What just happened? We look back at 2019

Here are some of the top stories from 2019. Missed something? Check out our archives at sweethomenews.com. Just run a search with some unique key words and you should see what you’re looking for. Happy new year!


– Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance reported a 4.4-percent decline in its call loads in 2018, with 2,639 responses to medical and fire calls.

– Susie Burns published and released a book, “Reaching Back,” written by her father, the late Frank McCubbins. The book, written for his family, tells the story of his life.

McCubbins imported exotic animals from all over the world and kept them at his Ames Creek ranch. Among them was a zebra that appeared in the Disney movie “Swiss Family Robinson” and a monkey that appeared in a “Tarzan” film.

Visitors might meet a camel and enjoy a drive in a 1928 Model A Ford, a few practical jokes and take a shot with the family’s bowling ball cannon. McCubbins could often be seen flying over Sweet Home in an ultralight aircraft.

– Robert Gene Mayfield was arraigned on charges connected to a 2016 crash that killed truck driver Neil Nightingale. In December, Mayfield pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and fourth-degree assault and is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 17.

– Emmett Ray Villines was the first Sweet Home baby of 2019. He was born to Matt and Heather Villines.

– A windstorm caused a tree to fall and damage the bandstand at Sankey Park.

– School officials reported that the percentage of freshmen on track to graduate increased from 84.7 percent to 90.8 percent since the previous school year. Data released by the Oregon Department of Education reported that Sweet Home’s four-year graduation rate increased from 70.88 percent in 2016-17 to 71.26 percent in 2017-18.

– Sweet Home police reported a 3-percent decrease in call volume, 9,626 calls, from 2017 to 2018 but a 10.9-percent increase in the number of reported crimes, 793.

– Michael Ralph Marshall Jr. was sentenced to 37 months in prison for second-degree assault in connection to an ax attack against a female victim on the old Knife River quarry property off Zelcova Street in December.

– A contractor detected 68 leaks in Sweet Home’s water system. Those leaks have since been repaired, and Public Works has continued to locate and repair leaks.

– The School Board reported a positive evaluation of School District Supt. Tom Yahraes, meeting all nine standards included in the evaluation.

– The Oregon Jamboree reported that ticket sales were 15 percent ahead of the previous year for its 2019 concert.

– Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, formerly of Sweet Home, was sworn in as Linn County Circuit Court judge. She was selected in a contested election in November 2018.

– The Oregon Government Ethics Commission ruled against county Commissioner John Lindsey for twice violating state law requiring the disclosure of a potential conflict of interest. The commission dismissed an allegation of misusing his office. The allegations were connected to a dispute with a neighbor who Lindsey claimed was illegally cultivating recreational marijuana.

– The City of Sweet Home installed new restrooms at Sankey Park as part of an ongoing improvement project.

– Brian Prather, a Sweet Home High School graduate, was sworn in as a police officer.


– Lena Tucker of Sweet Home was named the Oregon Department of Forestry’s deputy forester, the second-highest position in the agency.

– Dollar Tree opened.

– The Huskies won the inaugural girls OSAA South Regional wrestling championship. The boys also won their regional championship and placed second at state, with Jackson Royer and Travis Thorpe winning state titles. Marissa Kurtz won her second state wrestling title in girls wrestling.

– The Huskies won the district title and then the state title in girls swimming.

– School officials reported that the number of dropouts had declined from 41 in the Class of 2017 to 27 in the Class of 2018.

– Scott Kessner of Oakridge was rescued by Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District after spending 14 hours overnight at the bottom of a snowy embankment along Highway 20 east of House Rock.

– Volunteers opened a warming shelter at Fir Lawn, providing a warm place for the homeless to sleep when the weather is freezing.

– Linn County deputies arrested Derrick Tyree Smallwood of Lebanon following a pursuit from Albany through Sweet Home at up to 60 mph to milepost 48 on Highway 20, about 21 miles east of Sweet Home. Multiple patrol vehicles from Albany, Lebanon and Sweet Home police departments and Linn County Sheriff’s Office participated in the pursuit. Smallwood pleaded no contest to five charges, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, attempting to elude, second-degree escape and resisting arrest, in March. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison. The chase began after a deputy attempted to stop Smallwood following a report of stolen gasoline at a Tangent gas station.

– The School District asked the city to reduce water rates for water used to irrigate its fields. Since then, the district has been exploring alternatives to city water for irrigation.

– Sweet Home High School’s cheerleaders finished second at the state championship.

– Ten inches of snow covered the Sweet Home area.

