At the conclusion of each year, the Journal Review regularly publishes a recount of the top local stories, and this year is no different. With the help of Google analytics, the Journal Review has identified our Most Read News Stories of 2020.
This is the fourth and final installment in the series.
Police investigate woman who was shot, beheaded
In August, a Crawfordsville man was accused of shooting his wife in the head, killing her, then decapitating her, dumping her body on a bridge and reporting her missing.
Michael Dale Parks, 44, was formally charged with murder in Montgomery Circuit Court. He remains jailed without bond.
The victim was identified in court documents as Hope Parks. Her body was found early in the morning hours of Aug. 20 on the bridge on C.R. 225W over Sugar Creek.
With investigators still at the bridge, Parks went to the Crawfordsville Police Department to file a missing person report.
Parks told police he hadn’t seen his wife since Aug. 18, when she left the house after an argument, according to a probable cause affidavit signed by Crawfordsville Police Det. Lt. David Long.
Parks gave the police consent to search the couple’s South Elm Street home, where officers noticed dried blood in multiple areas, including the garage, gravel driveway and rear deck of the home, Long said.
The woman’s head was found buried in the cellar, according to the affidavit.
Elsewhere in the home, investigators found a .22 caliber rifle and ammunition, and collected a spent casing from the yard, Long said. Another search turned up a bloodstained tarp that appeared to be used for transporting a body, Long added. The woman’s cell phone was located in a safe in the bedroom of the home.
An autopsy determined that Hope Parks died from a gunshot wound to the head. She had also suffered blunt force trauma to her chest and extremities, the medical examiner concluded. It wasn’t immediately clear when she was shot.
If convicted, Parks faces up to 65 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. He could receive an additional five to 20 years behind bars for using a firearm.
A jury trial is scheduled for July 7, 2021.
24-year-old Jeopardy! whiz is local woman’s grandson
In December, Brayden Smith, a 24-year-old policy intern from Las Vegas, dominated the board on “Jeopardy!” — and there was a local connection. Smith’s grandmother, Wanda, lives in Crawfordsville, and his father, Scott, graduated from North Montgomery High School.
Smith racked up $97,799 in cash winnings over four appearances on the game show, which were taped weeks before the death of longtime host Alex Trebek. Smith and his family are longtime “Jeopardy!” viewers, and the former high school quiz show captain beat out his Latin teacher among other hopefuls to land a spot on the show.
The problem was, as Smith buzzed his way through the categories, Wanda couldn’t watch at home: the local “Jeopardy!” affiliate was blacked out on her television provider. She received a play-by-play over the phone for the first couple of appearances before going to a friend’s house to watch Smith add a third day to his winning streak despite missing the final clue, which stumped the rest of the contestants.
“I don’t know why he wagered anything because he wouldn’t have to,” Wanda said.
Scott Smith said Trebek called his son “Billy Buzzsaw” because of his knack for the game.
“Just playing the game is so much fun,” Brayden Smith said in a “Clue Crew” segment. “You know, if I lost the first game... I still would have loved it.”
Smith returns to defend his championship Jan. 4.
“Jeopardy!” airs weeknights on WTHR (Channel 13), WLFI (Channel 18) and WTWO (Channel 2).
East side Kroger, Save A Lot closes
Two local grocery stores, the east side Kroger and Save A Lot closed this year.
The announcement of Kroger’s closure in January resulted in a passionate response within the community. Mayor Todd Barton issued a statement at the time saying that he attempted to speak with representatives from the Darlington Avenue store several months earlier when the city became concerned that Kroger Corp. would close the store. The store later told Barton that a decision had already been made at the corporate level.
Barton noted the company’s longtime local investment with Pace Dairy Foods and said the city was working aggressively to recruuit additional grocery and retail stores in the community.
“I understand the challenges a lack of options creates and I face the same frustrations as a consumer who shops in this community every day,” Barton said. “While local government can’t dictate where companies choose to do business we can attempt to create the type of environment that is enticing and reasonably assures them success. We strive to do that every day and will continue to do so, but ultimately, we must all, as consumers, make certain we support the types of businesses we want to have in our community if we wish for them to succeed.”
To date, the vacated store remains empty.
Save A Lot shut its doors on South Boulevard in July.
Speculation surrounding the rumored closure rose in the weeks before the store closed July 18.
Employees were informed July 6 that the store would close — 12 days before the closing date. They have also been instructed not to order any new products, and vendors have not been present for some time.
Neimann Foods, headquartered in Quincy, Illinois, purchased the Crawfordsville County Market in November 2015 from Covington Foods Inc. As part of that transaction, Neimann Foods also bought other County Market stores in Attica, Covington, Danville and Tilton, Illinois.
The company owns and operates more than 100 stores under familiar banners such as County Market, ACE Hardware and Pet Supplies Plus throughout the Midwest. Save A Lot moved into the Crawfordsville location in May 2019 before reconfiguring the interior for a fall opening.
Currently the store remains empty.