Brainerd Dispatch names Top 10 stories of 2019
Each year, the Brainerd Dispatch newsroom votes on its Top 10 local stories covered throughout the previous 12 months. From tragedies to controversies to new beginnings, 2019 brought many changes to the Brainerd lakes area.
Homeless families program leaves Brainerd
After a tumultuous year, the only organization providing shelter services for homeless families in the Brainerd area closed permanently.
School board president’s evolution comments prove controversial
Skeptical statements made by Brainerd School Board President Sue Kern about the theory of evolution and whether it should be taught in the district sparked a flurry of reaction and letters to the editor.
Nystrom champions diabetics amid insulin price hikes
Quinn Nystrom — who's been a diabetes advocate for over two decades — saw her profile skyrocket into national and even international proportions in 2019.
Walt Straka turns 100
Walt Straka, Brainerd’s last Bataan Death March survivor, did what he never expected — turned 100 years of age Oct. 24, 2019.
Public vote determine final Destination Downtown Business Challenge winner
Crow Wing Food Co-op was the people’s choice for the final Destination Downtown Business Challenge, which offered $65,000 as the largest grand prize in the three years of the contest.
No. 10 — Former Crosby mayor’s court case is closed, but lawsuit pending
During a two-year-long court battle, all the charges against Hunter — tried separately — were dismissed or he was acquitted by a jury of his peers. The case ended April 19, when the last of the two charges were dismissed.
No. 9 — Record cold and snow dominate start and end of 2019
On Jan. 31, Brainerd reached a low of 43 degrees below zero, the lowest temperature since 1996. By the end of the year, Brainerd was setting a new record for rainfall on Dec. 28.
No. 8 — High-profile road projects squeezed into shortened construction season
A long winter, coupled with inclement weather throughout the year, squeezed a logjam of projects into a shortened construction season that saw a significant face-lift for a bevy of lakes area roads.
No. 7 — New restaurants add to options, businesses find new starts
Arguably one of the biggest surprises came in March with the closing of Olive Garden in Baxter. Customers mobbed the restaurant in its last days of operation.
No. 6 — Brainerd Public Schools begin construction projects; Pillager, C-I pass referendums
Phase One of renovations are underway in the Brainerd School District, while officials with two other area districts are in the planning stages of their own voter-approved upgrades.
No. 5 — Swatara man faces murder charges in Outing woman’s death
Officers found Michelle Mae's body buried under the soil in a crawl space at Joshua Karjala's residence. Karjala remains in custody and his next court hearing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 15.
No. 4 — Fears sparked after CWD discovered in a wild deer in Crow Wing County
A yearling doe, discovered by a cabin near Merrifield, was the first case of chronic wasting disease documented in the wild in central Minnesota.
No. 3 — Crow Wing Power officials face allegations, investigations of impropriety
Investigation reveals years of undisclosed payment agreements with officials at the electric power cooperative that serves 38,000 people in Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties.
No. 2 — BHS teacher attacked in locker room; attacker sentenced to prison
The attacker waited inside the girls’ locker room for nearly an hour before the attack, during which he grabbed the teacher around the neck and face. She was able to break free and call the police.
No. 1 — North Memorial Air Care helicopter crashes, killing 2
The crash claimed the life of the pilot, Tim McDonald, 44, of Bloomington, and flight nurse Debra Schott, 58, of Lester Prairie, who both died at the scene. Pillager resident Josh Duda was the flight paramedic who suffered serious injuries in the crash.