Alaska News

Here are the most-read Alaska Dispatch News stories of 2016

Nationally and worldwide, 2016 was a tumultuous year, and Alaska was no exception.

The year kicked off with a major earthquake in Southcentral Alaska, and ended with the high-profile murder of a teenager in the Valley. In between, there were state budget challenges, a slew of homicides in Anchorage, and tragedy along the Iditarod Trail, all set against the backdrop of a particularly nasty election cycle.

Alaska Dispatch News readers were drawn each month to major breaking news stories that were frequently tinged with tragedy. There were exceptions, of course — like the viral video of a man dancing on a Hoonah dock — but our most-read stories of the year largely reflected the uncertainty and unpleasantness that encapsulated 2016.

Here are our 12 most-read stories of the year, month by month.


Magnitude-7.1 quake rocks Alaska, damaging roads and displacing residents

The major earthquake that hit Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, was "the strongest quake of its kind ever recorded in the area," Alaska Dispatch News reported.

The magnitude-7.1 quake didn't result in any injuries, but did ultimately result in damage to some Kenai Peninsula homes and left a massive fissure in a main road in the Kasilof area.


The quake was felt from Fairbanks to Juneau.


This video of a bearded Alaskan dancing to Alicia Keys is everything

If you need something to brighten your cold, dark winter, consider revisiting this gem of a video, and the most cheerful story on our year-end list: A spirited Alaskan busting a move to Alicia Keys' "No One" on a slushy Hoonah dock. Justin Hoyt, of Ketchikan, posted the video to YouTube in February, and it's since garnered more than a million views.

Even slipping and falling down at one point doesn't keep Hoyt from getting back up and dancing it out.


Snowmachiner says he killed Iditarod dog while driving drunk

One dog was killed and others were injured when Arnold Demoski, of Nulato, hit them while driving a snowmachine "blackout drunk" during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Alaska Dispatch News reported in March, in the most-read story of the year. The incident resulted in the death of musher Jeff King's 3-year-old dog Nash.

King and musher Aliy Zirkle said that Demoski "repeatedly tried to hit their dog teams" on his snowmachine as they traveled to the Nulato checkpoint.

Demoski was sentenced to six months and three days in jail and pleaded guilty to "criminal mischief in the third degree, fourth-degree assault, reckless endangerment and drunk driving," ADN reported.


This is how Anchorage's Atwood Building shook during January's 7.1 quake

It would have been difficult to see how the Atwood Building in downtown Anchorage shook during January's big earthquake with just the naked eye, one U.S. Geological Survey civil research engineer told Alaska Dispatch News earlier this year. But a computer-generated depiction lends some insight to its movement.

The video, produced by the USGS, shows a version of how the building twisted and swayed in the quake, magnified by 300 times. The Atwood Building wasn't damaged in the quake.


Anchorage parents kept daughters in squalid basement for years, charges say

In May, prosecutors said two teenage girls had been kept out of school and forced to live for several years in the basement of an East Anchorage home without heat, power or water.

The girls were 16 and 17 years old when they "showed up at the Covenant House youth shelter" in Anchorage on Christmas Eve last year seeking help, ADN reported.

The girls' parents, Patricia and Timothy Hogan, were sentenced to two months in jail on misdemeanor neglect charges in June, after prosecutors said there "wasn't enough evidence to press felony charges," Alaska Dispatch News reported.


Video: Cruise ship crashes into Ketchikan dock

Part of a Ketchikan dock plunged into the water after it was hit by the Celebrity Cruises ship Infinity in June.


Video captured the ship gradually approaching Berth 3 at the Port of Ketchikan before the crash. Substantial repairs to the berth were finished by early July under a nearly $1 million contract, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.


Troopers: Mountain goat harassed by people drowns near downtown Seward

Alaska State Troopers reported that a mountain goat drowned after being crowded by people in the small Kenai Peninsula town of Seward on July 16.

The goat was filmed near the Seward Boat Harbor before troopers later received a report that it was swimming near the Alaska SeaLife Center, on the south end of town.

The goat drowned in the water there, troopers said. Its body was recovered by a good Samaritan.


Portrait emerges of young activist killed in weekend park slayings, but many questions remain

August's most-read story was a profile of Bryant "Brie" DeHusson, one of two people found dead in Anchorage's Valley of the Moon Park on Aug. 28.

DeHusson was a "well-known figure in local environmental and social activism circles," Alaska Dispatch News reported, and was interested in farming and permaculture.


DeHusson and another victim, Kevin S. Turner, were both found dead in the park early on a Sunday morning. Police determined that they had been killed with the same gun used in three previous homicides.


Armed man in Anchorage Hillside standoff found dead in home

Robert Musser, a 69-year-old U.S. Army veteran, died in his home after a 42-hour standoff that also left two Anchorage police officers injured.

Six police officers returned fire after Musser shot at them during the standoff, Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley said in a September news conference.

This month, Alaska's Office of Special Prosecutions found that those officers who used deadly force against Musser in the standoff "were justified in their actions," Alaska Dispatch News reported.


Fairbanks officer who was shot dies after eye surgery complications

Nearly two weeks after being shot in the line of duty, Fairbanks Police Sgt. Allen Brandt died of complications from eye surgery, leaving many mourning in the Interior city and around Alaska.

Brandt "was responding to a report of shots fired in downtown Fairbanks" just after midnight on Oct. 16, Alaska Dispatch News reported, when a "man dashed in front of the car with a gun in his hand." Brandt was shot six times, and a piece of shrapnel entered his left eye.

Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for him in Fairbanks.

Anthony George Jenkins-Alexie, the man accused of shooting Brandt, was charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.


'I've ruined my life': Suspect in officer shooting was East High grad with criminal record

Anchorage police said at a press conference on Nov. 15 that the gun used to shoot a police officer was also used in at least five Anchorage homicides.


James Dale Ritchie was carrying that gun several days earlier when he was killed in a shootout with police that also left officer Arn Salao injured, police said.

The gun Ritchie used, a Colt Python .357, was linked to five homicides over the summer, investigators said, including the double homicide in Valley of the Moon Park in late August.


Details emerge from the night slain Palmer teen went missing

After David Grunwald, 16, went missing in mid-November, massive search efforts were organized in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to find him. In early December, his remains were found.

In a sworn affidavit in the case, an Alaska State Trooper wrote that Grunwald was bludgeoned with a pistol in a trailer before being driven to the Knik River and shot. Five teenagers were charged in connection with his killing, in a case that has drawn attention both in Alaska and nationwide.