It’s December and the end of the year draweth nigh, which means it’s time again to tie one on and settle in with the Arkansas Times’ “Best and Worst” issue of 2019, our annual salute to all the odd, off, dumb, devious, newsworthy, tragic, nonsensical, head-scratching, hapless, weird and wonderful stories of the year. If you dare, read on for tales of tornado-proof closets, a locked-and-loaded showdown with 30-50 feral hogs, the Arkansas connection to Trump’s snit over Greenland, texts to a dead man that actually got a reply, what the blue stuff in your chicken nuggets might be, and more. It’s all here, perfect to help you while away those long, cold nights between now and the start of the 21st century’s third and sure-to-be most-terrifying decade so far. Whatever the roaring ’20s bring, here’s hoping 2020 nets you all the good things you deserve. Or the bad things you deserve, depending on your personal morality. No matter what happens, just try to make sure to keep your name out of the “Best and Worst” next year. While there are a few bright spots of note, being immortalized here is, in our experience, nothing you’d ever want to include on your resume.

Jeremy Hutchinson imageBrian Chilson
Jeremy Hutchinson

Worst attorney’s fees

Former Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, the nephew of Governor Hutchinson, who’d characterized as legal fees money he’d taken from an Arkansas orthodontist and state contracted Preferred Family Healthcare, pleaded guilty to bribery in federal court in Little Rock and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery in federal court in Springfield, Mo. He also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return related to his use of campaign contributions for personal expenses and for underreporting income by $270,000. He surrendered his law license. He was awaiting sentencing as the Arkansas Times went to press. 

Julie McGee imageBrian Chilson

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Best testimony

In a hearing before federal court in Little Rock, Jeremy Hutchinson’s former girlfriend described her relationship with the lawmaker as an “on again, off again” affair in which Hutchinson used campaign funds to provide her with gifts, vacations and a fake job with his re-election campaign. When asked by federal prosecutors whether she actually performed work for the campaign, McGee told the court, “if keeping him sexually satisfied is considered campaign work.”

Best rooting out of corruption

The Preferred Family Healthcare investigation also put state Sen. Jon Woods in prison and former Rep. Micah Neal in home detention. Former legislators Hank Wilkins of Pine Bluff and Eddie Cooper of Melbourne and lobbyist Rusty Cranford have also pleaded guilty in the investigation. 

Worst weekend plans

In January, Zemarcuis Scott, 18, was sentenced to five years’ probation related to a July 2018 incident in which Scott — perhaps having played one too many rounds of “Grand Theft Auto” — hopped the fence at Texarkana Regional Airport and attempted to steal an American Eagle twin-engine passenger jet, which he hoped to fly to an Illinois concert by the rapper Famous Dex.

Best over-estimating of personal skills

After his arrest, Scott allegedly told investigators that he believed flying a commercial jet was simply a matter of pushing buttons and pulling random levers in the cockpit.

Brian Chilson
Maggie Hinson

Best barkeep

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Maggie Hinson, the fiery-red-haired owner of Little Rock’s legendary music venue and late-night hangout Midtown Billiards, passed away April 30 at the age of 72 after a lifetime of helping make Little Rock a slightly cooler place to live.

Worst whipper

Stewards at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs levied a 60-day racing suspension on jockey David Cohen after they said he allegedly used his riding crop to whip fellow jockey Edgar Morales as the pair thundered down the stretch astride their respective horses during a race April 6.

Worst brazen

Police in Lonoke County said that while Magan Jackson, 29, of Cabot was visiting City Hall in Austin, Ark., for an April court appearance, she was allegedly caught on surveillance video trying to open the doors of three marked police cars before she found the unlocked vehicle of the City Hall office manager and helped herself to over $1,000 in items, including an Apple TV, a Bluetooth speaker, cash and his passport. She was arrested a half-hour later on several charges.

Worst nibbles

Officials with the Public Works Department in Texarkana announced in April that they had found the culprits behind the near-total blackout of streetlights along Interstate 30 through the city: rats, who had come to find the sheathing of the lights’ electrical cables delicious, causing what the city’s public works director called “a massive electrical problem.”

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Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. pictureBrian Chilson
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

Best first

In January, Frank Scott Jr. was sworn in as Little Rock’s first popularly elected African-American mayor.

Worst crater

In March, 63-year-old Randall McDougal, a truck driver from El Dorado, was killed when the load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer he was hauling caught fire and exploded, the blast so powerful that it rattled windows for miles around, denuded trees near the accident site, and blew a 15-foot-deep crater in the middle of U.S. Highway 278 near Camden.

Worst brain freeze

Shake’s Frozen Custard, a West Little Rock ice cream parlor, was evacuated and swept for explosives by Little Rock police after someone claiming to be a customer whose order had been screwed up called the business and threatened to blow up the building over the mistake.

Worst extras

Springdale-based Tyson Foods recalled more than 69,000 pounds of frozen chicken strips in March over reports that some strips were contaminated by metal shavings. The recall followed a January recall in which customers reported finding bits of soft blue rubber inside Tyson chicken nuggets.

