SALT LAKE CITY — The trial and conviction of Brian David Mitchell for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart more than eight years ago was selected as the top story of 2010 by Deseret News and KSL readers and viewers.
Those casting votes bypassed mid-term elections, painful economic news, school budget cuts and controversy over immigration and gay rights, to home in on tragedies close to home, from the death of several Utah children to a raging fire that destroyed houses and the long-delayed execution of a convicted killer.
No. 1: Brian David Mitchell was found guilty in federal court of charges he kidnapped and sexually assaulted Elizabeth Smart, eight years after he took the 14-year-old from her home at knifepoint. During the five-week trial she testified in detail about her nine months in captivity.
"I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened, and that we can speak out and we will be heard," a beaming Smart, now 23, told the media shortly after the jury rejected Mitchell's insanity defense and convicted him of all charges.
Smart is currently a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France.
Mitchell sentencing is set for May 25, 2011.
No 2: The body of 4-year-old Ethan Stacy was found in a remote area near Powder Mountain in May, hours after his mother and stepfather said the little boy had wandered away during the night from their Layton apartment. The two, Stephanie and Nathan Sloop, have been charged with killing the boy, who had arrived in Utah just two weeks before from Virginia, where he lived with his father. He was in Utah to spend the summer with his mother as part of court-ordered visitation.
No. 3: The Herriman fire. Utah National Guardsmen were doing a routine machine gun training exercise at Camp Williams Sept. 19, when wind turned what they first thought was a defeatable small grass fire into an inferno that climbed over a hill into the residential area that borders the camp to the north. The Herriman fire ultimately consumed more than 4,300 acres and destroyed several homes, besides forcing evacuation of hundreds of Herriman residents.
No. 4: Deputies are shot. Deputies Josie Greathouse Fox and Brian Harris, were shot and killed, while a park ranger, Brody Young, was critically injured this year in separate incidents.
Fox, a Millard County sheriff's deputy, was gunned down while making a traffic stop in January. Roberto Miramontes Roman faces capital murder charges in her death and a friend of his, Ruben Chavez Reyes, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice in connection with her death.
Harris, a Kane County sheriff's deputy, was chasing a burglary suspect in August when he was shot and killed just over the Utah-Arizona border. Scott Curley, 23, has been charged in Arizona with first-degree murder and other charges in connection with Harris' death.
Young was shot multiple times while he was patrolling south of Moab near the Poison Spider Mesa Trail in November. Police believe his suspected assailant, Lance Leeroy Arrellano, may have been injured by Young's return fire. Arrellano, they say, disappeared into the Red Rock desert country and has never been found, fueling speculation that he died there. Young is still recovering from his wounds.
No. 5: Pesticide tech charged with homicide. Sisters Rebecca, 4, and Rachel Toone, 15 months, died within three days after pest-control tech Cole Nocks used powerful chemicals to combat a vole infestation in the yard of the girls' Layton home. Prosecutors say the chemicals were used improperly and Nocks has entered a not-guilty plea to misdemeanor criminal charges.
No. 6: BYU and Utah leave MWC. Both Brigham Young University and the University of Utah in 2010 said goodbye to the Mountain West Conference. In June, the University of Utah ended roiling speculation it was leaving with the announcement that it was becoming part of the Pac-10, which promises more prestige and revenue. In September, citing a desire for more access and exposure, the BYU Athletic Department said it intended to go independent in football and join the West Coast Conference in all other sports.
No. 7: "The List." Two employees in the Utah Department of Workforce Services compiled an unauthorized list of more than 1,300 people living in Utah they believed to be illegal immigrants and sent it to the media and law enforcement, with a call for those listed to be deported. A state probe determined that the duo, who were both dismissed because of it, breached a computer database to gather personal information, including addresses, health data, birth dates, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and more. The list was sent out under the name of a make-believe group, Concerned Citizens of the United States.
No. 8: Mother of two children charged with murder. A brother and sister were strangled in their Layton home in September. Prosecutors have since charged their mother, Sun Cha Warhola, with two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of the children, Jean, 7, and James, 8.
No. 9: Ronnie Lee Gardner dies by firing squad. During an escape attempt at a Salt Lake City courthouse April 2, 1985, where Gardner was facing charges in connection with a killing in a tavern robbery the year before, Gardner killed attorney Michael Burdell and seriously wounded bailiff Nick Kirk with a gun that had been smuggled to him. Sentenced to die, he was on Utah's death row for more than two decades before he was executed by a firing squad in June. Allowed to pick his method of execution, he chose to die by firing squad.Comment on this story
No. 10: Oil spills. A 60-year-old Chevron pipeline ruptured in June in Salt Lake City, leaking 800 barrels of oil into Red Butte Creek and into the pond at Liberty Park. Chevron paid a $423,000 fine in conjunction with that leak, which officials believe was caused by an electrical arc from a nearby power pole that punched a hole in the pipeline. Experts believe that a failed valve was to blame for a second leak, this one in December, on the same line. In that leak,350 to 500 barrels of oil escaped.