A month by month look back at 2008.


The legal system ruled McPherson County in 2008. David Page defeated 25-year county attorney Ty Kaufman in the August Republican primary election and in a precedent-setting case, the Kansas Supreme Court dismissed a series of cases against Douglas Belt that were filed by Kaufman based on John Doe DNA.

In July, Judge Carl B Anderson sentenced Jeffrey D. Nelson to 50 years in prison following  a year-long legal process that ultimately found Nelson guilty of murdering his step-father, Stanley Swartz. Nelson was not eligible for the death penalty because his case did not meet the Kansas criteria for capital murder.

In December, Deidre Harman received a probation sentence for abandoning her infant in a trash dumpster near her McPherson home in late May. And Marvin J. Gifford Jr. pled guilty in November in Reno County court to one count of capital murder for the death of Pearl Arthaud, 85, of Buhler,  and 12 additional counts relating to sexual assaults and attacks of several elderly women in Reno County.

Shortly before leaving office, Kaufman restructured the county’s public defender system assigning his firm and the Boyer Law Firm as full-time public defenders, eliminating a call-list structure.

While politics rocked the national scene, multiple state and national legislators made appearances in McPherson. In May, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback spoke on clean energy at McPherson College. U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran made two appearances in McPherson in October. Moran spoke with McPherson High School seniors about the long-term impact of the county’s financial fallout and discussed the future of plastics manufacturing with employees at American Maplan.

Two college presidents seceded their positions. McPherson College President Ron Hovis announced his resignation in May and Central Christian College President Dr. Dwight B. Reimer made his resignation official in December. A presidential search is currently under way at McPherson College while interim President Dr. Jerry Alexander will take the reigns at Central Christian College on Jan. 1.

And Mother Nature made herself a force as area residents ushered in 2008 cleaning debris from the December 2007 ice storm. While the summer passed with few severe storms, winter knocked on residents’ doors early with a mid-December blast of arctic temperatures and blowing snow.
Here is a month-by-month look at what made news in McPherson County:

January
Allison Jean Freyholtz earned the distinction of being the first baby born in McPherson in 2008. Freyholtz’s parents are Seth and Jessica Freyholtz.

The residents of McPherson grappled with the disposing of large quantities of tree limbs and debris following an ice storm in December. Various community and group projects were organized to assist in the clean-up process.

The City Commission decided to provide assistance in removing tree limbs for elderly, disabled and financially incapable people following an ice storm in December.

Jan O’Dell, who operated the Elm Place Preschool for 28 years, was featured on the KAKE TV program Hatteburg’s People January 27.

February
Mike Huckabee won the McPherson County GOP caucus on Feb. 9 while Barack Obama won the Democratic caucus on Feb. 5.

Prior to the caucuses Huckabee, Obama and John McCain campaigned personally in Kansas.
City Commissioners took a tour through McPherson on Feb. 25. The city officially acquired the trolley a few months later.

March
March proved to be a great month for McPherson High School sports as the school earned two state championships.

 MHS’ boys bowling team captured the Class 5-1A state championship in its inaugural year March 1.

The McPherson High School girls basketball team won the Class 5A state championship.

A bomb threat called into Arby’s turned out to be a false alarm. Members of the McConnell Air Force Base Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit were called into investigate a suspicious package in a dumpster that turned out to be a kerosene heater.

In a precedent-setting case, the Kansas Supreme Court dismissed a series of cases against Douglas Belt that were filed by County Attorney Ty Kaufman based on John Doe DNA.

April
Washington Elementary was the first USD 418 school to implement a new security system requiring visitors to be "buzzed in" before entering the school.

A large grass fire at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge destroyed between 2,000 and 2,200 acres of grassland north of Canton causing close to $30,000 in damage.

MIDC co-founder and local lawyer John Bremyer passed away at the age of 88.

Approximately 125 volunteers joined in Brush Up Mac and worked on fixing up 11 different properties in McPherson. Volunteers also helped pick up limbs left from the December 2007 ice storm.

Dillons announced it would close its store at 201 E. Euclid St., better known as Little Dillons. The store first opened in 1945.

