Today, the Lahontan Valley News looks at the top stories of 2015 as determined by the editorial staff, readers’ input during the year and impact to the overall community and/or area.
SUICIDE — Churchill Community Coalition, Churchill County School District and other community-based organizations continue to work on efforts to reduce the suicide statistics.
During the second half of the 2014-2015 school year, Churchill County Middle School mourned the tragic loss of a student.
According to the American Association, the U.S.A. Suicide: 2013 Official Final Data report ranked Nevada sixth out of the 51 states (including District of Columbia) with a 19.4 percent suicide rate.
Andrea Zeller of the Churchill Community Coalition said from 2009-2012, 9 percent of deaths in Churchill County were a result of suicide. She said 20 percent involved females and 80 percent males. Those numbers reflect adults from 22-72 years of age.
EDUCATION — A Fallon connection is helping Western Nevada College move forward.
On Jan. 20, Sherry Black officially took the reins and aims to propel Fallon’s brand forward. As the leader of the campus, Black has the responsibility for her plans charging ahead, which they did in 2015.
As a result, Black has numerous plans to drive community support, class expansion and enrollment.
The man who steered Western Nevada College for 18 months was chosen in June to be its permanent president.
Chet Burton, who retired from the U.S. Navy in Fallon, was unanimously approved by the Nevada System of Higher Education Regents, who filled the post without going through a national search.
The school district had a trustee who resigned, and the school board decided to return to grade-school levels.
Steve Nunn resigned his position in March.
The school board accepted his resignation but would not reveal a reason.
The Churchill County School Board of Trustees held a special meeting to discuss the recommendation the Budget Committee made because of a $2.3 million deficit.
The school district decided to implement grade-level schools and a Reduce in Force of about 11 positions to save money because of the budget deficit.
BIRD DEATHS — A mass death toll of starlings took many county residents by surprise.
A recent rain of starlings fell on county residents like a pseudo-biblical plague.
The birds, which are considered a non-native invasive species by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, had been migrating north for the past four to six weeks.
Estimates by the agency target the population at more the one million, which is up considerably from previous years likely due to the early cold weather in the northern U.S. and Canada.
As a result of the birds’ status, the USDA has been eradicating as many birds as possible through a poison to protect livestock.
Because of the incredible numbers, the birds’ feces gets mixed up with livestock feed and water supply, which can and has killed those animals.
Kocurek said the program is only at the request of dairies and feedlots and non-lethal recommendations have been asked by those affected by the starlings.
As for preventative measures, he said producers can keep feed in protective areas, prevent the birds from entering buildings, cover feed piles and eliminate roosting areas.
MURDER — A 63-old Fallon man who murdered his ex-wife was found dead in April in Humboldt County by troopers from the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Larry Loran Small killed his former spouse, Kathy Small, with a single .22-caliber gunshot to the back of the head at the Churchill County Cemetery.
According to Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter, Larry Small fled in his truck north to Interstate 80 and was later found dead in Humboldt County by NHP troopers.
As for why the couple was at the cemetery, Trotter said the reason is not known. However, it did not appear Kathy Small was abducted.
A murder case dating back to 1999 finally came to an end Friday.
Raymond Wong, 44, of Pinole, Calif., was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Alice Sin, whose body was dumped along Interstate 80 in Churchill County, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Four months pregnant, Alice Sin, 21, disappeared on Nov. 21, 1999. Wong said the last time he saw her leave the home they shared with their 1-year-old son was to meet a Diablo Valley College group.
No meeting was scheduled, however, and he reported her missing the next day, the Times reported.
Sin’s body, meanwhile, was discovered in January 2000 in Churchill County. She had been shot numerous times and mutilated by human or animal activity or both. Her abdomen was sliced open and the fetus removed.
In a 2012 interview, Churchill County District Attorney Art Mallory said Sin’s body was dumped and discovered by a man checking mining claims. Mallory said evidence suggested Sin was killed before Wong entered Nevada, so authorities and prosecutors from Pinole assumed jurisdiction.
HIGH PROFILE CASES — A 27-year-old Lyon County man received in April consecutive life sentences in the Tenth Judicial District Court after pleading guilty to child lewdness and pornography charges.
Dally Ty Petty said he committed the crime physically — but not mentally or spiritually — and apologized to the victim and the victim’s parents who were not in court. He was also placed on lifetime supervision.
Petty’s case contained hundreds of disturbing pictures and videos of child pornography including a video of a young Fallon child who was victimized.
Petty’s crime was discovered last year by his former girlfriend when she found a video on his phone. The woman called authorities in Fernley, who arrested Petty.
A search of his computer discovered 10 videos, 602 pictures and a file-sharing program.
A Fallon man who had changed his plea to no contest in a trial earlier this year received on Tuesday the stiffest sentence possible for inappropriately touching two children under the age of 14.
Donald Evans IV, 28, of Fallon was sentenced in late December eight to 20 years in the Nevada State Prison and fined him in excess of $2,000.
Evans was arrested on July 9, 2014, after the Fallon Police Department was alerted to alleged sexual abuse that occurred one month earlier on June 10. Court documents and testimony during thesentencing phase stated Evans touched the two children on their private parts and that the younger child witnessed the older one being sexually abused.