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Sen. Stephanie Flowers imageBrian Chilson
Sen. Stephanie Flowers

Best rant

Speaking out about a proposal that would have brought a controversial “Stand Your Ground” law to Arkansas, allowing gun owners to shoot to kill without the duty to retreat if they feel physically threatened, Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), the only black person on the Senate Judiciary Committee, went on a fiery rant that soon went viral online in March, with Flowers saying she feared a Stand Your Ground law in Arkansas would lead to more shootings of African Americans. 

Best standing her ground

“It doesn’t take much to look on the local news every night and see how many black kids, black boys, black men, are being killed with these Stand Your Ground defenses that these people raise, and they get off,” Stephanie Flowers told the panel during her impassioned speech. “So I take issue with that. I’m the only person here of color. I am a mother, too. And I have a son. And I care as much for my son as y’all care for y’all’s. But my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does. … I can tell you, for a long time since I’ve been back here in Arkansas, I have feared for my son’s life. Now he’s 27 and he’s out of Arkansas, and I thank God he is when you’re bringing up crap like this.” The committee later voted 4-3 against the measure, with Republican Sen. John Cooper (R-Heber Springs) siding with the committee’s three Democrats.

 

Best 30-50

In August, Arkansas resident Willie McNabb saw his query go viral on Twitter after he responded to a tweet by musician Jason Isbell in which Isbell said there’s no reason to own an assault rifle. “Legit question for rural Americans,” McNabb wrote. “How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?” The image of a rural Rambo facing down hordes of zombie swine in the wilds of Arkansas clearly set imaginations aflame, with over 50,000 tweets eventually musing on McNabb’s question, often to hilarious effect.

Best proposal

In March, a bill that would have made it illegal to drive farm equipment while drunk failed to clear the Arkansas Senate.

Worst mentor

In February, Little Rock police arrested registered sex offender Earl Williams, 64, of Little Rock. The charge: that Williams spent six years volunteering with an LRPD program that mentors at-risk children. At the time of his arrest, Williams had been registered as a sex offender with the LRPD since 2008.

Worst living up to stereotypes

Michael Fowler Jr. of Sarasota, Fla., was arrested in March, accused of being one of five carnies who police say murdered a Wichita, Kan., couple, transported their bodies to Arkansas and buried them in shallow graves in the Ozark National Forest near Van Buren. Fowler reportedly told police he believed the murders were part of an initiation into “the carnival mafia,” though investigators soon came to believe the carnival mafia was actually made up as an intimidation tactic by one of Fowler’s alleged co-conspirators.

Worst mauling at the zoo 

Little Rock police arrested 53-year-old Curtis Coleman in April after he allegedly bit a woman who said she caught him rifling through the trunk of her car when she came out of the Little Rock Zoo.

Worst cock

Jasper was on edge in July as news went viral that a surly rooster named Junior had been terrorizing townfolk, chasing pedestrians and giving most anyone who walked past the home where he held sway a rooster-sized beatdown.

Worst sign-off

After battling liver cancer for three years with the same good humor and positivity that seemed to mark everything he did in life, former KATV, Channel 7, reporter and Gov. Mike Beebe’s spokesman Matt DeCample died on March 3 at the age of 44. Arkansas was instantly made a slightly dimmer place.

Best gamble

In February, Travis Hancock of Hot Springs told lottery officials he’d used the last $10 in his family’s “savings jar” to buy a Natural State Jackpot ticket that came up a winner, matching all five numbers to win $190,000.

Best lucky

Hancock said he was worried that he’d wasted his money on the ultimately winning ticket because the numbers on it, randomly selected by a computer, were 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 in sequential order.

Worst ‘blatant’

Citing what she called “blatant thieving” by employees of the Department of Human Services, Beverly Kindle — who is legally blind — closed Beverly’s Snack Shop, which had been located in the DHS central office downtown, telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in February that DHS employees routinely tried to pay for their purchases with fake money, insisted that $1 bills were more valuable denominations or simply shoplifted what they wanted. Though DHS eventually stationed guards near Kindle’s stand to thwart sticky-fingered state employees, Kindle said the accumulated losses eventually kept her from making enough profit to keep her small business afloat.

Best weird

Lonnie Craig, a superfan of the comic musician Weird Al Yankovic since the 1980s, was disappointed that he would have to miss Yankovic’s Sept. 1 concert in Little Rock because he’d been hospitalized at UAMS for a low white blood cell count caused by his cancer treatments, but Weird Al saved the day by dropping by the hospital room to hang out before the show after being contacted by Lonnie’s sister, Julie, on social media. 

Best beauty

In September, KLRT, Fox Channel 16, shared the story of Little Rock native Mahogany Wade, 23, who signed with international modeling agency IMG Models after being relentlessly bullied as a girl for her freckles and red hair. Her unique look eventually caught the attention of a modeling scout who saw a photo of her on social media. “There’s been times when I felt hopeless,” Wade told a reporter. “But what’s important is to find your worth, find your self-love, find your purpose, because there is one.”

Best bum’s rush

The Arkansas legislature finally got around to expelling disgraced Rep. Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs) in October, almost two and a half months after he pleaded no contest to charges that he didn’t file tax returns for years. Before he was given the boot by a resounding majority, Gates had repeatedly rejected public calls for him to step down, including from members of his own party and Governor Hutchinson.

Best raise

On Sept. 1, a new law went into effect that raised the age to legally buy and use tobacco products in Arkansas from 18 to 21 years old.