– A local homeless man, Billy Seibert, was found outdoors in the 2200 block of Main Street suffering from hypothermia. He died three days later. He had previously suffered a series of strokes.

– Sweet Home’s boys basketball team was eliminated by a league rival, Newport, from the state playoffs during the play-in round after finishing last in the Oregon West Conference with a 2-9 record. On the strength of the league’s overall performance, all seven teams qualified for the play-in round. After winning just two league games, Sweet Home held a 13-10 record overall, going 11-1 in non-league games.

– The high school wrestling and girls swim teams won the top 4A academic all-state award. The swim team had a combined GPA of 4.0. The wrestlers had a 3.8 GPA.


– The School District installed a new sound and lighting system in the Sweet Home High School auditorium. SHOCASE assisted in purchasing the systems, providing $10,000 raised through fund-raising events like the SHARC Showdown talent contest.

– The City of Sweet Home contracted with the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments for planning services in lieu of hiring a new city planner to fill a vacancy left by Jerry Sorte. The city added an associate planner position to assist at the office.

– Virgil Kropf was named the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance Firefighter of the Year, and Police Officer Dave Hickcox was named Sweet Home Police Department Employee of the Year.

– Linn County Parks Department took over management of Cascadia State Park for the next year.

– Angeleah Williams of Sweet Home was named the the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam’s Youth of the Year. The club includes Sweet Home and Lebanon youths.

– Staff and students at Sweet Home Junior High opened a time capsule buried in 1993. The capsule was discovered and recovered during parking lot demolition at the school. Health teacher Craig Wilson was among the students who wrote messages and helped bury the time capsule.

– Sweet Home Sanitation declined to request any increases in rates for 2019 after increasing rates by 4.2 percent and then 8 percent in 2018 to cover increasing costs caused primarily by the rejection of recycling material by the Chinese government.

– Lon Salladay, 77, shot and killed himself after striking 45-year-old Katrina Hadland in the Main Street crosswalk at 22nd Avenue with his vehicle. Hadland was hospitalized with injuries from the crash.

– Donna Ego was recognized as Distinguished Citizen, and Steve Thorpe was recognized as Citizen (formerly First Citizen), the top awards presented at the annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.

– An armed standoff the area at the north end of Clark Mill Road ended with the arrest of Darrell Schilling on multiple charges, including two counts of fourth-degree assault, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, felony attempting to elude, coercion, reckless driving and interfering with a police officer. He is scheduled for trial in Linn County Circuit Court on March 10 and March 11.


– The City of Sweet Home reached a fund-raising goal of $132,000, including donations from the public, to match and apply for a $243,000 grant from the state to pay for improvements in Sankey Park. Among projects are new playground equipment, paths and lighting.

– The School Board approved the first phase of construction at Sweet Home Junior High. The project is under way now and funded by a $4 million bond, a matching grant from the state and funds from the district’s Long-Term Maintenance Fund. The project includes a new gym, administration area, locker rooms, cafeteria and art room.

– The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam hosted its first dodgeball tournament as a fund-raising event, which turned out to be a hit with local teams.

– Lakes and streams ran high following heavy rain, 8.75 inches in the first half of the month. Foster Lake lapped over the shoreline to reach the picnic tables at the park area along Foster Dam Road.

– Police arrested Jacob Reginald Bliss in the alleged kidnapping of a 25-year-old Sweet Home female. He is scheduled for trial Jan. 7 to Jan. 9 in Linn County Circuit Court and was indicted in December on a kidnapping charge for an incident in December 2018 involving a Lebanon woman. He is scheduled for a pre-trial conference in that case on Jan. 9.

– Jake Swanson was crowned Mr. Husky.

– Marissa Kurtz signed to wrestle at Southern Oregon University, becoming the first Sweet Home woman to sign with a college wrestling program. A three-time champion, she helped establish girls wrestling as an OSAA-sanctioned activity.

– A Sweet Home paramedic was treated and released at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital after an ambulance was involved in a four-vehicle collision just east of Lebanon on Highway 20. The ambulance was significantly damaged. Two other drivers were cited.


– The City Council approved a $50,000 contract with FFA Architecture and Interiors to complete a needs assessment and conceptual drawings for the Sweet Home Public Library to address growth in usage.

– The City Council gave a preliminary OK to allow local economic development groups to use the old City Hall, 1140 12th Ave., as an incubator and shared work space for local startup businesses.

– A plan to transfer funds from the police and library funds to a new Internal Services Fund drew objections from members of the public during the city’s annual budget sessions.

The transferred funds, derived from temporary local option levies, cover the costs of finance and administration, which had previously been paid in the General Fund. The General Fund primarily derives its funding from the city’s permanent tax rate, franchise and other fees and state revenue sharing.

