NBC Washington’s 28 Most-Read Stories of 2015

The biggest stories of the year on NBC Washington ranged from tragic to joyous, with a stop in the middle for panda births.

29 photos
Getty Images, NBC Washington, National Zoo
28. D.C. Reporter Gunned Down: Charnice Milton, a 27-year-old reporter for the Capital Community News, was fatally shot in Southeast D.C. in May as she waited for a bus. Police have made no arrests, but released surveillance video showing 14 people riding dirt bikes and ATVs at the time of the killing. The shooter was riding a dirtbike and was trying to hit someone in another group of riders, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
27. Batman Impersonator Fatally Struck by Batmobile: Lenny Robinson -- a Maryland man known for visiting sick kids while dressed as Batman -- was killed in August after he had engine trouble and pulled over on I-70 near Hagerstown. He was checking the engine of his custom black Lamborghini, designed to look like a Batmobile, when another car struck his car and then hit him. "Lenny just made everybody so happy. When he walked in as Batman, he transformed the whole hospital into a magical world and none of the kids felt like they were sick anymore," said Laurie Strongin, executive director of the Hope for Henry Foundation.
26. Two Students Airlifted After Chemistry Class Fire: Five students and their teacher were injured in a chemistry class fire at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County this fall; two of those injured were airlifted to D.C. hospitals with serious injuries. The fire happened as the teacher was conducting a demonstration about the different colors of fire. The school district has suspended the use of open flames in science classes.
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25. McDonnells Sentenced to Prison in Corruption Case: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison and his wife, Maureen, was sentenced to one year and one day following their 2014 corruption convictions. They were found guilty of performing favors for a former vitamin executive in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans. However, neither have served any time yet. The Supreme Court ruled in August that Bob McDonnell may remain free during his appeal to the high court. In October, a federal appeals court put Maureen McDonnell's case on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether to review her husband's case.
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24. 130 Killed in Paris Attacks: On Nov. 13, 130 people were killed and several hundred were injured in Paris during a coordinated series of terrorist attacks. At least 100 people were killed at the Bataclan concert hall after scores of hostages were held. To the north, more attackers detonated explosive belts at the Stade de France, and more attacks followed at other sites across the city. ISIS claimed responsibility for the violence. The victims came from all walks of life. Here are their portraits.
Annie Potasznik
23. WDBJ's Alison Parker, Adam Ward Killed on Air: A TV reporter and photographer, both in their 20s, were fatally shot during a live broadcast in Virginia in August. Alison Parker and Adam Ward were gunned down by a former reporter who'd been fired from the CBS affiliate in Roanoke. According to employment files from the TV station, workers had been told to "call 911 immediately" if they saw ex-reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II on company property, NBC News Investigations reported. The three had worked together, but when Flanagan was fired in February 2013, a 911 call summoned police to remove him from the premises. Flanagan killed himself hours after the deadly shootings.
22. 911 Operator Who Told Teen to 'Stop Whining' Fired: A 911 dispatcher was fired after telling a 13-year-old girl to "stop whining" as her father lay dying after a hit-and-run crash on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in February. The girl called 911 after a car hit her father, 38-year-old Rick Warrick of D.C., and his fiancée as they changed a tire. She gave the dispatcher information, but struggled to remain calm, pleading with the dispatcher to "hurry up" and send help. However, the operator said he needed the exact location of the crash and at one point, interrupted her. "OK, let's stop whining. Let's stop whining, it's hard to understand you," he said. After the incident, an Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman told the AP the dispatcher should have handled the call differently.
21. "No One Should Have to Do What I Did": Man Crawls Off Plane: DArcee Neal, who uses a wheelchair, had to crawl off a plane at Reagan National Airport in October after the airline failed to provide an aisle chair and someone to help him get off the plane, he said. "I mean, it's humiliating," Neal said. "No one should have to do what I did." Neal had been returning from San Francisco, where he had a speaking engagement about accessible transportation.