Worst anger management

Police say that in April, Latoshia Shunta Daniels, 39, a Little Rock social worker specializing in anger management, drove to Memphis and shot to death Brodes Perry, 36, formerly a pastor at Little Rock’s Saint Mark Baptist Church, and wounded his wife. Investigators said Daniels chatted calmly with Perry’s wife for about 30 minutes until the pastor arrived home, then drew a handgun and shot Brodes Perry multiple times as Daniels repeatedly shouted: “You broke my heart.”

 Best doggone

Southland Casino Racing, which got its start as a greyhound racing track all the way back in 1956 but which has turned increasingly toward casino-style gambling for revenue in recent years, announced in October it planned to phase out greyhound racing entirely by the end of 2022.

Best 420

After years of foot-dragging and delays, the first medical cannabis legally sold in Arkansas since marijuana was outlawed in the state in 1923 was rung up for a customer at Hot Springs’ Doctors Orders RX dispensary on May 10. At the time of this writing, dispensaries in Arkansas have sold over a ton of legal weed at an average price of $15 a gram, with over 28,000 patients holding state-issued cards that allow them to legally buy cannabis.

Worst lost in translation

Mei Ka Sin, 22, of Bentonville pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder in the July 2017 shooting of his roommate and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.The plea was surely met with relief by courtroom staff, given that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that up to five different interpreters would have been required for the proceedings, including fluent speakers of Burmese, Marshallese, Kirundi, Karen and Spanish. Sin speaks Burmese and the victim’s family speaks mainly Kirundi, while the other translators were needed for various witnesses to the crime.

Worst lie

Act 522, which was signed into Arkansas state law in March, requires doctors to effectively lie to their patients, forcing physicians to tell women seeking a chemical abortion via the two-dose RU-486 “abortion pill” that it is possible to reverse the effects of the medication if a hormone pill is taken after the first dose. Critics of the measure point out there’s zero medical evidence that taking a hormone pill is any more effective at “stopping an abortion” than simply not taking the second dose of RU-486.

Worst advice

Act 522 also requires physicians to tell their patients that, should they get cold feet after taking the first dose of RU-486, they can find information on how to allegedly reverse the medication by “searching the term ‘abortion pill reversal’ on the Internet,” effectively forcing doctors to recommend the always ill-advised practice of “medicine by Google” instead of, you know, encouraging patients to talk to the highly- trained medical professional standing right in front of them.

Best questionable

The obituary for Robert Craig Askew, 76, who died Oct. 9 in Ash Flat, was one for the books, claiming, among other things, that Askew had consulted with physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer on the creation of the first atomic bomb when Askew was only 2 years old, trained Chuck Norris in martial arts and was the only person to ever defeat Norris in an unarmed fight, and helped NASA put a man on the moon. “Later in his life,” the obituary said, “he would become responsible for naming the ever-present GIF. He pronounced it GIF.”

Best ending

After a laundry list of achievements, Askew’s obituary ended in a coda that we’d hope would suit any of us just fine: “He loved his kids as much as he knew how. He was loved and will be missed. You would have liked him.” 

 Worst male bonding

 In March, Charles Ferris, 50, of Rogers presented to the local emergency room with a large bruise on his chest, telling doctors that, while acting as a bodyguard for an unnamed client, he’d been shot by a mysterious man in a white suit and had been saved by his bulletproof vest.

Police say they soon learned the truth, however: that Ferris and his neighbor Christopher Hicks, 36, had been drinking on Ferris’ back deck when they decided to test Ferris’ bulletproof vest by allowing Hicks to shoot him in the chest at point-blank range with a .22-caliber rifle.

Worst tit for rat-a-tat-tat

According to police, Charles Ferris’ wife told investigators that the shot to her husband’s chest hurt so much that he became infuriated, made Christopher Hicks put on the vest, then pointed the gun at his friend and “unloaded the [rifle’s] clip into Christopher’s back.”

 Worst twins since ‘The Shining’

In June, two women reported that a pair of identical twins forced their way into their Garland County home shouting about an unpaid debt by a man named “Mike,” before eventually realizing they had the wrong house and leaving. With the pool of potential suspects about as narrow as can reasonably be, police soon arrested identical twins Eric Charles Norwood and Shawn Allan Norwood, both 32 years old, on several counts.

 Worst disappointed

In August, a man in a white Pontiac sedan sped away after allegedly attempting to run over an employee of a Taco Bell restaurant in Bryant. According to witnesses, the driver became enraged after an employee told him the restaurant was out of taco meat.

Jason Macom imageRett Peek
Jason Macom

Best comeback

Arkansan Jason Macom, a former BMX bike racer who had to have his right leg amputated below the knee after he crushed his ankle in a 2010 bike crash, learned in February that he’d won a spot on the U.S. Paralympic National Cycling Team.

Worst IOU

In February, police say a robber flashed a handgun and stole over $700 in cash from a 61-year-old Little Rock man, telling the victim before fleeing: “I will catch you again and give you your money back.” Good luck on collecting that, pal.

Worst 99 and change

The White Pig Inn, a North Little Rock institution that had been dishing up pit-smoked barbecue near Protho Junction for over 99 years, served its final pulled pork sandwich March 8, with owner Greg Seaton saying his daughters weren’t interested in taking the reins.

