It’s been a year, Tribune readers.
From shocking video of a nurse’s arrest to accusations of pornography in schools, there was a lot happening in the Beehive State — and we were there to keep you informed.
Beginning with the most-read story of 2017, here’s a look at the Salt Lake Tribune’s most popular stories:
The saga of University of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels reached far beyond Utah after a shocking video showed Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne arresting Wubbels and placing her into his patrol vehicle while she screamed “Help! Help! Somebody help me! Stop! Stop! I did nothing wrong!”
Wubbels was following a hospital policy that does not allow blood draws from unconscious patients, unless an officer has probable cause, has a warrant or gets the patient’s permission.
Payne was eventually fired — a decision he is appealing — and Wubbels was awarded a $500,000 settlement to be paid by Salt Lake City and the University of Utah. She said she will use a portion of the money to help people get body camera footage, at no cost, of incidents involving themselves.
In September, members of the Utah Legislature’s Judiciary Interim Committee voted unanimously to draft a bill that will clarify when police may, and may not, draw blood without a driver’s consent.
The patient at the center of the controversy, William Gray, a full-time truck driver and a part-time reserve officer with the Rigby, Idaho, police department, died Sept. 25.
The Mormon church excommunicated one of its top leaders — but provided no details about the removal.
On Aug. 8, the church announced James J. Hamula was released from his position in the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after disciplinary action.
The last time a high-profile disciplinary action occurred was in 1989, when the LDS Church removed George P. Lee for “heresy” and “conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”
Lee insisted the move was triggered by his opposition to the faith’s shifting approach to its Indian members, who Lee believed were meant to be leaders in the church, but later admitted to attempted child sex abuse.
Utah Jazz fans were hurt to learn Gordon Hayward was leaving his first professional team for the Celtics — and understandably — wanted answers. The Tribune worked to provide as many as possible.
Amid the drama of Hayward’s decision to leave the Jazz for the Celtics, there was talk of a sign-and-trade involving Hayward and Jae Crowder.
As Tony Jones and Aaron Falk pointed out in their article, the trade could have helped ease the blow of Hayward’s exit — but things don’t always work out that easily. Crowder ended up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Tribune’s editorial board explained the distinction saying the senator was picked his “part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments,” his “role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code” and “his utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.”
The Tribune stressed that the award is given to the Utahn who, over the past 12 months, has done the most — for good or for bad.
That disclaimer didn’t stop the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history from tweeting out his gratitude, starting a Twitter debate over whether he understood the negative connotation or not.
His spokesman eventually confirmed Hatch read the editorial and that his tweet was “tongue-in cheek.”
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams didn’t plan for his social experiment to be made public — in fact, it took nearly five months to persuade him to talk about it.
“I didn’t go as an exposé,” he told The Tribune’s Courtney Tanner in August.
McAdams‘ three-day, two-night experience with homelessness at or near The Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande district was intended to help him fine-tune Operation Rio Grande, the three-phase effort by local, county and state leaders to deal with crime and lawlessness in the area.
What he experienced during that time was, in his own words, “shocking.”
The Brian Head fire, which burned 71,000 acres in southern Utah this summer, led firefighters and other officials to uncover something, well, interesting: several explosive-filled bunkers hidden near makeshift cabins illegally built by a survivalists.
Mariah Noble reported that while working to suppress the blaze, firefighters near Henderson Hill heard “popping sounds,” that they initially thought were rocks exploding from the heat of the wildfire, but as the sounds continued for about five minutes, the crews realized it was ammunition exploding.
An investigation into the illegal cabins, bunkers and storage caches is ongoing.
Mormons and others who wonder about the salaries of top LDS leaders got a possible peek this year when purported pay stubs emerged online, the Tribune’s religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote in January.
The 16-year-old records were posted by MormonLeaks and show Henry B. Eyring’s — then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — biweekly salary in 2000 broke down into a living allowance ($2,192.31), parsonage or clergy housing, ($826.92) and a child allowance ($76.92).
A second leaked document included a 2014 memo from the church’s Presiding Bishopric (which handles all financial issues for the faith), noting that the “base living allowance” for all Mormon general authorities was being raised from $116,400 to $120,000.
Tribune readers are well-accustomed to Robert Kirby’s dry sense of humor and surprising tales tied to his Mormon faith or his time as a police officer. Like any good comedian, Kirby’s timing is always spot-on.
This particular column came out around the time purported pay stubs for a high-ranking church official emerged online.