Opponents argued that paying administrative and finance costs was not what voters supported when they approved the current levy, that the funds were supposed to be dedicated to library and police functions, while supporters argued that the two departments should pay for their share of administration and finance costs.

The Budget Committee and City Council went on to approve the plan as part of the 2019-20 budget, which took effect on July 1.

– The high school softball and baseball teams won the top 4A academic all-state award. The baseball team had a combined GPA of 3.69, and the softball team had a 3.8 GPA.

– Former Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katrina Crabtree pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor fraudulent use of a credit card and sentenced to 12 months probation and 10 days compensatory service as part of a plea agreement. The charges were related to the use of a chamber credit card while she was still director. She was discharged as director in March 2017.

– The Sweet Home High School forestry natural resources program won the state forestry championship.

– The School Board approved a seven-period day for the high school beginning in the 2019-20 school year.

– Just two candidates, Jenny Daniels and Mike Reynolds, filed for two of five seats on the School Board election and won uncontested elections.

Three seats had no candidates. Incumbent Debra Kay Brown won a write-in campaign for the Cascadia seat, while incumbent Toni Petersen retained her Crawfordsville seat based on write-in votes but declined to continue in the office. The board later appointed Angela Clegg, who was the incumbent for Foster but not qualified to run for the Foster position, to fill the Crawfordsville position, and newcomer Joe Kennedy to serve in the Foster position.

– Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District board incumbents Charlene Adams, Tim Geil and Larry Johnson won re-election by write-in votes after no one filed for the election.

– Dean Paul Jurica, 50, died from a gunshot wound. He had reportedly been been shot on Wiley Creek Drive near Sweet Home. Linn County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation and ruled out suicide. The investigation remains open.

– High school valedictorians were announced. They were Chase Boyd, Sarah Hewitt, Sydney Hooley, Alisha Isabell, Austin Olin, Ella Parker, Madelaine Peeks and Kennedi Waldrop. Lace-Anna Shiffert was salutatorian.

– High School students performed their first play, the musical “Shrek,” with the new sound and lighting equipment in the auditorium.

– Noah Dinsfriend won the state title in the 300 hurdles at the state track meet, and the boys placed fourth overall.

– The Culpepper and Merriweather Circus held performances in Sweet Home.

– Police arrested Page Butterfield, 25, for the murder of Corey Burdick, 43, in a Surrey Lane shooting that also injured Ervin Larry Smith, 65.

His next court hearing, scheduled for Feb. 6, was canceled after Butterfield’s attorney requested the disqualification of judges Rachel Kittson-Maqatish and Michael B. Wynhausen in December decisions by Judge Thomas A. McHill. The defense claimed that Butterfield could not have a fair and impartial hearing before those judges.

His next court appearance, a hearing on a motion to limit some testimony, has not been rescheduled.

Butterfeld has filed notice that his actions were in self-defense, claiming that he was lured to the property and assaulted with a large flashlight.

– Jeff Parker was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission.

– The high school baseball team was eliminated from state playoffs in the second round by Astoria, and the softball team was eliminated from state playoffs in the second round by Gladstone.

– Swimming Coach Doug Peargin was named Coach of the Year for the seventh time by the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association for girls swimming in the 1A through 4A division. He also has been national Coach of the Year twice.


– Ron Wilson was installed as the VFW Post’s new commander, and Carolyn Croxford continued to serve as president of the auxiliary.

– Sweet Home High School graduated 154 seniors.

– The School Board approved the final spending packages for the junior high remodel and seismic upgrades at Foster and Holley elementary schools. The seismic upgrades are nearing completion. Siding still needs to be installed at Holley. Major construction started.

– The U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District unveiled a project to manage 8,400 acres of timberlands in the Quartzville and Middle Santiam areas, about 20 miles northeast of Sweet Home. The plan includes timber harvest, restoration of threatened species, prescribed burning, invasive species management, improvements to recreation sites, road maintenance and road decommissioning.

– Jordan Thein died in a single-vehicle crash on Upper Calapooia Drive.

– Vice Principal Terry Augustadt left his position to work as an elementary principal in Marcola. High School Assistant Principal Mark Looney filled the position. Holley Principal Todd Barrett moved to Oak Heights, and Oak Heights Principal Josh Dargis moved to Holley.

– American Family Video, the last dedicated video rental outlet in Sweet Home, closed its doors as owner Kathi Benson retired.

– Will Tucker announced his plans to retire after he completes his current term on the Linn County Board of Commissioners at the end of 2020.