Worst man vs. wild

In February, Mountain Home native Travis Kauffman detailed for the press how he fended off a mountain lion that attacked as he was running in the woods near Fort Collins, Colo.: Kauffman managed to strangle the big cat to death with his bare hands in a terrifying, do-or-die battle that left him with over 20 stitches to his face and hands.

Brian Chilson
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton

Worst advice II

In August, President Trump floated the nutty idea of buying Greenland, a proposal that quickly developed into a Trumpian snit after Denmark, which owns the massive, mostly frozen territory, tersely told him no sale. The Arkansas connection: The idea had apparently been put into Trump’s ever-impressionable ear by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Cotton later wrote a New York Times op-ed touting the plan, beginning the column with a shameless suck-up to Dear Leader. “After news leaked last week that President Trump had expressed interest in acquiring Greenland from Denmark,” Cotton wrote, “his critics predictably derided him as crazy. But once again, the president is crazy like a fox.” Nope, Tom. Just plain ol’ crazy.

Worst stuck

In January, an unidentified employee of Little Rock billionaire Warren Stephens was found after she’d been trapped for three days in the elevator of Stephens’ New York City townhouse. The woman, who a statement said had been a valued employee of the Stephens family for 18 years, was freed by firefighters.

Worst trusting

In January, a fully loaded 18-wheeler fell through the 90-year-old Dale Bend Bridge over the Petit Jean River near Ola, destroying the span, after the driver trusted the navigation directions from his GPS more than the weight limit signs on the bridge.

Best starlet

Julie Adams, who grew up in Blytheville before making over 50 Hollywood films, including the 1954 Universal horror classic “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” died in February at the age of 92.

Best ruling

In March, after over 18,000 disabled and low-income Arkansans were kicked off Medicaid because of the state’s new law requiring recipients to use an often-confusing online system to report at least 80 hours of work per month to continue receiving health care benefits, a federal judge blocked Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and a similar program in Kentucky.

Worst concerns

Citing unspecified “serious safety concerns,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced in April he had accepted the protection of a security detail staffed by Little Rock police officers. No other Little Rock mayors have had a security detail, understandable given an abject lack of attempts to do so much as ruffle the ceremonial sash of any mayor in recent Little Rock history.

Worst twin cities

A paper published by researchers from the University of Maryland in February found that thanks to global warming, the climate of New York City will most resemble the current climate of Jonesboro by 2040, while Little Rock will become a muggy climate-twin to current-day Hammond, La., just north of New Orleans. Have you ever been to New Orleans in August? We have. Stock up on deodorant, future dwellers.

Worst lie

Act 522, which was signed into state law in March, requires doctors to effectively lie to their patients, forcing physicians to tell women seeking a chemical abortion via the two-dose RU-486 “abortion pill” that it is possible to reverse the effects of the medication if a hormone pill is taken after the first dose. Critics of the measure point out there’s zero medical evidence that taking a hormone pill is any more effective at “stopping an abortion” than simply not taking the second dose of RU-486.

Worst advice

Act 522 also requires physicians to tell their patients that, should they get cold feet after taking the first dose of RU-486, they can find information on how to allegedly reverse the medication by “searching the term ‘abortion pill reversal’ on the internet,” effectively forcing doctors to recommend the always ill-advised practice of “medicine by Google” instead of, you know, encouraging patients to talk to the highly trained medical professional standing right in front of them.

Best closet

After a tornado roared through Siloam Springs on Oct. 21, Rachel Smith and her two children emerged from the closet of her family’s home to find the rest of the house almost entirely destroyed. Smith credited the mysteriously sturdy closet for saving their lives. “That and God,” Smith told a reporter. “That’s all I really know how to put it.”

Best living fossil

In March, the legislature voted to make the toothy alligator gar the official state fish of Arkansas.

Best youth movement

The move to name the alligator gar as the state fish was spearheaded by 11-year-old gar fan Henry Foster of Fayetteville, who had been working on his @GARkansas project for over a year, including launching an online petition in which he encouraged prospective signers with the tagline: “Don’t be a copy-catfish! Vote for Alligator Gar!”

Best pink

Arkansas State University Coach Blake Anderson was moved to tears in September when the ASU Red Wolves showed up for a game against the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., to find that thousands of Bulldogs fans had shed their more familiar red for pink in honor of Anderson’s wife, Wendy, who passed away Aug. 19 after battling breast cancer. The tribute came together after the nonprofit Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer tweeted out the idea with the hashtag #WearPinkForWendy, saying: “We want to show Coach Anderson that, regardless of the score on Saturday, he and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Best friends

In March, a story about Brandon Qualls, a senior at Caddo Hills High in Norman, Ark., went viral after a local news outlet reported he’d worked odd jobs for two years to save up enough money to buy his disabled friend Tanner Wilson a motorized wheelchair.

Best vegans for free speech

In July, the ACLU filed a federal suit against the state on behalf of the company that makes the soy-based simu-turkey Tofurky over a truly dumb state law that threatens a fine against any company that uses words usually reserved for animal-derived products to advertise plant-based products, such as calling a mix of powdered almonds and filtered water “almond milk,” even though almonds have a distinct lack of udders. Turtle Island Foods, which makes Tofurky, claims among other things that the law is a violation of its constitutional right to call flavored tofu “turkey” if it wants.

