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Smart's testimony topped Web page views for year

Published: Sunday, Dec. 26 2010 8:12 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — You can measure what's important by polling readers, as KSL and the Deseret News did to determine the most important stories of 2010. Or you can let Web page views cast their own kind of vote. What readers looked at on deseretnews.com tells its own story, providing a snapshot of what caught the eye and captivated readers online.

Elizabeth Smart's chilling account of her ordeal at the hands of her kidnappers got more page views than any other Deseret News story online this year — a year when tales of misdeeds, ruined lives and heartbreak dominated the top 10.

These were the stories that drew you in online, based on number of page views:

No. 1: Elizabeth Smart's testimony in the trial of her kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell. In detail, Smart, now 23, told the jury about her nine months as the captive of Mitchell, who stole her from her bed at knifepoint in 2002. At the end of jury deliberation, Mitchell was convicted, his insanity defense rejected, and will be sentenced in May.

No. 2: Michele MacNeill died unexpectedly 31/2 years ago in her Pleasant Grove home. Since then, the Medical Examiner's office has changed the cause of death to "undetermined" and "suspicious" and Utah County investigators in an affidavit filed in 4th District Court say they believe her husband, Martin MacNeill, killed her.

No 3: A bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Clay Sannar, 40, was shot and killed in the chapel of his ward in Visalia, Calif., in August. Police then shot and killed the assailant, Kenneth James Ward, of Modesto, Calif.

No. 4: An affidavit revealed disturbing details of Ethan Stacy's last days. The little boy, only 4, who was visiting for the summer with his non-custodial mom and stepfather, Stephanie and Nathan Sloop, reportedly wandered away from their apartment. But within hours, police found his body buried in a remote part of an Ogden canyon and the Sloops were arrested. The affidavit detailed abuse investigators believe the boy suffered at their hands before he was killed.

No. 5: On Dec. 17, fire ripped through the historic Provo Tabernacle, destroying it. It was one of the oldest Utah buildings, built over 15 years and completed in 1883 at a total cost of $100,000.

No. 6: America hasn't improved much over the past 30 years, according to former president Jimmy Carter. He offered the insights in a phone interview advancing a book tour visit to promote his "White House Diary."

No. 7: An editorial calling for civility after a talk by Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer at General Conference sparked controversy. The editorial told readers not to rely on someone else's recounting of what President Packer, who is president of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, but to read his talk for themselves.

No. 8: Readers love lists and Utahns love rivalry, especially when it involved a sports competition between teams for Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. But often, it's been sports without sportsmanship and this year the Deseret News and its sister company, KSL teamed up to help put the friendly back in "friendly rivalry." Turns out there are things the schools really admire about each other. This is BYU's list.

No. 9: A woman Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn told the Legislature he'd been nude with in a hot tub in 1985, when she was 15 and he was a married adult, refuted his account. Cheryl Maher said he wasn't candid in his claim there was no sexual involvement and characterized their then-relationship as long-term.

The final top 10 story was an account of the firing squad execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner for the 1985 shooting death of attorney Michael Burdell, While appearing at a Salt Lake Courthouse in connection with another killing, Gardner was smuggled a gun and shot bailiff Nick Kirk and Burdell as he attempted to escape.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com

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