Top 10 stories from 2012 - Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Top 10 stories from 2012 (Updated)

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Family searching for Justice for Juliette Family searching for Justice for Juliette
© Brendan Pratt dies after U.P. train hits him © Brendan Pratt dies after U.P. train hits him
Francisco Camacho MIA for 5 months after January disturbance Francisco Camacho MIA for 5 months after January disturbance
© January 11, 2012. Car gets stuck on tracks and claims Gering woman's life © January 11, 2012. Car gets stuck on tracks and claims Gering woman's life
© Law enforcement shuts down Alliance downtown during June hostage situation © Law enforcement shuts down Alliance downtown during June hostage situation

Looking back on some of the top stories from ... it was a year filled with unfathomable crimes, several fatal train accidents, and a family's fight to find justice for a slain toddler.

10. Story number ten began on a county road late in July, after a 21-year old Minatare man rolled his pickup, killing one of his passengers.

Drew Schmaltz has a January trial set for charges of felony motor vehicular homicide, manslaughter, and driving under the influence.

Court documents say that his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit.

The accident killed passenger 21-year old Taylor Magdaleno of Gering.

If convicted on all charges, Schmaltz could face more than 75 years in prison.... and would serve a minimum of two years.

9. Story number nine is about a Scottsbluff couple whose relationship nearly went up in flames.

In April, Eli Sifuentes was arrested after allegedly pouring lighter fluid on girlfriend Amy Palomo.

The arrest report said Palomo was afraid he was going to burn her, so she grabbed and hit her boyfriend in retaliation.

Both were placed under arrested and charged with third degree domestic assault.

8. Our 8th most popular story on this year was about a petition that forced a grand jury to convene in Scotts Bluff County.

Two-year-old Juliette Geurts' 2008 death remains unsolved, despite only three adults being in the house at the time of the murder.

This summer, her aunt Monica took matters in her own hands and started a group to gather enough signatures to force a grand jury to investigate the death.

On July 11th, the group stormed the courthouse to submit the signatures to get justice for Juliette.

"To finally get a grand jury to give Juliette the justice that she deserves four years later- it's a small step in a mountain we have to climb,"explains her Aunt, Monica Hall. "There's no guarantees with a grand jury that they'll come out with indictments, but it gives a fresh set of eyes to look at the evidence."

Banner County Attorney Jim Zimmerman is heading the grand jury investigation. But as of today, those results have not been made public.

But by this time next year, a lot more answers about this mysterious death will be answered.

7. Our seventh most popular story of 2012 was the arrest of the man believed to be responsible for a Scottsbluff bank robbery.

Michael Scott was arrested in connection to the robbery of the Broadway branch of Valley Bank and Trust the day before Thanksgiving.

Members with the Scottsbluff Police Department were able to review surveillance footage from the robbery, and identified the perpetrator as Michael Scott.

Officers executed a search warrant at the North Side Mobile Home, and found Scott hiding in the bedroom.

He was charged with theft, robbery, and possession of methamphetamine.

Jury trials have been scheduled for these crimes in the early part of 2013.

6. On November 29th, a local man was killed after getting hit by a Union Pacific train in Gering.

31–year–old Brendan Pratt had been struck east of the Country Club Road crossing.

Several agencies responded to the scene; including the Sheriff's department, Gering Police and Fire, as well as the railroad.

"Union pacific is obviously on site," said Capt. Jason Rogers. "We've got their special investigators will be here just as soon as they can get here to help us work through the investigative process."

Police investigations showed that Pratt was on the tracks about 100 yards east of the crossing before the train hit him. 

5.  Our fifth most popular story on this year was the perplexing disappearance of a scottsbluff man who was missing for five months after being victim of a robbery.

Police spent part of January 2012 looking for 26–year–old Francisco Camacho.

Witnesses said he was one of four people in a garage when two masked men showed up with guns.

Police say Camacho and the others in the garage fled on foot after the altercation.

Camacho's family just wanted to know if Francisco was safe. "We just want to know if he's safe or not. We just want him home."

Camacho turned himself into police five months later after finding out he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for probation violation.

Camacho told police he was just tired of being on the run.

4. Story number four happened nearly a full year ago at the 10th Street railroad crossing in Gering.

93-year- old Vera Clary of Gering was killed after a train struck her car.

Police say car was caught under the arm of the railroad crossing signal as an oncoming train approached. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

3. Story number three began in downtown Crawford- and ended up with a man taking his own life.

On June 27th, Chad Sorensen brandished a weapon at a sheriff's deputy, and then drove towards the highway.

Three miles south of town, Sorensen pulled over the vehicle and eventually turned the gun on himself when law enforcement officers approached the vehicle.

A grand jury found no wrong-doing by law enforcement officers.

2. Our number two story of the year took us by surprise- and its about a 21-year old who sold marijuana to an informant.

Beau Gealy is charged with 2 felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years- which caused outcry from many of our facebook followers. 

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Gealy on February 25th in Scotts Bluff County District Court.

1. And our top story of 2012 involved a hostage situation in Alliance.

Thiele Pharmacy owner Charles Lierk was taken hostage at gunpoint in the early hours of June 12th.

Gunman Andres Gonzales had just killed his father, and was also responsible for the December 2011 death of Josh Bullock .

Gonzales shot and injured three law enforcement officers during the 14-hour standoff. But during hour eight of the standoff... Lierk made his escape. He was shot in the back, but survived.

Shortly after, SWAT team members shot and killed Gonzales while still in the pharmacy.

Four months later, Charles Lierk re-opened the gift shop at the pharmacy, and recounted the ordeal.

"We're not back to normal. It never will be," explains Lierk. "The things that happened during June have totally changed or lives- but it's been towards the better."

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