Best homecoming

In February, several news outlets picked up the story of Dawn Geiber, who befriended a homeless man named James who had been on the streets of LIttle Rock for 15 years. Dawn and her husband, Jodi, not only helped James reconnect with his family in Illinois, but drove him over 600 miles to reunite with them. Until then, James’ family thought he was dead.

Little Rock Zoo
Trudy

Best escape

Trudy, a western lowland gorilla at the Little Rock Zoo who was the oldest of her species in captivity, passed away in July at the age of 63.

Best stick-to-it-tiveness

On Sept. 6, the Bobcats of Corning High School ended their record 42-game football losing streak with a 30-8 win over Rector, marking the school’s first victory on the gridiron since October 2014.

Worst forgetful

In September, police in Bryant arrested Lessie Marhanka, 22, after she allegedly pushed her shopping cart into a parking lot buggy corral and drove away, leaving behind both her wallet and her 2-month-old baby in the cart.

Worst deluge

Record flooding came to the state in late May and early June, ripping a 40-foot breach in the Arkansas River levee near Dardanelle, drowning a good bit of the state’s farmland under several feet of water and requiring officials in Little Rock — where the Arkansas River eventually crested at 29.7 feet — to seal off several gaps in the Riverdale levee to keep the flooding mostly contained. 

Worst prude

In April, a jury in Pine Bluff convicted Patricia Hill, 69, of second-degree murder after she shot her husband, Frank, to death because he’d subscribed to a porn channel on the couple’s satellite TV service. During the investigation, police said, Patricia Hill told detectives she considered porn “adultery with pictures.” Not much chance of seeing smut in prison, where she was sentenced for the next 16 years.

Best apology

In September, in what he said was his first visit to Arkansas after he was fired as Razorbacks head football coach following an April 2012 motorcycle crash that exposed his dalliance with a much younger subordinate, former University of Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino appeared at the Little Rock Touchdown Club and apologized for the incident. “I wanted to be able to come here and apologize to everybody, the fans, the players,” Petrino said, “and truly tell you how sorry I am for the way it ended.” Perhaps taking the Hogs’ lackluster recent seasons as a sign they should let bygones be bygones, the assembled Razorback fans gave him a standing ovation.

Best text

To help deal with her grief since losing Jason Ligons, a man she said was like a father to her, Chastity Patterson of Newport texted the late man’s cell number every day for four years with updates about her life, including her successful battle with cancer, finishing college and her relationship ups and downs. Then, in October, Ligons told a local news outlet she received a response, when the man who had been assigned Ligon’s old cell number texted her back. “My name is Brad,” the texter wrote in part. “I lost my daughter in a car wreck [in] August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive. When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.” 

Worst lenience

In July, President Trump commuted the sentence of Arkansas businessman Ted Suhl, who had been convicted in October 2016 and sentenced to seven years in federal prison for paying bribes to an official at the Arkansas Department of Human Services to keep state Medicaid funds flowing to his shady “faith-based” behavioral health centers in Northwest Arkansas. Suhl’s companies reportedly raked in over $125 million in taxpayer funds between 2007 and 2011.

Worst news for your kids

A study released in April by the Bureau of Legislative Research found that the number of Arkansas college students seeking teaching degrees had declined by 50 percent in the past five years, with over 16 percent of new teachers quitting after only one year in the classroom and one in four teachers reporting they have seriously considered leaving the profession.

 Worst dressed man

In July, police arrested Thomas Christian Miller, 25, in North Little Rock’s Argenta neighborhood after they said Miller, who was apparently heavily intoxicated, went into a stranger’s apartment, stripped, and then stole a full outfit of clothes, including a blazer, button-down shirt, blue jeans and brown leather shoes.

Best fashion sense

Police were alerted to Miller’s alleged duds-theft by the actual owner of the clothes, who told cops he emerged from the Four Quarter Bar in Argenta just in time to see Miller walking past on the sidewalk wearing an outfit the victim recognized as his own.

Best save

In June, thanks to the efforts of more than 35 volunteers and a helicopter search team, Texas resident Josh McClatchy, 38, was located almost a full week after he texted his mother to tell her he’d become lost while hiking the rugged Buckeye Trail in the Caney Creek Wilderness Area east of Mena. Mom sent in the cavalry, and though spotty cell service in the area kept searchers from using McClatchy’s cell signal to get a bead on him, he was eventually located about 4 miles from the trail, dehydrated but OK.

Worst birthday

During his frightening ordeal in the woods, McClatchy — hungry, thirsty and alone — celebrated his birthday, turning 38 while wondering if he’d live to see 39.

Best offer if you get shot at a lot

The Southwest Little Rock franchise of the Maaco body and paint shops chain made the news in July after offering a “Bullet Hole Special” on Facebook, with the post accompanied by a photo of a bullet-riddled car and the hashtag #WeWontTellTheCops

 Best instant karma

In June, Cherie Renee Bolton, 34, of Siloam Springs pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and filing a false police report after investigators said Bolton, seeking revenge for being kicked out of their house by her husband, tried to frame him, telling police she’d caught him having sex with a 13-year-old girl and presenting investigators with three images of child pornography she said her husband had downloaded. Police said she later admitted downloading the images herself. She was sentenced to six years in prison, fined $2,000 and was required to register as a sex offender.

