hives. Giant hornets of this species apparently enter a “slaughter phase” where they decapitate honeybees and destroy entire hives in the span of a few hours, according to the department.
May 10 -- Five Shot Fort Worth Park With 600 People
Five people were injured in a shooting a Village Creek Park in Fort Worth where about 600 people had gathered for a fireworks display, according to police and MedStar. Police said as many as 30 gunshots were reported.
May 12 -- Rare Sea Creature Spotted at South Padre
A sea slug not commonly spotted on beaches appeared on South Padre Island. The creature, called a Blue Dragon, gives a very painful sting that can cause immense pain. David Hicks, UTRGV Director for the School of Marine Sciences, said that while these bright blue creatures are only around one inch, they can eat a Portuguese man o' war, which is a jellyfish twice their size.
May 15 -- Rare Identical Quads Born in Dallas Head Home
Four identical quadruplets born March 15 at a Dallas hospital headed home in May after a long stay in special care. Hudson, Harrison, Henry and Hardy were born at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to Jenny and Chris Marr. The hospital said such births are extremely rare and occur in only one in 11 million. “This situation is so incredibly rare that there are only about 72 documented cases of spontaneous, identical quadruplets ever,” Texas Health Dr. Brian Rinehart said in a hospital news release.
May 18 -- Mother Fatally Shoots Daughter During Standoff
A 35-year-old woman fatally shot her 8-year-old daughter before taking her own life during a standoff with police in Oak Cliff. The woman had been fighting with her husband prior to the shooting, police said; he called the police when he said she began shooting at him. The child's older brother was not hurt.
May 18 -- Plano-Based JC Penney Plans to Close 240 Stores
Plano-based retailer JC Penney announced it would close nearly 30% of its 846 stores as part of restructuring while under bankruptcy protection. The company planned to close 192 stores by February 2021 and another 50 stores in 2022, leaving the company with roughly 600 stores. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection days before making the announcement that stores would be shut down.
May 25 -- George Floyd Killed in Minneapolis
George Floyd, of Houston, died while being restrained during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers. In the days that followed, many North Texas police chiefs spoke out against the use of restraint after watching a graphic video of Floyd's death that showed Floyd on the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
May 26 -- Marketing Executive Killed in Dallas; Teen Faces Murder Charge
A 16-year-old boy is facing capital murder charges in the Memorial Day murder of Leslie Squair Baker, a well-liked North Dallas woman described by loved ones as "everybody's best friend." Dallas police said the juvenile, whose name will not be released due to his age, shot and killed Baker as the 59-year-old woman sat in her car in her driveway outside her home on Royalton Drive – near Preston Road and Royal Lane. Police later said the murder was the result of an attempted carjacking.
May 29 -- What Was That Bright Green Fireball?
A North Texas family's home security camera was recording when a giant fireball fell from the sky.
May 30 -- Protesters Smash Windows, Loot Businesses in Deep Ellum
Protesters organized by the Next Generation Action Network smashed windows and looted numerous businesses in downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum as the march moved through Dallas toward police headquarters. The protest against police brutality and racial prejudice was one of many around the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
June 3 -- Man Arrested for Assault, Racist Video
A McKinney man was arrested Monday after an encounter with another man in a McDonald’s parking lot began with racial slurs and ended with physical violence. Devonta Brown said the man exited his truck, pulled off his shirt, spit on him and head-butted him. The encounter was recorded on cell phone video; Brown said the confrontation began when the other driver cut him off at the drive-through line.
Year in Review
June 4 -- Texas Ranger Statue at Love Field Removed
Officials at Dallas Love Field Airport decided to remove the iconic statue of Texas Ranger Jay Banks, named "One Riot, One Ranger," after it came to light “ Banks was involved in efforts in 1957 to keep black children out of a white school" and that “Ranger Banks ... was the face of resistance to integration in Mansfield in 1957.” The information was published by author Doug Swanson who released ‘Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers’ in June.
June 9 -- George Floyd Laid to Rest in Houston
George Floyd was fondly remembered Tuesday as “Big Floyd” — a father and brother, athlete and neighborhood mentor, and now a catalyst for change — at a funeral for the black man whose death sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice. The funeral capped six days of mourning for Floyd in three cities: Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born, Houston, where he grew up, and Minneapolis, where he died. The memorials have drawn the families of other black victims whose names have become familiar in the debate over race and justice — among them, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.
