As 2015 comes to a close, News/Talk 95.3 MNC is looking back at the most-read stories of the year on 953mnc.com.
To create the list, we took into account how many stories we published on the topic, how many people read each story and how many comments the stories generated on social media.
Six of the top 10 stories involve public safety issues such as court cases, missing people or people who died this year. Two of the stories are related to same-sex marriage legalization. One story wasn’t a news story at all, but instead a “how to” guide. One story focused on a multi-million dollar growth plan for a local organization.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 news stories of 2015 on 953mnc.com.
In July, Potawatomi Zoo officials excitedly announced millions of dollars of changes planned to expand South Bend’s zoo for the next few years.
Plans include adding giraffes, expanding the parking lot and building a zip line over the alligator pond. The zoo will also breed more animals to ensure the survival of some endangered species, such as the rare Amur leopard cubs that were born at Potawatomi Zoo in 2015.
- Potawatomi Zoo adding zip line, carousel, giraffes, penguins and more attractions in $37 million expansion plan
- Rare Amur leopard cubs born at Potawatomi Zoo
- Potawatomi Zoo introduces African painted dogs to its zoo family
Tragedy struck the University of Notre Dame during graduation weekend when graduating senior William “Billy” Meckling fell from the roof of the Joyce Center in the early morning hours of May 16.
Meckling, 21, was a mechanical engineering student and a member of the fencing team. He was from Centennial, Colo.
He was part of a small group of students who gained access to a low area of the roof and climbed up. The area where Meckling fell from was wet from rain.
- Notre Dame student dies after falling off Joyce Center
- Death of Notre Dame student who fell from the Joyce Center ruled accidental, coroner says
- Billy Meckling, Notre Dame student who died after falling from Joyce Center, was intoxicated at time of fall
A little less than five months after the body of 15-year-old Desirae Jones was found in a wooded area in Marshall County, prosecutors announced in May that they arrested and charged a suspect.
Fabian Roman Rubio was charged with murder, sexual misconduct with a minor and abuse of a corpse. Police found Jones’ blood on the license plate of Rubio’s truck and on items he had in his home.
A month later, Rubio was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct for a separate incident that happened in December with a different 15-year-old girl.
Rubio has not yet faced trial for Jones’ murder.
- Bremen man charged with murder in death of 15-year-old Bremen girl
- Fabian Rubio pleads guilty to sexual misconduct against 15-year-old girl
In April, Mishawaka Police asked for the public’s help to find 16-year-old Danielle Dickey.
Dickey had been missing since March 17 when she was reported missing. The day after she was reported missing, police made contact with her and learned that she was safe, sound and healthy — she just didn’t want to go home.
This story circulated on social media again a few months later, though Dickey was not reported missing again.
- Mishawaka teen Danielle Dickey missing since March 17, police say
- Missing Mishawaka 16-year-old girl found safe
In October, 24-year-old Alicia Keir of DeMotte was sentenced to a single day in prison (which she received time served credit for) and two years of supervised release for the death of her newborn baby in 2011.
Keir told the judge she was on a cruise when she gave birth to a full-term baby and put the baby underneath her bed in the cabin because she was scared. Cleaning crews later found the baby after it died. CBS Chicago reported that Keir said she thought the baby was stillborn and never meant any harm.
Though this story was from the Associated Press wire and not local, 95.3 MNC readers and listeners were very interested in it. It was the most read story on 953mnc.com in October.
In December, 95.3 MNC published an article explaining how to apply for a license to carry a handgun in the state of Indiana.
It’s legal in Indiana to openly carry or concealed carry a handgun, but the handgun owner must have a license accepted by the state of Indiana. A license is not required to own a handgun and keep it in a private home.
Applying for a license to carry a handgun in Indiana is a straightforward process involving just four steps. This story was shared more than 19,000 times on Facebook.
In June, as the nation not-so-patiently awaited the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg published an essay in the South Bend Tribune in which he came out as gay.
“I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay,” Buttigieg wrote. “It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.”
He wrote that it was important to publicly come out to be an example to young people who may struggle with their own sexuality and to help others who may be uneasy about social change.
Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with more than 100,000 people in it when he took office in 2012 and won his 2015 re-election campaign by a wide margin. When he came out, he became Indiana’s first openly gay elected executive.
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg comes out as gay
- Pete Buttigieg makes national headlines after coming out as gay in newspaper editorial
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, other politicians react to Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
After she was found guilty of feticide and neglect of a dependent in February, Purvi Patel was sentenced in March to 20 years in prison.
Patel was the focus of international attention after she gave birth in July 2013 and wrapped the infant’s body in plastic and left in a dumpster behind a restaurant owned by her family. She later went to the hospital and claimed to have suffered a miscarriage.
Prosecutors argued that she took illegal abortion drugs purchased online. Patel’s lawyers argued that there was no proof she took such drugs.
- Purvi Patel sentenced to 20 years in prison
- Purvi Patel case attracts international attention from abortion supporters, pregnancy advocates
- Professors take up Purvi Patel’s appeal of feticide conviction
- Purvi Patel case: State files brief responding to appeal of feticide, neglect of a dependent convictions
Indiana lawmakers passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the spring, which sparked much backlash and controversy.
The law says that government cannot place a burden on a person’s religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden. The burden must also be the least restrictive means of preserving the government’s compelling interest. After it was passed, lawmakers added a clarification that the law couldn’t be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Locally, Memories Pizza in Walkerton closed for several days after the owners told ABC 57 that they supported RFRA and wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding if asked. The owners were the target of thousands of negative Facebook comments, Yelp reviews, memes and other social media posts. A website that purported to be for the business displayed gay pornography and sexual commentary.
The backlash eventually died down and Memories Pizza reopened after receiving more than $840,000 on GoFundMe. RFRA took effect in July. The First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis is using the law to challenge the state’s marijuana laws.
- Memories Pizza in Walkerton supports religious freedom law
- Memories Pizza in Walkerton receives internet backlash after saying they wouldn’t cater same-sex weddings
- Memories Pizza in Walkerton closes, family is in hiding after Internet backlash
- Memories Pizza donations reach more than $840,000, business to re-open ’soon’
- Police continue to investigate Twitter threat against Memories Pizza
- Mike Pence discusses RFRA on Fox and Friends
- First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis uses RFRA in lawsuit over state’s marijuana laws
- Indiana’s RFRA revisions focus of lawsuit filed by Indiana Family Institute
- Lars Larson and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg talk about Indiana’s religious freedom bill
The top story on 953mnc.com for 2015 is one of the most tragic. Alma Del Real was 22 when she was reported missing in South Bend in April. She had gone out to two bars with friends and was reportedly last seen at about 3:30 a.m. when a friend dropped her off at her home.
A little more than a month later, police found Del Real’s body in a wooded area in Marshall County after the man suspected of killing her confessed to police and led them to her body.
Alberto Cruz, 22, told police he pushed her down and strangled her to death after the two got into an argument inside Del Real’s home. He was charged with murder and is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 29.
- Police asking for public’s help in finding missing South Bend woman
- Crime Stoppers offers $5,000 reward for information about Alma Del Real
- Alma Del Real’s body found in Marshall County, suspect arrested
- Alberto Cruz charged with murder in death of Alma Del Real
- Alma Del Real investigation: What was known and what wasn’t known yet in the day after her body was found
- Alberto Cruz pleads not guilty in death of Alma Del Real
WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT OR INTERESTING STORY OF 2015? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.