Best belated karma

On July 27, State Police reported that Drew Grant, 33, had been killed in Independence County after another vehicle crossed the center lane and hit his vehicle head on. Grant was a new name for the victim: He was Andrew Golden, who as an 11-year-old in 1998 with classmate Mitchell Johnson, then 13, carried out one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Arkansas: They fatally shot a teacher and four children at the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro as their classmates emerged in response to a fire alarm. Ten others were wounded. Johnson and Golden/Grant were released from prison when they turned 21, Johnson in 2005 and Golden/Grant in 2007.

 Worst TCB

Korey Giles-Brown, 42, was stabbed six times in July after telling Elvis impersonator Dwayne Tuner, a.k.a. “Belvis the Black Elvis,” “If I were white, I would kick your ass ’cause you are the shittiest black Elvis ever.” At that point, witnesses told police, an unknown man standing nearby angrily accosted Giles-Brown over his criticism, starting a fight that ended with the victim being repeatedly stabbed.

Brian Chilson
Korto Momolu

Best green

In September, Arkansas-based fashion designer Korto Momolu brought dank styles to New York Fashion Week with a cannabis-themed collection.

Worst sandwich

Following the October arrest of Elizabeth Marie Catlett, 29, in Hot Springs on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, police say Catlett tried a novel explanation of why she might test positive for methamphetamine: that earlier in the evening her brother had fed her a meth-sprinkled sandwich and snuck a little meth into her soda.

Best changes

In April, East Little Rock’s Rebel Kettle Brewing Co. took to Facebook to post new rules for patrons who want to bring their small children to the bar, including such seemingly common-sense edicts as children should be supervised at all times, must wear their shoes, no running, and, in what is likely the most welcome addition for those who eat at Rebel Kettle, no changing dirty diapers anywhere other than the restroom changing station. “We are not a playground, a daycare service or babysitting service,” the post concluded. “If you cannot be respectful of this, you will be asked to leave.”

Worst promise

In May, police said, a man walked into Little Rock’s Round Top Liquor Store on South Gaines Street and told the clerk: “You don’t have to rush. I’m not going to rob you today.” The clerk said that almost immediately after making the statement, the man struck him, grabbed two beers and fled from the store. Little Rock police soon arrested Ceodis Lasker, 31, who the clerk told cops he recognized from an earlier alcohol theft.

Worst friendly fire

In May, the Jonesboro Police Department disciplined a K-9 handler for not keeping his police dog, Rocket, on a leash at the police shooting range after Rocket rushed another officer shooting at targets from the firing line and attempted to attack him. Rocket, who was shot once in the shoulder during the incident, underwent surgery and was expected to recover. His handler, meanwhile, was suspended for one day and given a formal reprimand.

Worst heist

In September, the owners of Hamilton Farms in Bradley County were shocked to discover that someone had stolen the vast majority of their pumpkin crop, making off with the raw material for up to 4,000 jack-o-lanterns. Tracks at the scene showed the thieves used regular ol’ pickup trucks to accomplish the theft, with a story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette estimating it would have taken over a dozen truckloads to steal them all.

Worst can’t take a joke

In May, Dobie Brown, 45, of Little Rock was arrested after police said he shot a longtime friend over a joke that implied the friend could ride a motorcycle better than Brown. Rather than laughing it off, witnesses said, Brown responded with “better go hide” and later shot the man in the leg.

Worst complicated

When a judge in Benton County asked Patrick Malone, 22, of Garfield, why he shot his mother to death in July 2017, Malone told the judge: “It’s complicated, your honor.” After Malone pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, the judge kept it simple, sentencing Malone to 35 years.

Worst victory lap

Kellie Y. Traylor, 55, of Mayflower, was found guilty of first-degree battery in May after a May 2018 incident in Little Rock in which Traylor ran over a female rival with her pickup truck, crushing the victim against another vehicle and shattering the woman’s pelvis. Though Traylor claimed at trial that the incident was an accident, witnesses took the stand to say that as Traylor left the scene after crushing the victim, Traylor celebrated by pumping her arm out the truck’s window while “laughing hysterically.”

Best watching the watchmen

In July, Little Rock city directors approved an ordinance, championed by Mayor Frank Scott, to create a five-member citizen review board that will investigate the actions of Little Rock Police Department officers in cases where cops are accused of corruption, discrimination or excessive use of force against suspects.

Worst paperwork

Franklin County Courthouse workers’ day was interrupted by something out of a horror movie in July when 39-year-old Charles Casey Fisher of Mulberry walked into the tax collector’s office drenched in blood from multiple stab wounds. A dazed Fisher, who told the clerks he was “just there to do some paperwork,” was eventually flown by medevac helicopter to Fort Smith, where he was treated and expected to recover. Police soon arrested Coby Hutchinson, 27, of Ozark in the stabbing.

Worst putting the ‘gross’ in grocery store

U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III ruled in July that J and L Grocery in Alma should be closed until the owners cleaned the place up, the move coming after a 2018 inspection by the FDA found “multiple live and dead rodents, rodent nesting, live raccoons, live cats, a dead possum, animal feces, and urine-stained products” inside the store and adjacent warehouse. The U.S. Marshals Service seized food, medications, pet food, cosmetics and more to keep the tainted products from being sold to customers.