“For my church, I’ve cleaned ditches, roofed houses, vaccinated livestock, fixed plumbing and even canned chili,” Kirby wrote. “I’ve also held various time-heavy jobs like being in bishoprics and serving as an Elders Quorum president. Not a pay stub to show for any of it. Now that we seem to know what LDS leaders are paid, it’s still OK with me. I say this because I wouldn’t do it for that much. Not even close.“
Chiyoko Copeland was a no show at her job on Dec. 18 and that was highly unusual. She had never missed a shift before, and she was known for walking to and from work.
Her co-workers were right to worry. Copeland was killed when a car hit her as she crossed a street in Layton on her 4-mile journey home from her favorite Wal-Mart.
Paighten Harkins’ tragic story of co-workers searching for their missing friend resonated with readers, and earned thousands of comments — many from locals who claimed to see Copeland walking everyday.
Isilda Abel, Copeland’s project manager, said everyone on the base knew of the short woman who no matter the weather, would walk to work carrying only an umbrella and small backpack.
And while Copeland’s death hurt, Abel said: “I know she’s at peace.”
One of The Tribune’s most read stories is the tale of a brave woman who stabbed — and then literally chased — a man who groped her while she was on her morning run.
Police said the unidentified woman was running near 1700 South and 500 East around 6 a.m. Nov. 10 when a man grabbed her from behind.
She immediately turned around and stabbed the man multiple times with a small knife she was carrying.
The man turned to run to a nearby bus stop, but the jogger wasn’t giving up that easily. She ran after him before deciding to go home and file a police report.
The story led many readers to exclaim “You go, girl.”
Former Utah congressman and current Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz had a busy year. But one of his most, well, viral moments came from his final town hall meeting in February.
For 75 minutes, Chaffetz, who was then still in office, attempted to answer questions from an angry crowd — but struggled to speak over chants of “Explain yourself” and “Do your job.”
“If you want me to answer the question, give me more than five seconds to do it,” Chaffetz told the crowd.
Eventually, Chaffetz addressed 13 questions, three focused on public lands and four on investigating the new president. The other subjects jumped from Planned Parenthood to air quality to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
We’d like to act surprised about why this story got so much attention, but we can’t.
After the Utah Legislature rejected the idea of integrating a comprehensive sex education program in place of the current abstinence only program, the adult film site xHamster took matters into its own hands.
Every person who visited xHamster from a Utah IP address was immediately forwarded to a nonexplicit website featuring educational videos pertaining to sex.
”Utahns consume the most porn per capita of any state, but have some of the lowest levels of sexual education,” xHamster said in a pop-up to the site. “We’re here to change that.”
Tribune reporter Jennifer Dobner brought to light the issue of medical consent as it pertains to transgender patients in her story about Lesley Ann Shaw.
Shaw, who was born female, no longer identifies as a woman, but as a “transgender, nonbinary or agender individual,” was experiencing severe menstrual pain when she visited Dr. Rixt Luikenaar, a Utah doctor known for her work with transgender patients.
She and Shaw had decided on a hysterectomy, during which Luikenaar would remove both of Shaw’s fallopian tubes and one ovary — Shaw requested to keep the other ovary in case she wanted a biological child of her own one day.
When Shaw awoke after her procedure, she learned Luikenaar had removed both ovaries.
Post-operative notes say both ovaries were removed because Shaw was suffering from endometriosis, Dobner reports, but subsequent testing of the tissues found no sign of the disease, according to the pending lawsuit.
As of now, Shaw remains in a constant state of menopause as a result of the surgery.
The disappearance, and subsequent death, of Paul Swenson is a story made for a movie or true-crime podcast. And Tribune readers couldn’t get enough of it.
Swenson, 30, was last seen July 25, in American Fork and reported missing July 29. The car he was driving was found unoccupied at Park View Elementary in Salt Lake City, according to American Fork police Sgt. Adam Stowers.
Swenson also complained about chest pain, but was cleared by a doctor. Days before he left, Swenson had deactivated his social media accounts. Family members, however, wondered whether he was going through a medical or mental health crisis.
Police said the circumstances surrounding Swenson’s case were suspicious because he missed an appointment and had his phone turned off. Many items found in his car did not belong to him, his wife told police.
Family members also reported he “wasn’t acting like himself.“ His wife, a blogger with tens of thousands of followers, told police he was talking about “random things” that “didn’t make sense” before he left.
In June, she published a post indicating that she was pushing through marital problems.
In early August, Swenson’s family shifted its focus “from daily searches out of Salt Lake City to a nationwide scope as investigators continue to follow various leads,” and expressed belief he would found alive.
On Aug. 13, however, Swenson’s body was found floating in Mill Creek. The state medical examiner’s office said there were no obvious signs of foul play, such as significant wounds or signs of a blunt force impact.