Jeffrey D. Nelson was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his stepfather Stanley D. Swartz. Nelson's first trial in January was declared a mistrial and he was later sentenced to 50 years in prision.

May
Senator Sam Brownback spoke at McPherson College May 7. Brownback gave a presentation on clean energy. The speech came as the price of oil was over $100 a barrel. Following the presentation, Brownback faced questions from the audience on issues ranging from the cattle industry to his pro-life stance to cutting government spending.

Brownback made the trip as part of a series of town hall meetings across Kansas.

McPherson College President Ron Hovis announced his resignation May 20, to be effective at the end of the 2008-09 academic year. Hovis made the announcement at that time to allow the McPherson College Board of Trustees time to develop and execute a search process.

In a letter to the college community, Hovis stated it has been a privilege to serve as president over the past five years. Hovis said that at the conclusion of the academic year he is planning to establish new homes - likely in Texas and Wyoming.

On Tuesday, May 27, police responded to a call from 18-year-old single mother Deidre Harman reporting that her six-week-old daughter had been abducted. Police determined that the report was false and found the baby in a trash bin located two blocks from the mother’s residence. The child was unharmed.

The trash bin would have been emptied that day but was not because of a delay in the schedule caused by Memorial Day, which was the previous day.

Harman was charged with child abandonment in McPherson district court and plead no contest later in the year.

June
Dr. Walter W. Jones purchased 20 benches for downtown McPherson in memory of his sister, Peggy Ebaugh, a long-time Main street supporter.

The benches, which are currently situated throughout the downtown, are located directly next building and in the shade.

The naming of USD 418 facilities became a hot item of discussion as the Board of Education considered different possible policies. Discussion and debate over proposed policies continued for the remainder of the year.

A mock disaster was staged at McPherson High School June 21, involving various emergency agencies and district personnel. The exercise was designed to recreate conditions of a school shooting/hostage situation.
Participants in the exercise included police, fire, ambulance, SWAT, as well as other agencies.

The McPherson CVB trolley was delivered on June 12. The trolley’s first booking was for a wedding on June 14. The trolley began offering historical tours of the McPherson areas in July.

June brought the end of a long-running dispute between Ivan Lowry and the city over an alleyway in the 800 block of S. Main. as Jim Zweigle, son of the owner of the property, Joy Lowry, addressed the City Commission, expressing her intention that she never wished to fight the city on the matter.

July
Jeffrey D. Nelson, convicted of murdering his step-father, Stanley Swartz, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by Judge Carl B. Anderson Jr. on July 1.

The sentence followed a legal process which had lasted over a year and had resulted in two trials - one a mistrial. Nelson was not eligible for the death penalty because his case did not meet the Kansas criteria for capital murder.

Swartz died May 19, 2007, from injuries he sustained from Nelson on April 25, 2007, and had been an avid fan of local high school sports.

The YMCA announced plans to expand its facilities at 220 N. Walnut. The renovation and expansion put an emphasis on the pool. Lobby and office areas as well as other miscellaneous improvements were also announced.
Construction is currently ongoing.

The Ulster Project returned to McPherson with eight Northern Irish teens. The teens, who were split evenly between Catholic and Protestant, were partnered with local teens as an effort to bridge religious differences and foster understanding.

Teens participated in various events and community service projects during their time in McPherson.

August
McPherson attorney David Page unseated 25-year county attorney incumbent Ty Kaufman in the primary election. Page was Kaufman's first serious opponent during his time in office and ran on the platform of better communication with the press and public.

Shortly after the primary, The Sentinel announced that it would be discontinuing the publication of a Monday newspaper. The decision was made as a cost-cutting measure as newspapers faced climbing newspaper and fuel prices and weakening demand from both readers and advertisers.

September
Central Christian College celebrated its 125th anniversary. On Sept. 1, McPherson Mayor Bill Goering signed a proclamation in honor of the church's milestone.