June 11 -- Kelly Clarkson Files for Divorce
After seven years of marriage, North Texas native, singer, talk show host and current coach on NBC's The Voice, Kelly Clarkson, filed for divorce from husband Brandon Blackstock. The couple, who have two children together, were married in 2013. In December it was revealed Clarkson claimed in court documents in October that Blackstock operated illegally as her manager for years and should pay her back all the commissions and fees he received.
June 16 -- Shooting at Galleria Dallas Mall
A man was shot in the food court at the Galleria Dallas by a man police say he knew. Police said the men had been fighting before the shooting took place. The victim survived the shooting. Police released a photo taken from surveillance video, though it's not clear if an arrest was made.
June 17 -- Crews Prepare to Remove Confederate War Memorial in Downtown Dallas
Crews began prepping to remove the 60-foot tall Confederate War Memorial in Dallas' Pioneer Park in mid-June. The monument, designed by Frank Teich and installed in Old City Park in 1897, was moved to Pioneer Cemetery in 1961. It was donated to the city by the Daughters of the Confederacy and has status as a Dallas landmark. The monument is described as follows: the central obelisk is 60 feet tall with a Confederate soldier at the top; four Confederate figures (generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston, along with Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States) at each corner. All of the figures are 19 feet tall with pedestals; and sculptures are marble with granite bases. Once disassembled, the sculpture will be stored at Hensley Field, part of the Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex and the site of the former Dallas Naval Air Station. The monuments were removed by June 22.
June 30 -- Vanessa Guillen Remains Found
The remains for Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, who was reported to be last seen April 22 in a parking lot at Fort Hood, where she was based, was found near the Leon River in Bell County. The 20-year-old soldier's car keys, barracks room key, ID card and wallet were found in the room where she was working the day she disappeared.
June 30 -- Suspect in Vanessa Guillen Death Kills Himself
Aaron David Robinson, a suspect in the disappearance of a 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier, killed himself as law enforcement approached him after he fled the Army base.
July 12 -- Beloved Pleasant Grove Teacher Murdered
Jennifer Hickmon, who coached P.E., volleyball, basketball and track at the all-boys sixth through eighth-grade Young Men's Leadership Academy for 13 years, suffered a violent death inside her home. Jeffrey Alan Scott, Hickmon's boyfriend, was arrested on July 15 after an officer-involved shooting in San Marcos. Dallas police said homicide detectives interviewed Scott and that after he was read his rights he gave a voluntary statement admitting to the murder of Hickmon.
July 16 -- East Texas Town Removes Fence Between White, Black Cemeteries
Municipal crews dug up a fence between two adjacent but separate historically Black and historically white cemeteries in Mineola, about 75 miles east of Dallas -- a lingering relic of the Jim Crow era. For more, click here to read the Tyler Morning Telegraph's coverage.
July 23 -- Bodies of Missing Mother, 2 Kids Found in Farmers Branch
A mother and her two daughters who had been reported missing were found dead inside their car in a parking lot, according to the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department. According to a missing persons flyer sent to NBC 5, 31-year-old Natalie Chambers and her daughters, 4-year-old Izabel and 2-year-old Elise were last seen leaving their house in Forney at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Police said they were headed to a playdate in Grapevine.
July 31 -- Bill Mack, Midnight Cowboy, Dies
Longtime North Texas radio DJ and award-winning country music songwriter Bill Mack died of COVID-19 just two days after being diagnosed, according to his son, Billy Mack Jr. Mack first hit the airwaves in Fort Worth in 1969 as a disc jockey on WBAP 820-AM where he hosted the Country Roads Show and played music for overnight truckers. The show, which was broadcast out of the historic WBAP studios where NBC 5 also first went on the air, was later renamed the Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show, which is associated with his moniker. The show, with its clear channel signal, reached listeners in Texas and across much of the United States. Mack's country music songs were recorded by more than five dozen artists culminating in 1996 with a Grammy award for Best Country Song and Song of the Year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Radio Music Awards for the song Blue. That same song also won 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes her first Grammy for her recording of the song.
Aug. 3 -- Emmitt and Pat Smith Announce Separation
After 20 years of marriage, NFL great Emmitt Smith and his wife Pat announced on Instagram they were separating. They have five children total, one each from previous relationships, and three from their marriage. They couple said they will move forward with love and compassion for one another as co-parents and friends.
Aug. 5 -- Beirut Explosion Resembles Texas Tragedies
A massive blast at a port warehouse in Beirut where 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was being stored reminded many of similar explosions in Texas.
