2016 was an interesting year in Pulaski County, riddled with big news stories and interesting people. Choosing the top four most interesting stories was difficult and we probably left out someone's favorite, but readers can't deny these stories were the ones everyone paid attention to.
Pulaski County is a unique place for those of us in the news business. We have a rural community and live a small-town life, but our proximity to the interstate, the military base, and diverse population from all over the world often means we get some very interesting news stories.
2016 offered up stories of hope and survival, high crime, local events, love and support of our community members, festivals, community heart-break, and a full special edition of hometown heroes who are doing amazing things for their communities.
1. The escape of Dustin Richardson and James Randall (J.R.) Sherrell from Pulaski County Jail
An illicit affair, a car chase, inside and outside help from two women, prisoners escaping and traveling through the river to avoid search dogs all made this story something one might see in a movie. It also garnered the story much attention from our readers and communities outside Pulaski County. Multiple agencies and jurisdictions spent several days in September hunting for Dustin Richardson and James Randall (J.R.) Sherrell, two inmates who escaped from the Pulaski County Jail with the help of Angelica Black, according to reports from the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department (PCSD), and Marlee Davy.
Black, a jailer, was arrested for sexual contact with Richardson after the jailbreak. Davy was arrested for her role in the car chase, aiding an escaped prisoner, and hindering prosecution. Richardson and Randall were caught and faced additional charges on top of the ones they already had.
2. Porch lights on for Paul Hardman Waynesville lost its First Gentleman, Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman's husband, Paul Hardman, and an amazing thing happened all across the U.S. Luge learned that she and Paul had touched many lives throughout their 42 year marriage and people began spontaneously offering their support, via social media, by letting her know they were turning their porch lights on for Paul.
Posts began pouring in of photos of porch lights turned on in Waynesville, as well as places from California to the east coast, north to south, and points in between. The two have had occasion to meet people from all over the world and those people were sharing and supporting the Hardman family through their grief at Paul's passing.
Luge said, at the time, "He is smiling down this morning, overwhelmed with what you did in his honor last (night). "
3. Mike Plummer pleaded guilty Former Dixon City Marshal Mike Plummer made our top stories list last year, so it was only fitting, since the case ended in 2016, to include it in the interesting stories list. Plummer pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in May of this year, ending a year-long saga for the city of Dixon.
Plummer pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, surrendered his peace officer's license permanently, and waived any claims to the office of Dixon City Marshal as part of his plea agreement. Plummer got probation, but got his probation revoked in November. The probation was revoked because Plummer failed to return some property and returned some damaged, according to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
4. Dragapalooza stirs controversy
The most interesting event of 2016 had to be Dragapalooza, thanks to the controversy that surrounded it.
Pulaski County Pride organizers planned Dragapalooza to be a party that would end the weekend of Pride events on a high note. The controversy began on social media as local naysayers got wind of the event and prominent individuals made comments that offended local members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. Mudslinging from both sides stoked the fire and the Daily Guide sat down with local organizers to talk about the event and the controversy.
Daniel Kallman and Charley Joe Dill, show organizers and performers, said they never intended for all the controversy to happen, but were not going to cancel or back down either. Dragapalooza was held and went off without any trouble, with over 400 people in attendance. People had to be turned away at the door, the event was so popular.
Additionally, Madeline Collins, a special little girl suffering from multiple medical conditions stemming from spina bifida, a disease she was born with, was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held during Dragapalooza to help fund the purchase of a special wheel chair.