20. Student on Scholarship Evicted From Dorms: A Howard University sophomore was expelled from his dorm after he admitted he broke a rule. Jawanza Ingram is attending HU on scholarship, which had included his housing -- but after he was evicted, he posted a photo to his Twitter account, showing him wheeling a suitcase down a hallway, lugging a duffle bag and wearing a backpack. The image quickly gained attention, and an organization helped an HU alumna reach out to him to offer him housing. The offer was rescinded after the group said Ingram stopped communicating with them, but Ingram disputed that account, saying he'd just needed more time.
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19. Man Wins $500K After Phone Records Doctors Mocking Him: A Vienna, Virginia, man was awarded $500,000 after he unintentionally recorded his doctors mocking and insulting him while he was under anesthesia. While checking his phone after surgery, the man discovered he'd recorded the entire procedure and heard his doctors insulting him when he was under anesthesia. "After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," the doctor is heard saying. The patient then sued for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of Virginia health codes and medical malpractice.
Courtesy FindHariSimran.com/Sikh Coalition
18. Missing Va. Yoga Teacher Hari Simran Found Dead in Mexico: A young Northern Virginia yoga teacher had been missing in Mexico for four days before he was found dead in a ravine near where he'd gone hiking. Originally a Brooklyn native, Hari Simran, 25, taught at a Sterling yoga studio and had been in Mexico for a yoga retreat with his wife. "If I could just be one-hundredth of him, I think I could be a much better human being," Simran's friend Prabhjit Singh said. "He literally came [to Virginia] to raise people's consciousness, that's what he did as a meditation and yoga teacher. He lifted people up."
17. 2 Brothers Die in Car Crash on Way to School: A Virginia family suffered an unimaginable tragedy in November when teen brothers Ian and Jalen Brown died in a crash on a foggy morning as they headed to Spotsylvania High School. Their mother, a teacher at Spotsylvania High, was about two minutes behind her sons on the road and "drove up on it, right after they crashed," a state police sergeant told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
16. Dozens of Puppies Seized From Virginia Pet Shop: Animal Control officers seized up to 50 puppies from a Chantilly pet store in November after multiple complaints from citizens about the health of the puppies in the store. One would-be customer told News4, "It's very sad. The puppies did seem very small..." Another woman who'd bought a puppy there said her vet told them the puppy had been taken from its mother too soon. The owner of Dreamy Puppy is now facing code violations for having an unsafe structure.
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15. Protests in Baltimore after death of Freddie Gray; 6 officers indicted: Protesters in Baltimore took to the streets after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in the back of a police van in April. Six police officers have been indicted in his death. The trial of William Porter, the only officer to go on trial so far, ended with a hung jury. He will be retried next year. The other five officers have trial dates set for the first three months of 2016.
14. Winter Weather Forecast: At Least One Major Storm: December's been unseasonably warm, but Storm Team4 says don't get too comfortable -- the pattern over the past few years has meant a warm December, but a frigid January and February. Storm Team4 predicts at least one big snowstorm, and if an El Niño storm moves in our direction when enough cold air is present, we could have a monster storm.
13. White House Staffer Accused of Threatening Boyfriend With Gun: White House staffer Barvetta Singletary was indicted for allegedly threatening her boyfriend -- a U.S. Capitol Police officer -- with his own gun during an argument about another woman. "You taught me how to use this. Don't think I won't use it," she said, according to an arrest warrant.
Veronica Speck
12. Parents of 'Free-Range' Kids Investigated: A Montgomery County couple sparked a debate over kids' freedom when they were investigated for neglect after letting their kids, ages 6 and 10, walk home from parks. At one point, the children were held by police and CPS for more than five hours. Their parents, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, have been cleared in the cases. They said they're responsible and are teaching their children self-reliance and responsibility.
11. Woman Charged With Sex Abuse After Twerk Attack: Two women were caught on video repeatedly groping and twerking on a man at a convenience store and gas station in Northeast D.C. The victim told News4 he was humiliated by the assault. "I was assaulted sexually," he said, asking that his name be withheld. "I felt 100 percent violated." One woman pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence and probation in the case; police are still looking for the other suspect.
