Top stories of 2014

 

When a local archaeological site makes world news, it’s a pretty good argument for calling it the top story of the year for Park County.

The 12-600-year-old Clovis child has always been a big story since he was found in the Shields Valley in 1968. But with the news of the reburial of the child and the finding, published in a Nature journal article, that he is an ancestor of most modern Native Americans, the story rose to a new level of importance. The finding, called one of the most important in early American archaeology, made news around the world.

Making second in the top-story list was the first gay marriage in Park County. It generated much commentary in Enterprise letters to the editor and in the community, but regardless of where residents stand on the topic, it’s a big development and merits a high placing on the top-10 list.

Coming in at third is the accelerated rate of construction of the new Livingston HealthCare hospital just east of Livingston. It’s a story that has much importance for the day-to-day lives of Park County residents.

Like any year, 2014 brought good news and bad, and those stories are encapsulated below, from the number one story to number 10.

 

1. Clovis boy reburial, DNA finding

Scientists and representatives of six tribes reburied a 12,600-year-old Clovis child in a patch of sagebrush in June close to the site in the Shields Valley where he was accidentally unearthed almost 50 years ago.

The child, who was found by contractors on the land of Mel and Helen Anzick in 1968, is an ancestor of most modern Native Americans, according to a paper published in Nature in February. The paper documented genetic testing that Sarah Anzick, a molecular biologist, and a team of researchers including Eske Willerslev, a famous Danish geneticist, did on the boy’s bones. 

The sequencing of the boy’s genome and the discovery that he’s related to present-day Native Americans was touted as one of the most significant ever made in early American archaeology. It adds evidence to the theory that the ancestors of Native Americans walked across a land bridge from Asia into the Americas. Researchers believe the boy was about one and a half years old when he died, but have few clues as to how he died. 

 

2. First gay marriage

A Livingston couple sealed their decades-long partnership in the first legal same-sex marriage in Park County. Amy Wagner and Karen Langebeck’s Nov. 20 ceremony took place in the City-County Complex following a 22 year relationship. 

 

Karen Langebeck, left, and Amy Wagner, after sharing a 22-year-long relationship, wait outside the Park County District Court to be wed on Nov. 20. They were Park County’s first same-sex couple to legally marry.

Enterprise photo by Hunter D’Antuono

 

Wagner and Langebeck rushed to the Clerk of District Court’s office the same day a federal judge struck down Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage, but the couple had to wait until the following day to say their vows. That’s because the lift on the ban came unexpectedly, and marriage license application forms were not updated in time. Clerk of District Court June Little and the other employees in her office changed gender-specific language on the documents.

 

3. Hospital construction, sale

Construction of Livingston HealthCare’s new hospital progressed rapidly in 2014, and a local real estate broker purchased the current facility.

By the end of the year, the new building had a finished roof and had full enclosure between newly constructed walls. 

A lease agreement began in November allowing LHC to continue operations in the existing hospital after Park County resident Chris Salacinski purchased the properties for $1 million.

 

Enterprise photo by Hunter D’Antuono

Pictured is the construction site of Livingston HealthCare’s new hospital east of Livingston, on Sept. 3. The 125,000-square-foot facility will bring all of the hospital’s current services under one roof.  The facility is expected to open by the fall of 2015. 

 

4. I-90 fatality trial

A Sweet Grass County jury in October returned a verdict of guilty in the case of a truck driver accused of hitting a man Sept. 30, 2013, on Interstate 90 and failing to report the accident. 

David Welk, 45, was found guilty of felony leaving the scene of an accident. During the two-day trial, prosecutors relied on the story of Welk’s co-driver, who testified that Welk said he ran “somebody” over. The accident led to the death of 81-year-old Elgie Bedford of Wasilla, Alaska. 

Felony charges of tampering with evidence and accidents involving another person or deceased person filed against Wryan Young, 31, of Washington, were dropped. A felony tampering with evidence charges against her father, Westley Young, is still pending. The Youngs’ charges were in connection with the discovery of Bedford’s remains at a Livingston car wash shortly after the accident.  