Aug. 19 -- Massive Plastics Plant Fire Sends Toxic Plume Over North Texas
An overhanging power line fell onto plastic sheeting in a storage area at the Poly-America manufacturing plant in Grand Prairie, starting a massive fire that burned and smoldered for more than 24 hours. Miraculously, no injuries were reported.
Aug. 26 -- Yaser Said Captured in North Texas
Yaser Abdel Said, a Lewisville cab driver wanted in connection with the brutal slayings of his two teenage daughters, was taken into custody in North Texas after more than 12 years on the run. According to the FBI, Said, who was considered armed and dangerous and known to carry a weapon while driving his cab, was apprehended in Justin without incident by SWAT agents from the FBI's Dallas Field Office after some "good old-fashioned, aggressive, initiative-based police work."
Aug. 27 -- Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall, Dozens Killed
In a year that saw the busiest named storm season on record, it was Hurricane Laura that was the strongest when it made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast. Five people were killed in the Lone Star State, 27 overall, after Laura made landfall in late August. The hurricane's top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph) put it among the strongest systems on record in the U.S. Not until 11 hours after landfall did Laura finally lose hurricane status as it plowed north and thrashed Arkansas, and even by Thursday evening, it remained a tropical storm with winds of 40 mph (65 kph).
Sept. 8 -- Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall Resigns
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said after just three years on the job, Chief Renee Hall had resigned. Hall was the first woman to lead the Dallas Police Department, which is the ninth-largest department in the nation. She is just the fourth person to hold the job full-time in the last 20 years. In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 following her resignation, Hall said she was offended by the treatment she has received from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and that she believes the mayor’s recent attacks on her leadership have become personal. After looking for her replacement for several months, the city said they'd hired Eddie Garcia, the former Chief of Police in San Jose, California.
Sept. 14 -- 'Cheer' Star Jerry Harris Under FBI Investigation
A spokesperson for Jerry Harris, one of the stars of the Netflix docu-series "Cheer," which chronicles the ups and downs of the Navarro Junior College cheer squad, denied reports that he solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors. "We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed." Three months later, in December, federal prosecutors filed new charges against Harris.
Sept. 22 -- Carla Walker Cold Case Murder Arrest
After nearly 50 years, an arrest was made in the Carla Walker cold case murder. Police said 77-year-old Glen Samuel McCurley was in custody Tuesday in connection with the 1974 murder of Carla Jan Walker, who was 17-years-old when she was abducted, held captive and sexually assaulted before being murdered and left in a ditch after a Valentine's Day dance. Investigators said the abductor snatched the young woman from the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car in a bowling alley parking lot. Her boyfriend, Rodney McCoy, told police the man pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him before something hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious. McCoy said he later woke up to find Walker was gone and blood coming from his head. Three days later Walker's body was found dumped in a culvert near Benbrook Lake. Read more here.
Sept. 28 -- David Finfrock Bitten by Snake While Clearing Brush
NBC 5 Senior Meteorologist,and avid outdoorsman/adventurer, David Finfrock is recovering after being bitten by a rattlesnake while volunteering at a local Audubon center. Finfrock tweeted that he was clearing ragweed at the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill when he was bitten by the snake through his jeans. Finfrock made a full recovery.
Sept. 30 -- Lotto Texas Jackpot Swells to the Largest in North America
After growing to $47 million, the Lotto Texas jackpot was not only the game's largest prize in more than a decade but was also the largest jackpot in North America (at the time). One lucky player from Seguin took home all $47 million after picking all six numbers at the Pic N Pac 10 on Highway 123. Prior to that win, there was only one other Lotto Texas jackpot winner in all of 2020, a Laredo resident that claimed a jackpot prize of $17.5 million for the drawing held on Jan. 15.
Oct. 1 -- Couple Stabbed on Evening Walk in Arlington
A violent robber brutally attacked and stabbed a couple multiple times as they enjoyed their evening walk in their southeast Arlington neighborhood. Police said Islam Duy complied with the robber's demands, but was stabbed multiple times anyway. Duly, who came to North Texas from Kurdistan to pursue the "American Dream," didn't survive his injuries. Police later arrested Osagie Ayanru and said there was corroborating evidence linking this attack to other similar robberies. As of Dec. 30, Ayanru remains in the Tarrant County Jail charged with aggravated robbery and theft.