Best improvising

Jeremy Rose, an Austin, Texas, resident who drove over 500 miles in January to ease his injured shoulder with a therapeutic bath at Hot Springs’ Quapaw Bathhouse only to find the Quapaw closed for maintenance, was caught on video after he stripped down to swim trunks and took a dip in one of the steaming thermal water fountains along Bathhouse Row.

Worst unlicensed pharmacy

Quincy Edward Boudreaux, 25, and two companions were arrested at Lake Ouachita State Park in July after police, following the smell of marijuana to where the men were sitting, searched a backpack and allegedly turned up not only weed. but a baggie containing 70 pills of various colors, ecstasy, psychedelic mushrooms, crystal meth and dog biscuits that investigators say later tested positive for having been laced with LSD.

Worst random a tack

Over a dozen bicyclists had to withdraw from September’s Big Dam Bridge 100 bicycle race after a vandal apparently salted part of the race course with tacks, leading to multiple flat tires.

Worst lie

Act 522, which was signed into Arkansas state law in March, requires doctors to effectively lie to their patients, forcing physicians to tell women seeking a chemical abortion via the two-dose RU-486 “abortion pill” that it is possible to reverse the effects of the medication if a hormone pill is taken after the first dose. Critics of the measure point out there’s zero medical evidence that taking a hormone pill is any more effective at “stopping an abortion” than simply not taking the second dose of RU-486.

Worst advice

Act 522 also requires physicians to tell their patients that, should they get cold feet after taking the first dose of RU-486, they can find information on how to allegedly reverse the medication by “searching the term ‘abortion pill reversal’ on the Internet,” effectively forcing doctors to recommend the always ill-advised practice of “medicine by Google” instead of, you know, encouraging patients to talk to the highly- trained medical professional standing right in front of them.

Best questionable

The obituary for Robert Craig Askew, 76, who died Oct. 9 in Ash Flat, was one for the books, claiming, among other things, that Askew had consulted with physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer on the creation of the first atomic bomb when Askew was only 2 years old, trained Chuck Norris in martial arts and was the only person to ever defeat Norris in an unarmed fight, and helped NASA put a man on the moon. “Later in his life,” the obituary said, “he would become responsible for naming the ever-present GIF. He pronounced it GIF.”

Best ending

After a laundry list of achievements, Askew’s obituary ended in a coda that we’d hope would suit any of us just fine: “He loved his kids as much as he knew how. He was loved and will be missed. You would have liked him.” 

 Worst male bonding

In March, Charles Ferris, 50, of Rogers presented to the local emergency room with a large bruise on his chest, telling doctors that, while acting as a bodyguard for an unnamed client, he’d been shot by a mysterious man in a white suit and had been saved by his bulletproof vest.

Police say they soon learned the truth, however: that Ferris and his neighbor Christopher Hicks, 36, had been drinking on Ferris’ back deck when they decided to test Ferris’ bulletproof vest by allowing Hicks to shoot him in the chest at point-blank range with a .22-caliber rifle.

Worst tit for rat-a-tat-tat

According to police, Charles Ferris’ wife told investigators that the shot to her husband’s chest hurt so much that he became infuriated, made Christopher Hicks put on the vest, then pointed the gun at his friend and “unloaded the [rifle’s] clip into Christopher’s back.”

Worst twins since ‘The Shining’

In June, two women reported that a pair of identical twins forced their way into their Garland County home shouting about an unpaid debt by a man named “Mike,” before eventually realizing they had the wrong house and leaving. With the pool of potential suspects about as narrow as can reasonably be, police soon arrested identical twins Eric Charles Norwood and Shawn Allan Norwood, both 32 years old, on several counts.

Worst disappointed

In August, a man in a white Pontiac sedan sped away after allegedly attempting to run over an employee of a Taco Bell restaurant in Bryant. According to witnesses, the driver became enraged after an employee told him the restaurant was out of taco meat.

Best good riddance

After a tenure marked by carrying water for the most shameless liar ever to infest the Oval Office, long droughts between White House briefings, and frequent displays of the surly attitude that marks the Trump administration’s approach to any member of the press who doesn’t work for Fox News or Wake Up, Moscow!, Arkansas native Sarah Huckabee Sanders resigned her post as White House press secretary on July 1, thereby abandoning a position that these days bears more than a passing resemblance to elephant dung shoveler at the zoo.

Best evidence that math are hard

As news of Sarah Huckabee Sanders resignation broke, President Trump fired off a tweet that lauded Sanders for her 3 1/2 years of service in the White House. At the time, Trump himself had only been in the White House around two years and five months. We know, Donnie. It seems longer than that for us, too.

 Worst hope

In the same tweet, Trump finished his send-off with: “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas — she would be fantastic.” Lord, help us.

Jason Rapert imageBrian Chilson
State Sen. Jason Rapert

Best baby biter

In February, state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) called for a boycott of Little Rock’s Vino’s Brewpub after a promoter circulated flyers for an upcoming show by “sludge metal” band EyeHateGod that featured an digitally altered image of Rapert appearing to eat a baby. Said the notoriously paper-thin-skinned Rapert: “I call on Vino’s in Little Rock to cancel this event and apologize for such a disrespectful image that shows the dehumanization of babies lives.” With Vino’s apparently shrugging off concerns about potential overlap between those who care what Rapert says and fans of sludge metal, the show went on as planned.