– The City of Sweet Home hired former Stanfield City Manager Blair Larsen as its new Community and Economic Development Director. The department is responsible for planning, code enforcement and economic development.

– Zoe Opperman and Carsen Perry were named Freshmen of the Year.


– Cascadia residents honored retired state Sen. Mae Yih for her role in replacing an unsafe bridge at Cascadia State Park, ensuring two access points to the area north of the South Santiam River. The Cascadia community unveiled a monument memorializing her efforts to get the new bridge built.

– Linn Shuttle added Saturday service using funds from a .1-percent payroll tax created by the legislature in 2017. The service added more runs later in the year.

– Several Sweet Home residents participated in the annual Gambler 500, including Wil Garrett, Robert and Sarah Shamek and Julie and Jeremy Fisher.

– The City Council rejected a request by Jacobs Engineering Group to increase its fee for management and operation of the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants.

The council has since explored other options for management of the plants, including a competitor or operating them with Public Works staff. The council has yet to decide whether to continue working with Jacobs or choose another option.

The rejection followed an audit at the Water Treatment Plant that revealed maintenance deficiencies. Jacobs has since corrected most of the deficiencies identified in the report.

– The City Council approved a contract with the Murraysmith engineering firm to complete the final design for upgrades and rehabilitation of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, a project estimated to cost a total of $28.5 million.

– Holley Elementary School officially recorded the best attendance rate among Sweet Home School District schools for the 2018-19 school year, edging out Hawthorne which had the best attendance rate in 2017-18.

– The Sweet Home School District had a second year of low turnover rates among its teachers, with just eight teachers resigning after 2018-19. The previous year, 10 resigned, compared to more than 20 in previous years.

– Makayla Griffin was named queen of the 2019 Sportsman’s Holiday Court.

– Timber Harvesting, Inc., placed first in the Logger Olympics Working Logger Relay with a time of 1:21.5, edging out defending champion CTS, Inc., which had a time of 1:32.38.

– Some 71 percent of Sweet Home water users saw their monthly water bill decline slightly, while those using the average amount, 600 cubic feet per month, saw a slight increase, from $46.49 to $47.74 per month. Most ratepayers use less than the average.

– Work on $1.5-million seismic upgrades at Foster and Holley elementary schools as well as new construction and remodeling at Sweet Home Junior High were under way.

– Nate Virtue played in the annual East West All-Star Football Game.

– Stormy Barge, 24, and daughter Emma Pulido, 5, were killed in a two-vehicle crash on Brush Creek Road. The driver of the other vehicle, Brian McIntire was arrested and charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter, two counts of fourth-degree assault and driving under the influence. McIntire is scheduled for a final resolution conference hearing on Jan. 22.

– KFIR radio station moved from Sweet Home to Albany.

– Casey Tow finished third in the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championship.


– The Oregon Jamboree attracted a near-record crowd, 15,500 to 16,000 per day, to see numerous country artists, including headliners Hank Williams Jr., the Brothers Osborn and Chris Young.

– The City of Sweet Home opened its new City Hall at the site of the former Sweet Home Ranger District office, 3225 Main St. The Ranger District used the building since it was new in 1989 until 2006.

– The SHOCASE Public Arts Committee launched its first art show in the lobby of the new City Hall. Elda Miller won the People’s Choice Award, based on votes by visitors, for her painting of a 1934 roadster. The show displayed local two-dimensional art pieces, primarily paintings. The next show begins this month and will feature “fiber art,” including quilts and similar items.

– Circle K became 7-Eleven.

– Due to increased costs, the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District downgraded planned upgrades, a third vehicle bay and living quarters, at its Foster Substation, located on 47th Avenue. The project was funded by a 2016 bond levy approved by Sweet Home voters. The district is looking at other options to provide space for a third vehicle.

– The 200-mile Swift Summit Northwest cycling race ran through Sweet Home.

– The Sweet Home Public Library held a community forum as part of a building needs assessment. FFA Architecture and Interiors was scheduled to report to the City Council about the assessment this month.

– Half of Sweet Home’s new licensed staff, going to work in the 2019-20 school year, were returning Sweet Home High School graduates, including Ryan Adams, Nate Tyler, Emily Marchbanks, Grant Kauffman and Patty O’Day.

– Auto shop was dropped from the high school class schedule thanks to low participation.

– The City of Sweet Home installed new speed monitoring signs, locating the first two on First Avenue and Airport Road. The signs may be attached to poles around the city.

– Sweet Home Police Officer Keenan Martin was named the district’s new detective.

– Steve Hanscam retired after nearly 40 years working on Main Street as an accountant.