A later report by the medical examiner said Swenson died of drowning and that he tested positive for alcohol and THC — the main active ingredient in marijuana.
It began with a Facebook video — one that depicted two Mormon missionaries on the tough streets of Manaus, Brazil.
Then, two men ride up on a motorcycle. One leaps off, approaches the white shirt and tie-wearing pair, pulls a gun from his belt and threatens the missionaries as he tries to rifle their pockets.
Wrong move. One of missionaries quickly grabbed the gun and threw it over a fence.
“While his companion watches,” Tribune reporter Bob Mims wrote, “the larger missionary proceeds to offer not the right hand of fellowship but a flurry of overhand rights and straight left jabs that send the culprit reeling across the street and finally tumbling onto the asphalt.”
In one of the most intense public meetings of the year, Draper Mayor Troy Walker pulled two of his city’s proposed homeless-shelter locations off the table.
He’d offered the sites just the day before.
During the nearly four-hour meeting, residents threatened to oust him, brought up possible lawsuits and loudly booed a homeless man asking for compassion.
“We’ll help ourselves if you give us a place to start from,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune after walking off the stage.
In a year of big news, Operation Rio Grande remained one of the most followed by Tribune readers.
Before phase one of the plan was implemented, however, Utahns knew firsthand the danger that surrounded the Rio Grande District.
The violence in downtown Salt Lake City became so serious, in fact, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes mentioned bringing in the National Guard.
“The violence and what is going on there is escalating,” Hughes said. “When it gets that out of hand, you can have a discussion about the National Guard with a straight face.”
Hughes clarified he wasn’t asking Gov. Gary Herbert to call in the Guard just yet, but that he worried local officials weren’t “ready to do the things necessary to clean that area up.“
The comment came days after a homeless man attacked Las Vegas 51s baseball relief pitcher Logan Taylor in an attempted robbery and after a car plowed into a group of homeless people, leaving one dead and five injured
“I didn’t even know this was happening until five minutes ago,” Feist said shortly before the event began. “It was just serendipity.”
That’s what Donovan Feist, once a devout Mormon, told The Tribune moments after he resigned from the LDS Church in front 60 people Nov. 6.
Similar resignation events have been taking place in Salt Lake City since 2011. This particular gathering was scheduled on the second anniversary of the LDS Church changing its policy regarding children with LGBTQ parents.
The June 14 shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) led many members of Congress to fight for further protection — of themselves.
“I feel very safe and secure at the Capitol,” Chaffetz said. “We work in a fortress with literally thousands of people to protect us, but once we leave the Capitol, it’s a whole different equation.”
Chaffetz, among other Utahns, had personal experience in being targeted, Thomas Burr reported.
A Florida man plead guilty to threatening to lynch the Utah Republican, among other explicit things.
KUTV news anchor Shauna Lake was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk this May.
Stories that followed KUTV news anchor Shauna Lake’s arrest on suspicion of drunk driving caused debate among commenters and on social media about whether her personal life was fair game. It should be noted The Tribune is a content-sharing partner with KUTV.
“Public humiliation is one of the hazards of being well-known,” Kirby wrote days after Lake was arrested. “When you screw up, it’s news. And there are plenty of trolls eager to feed on your grief, including the media.”
Kirby proceeded to go after other local news stations for their “gotcha” stories, which he says equates to “reveling in the tragedy and pain of others.”
In a Feb. 25 commencement address to graduates of LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks discussed the “challenging times” and fears facing humankind.
The two “big worries” he noted included climate change and the Trump administration.
Those examples surprised readers, mostly because the Utah-based faith maintains a neutral stance in partisan matters, saying it “does not endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms” while adding that Mormons “may have differences of opinion” in such matters.
After 20 years of twice-yearly shows, the Outdoor Retailer show left Salt Lake City this year — and took about 40,000 yearly visitors and $45 million of additional annual income with it to Denver.
“It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible,” the Outdoor Industry Association, which has close ties to the OR show, wrote in a statement following the announcement.
In July, it was announced Denver will host trade shows starting next year.
Laurie Lee Hall believes she was excommunicated from the Mormon church for being a woman.
The former LDS stake president, who oversaw a group of Mormon congregations in Tooele for eight years and worked as an architect on her faith’s most sacred spaces, faced, in her mind, an impossible choice: Either return to living as a man or resign her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Peggy Fletcher Stack’s profile details Hall’s journey through spirituality and the difficulties she faces with reconciling with her Mormon faith.
Religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack’s look into an offshoot of the Mormon church. The Remnant, or Denver Suffer Jr.’s, group of small fellowships intrigued readers this past August with its “radically democratic“ method of operation.
Snuffer’s fellowship has no leaders, no rigid rules, no prescribed offices and no formal organization — a far cry from the ultra-organized and hierarchal Mormon church from which most of his followers came from.
By some estimates, the schismatic movement now includes between 5,000 and 10,000 followers in 49 states and several countries. Some have been disciplined by the LDS Church; others continue to participate in the Utah-based faith, while sneaking off to fellowships on the side.
Who better to respond to the exit of Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward than long-time Tribune columnist Gordon Monson?
In his farewell column to Hayward, Monson accused the player of “ducking out down a back alley“ and “looking for the easier route,” and fans were even more critical.
“He knew he was going to choose Boston, and instead of just saying it, he was too timid and wanted people here to still like him, so he pretended he didn’t know what he wanted to do,“ wrote one reader.
“The Jazz, the fans, and community have invested heavily in Hayward’s development right down to signing players that he asked for in order to stay,“ wrote another.
Holly Richardson has no regrets about voting for someone other than President Donald Trump, and she’s not afraid to admit it.
“I cannot speak for the many others who did not vote for Trump in Utah, but for me, I have no regrets,” Richardson wrote. “You see, I believe character matters. I believe it matters more than a party label. In fact, there are many things that matter more than a party label: principles, people, my religion, kindness, integrity. They all matter more than a party label.”
Here in Utah, many expected Trump to shrink some of the state’s national monuments — we just didn’t know when.
On Nov. 28, we learned he would fly into the Beehive State days later for a rapid reduction and speech.
Sources close to the situation told The Tribune that Trump would change the boundaries of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments after meeting with Mormon church leaders.
The announcement led to immediate plans for protests among Utahns.
After Bob Mim’s wrote a news story about a boy lost in a West Jordan corn maze, Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle discovered the story had a unique twist: The family was polygamous.
And when asked how his wife lost track of their son, the father’s answer was unashamedly honest: There were “about four blond-haired boys about the same height” traveling with her that day.
“It was an oversight that we learned a lot from,” the man added.
In September, the LDS Church acquired a book that Steven E. Snow, the church’s historian and recorder, called “both a spiritual and historic treasure.”
But the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon didn’t come cheap: The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said they sold the book for $35 million.
“The printer’s manuscript is the earliest surviving copy of about 72 percent of the Book of Mormon text, as only about 28 percent of the earlier dictation copy survived decades of storage in a cornerstone in Nauvoo, Ill.,” Snow said.
Mormons believe the Book of Mormon, first published in 1830 and the faith’s signature scripture, was translated by church founder Joseph Smith from “reformed Egyptian” engravings on a set of golden plates unearthed from a hill in upstate New York with the guidance of an angel.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir agreed to sing at Trump’s inauguration spurring debate among the faithful — and prompted thousands to sign a petition demanding that the group skip the event.
On woman, in particular, took matters into her own hands by resigning from the choir.
“Since ‘the announcement,’ I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony. I have reflected carefully on both sides of the issue, prayed a lot, talked with family and friends, and searched my soul,” Jan Chamberlin wrote in a resignation letter to the choir president and choir members. “I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in choir for all the other good reasons. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.”
It was not the first time the choir was asked to perform at a presidential inauguration. In fact, the group previously sang at swearing-in ceremonies for George H. W. Bush (1989), Richard Nixon (1969) and Lyndon Johnson (1965). It performed in inaugural parades for George W. Bush (2001), George H. W. Bush (1989) and Ronald Reagan (1981).
Shortly after the announcement, choir leaders said it would allow singers who did not want to perform before Trump to opt out of the lottery being used to determine which 215 performers would travel.
Both local and national readers likely did a double take when they say the movie “Oklahoma!” was causing a stir in a junior high school.
A brief scene in the 1999 film adaptation of the musical generated complaints in the Nebo School District after the movie was shown to students at Payson Junior High School in September.
In the film, Hugh Jackman’s a character is shown looking at a collection of erotic images while the camera closes in over his shoulder.
“She‘s plum, stark naked as a jaybird,” Jackman’s character remarks before the camera zooms out and the scene continues.
The movie, and that scene, was shown to somewhere between 100 and 150 students over a two-day period, according to a school spokesperson. An email sent out to parents said the film had not been pre-approved by school administrators.
“A pornographic movie was shown in a classroom setting to approximately 125 students … among other things, the movie contained an 8-second close-up of 10 full-frontal images of 10 naked women,” one Facebook post read.