After much deliberation and public input, the McPherson Planning Commission approved X-treme Faith Youth Church's request to operate a church and automotive classroom at 209 S. Main Street. The church's request sparked disapproval from some community members, with many asking the commission to deny the request because the operation of a church would hurt area businesses' ability to obtain a liquor license. Other residents voiced concern over the church attracting youth to Main Street at night. The commission approved the request during its Sept. 2 meeting.

Mike Likins’ body was found by McPherson County Sheriff's deputies at Maxwell State Lake nearly a month after he was reported missing. The rural Lindsborg resident was reported missing by his wife. The cause of death is still unknown. Autopsy results have not been released.

And Memorial Hospital announced Jim Chromik as its permanent CEO. Chromik began serving as interim CEO for the hospital on Jan. 28, after the resignation of Rex Walk.

The McPherson Scottish Festival was named one of America's 100 Best Events for 2009 by the American Bus Association (ABA). The festival celebrated its 15th year in 2008.

October
U.S. Rep., R-Hays, Jerry Moran made two stops in McPherson in October. Moran made an appearance in Rick Reed's senior government class at McPherson High School, where  he discussed politics, life in Washington D.C. and the economy's effect on today's youth. The U.S. legislator also visited American Maplan to discuss the status of the plastics manufacturing industry.

As part of its 8 Wonders of Kansas contest, Lindsborg's Birger Sandzen gallery was named one of Kansas's 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. The Sandzen was nominated for the award and was named a wonder through public vote.

During the Oct. 13 McPherson, USD 418 board of education meeting, McPherson High School principal Lew Faust announced his resignation at the conclusion of the 2008-09 school year.

A high-speed chase involving 27-year old Travis Ryan Kluttz of Maize ended in Kluttz's arrest on Oct. 11. The chase led Newton Police, Harvey County Sheriff's Deputies from a Dillons store on Main Street in Newton into McPherson County, where McPherson County Sheriff's deputies joined the chase, which ended at a private residents south of Inman.

After a short stand-off involving members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kluttz was taken into custody in Harvey County.

Both McPherson colleges enjoyed rising enrollment for the Fall 2008 semester. McPherson College recorded a full-time equivalent enrollment of 509 students, which Central Christian College saw 433 students for the semester.

Both colleges credited new programs, better student retention and improved marketing and recruitment tactics for the jump in enrollment numbers.

At the end of October, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced that it would be putting the K-61 Highway enhancement project out for bid. The KDOT later announced in November that it would be putting the bidding process on hold due to budget shortfalls at the state level. The bidding process is expected to resume during the first quarter of 2009.


November
The 2008 general election ushered in a new president but brought no major changes at the state and county level. All three McPherson County state legislators retained their seats and U.S. Rep., R-Hays, Jerry Moran remained in control of his district. The general election had a high voter turn-out but did not set any records for the county.

Memorial Hospital unveiled its new, expanded pharmacy with an open house on Nov. 6. The pharmacy's renovation included an expansion, which added about three-times the space, 21st Century technology and improved services for hospital patient.

And as part of his final duties as county attorney, Ty Kaufman negotiated and finalized a contract for his private practice and Boyer Law Office to provide defense services for indigent and children in need of care cases. The $115,000, one-year contract is a deviation from the county's prior practice of appointing cases to a list of approved attorneys.

And Marvin J. Gifford Jr. plead guilty in Reno County court to one count of capital murder for the death of Pearl Arthaud, 85, of Buhler, and 12 additional counts relating to sexual assaults and attaches of elderly women in Reno County. The McPherson native escaped the death penalty with his guilty plea.

 
December
Central Christian College president Dr. Dwight B. Reimer announced his immediate resignation as college president on Dec. 12. Reimer, who served as president of the college for three-and-a-half years, cited a difference in views between himself and the college's board of trustees. Prior to being named president, Reimer served as the college's Dean of Adult and Distance Education and as a member of the president's cabinet. Dr. Jerry Alexander, provost and vice president of academics, was named the interim president, effective Jan. 1, 2009.

The body of 16-year-old Nicole Stucky of Moundridge was found Dec. 10 after a two-and-a-half-day search. Stucky was discovered .5 mile west of the McPherson County line in Rice County. No found play was suspected. A final cause of death has not been released.