– Linn County received no bids for the 154-acre mill property, the former site of Willamette Industries Sweet Home Mill, owned by Linn County. The county auctioned the property for a minimum bid of $2.7 million. The county took possession of the property at the end of 2010 when the previous land owner, Western States Land Reliance Trust, failed to pay more than a half million in property taxes.

– Nearly 1,100 participants showed up for the Best in the West Triathlon Series.

– State Rep. Sherrie Sprenger announced her candidacy for Linn County Commissioner this year, seeking retiring Commissioner Will Tucker’s seat.

– Craig Hayes shot and killed a cougar that had killed a goat in his backyard around the south end of 43rd Avenue.

– The City of Sweet Home agreed to join Lebanon and Albany to study the feasibility of a joint biosolids recycling facility to handle solid waste from wastewater treatment plants.

– Sweet Home residents and business owners began speaking up for and against a proposed “exclusion ordinance” that would allow police officers to “trespass” alleged offenders from the downtown area for 30 days after they are cited or arrested for the third time in a five-year period (the proposed period was later changed to one year). Subsequent exclusions would be for 90 days.

The ordinance must be read by the council one more time before it may be adopted. It had been scheduled for a third reading and possible decision in December, but the meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.

– Teacher Jeff Tompkins went to work as Sweet Home Charter School’s new principal.


– The Chamber of Commerce and volunteers ran a haunted house in the old City Hall and provided a “ghost tour” of Sweet Home, with locals playing the ghosts of Sweet Home’s past in re-enactments of Sweet Home history.

– Rainy weather closed down fire season early on Oct. 1. In recent years, fire season has typically ended in mid-October.

– High school senior Jonny Maas told The New Era about his career racing ATVs, a career that includes world records and titles.

– The City of Sweet Home held a ground-breaking ceremony during the annual Harvest Festival on nearly a quarter million in upgrades at Sankey Park.

– Nick Rietz, 20, was partially paralyzed in a motocross crash in Albany.

– Preliminary data show that Sweet Home High School improved its graduation rate by at least 10 percent in 2018-19 to 81 percent. An official rate is scheduled to be released by the Oregon Department of Education this month.

– High school seniors Megan Hager and Nich James were named Sweet Home’s Junior First Citizens.

– Total real market property value in Sweet Home increased by 8.9 percent driving increases in local property tax bills.

– Public Works purchased new plow attachments to prepare for winter snow storms.


– High school senior Lexi Schilling signed to wrestle at Corban University in Salem.

– The Sweet Home Planning Commission approved the construction of two communications towers, one to provide a wireless connection to Falls Creek Dam east of Sweet Home and the other to serve Verizon customers. The Falls Creek tower will be built at the Elks Lodge, and the Verizon tower will be constructed off 18th Avenue north of Main Street.

– The city removed five trees from the Main Street median strip. The trees were outgrowing the planter or damaged by passing traffic.

-The Sweet Home High School volleyball team placed second in the state 4A volleyball tournament.

– A Linn County jury found the state in breach of contract with 13 counties for failing to manage and promote timber harvests on Forest Trust land.

The forests had been ceded to the states by the counties in the 1940s with the expectation that they would generate revenue for the counties and about 140 taxing districts. In many cases the lands were abandoned by owners during the Great Depression and no longer produced tax revenue.

The jury awarded $1 billion in future and past damages.

– The City Council began looking at increasing its systems development charges, which are imposed on new developments to help pay the costs of expanding city utilities. Currently, the charges are about $1,800. Other cities typically charge $10,000, in Lebanon, to $40,000, in West Linn, according to Murraysmith, an engineering consultant.

– The family of Pam and Jason Ogden welcomed their newest addition, an adopted daughter, Jossa Mae, who was born Nov. 23 in the Salt Lake area of Utah. The Ogdens had been raising funds for an adoption since October 2017.


– Sweet Home City Councilor Susan Coleman announced her candidacy for House of Representatives District 17. She is among several who have filed for the seat, which is held by Sherrie Sprenger, who is running for county commissioner this year. Coleman is Sprenger’s legislative assistant.

– Norma Reeser celebrated her 100th birthday.

– Police arrested Mary K. Rochefort, 62, for allegedly shooting her husband while he slept. He survived the shooting, and she reported the incident to police. Charged with first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon, she is scheduled for a status hearing on Jan. 13 in Linn County Circuit Court.

-A human-caused fire destroyed the shipping and receiving office of the former Willamette Industries Sweet Home Mill site. The building was abandoned and not powered, but a police investigation showed that someone was living in it. The case remains under investigation.