WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 01, 2013, 05:20 PM

Top local stories of 2012: Part 1

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We begin our look back at the top local stories of 2012. They are the stories that captured our attention.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We begin our look back at the top local stories of 2012. They are the stories that captured our attention.

2012 started with a bang. A week into the new year, thousands of football fans converged on Frisco, Texas to watch the Bison win a national championship. Their first national title since 1990. The bison played Sam Houston state, winning 17 to 6.

Just days later, a Montana teacher disappeared without a trace, capturing nationwide attention. Sherry Arnold had taught in Minot. Her buried body was found two months later near Williston.

Two Colorado men arrested in the heinous murder could now face the death penalty.

Also in January, controversy in Valley City. Former Police Chief Dean Ross lost his mayoral bid after allegations he mishandled public money. Incumbent mayor, Bob Werkhoven, won by more than 56-percent of the vote.

In February, two Fargo men made history in the state of North Dakota.

Lenny Tweeden and Wayne Rosell tried to get a marriage license, but were denied. The effort sparked a petition in hopes of changing state law to allow gay marriage.

That same month, tragedy struck NDSU after four students were killed in a crash on icy interstate near Alexandria. The campus community mourned in the days to follow.

Hundreds of people came to a candlelight vigil to remember Jordan Playle, Danielle Renninger, Lauren Peterson, and Megan Sample.

March began with a gruesome murder. The stabbed body of 52 year old Kathy Deniger was found in her Fargo apartment. A manhunt for her husband, Henry Deniger, stretched state lines to St. Cloud. He's now awaiting trial.

A judge has ordered Deniger to get mental health treatment at the state hospital in Jamestown.

Also that month, crews battled a blaze at the Pactiv plant in Moorhead. The 130-thousand square foot plant makes recycled egg cartons. The fire started in the pulp drier. A week after the massive blaze, work was well underway to get the plant up and running for the 120 employees put out of work.

Damage estimates were in the millions of dollars.

In April, a tip sparked controversy in Moorhead. A waitress found a 12 thousand dollar tip in a takeout container at Fryin' Pan. Police seized the money, saying it was drug money. After a legal battle, Stacy Knutson was allowed to keep the money.

Stacy: “Today, i just feel extremely blessed for all this and it came at an awesome time.”

After days of testimony, a jury found a Cooperstown man guilty of killing an NDSU researcher. 31 year old Daniel Wacht shook his head as the verdict was read. He shot and decapitated Kurt Johnson in 2010. Johnson’s severed head was found in Wacht's basement. Wacht is now appealing his sentence.

In May, a jury found a rural Barnesville woman guilty of three arson counts. Tara Andvik set six fires to her property. She is now appealing her five year sentence.

That same month, Catholics gave a fond farewell to bishop Samuel Aquila as he presided over his last mass in Fargo. He is now the archbishop of the archdiocese of Denver. Aquila had been bishop in Fargo for about a decade.

And finally, the month of June led to heightened concerns about synthetic drugs. Hallucinogens killed 18 year old Christian Bjerk of Grand Forks and 17-year-old Elijah Stai of Park Rapids, within one week of each other.

Those drugs mixed into a candy bar.

15 people have been charged in federal court in connection to those deaths.

Most have pleaded guilty. That case has sparked renewed efforts to change state law.

At ten, Travis gives us a look back at the top stories of the second half of 2012.