Top online Craig Press stories of 2019 — Part 2 |

Top online Craig Press stories of 2019 — Part 2

Craig Press Staff

The year in news for 2019 was full of both stories of cheer and unfortunate incidents alike at the local level. While social media and other online outlets have afforded the Craig Press significant internet views throughout the year, staff members have narrowed down the top 20 stories based purely on pageviews at

The following list is the second half of the top 20 stories on our website from the past 12 months, written by Craig Press employees. Staff have also compiled the top five online stories pulled from outside sources.

While the majority of these are hard news, Craig Press will also highlight the biggest stories in subjects such as health, education and sports.

Story — Total pageviews

10. Shadow Mountain drug bust nets multiple substances, arrests of 3 Craig residents — 6,144

A June police operation resulted in the arrests of three people.

The All Crimes Enforcement Team joined the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County and Craig combined special response team to enter a residence in Craig’s Shadow Mountain subdivision.

The effort brought in 12 grams of 18 grams of methamphetamine, and a handful of diazepam pills recovered from the toilet.

The three parties involved with the arrest had multiple charges for Schedule I/II controlled substances, as well as charges for tampering with physical evidence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony possession with intent to distribute.

9. From the Editor: I have some news — 6,173

A column by former Craig Press Editor Jim Patterson details his health troubles beginning in March that led to his leaving the newspaper where he first started in September 2017.

Following a pulmonary embolism that required him to be hospitalized in mid-March, Patterson was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Patterson left his editor position to spend time with family and friends before passing away May 20 at the age of 53. Memorial services were held over the summer in both his native Arkansas and in Northwest Colorado.

In his final column, Patterson expressed his gratitude to area residents for their support during his time with the Craig Press and encouraged them to fight for the future of the community.

“I know you face daunting challenges in the future, and the road ahead will not always be an easy one. But trust me — you’re worth it. Craig is worth it. Moffat County is worth it,” Patterson wrote.

8. Moffat County couple dies after plane crash in ‘Nevada Triangle’ — 6,369

A couple from Moffat County perished in February when the small airplane in which they were flying crashed near Ely, Nevada.

Husband and wife Phillip and Linda Bethell were 72 and 66, respectively, at the time of their deaths in the accident.

The site, which is along the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range, is known for more than 2,000 planes lost or crashed in the past 60 years and is nicknamed “Nevada Roswell” and “Nevada Triangle” for the many incidents.

7. CBI: Child likely sparked deadly Christmas Eve house fire — 6,522

In 2018, a deadly house fire claimed the life of 3-year-old Lane Ernest Cullen, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation releasing its report of the matter in January.

Investigators both locally and at the state level concurred that the young boy likely caused the blaze by playing with fire implements in his bedroom before the flames spread.

See below for more details on the legal aftermath of the fire.

6. Craig man accused of child sexual assault, incest — 6,888

An incident that allegedly occurred in fall 2018 led to a Craig man being arrested in August on a host of charges, including sexual assault on a child and aggravated incest.

A graphic arrest report detailed that Rick Barnes, 53, was arrested nearly a year after the incident when a DNA test revealed fluids on the victim’s clothing to corroborate the victim’s account.

In the arrest affidavit, Barnes confessed to officers at the time of his questioning that there had been multiple incidents.

Top 5 stories from other outlets

Among the most viewed stories on during 2019 were articles shared from other media sources, some of which saw significant traffic through social media. These are the most read stories on the site not written by Craig Press employees.

Story — Total pageviews

5. 3 Craig people arrested in death of 26-year-old Steamboat man — 8,005

The Steamboat Pilot & Today’s coverage of a young man’s body being found in Routt National Forest was promptly followed by the story of Craig residents Skyla M. Piccolo-Labbs, William C. Ellifritz and Brooke L. Forquer being arrested as suspects in the murder of Elliot Stahl. Legal proceedings are ongoing for the trio, who will be back in court in the new year.

4. El Niño is officially over. What does that mean for winter 2019-20 in Colorado? — 8,543

A summer story from Summit Daily News discussed the weather phenomenon El Niño and its potential impact on the winter conditions, and online readers searching for weather details took notice.

3. Colorado State Patrol IDs two fatalities of cliff accident near Kremmling — 8,743

The beginning of the year saw a fatal accident outside of Kremmling as a vehicle went over the edge of a cliff, killing both occupants, with CSP’s resulting identification of the parties gaining massive attention on social media.

2. Kratom: It’s legal, unregulated and has contributed to 2 Northwest Colorado deaths — 10,615

A Sky-Hi News story from January went well beyond the usual readership radius in its controversial discussion of the supplement kratom and its possible ties to deaths in Grand County.

1. Colorado man catches record fish the size of a 7-year-old child — 22,953

A Denver Post feature about a Fairplay man hooking a record trout this summer garnered more pageviews on the Craig Press site than any other thanks to links being shared through multiple outlets.

5. Motorcyclists seriously injured in downtown Craig — 9,897

Responders were on the scene April 19 for a motorcycle accident along Victory Way.

A pair of bikes were traveling westbound on the Craig street when they were struck by a sedan, sending riders to the asphalt, with one later flown for medical care in Grand Junction.

The crash caused significant attention by passersby and those in downtown Craig.

“Looked like a hell of a wreck to me,” said Ned Sixkiller, owner of Sixkiller’s Saddle Shop, with the accident occurring in front of his store.

4. Craig city councilor facing felony charges — 10,287

Less than six months into his term as part of Craig City Council, Brian MacKenzie ran into legal trouble when he was arrested Oct. 11 in Jefferson County on felony charges of internet luring of a child, internet sexual exploitation of a child and criminal attempt of sexual assault on a child.

MacKenzie was cited by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as being caught in a sting operation with an investigator portraying themselves as an underage girl on social media, with Mackenzie arranging to meet with the imaginary party in Littleton, where he was then arrested.

Though MacKenzie maintained his innocence in the situation, he shortly thereafter submitted his resignation from his council seat.

Councilors went on to appoint Ryan Hess to serve the remainder of the term.

3. Craig now a Second Amendment sanctuary city after special council meeting Monday — 10,352

In March, Craig City Council officially passed a resolution to declare Craig a sanctuary city for citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

Councilors followed suit with Moffat County Commissioners, who passed a similar resolution earlier in the month, both in response to the controversial state legislation HB-1177, allowing family members to petition courts to take away a resident’s firearms for up to 14 days if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Residents and law enforcement officials at the meeting applauded council’s actions.

“My biggest concern is when you read that red flag law, mental health isn’t a big part of that,” said Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong.

2. Craig mother charged in son’s Christmas Eve fire death — 11,149

The Dec. 24, 2018 fire that killed a 3-year-old boy later resulted in his mother, Vanessa Jenkins, officially being charged by law enforcement in April with criminally negligent homicide.

Court proceedings continued throughout the year for Jenkins, who first pleaded not guilty in August but entered a guilty plea in November.

An Alford plea deal arrangement ensures that Jenkins’ sentence — which will be handed down Feb. 10 — will be a maximum of three years.

1. Motorcyclist killed in Highway 13 crash — 14,213

A June traffic incident saw a Utah man deceased near Colorado Highway 13’s milepost 58 between Craig and Meeker.

Salt Lake City’s Lucius Valencia, 45, was traveling north on the roadway when he entered a curve and veered off the highway and down an embankment, with emergency agencies from both Moffat and Rio Blanco counties responding.

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