 

5. Tubaugh reinstatement decision

The Montana Supreme Court in November ruled that the City of Livingston must reinstate fired Livingston police officer Matthew Tubaugh.

The Supreme Court sided with an arbitrator who determined in 2013 that while the city had just cause to discipline Tubaugh, the proper action would have been a three-month suspension without pay, not termination, according to the decision. 

The arbitrator was brought in after Tubaugh appealed his October 2012 firing through the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Montana Public Employees Association. A lawyer for the MPEA has been handling Tubaugh’s case.

The city appealed the arbitrator’s award in Park County’s Sixth Judicial District Court and, in January of 2014, District Court Judge Brenda Gilbert sided with the city, issuing an order to vacate the arbitrator’s award. But the Supreme Court found that Gilbert incorrectly ruled the arbitrator exceeded her powers by ordering Tubaugh should have been progressively disciplined and that the city should reinstate him. 

 

6. Gardiner murder

In March, a murder-suicide left two dead in Gardiner. Undersheriff Scott Hamilton identified the dead as Debi J. Roberts, 59, and Steve A. Cole, 63, both of Gardiner. 

Hamilton confirmed that Steve Cole entered the Water Street home of Debi Roberts, shooting Roberts and then killing himself with a small-caliber handgun.

The two previously dated and police arrested Cole in February 2000 on a charge of partner or family member assault against Roberts, but the two had not been in a relationship for about two years, Hamilton said. 

The Yellowstone National Park dispatch center received a call from Roberts, who reported Cole trying to break into her home at 308 Water St., Hamilton said.  Roberts told the dispatcher the man had already shot at her and was trying to break into her home. 

Yellowstone National Park rangers arrived at the scene, where they found Cole dead and Roberts in critical condition inside the mobile home. Medics attempted to save Roberts, but were unsuccessful.

 

7. Truck stop

A truck stop chain initiated the first steps of development of a plot of land east of Livingston. 

Love’s Travel Stops approached the City of Livingston in June requesting annexation of the Sievers property on the east interchange near Interstate 90’s exit 337. Annexation guarantees extension of the city’s water and sewer services.

After the City Commission requested more time to process the request, Love’s withdrew its request, only to re-engage the city in negotiations for the extension of utilities with or without annexation.

After several meetings, discussions regarding annexation stalled and no definitive action was taken in 2014.

 

8. Gardiner volleyball state champs

The Gardiner Bruins did it again, winning their third-straight Class C state volleyball championship. The Bruins did not drop a single set in their four wins in the state tournament, beating 8C District rivals, the Manhattan Christian Eagles, in the Nov. 15 championship match.

“It says a lot, that they can shoulder a lot,” head coach Carmen Harbach said of her team winning three consecutive state championships with all the pressure that past success brings. “They came in two years ago after winning the (first) state championship and said, ‘The past is in the past. Now we have to work for something new.’ That has been the mantra every year since. There is a trophy in the case. No one is taking that away, and now we can work for another one. Our senior leadership has really exemplified that, working for every point and working for everything that we earned.”

 

9. Attempted murder

A Livingston man who was deployed twice to Iraq with the Army National Guard was charged with attempted deliberate homicide in connection with a shooting in a mobile home park in Livingston in September.

Daniel Colvin, 27, was charged with the crime after police said an argument over the alleged victim’s wife lead to Michael Aja being shot in the head as he was trying to drive away from the mobile home park on U.S. Highway 89 South.

 

10. Gardiner Gateway Project

What began as a National Park Service plan to improve access to Yellowstone National Park and improve safety around the historic Roosevelt Arch evolved into a multiagency consortium working to improve infrastructure in Gardiner.

The Gardiner Gateway Project is a $24.5 million project that will take place over the next three years. The project will include water and drainage upgrades for the town, paving of selected streets and sidewalks, installation of street lights and other improvements. 

Work is expected to continue through 2016. There will be a push to have much of the work done in time for when the National Park Service marks its centennial on Aug. 25, 2016.