Best punk

In response to Jason Rapert’s call for the cancellation of the show, EyeHateGod frontman Mike IX Williams took to the band’s Facebook page to pen an open letter to Rapert, writing: “Thank you for all the attention you’ve given the EyeHateGod show in Little Rock, Arkansas. Any image that was used of you is protected under the First Amendment … Please stick to destroying peoples lives by trying to ban same-sex marriage, opposing medical marijuana legalization, threatening minorities, and absolutely attacking women’s right to choose. Your moral crusade against basic human rights will be fought at every turn.”

Worst man vs. wild

In February, Mountain Home native Travis Kauffman detailed for the press how he fended off a mountain lion that attacked as he was running in the woods near Fort Collins, Colo.: Kauffman managed to strangle the big cat to death with his bare hands in a terrifying, do-or-die battle that left him with over 20 stitches to his face and hands.

Worst last call

After showing Little Rock a good time down on the river since 1975, the legendary bar and restaurant Cajun’s Wharf closed June 1.

Worst flame-broiled

A Burger King restaurant in Beebe suffered heavy damage during an April incident in which a pickup truck hauling a 100-pound propane cylinder in the drive-thru lane burst into flame and exploded with the force of a bomb, an incident that was caught on video and widely circulated online.

Worst deflection

In May, on the same day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 617 points and soybean prices cratered to their lowest levels in a decade, Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas appeared on CBS’ “This Morning” and said, when asked whether Trump’s trade war with China was hurting ordinary Americans, that “There will be some sacrifices on the part of Americans, I grant you that. But I also would say that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas, that our fallen heroes who are laid to rest in Arlington make.” When there’s no good answer, hide behind the flag.

Best shoutout

After a March win in Nashville, mixed martial arts fighter and Texarkana native Bryce “Thugnasty” Mitchell used the post-fight interview to give a memorable shoutout in which he triumphantly told his Pappaw to call his Momma and tell her he was taking her for a steak, threw shade at his haters who said he wasn’t supposed to win because “Arkansas ain’t worth a piss,” and demanded that Reebok make him some camo fighting shorts.

Best rebound

Bryce Mitchell’s win is even more of a Cinderella story given that many feared his fighting career was over following an August 2018 injury in which Mitchell, while working on a home-improvement project and lacking a tool belt, stuck a cordless drill down the front of his pants, accidently hit the trigger, and managed to mangle his scrotum with the power tool, later posting a gruesome photo of his bloodsoaked boxers on social media with the caption “I ripped my nutsack in half.”

Worst nature

In October, hunter Thomas Alexander, 66, died in Marion County after he was attacked by a buck deer he’d just shot while muzzleloader hunting. After taking his shot, Alexander apparently approached the wounded animal, thinking it was dead, but it jumped up and turned on him, delivering several puncture wounds to his body. Badly injured, he was transported to a local hospital, where he died. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said the injuries were complicated by a pre-existing condition.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg imageBrian Chilson
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Best Notorious RBG

In September, Arkansas packed North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena to the rafters for a lecture by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Best Arkansas on the small screen

Season three of “True Detective,” a noir murder whodunit filmed in Northwest Arkansas and featuring a writing assist by Arkansas native Graham Gordy, debuted Jan. 13 on HBO cable.

Stacey McAdoo imageBrian Chilson
Stacey McAdoo

Best lesson

Little Rock Central High School teacher Stacey McAdoo, a union member who also happens to be the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, delivered a speech for the ages during the vigil, telling the crowd: “Every single one of us — students, parents and teachers — should feel valued, heard and respected. … We’re not talking about facilities, structural buildings or compiled data. We’re talking about human beings, children. And they are watching. They are dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant children who deserve our support, our love, endless opportunities, and most of all one district, one locally democratically elected board, and teachers who are respected.”

Best vigil

On Oct. 9, thousands of concerned Little Rock residents wearing “red for ed” flooded the grounds of Little Rock’s historic Central High School for a candlelight vigil to protest a state plan that critics said would cleave the Little Rock School District by returning only a portion of the LRSD to local control. The state Department of Education responded with a plan that would leave the entire district under state control with a figurehead school board. It also ended recognition of the collective bargaining power of the Little Rock Education Association, the teachers union.

Worst final bell

Citing financial difficulties, Little Rock’s St. Edward Catholic School, which had been educating children near MacArthur Park since 1885, closed in May after 134 years. Until then, it had been the city’s oldest elementary and middle school.

Walter Hussman imageBrian Chilson
Walter Hussman

Worst news for newsprint 

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman announced the paper would go digital and no longer print a daily paper except in Northwest Arkansas. By the end of the year, the transformation was complete, with Central Arkansas subscribers the last to receive a print version. Instead, the Dem-Gaz, at a cost of millions of dollars, has provided Apple iPads to subscribers at the same rate, $36 a month. The Dem-Gaz will still circulate a printed Sunday newspaper. Hussman said the move was necessary because of the collapse of print advertising; it will save on the cost of newsprint, production and delivery.