FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A wide variety of stories made headlines in Northwest Arkansas in 2022, from crimes and trials to animals both rescued and unwanted. The Natural State made history in local politics, and the Razorbacks saw success on an assortment of fields, courts, diamonds and tracks.
Here is a look back at some of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley’s other biggest stories in 2022.
The case of Joshua Duggar, 34, drew plenty of attention in 2021, and the former reality TV personality was found guilty on a pair of child pornography charges after a high-profile trial that concluded in Fayetteville in December of that year. But the resolution would drag well into 2022.
His defense team wasted no time, filing a motion seeking an acquittal or a new trial on January 19. The case eventually ended up in federal appeals court.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture reported that nearly 28,000 feral hogs were removed from the state by a task force made up of 21 federal and state agencies and non-government organizations.
The invasive hogs are especially destructive to agricultural crops, native wildlife, and young, domestic livestock. They are estimated to cause more than $2 billion in damages annually.
KNWA’s Chelsea Helms first reported on Cave Springs endocrinologist Dr. Adam Maass after his medical license was suspended following accusations that he conducted inappropriate medical exams on patients. The first complaint filed against him came in 2007.
In June, Maass was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault in both Benton and Washington counties. Maass entered not guilty pleas, and neither case has gone to trial yet.
A pair of Springdale teens were arrested and charged as adults after an alleged plot to meet another youth ended in attempted capital murder. David Magana and Halee Valdez arranged a meeting in a park on March 29 and Springdale police officers were called in after a report of “seven to nine gunshots” were fired.
Benton County Circuit Court ordered Valdez to undergo a pair of forensic examinations before her scheduled trial, including a “fitness to proceed” psychiatric evaluation. She has a hearing regarding her mental state scheduled for January 5, 2023, and Magana has a pretrial hearing later that month.
After multiple delays and extensions, Duggar was ultimately sentenced on May 25 in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville. Judge Timothy L. Brooks settled on a sentence of 151 months, to be followed by a 20-year term of supervised release with a host of special conditions attached.
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs joined in to help facilitate the rescue and transfer of four big cats from an Oklahoma facility with ties to “Joe Exotic,” made famous by the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Two tigers, a lion, and a tiger hybrid were rescued from the defunct roadside zoo in northeast Oklahoma on June 10.
“These big cats were living in small, filthy enclosures. Shelter was provided but was terribly weathered and rotten,” said Tanya Smith, President and Founder of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. “Aside from some good Samaritans, they were left alone, fed inconsistently, and needed veterinary care. We’re so relieved to provide new homes to these animals and help them thrive.”
A complex, invasive species of terrestrial flatworms were discovered in multiple Arkansas counties. The carnivorous worms prey on insect larvae, slugs, snails, and various earthworm species.
“The worms are thought to have been accidentally transported in soil through the global horticultural trade,” said Jon Zawislak from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “These flatworms prefer warm climates and feel right at home in the southeastern United States.”
August: Two Arkansas deputies, one officer suspended and under investigation after video shows use of force
Two Crawford County deputies and a Mulberry police officer were suspended after a video posted to social media showed them beating a man that was handcuffed and restrained on the ground. Authorities arrived after the man in the video, Randal Worcester, allegedly spat in the face of a store clerk and made terroristic threats.
Doug Ramsey, 53, formerly the COO of the Beyond Meat natural foods company, was arrested on a pair of charges after allegedly biting a man’s nose in a parking garage in Fayetteville following a Razorbacks football game on September 17.
Ramsey had allegedly been in the traffic lane of the structure, attempting to leave, when a Subaru “inched his way” in front of Ramsey’s Bronco, making contact with the front passenger side tire. Ramsey allegedly got out of his vehicle and “punched through the back windshield of the Subaru.”
Ramsey has a pretrial hearing scheduled in Washington County Circuit Court on February 14, 2023. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
After several filing delays and submissions of briefs by both sides, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis gave notice that it intended to listen to oral arguments in Duggar’s appeal of his child pornography conviction. On October 18, the court announced that the case had been “screened for oral argument,” with the date of that hearing still to be determined.
Amber Waterman, 42, and her husband, Jamie Waterman, 42, were both charged in connection with the kidnapping and death of a pregnant Arkansas woman found in southwest Missouri on November 3. Court documents state that Amber Waterman abducted Ashley Bush, 33, “for the purpose and benefit of claiming Ashley Bush’s child as the defendant’s child,” and that she transported her across state lines, from Arkansas to Missouri.
Bush was reported missing to the Benton County Sheriff’s office at approximately 6:30 p.m. on October 31. On November 3, members of the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI executed a state search warrant at the Waterman residence in Pineville and found Bush’s charred body.
The Watermans have an appearance in Missouri federal court set for June 2023. Amber Waterman has also been charged with two counts of capital murder in Benton County.
Cave Springs police are still investigating after a four-day-old baby girl was killed by the family dog. Investigators were called to the scene on December 14 and the newborn child was flown to Little Rock but later died from a head injury.
The dog, a three-year-old Siberian Husky, was seized by police and later euthanized by a local veterinary service in accordance with state law.