Oct. 9 -- Empty Nest Photo Shoot
A Texas couple who decided to share the news of their newfound status as "empty nesters" found online fame in the fall. Dalila and Juan Perez had photos taken when the last of their four children moved out of their home in August. When the photographer shared the photos online -- they garnered an immediate response. Despite the cheeky photos, Dalila said she struggled when her children started moving out. With them now spread out across Texas, in San Antonio, Dallas and Corpus Christi, Dalila and Juan have plenty of reasons to travel.
Oct. 11 -- Dak Prescott Suffers Gruesome Ankle Injury
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture in his right ankle that required surgery and ended his season. Doctors who are experts in the field said it will take months to recover but that a full recovery is absolutely possible. The team turned to back Andy Dalton to lead them through the rest of the season, but when Dalton was knocked out due to a concussion, had to turn to two other quarterbacks, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert, to field a team.
Nov. 1 -- Actor Eddie Hassell killed in Grand Prairie
Actor Eddie Hassell, 30, was fatally shot in southwest Grand Prairie in what police are describing as a random robbery. Hassell was staying with a woman who told police he'd gone outside to go to her car and moments later he'd been shot and the car was gone. A witness identified the shooter, an 18-year-old man out of Arlington who was later arrested and charged with capital murder. Hassell, who was born in Corsicana and lived in Waco, appeared in many movie and television roles, including NBC's science-fiction series "Surface," "Devious Maids," the Academy Award-nominated film "The Kids Are All Right," and other projects, according to E! News.
Nov. 9 -- Mom It's Me, Mother Meets Son 45 Years Later
Brenda Van Sickle was just 16 when she delivered a baby boy in 1975. Forty-five years later her son reached out to her and the two met in person. Van Sickle says meeting her son wasn't the end of a journey, rather that it's now an ongoing journey.
Nov. 11 -- Dallas Rapper Mo3 Gunned Down on Highway
Dallas rapper Mo3 was chased down on foot and gunned down in a brazen attack in broad daylight on a Dallas freeway. Melvin Noble, aka Mo3, stopped on the busy highway, got out of his car and attempted to run before being shot. A 22-year-old parolee was arrested and jailed in connection with the shooting in early December. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Nov. 20 -- 'Definition of a Serial Killer' Jeremy Harris Arrested, Accused in Several Shootings
Dallas police said 31-year-old Jeremy Harris, the man suspected in the murder of Blair Carter, his ex-girlfriend's father, and is also charged in three other apparently random murders in Dallas, including the Halloween murder of SMU student Robert Urrea, the murder of Adam Gautreau, a homeless man, and Kenneth Hamilton, a man who was fatally shot as he sat in his car at a stoplight. Police said Harris is the definition of a serial killer and that he may be implicated in other non-fatal shootings that took place that week in Frisco, Prosper and Denton.
Nov. 25 -- Cowboys Coach Markus Paul Dies
Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning head coach, 54-year-old Markus Paul, died surrounded by family members after being rushed from the team's Frisco practice facility and hospitalized the day before. Paul was a college standout at Syracuse before joining the NFL as a player. When his playing career ended, he spent 21 years as a coach with the Saints, Patriots, Jets, Giants and Cowboys. At last check, Paul's cause of death was still pending.
Dec. 9 -- Accused Serial Killer Billy Chemirmir Faces More Charges
Billy Chemirmir, a man accused of smothering more than a dozen women living in North Texas retirement homes and robbing them of their jewelry, has been indicted on three additional charges of capital murder, bringing the total to 17. Chemirmir's attorney says his client maintains his innocence.
Dec. 12 -- County Music Legend Charlie Pride Dies
Charley Pride, country music's first Black superstar whose rich baritone on such hits as "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" helped sell millions of records, has died. Pride grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player and first made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues -- but it was in country music where he earned his legendary status as the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pride, who was part of the Texas Rangers' ownership group, died Saturday in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media. Pride was 86.
Dec. 21 -- The Great Conjunction, a Unique Astronomical Event
What's called the "Christmas Star," is actually two planets -- Jupiter and Saturn -- so close in the night sky that they look like one bright star. The planets pass each other in orbit every 20 years, but this year's conjunction is rarer; the planets pass close by every 400 years but it's only visible at night every 800 years. The last year this conjunction was visible at night was March 4, 1226. It will not occur again until approximately the year 2820.
Dec. 21 -- Two Killed in Plane Crash Along Texas 360
Two people were killed when a single-engine plane came down on the northbound Texas 360 frontage road. The plane, a Wheeler Express CT, crashed about one mile west of the Grand Prairie Municipal Airport and caught fire. Both people on board the plane crashed. The cause of the crash remains under investigation