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12 biggest news stories of 2018 in South Sound

Jennifer Wahl sets up her tent at the mitigation camp in downtown Olympia.
Jennifer Wahl sets up her tent at the mitigation camp in downtown Olympia. Olympian file photo

For South Sound, 2018 presented unsettling new mysteries and provided some closure to unsolved crimes of the past.

Here are The Olympian stories that drew the biggest readership of the year.

A carjacking and shooting spree in Tumwater ended with an armed man shot dead in the Walmart parking lot on Father’s Day. A 44-year-old McCleary man, Tim O. Day, entered the store, headed for the sporting goods department and fired shots at a locked ammunition case to remove ammunition before he exited the store. In the parking lot, Tim O. Day shot and critically injured 48-year-old Rickey Fievez while trying to carjack Fievez’s vehicle before Oakville pastor volunteer EMT David George shot and killed Day. Fievez spent months recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

2. Lindsey Baum finally laid to rest

Nearly nine years after she disappeared, authorities in McCleary announced in May that they had found the remains of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum. At a crowded press conference in the McCleary Community Center, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, flanked by other law enforcement officials, said her remains were found in September by hunters in a remote area of Eastern Washington, then the remains were matched to Lindsey’s DNA in the spring. "I'm here today to share with you that we brought Lindsey home," Scott said. "We recovered her. Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years." The case, still unsolved, is now being treated as a kidnapping and homicide investigation.

3. Empty Tumwater brewery catches fire

A portion of the former Olympia Brewing Co. on Custer Way in Tumwater was destroyed in an overnight fire in October. The fire was not the result of arson, and because power and gas service was not connected at the time, the fire is thought to have been accidental in nature, a spokeswoman for the city said. Still, some frustrations bubbled to the surface after the blaze. The brewery buildings have sat unused since 2003. Mayor Pete Kmet said, “I’m frustrated that nothing has happened here and the community is frustrated. That has to change. We have to see if we can get the owner to do something, or sell it to someone who is willing to do something.” Tumwater Development LLC, whose primary member is Chandulal Patel of Southern California, paid $4 million for four brewery parcels at the end of 2015.

4. Attacks on Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls remain unsolved

Over the course of nine months, local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls have been under attack. Four reported arsons at the Kingdom Halls in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Yelm destroyed the Olympia and Lacey buildings. The Kingdom Hall in Yelm was shot at in May and a suspicious device was left there in August. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is leading the investigation and has classified the incidents as hate crimes. No firm leads on a culprit or culprits have been released. There is a $36,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

5. Cat serial killer strikes

In the summer, a serial cat killer terrorized the greater Olympia area as a string of mutilations had much of Thurston County on edge. In the month of August alone, nine cats were reported killed. The killer or killers mutilated the carcasses — sometimes removing the spines — and then placed the dead cats in public places near their homes. A 10-person task force comprised of various law enforcement officials was assigned to the case, but a suspect or suspects have yet to be named. There is currently a $53,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The story even captured national headlines, with the Washington Post and New York Times both reporting on the crimes.

6. Homelessness in Olympia

With the area’s homeless population growing, city of Olympia officials took action, declaring a public health emergency related to homelessness in July. The City Council then set out to open a tiny home village and city-sanctioned homeless camp downtown. The latter was challenged in court by nearby businesses who argued it would become a permanent fixture and attract more homeless people. The city also paid to add capacity at existing shelters and bought a Martin Way East property where officials hope to build permanent housing with support services, paid for with a sales tax increase Olympia voters approved in February.

7. Tumwater teachers go on strike

Teachers unions and school districts across the state endured contentious contract negotiations this summer after Washington lawmakers made major changes to school funding, including limiting local levies and throwing out the state’s salary schedule. They also gave districts more state money, which unions argued should go toward teacher salaries. In Tumwater, teachers went of strike over raises and other issues, delaying the start of school nearly two weeks. There were also teacher strikes in Rainier, Centralia and about a dozen other districts in the state, according to the Washington Education Association. District and union leaders warn school funding problems will persist if lawmakers don’t make more changes in the upcoming Legislative session.

8. State government plagued by bomb threats, mystery packages

The suspect in a series of bomb threats called in to state office buildings in Olympia and Tumwater in October was a former psychiatrist whose license was revoked in 2014. The Washington State Patrol said Said Farzad was tied to 18 cases in which threats were made to the Washington State Health Care Authority offices in Olympia, the Department of Health campus in Tumwater, and other state offices. Farzad had been out of the country since June, however, so he could not be arrested.

9. Oyster House changes hands

The landmark restaurant on Fourth Avenue West at Percival Landing closed in October, but is set to reopen in late January under the guiding hands of Patrick Knutston, Scott McKinney and Pam Oates. Knutson and Oates are partners in Budd Bay Cafe and River’s Edge in Tumwater, while McKinney is known for opening Pints & Quarts in Lacey and Pints Barn in Tumwater. Knutson bought the waterfront property; he, McKinney and Oates will run the business together. They expect to add a oyster-shucking station, as well as one that might set up on the sidewalk in the summer. They also expect to have a “small, executable menu with specials,” Knutson said, and they have plans to locally source their shellfish, possibly from the Olympia Oyster Co., Taylor Shellfish, or Chelsea Farms.

10. Construction starts at isthmus building

Construction kicked off at the long-vacant office tower on Olympia’s isthmus in March. Developer Ken Brogan wants to turn the Capitol Center Building on Fifth Avenue Southwest, known to many as the Mistake by the Lake, into an apartment building with room for retail and a restaurant. After the city signed off on the plan, a group — including former governors, a former secretary of state, former state senator and former Olympia mayor — went to court to stop it, raising environmental concerns and arguing the renovation would forever mar views of Puget Sound from the Capitol Campus. The group has even asked the Washington Supreme Court to take up the case; as of December, the court had not responded.

11. ‘Missing middle’ changes approved

After several months of study and debate by city staff, elected officials and residents, the Olympia City Council in November approved a series of zoning-related changes meant to promote infill housing in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. The “missing middle” changes will allow duplexes, triplexes and cottages — described as being in the middle of single-family homes and large apartment buildings — to be built in low-density residential areas. Proponents say this will relieve pressure on the housing market, while critics contend the changes are unneeded and will alter neighborhood character.

The changes allow more “missing middle” housing throughout Olympia, things like duplexes, triplexes, tiny homes and mother-in-law apartments.

12. Gail Doyle’s killer convicted

Gail Doyle of Olympia went missing in the spring of 2016, and her body was never found. But a jury convicted James Stidd of her murder anyway, and he was sentenced to 40-plus years in prison in July. Stidd, a previously convicted felon, reappeared in Doyle’s life in May 2016. They were last seen together at the Boulevard Tavern in Olympia on June 2, 2016. Stidd claimed to have dropped her off in front of Aztec Lanes on Martin Way that night. Later, law enforcement located several bloody areas on the garage floor of his Tumwater residence. The head of a hammer tested positive for blood and was wrapped in several blond hairs. Thurston County Sheriff’s Office investigators found video of Stidd visiting the Thurston County transfer station, and were confident at the time that Stidd left Doyle’s body there and that her remains were later transported to an Eastern Washington landfill, but they were not found.