10. 95-Year-Old Newlywed Dies After Wife Taken Away: Eddie Harrison, a 95-year-old Virginia newlywed, died just weeks after his wife, 96-year-old Edith Hill, was taken away by family members to Florida. The two married this year after 10 years of companionship. "He lived for her, and she lived for him. It's the love story of the century," said Rebecca Wright, who had cared for the couple in their Alexandria, Virginia, home. She said they would dance, take walks and care for each other. But the marriage was disputed in court; Hill has been declared legally incapacitated for several years. One of her daughters contested the marriage, saying it would complicate the eventual distribution of her estate.
First Lt. Skip Lee, Ocean City Beach Patrol
9. Hammerhead Shark Spotted in Ocean City: A hammerhead shark was spotted in the water at Ocean City two days in a row in June. Authorities spent much of the time warning people, and beachgoers stayed on shore, taking photos and videos of the shark as it swam through the waves and even went right up to the shore. Capt. Butch Arbin of the Ocean City Beach Patrol said the shark was likely sick or injured because they usually don't come that close to shore. The shark was later seen being pushed by a current into the Assawoman Bay, away from Ocean City.
8. Md. Bridal Store Closes Abruptly, Leaving Brides Scrambling: An Upper Marlboro bridal shop closed without notice in May after its owner was convicted of stealing $5.1 million from a D.C. nonprofit. As part of her conviction, the owner had to turn over all her assets, including the store, leaving brides anxious about getting the dresses they've ordered and paid for. Marshals stepped in to make sure that any dresses that had been ordered and were available were sent to the brides. In November, a liquidation sale offered the remaining gowns up for sale at sharply discounted prices.
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7. Pope Francis Visits D.C.: Pope Francis made his first U.S. visit in September to meet devout followers in D.C., New York and Philadelphia. The pope's six-day, three-city tour was packed with events ranging from intimate blessings to a speech at the United Nations. In D.C., Francis spoke in a joint meeting of Congress about the dangers of climate change, immigration reform and the death penalty.
Alexis Boone, 8; Kaitlyn Boone, 7; Wesley Boone, 6; Charlotte Boone, 8; and their grandparents, Don and Sandra Pyle.
6. Couple, 4 Grandchildren Killed in Christmas Tree-Fueled Fire: A dried-out 15-foot Christmas tree fueled a massive mansion fire in Annapolis in January, killing a couple and their four visiting grandchildren. The family's tree had been cut down about nine weeks earlier, and provided fuel for the massive, fast-burning blaze, which was sparked by an electrical failure, investigators said. The family had planned to remove the tree the following day.
Dianne Wallace
5. 1 Dead, 80 Sickened in Smoky Metro Tunnel: In January, dozens of people were trapped aboard a Metro train after an electrical malfunction caused the tunnel to fill with thick, black smoke. A woman, 61-year-old Carole Glover, died, and more than 80 other people were hospitalized. Glover, a government contractor, left behind two sons and three grandchildren. After the incident, congressional leaders spoke out, saying miscommunication and malfunctioning equipment were not excuses for passengers to be stuck on a dark, smoky train car for 30 minutes.
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4. Pot Legalized in D.C.: Possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal in the District in February, with home cultivation permitted under certain rules. D.C. police officers now carry small, double-sided information cards spelling out what the law does and does not cover.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
3. Unbearable Cuteness Alert: Hey, Bei Bei! The National Zoo grabbed everyone's attention this summer when giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to tiny twins in August. Sadly, the smaller of the newborns died, but the surviving cub -- now named Bei Bei -- has thrived and now weighs close to 20 pounds.
NBC Washington
2. Wintry Weather: Winter weather is always a big deal in D.C. The first snow of the year fell in early January, although the first major snow didn't arrive until about six weeks later -- and we kept on getting snow until March.
1. Four Murdered in D.C. Mansion: D.C. police say Daron Wint held the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, captive for up to 18 hours inside the family's upscale home in May before he was paid a $40,000 ransom. After, police say he killed the victims and set the house on fire. He was captured a week later.
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