A Look Back At The Biggest Stories Of 2014

Wednesday, December 31st 2014, 6:35 pm
By: News 9

From tear-filled triumphs to unimaginable tragedy, from the unexplained to the unexpected, there was no shortage of major news events in Oklahoma in 2014.

Two of the top stories of the year surrounded executions. One was conducted by the state, and had very serious complications. The other was carried out, apparently, by a disgruntled employee.

"We have someone attacking someone in the building," said the person who had just called 911.

On September 25th, inside Vaughan Foods in Moore, 30-year-old Alton Nolen, who had just been suspended from his job there earlier the day, allegedly attacked two female co-workers with a knife. The attack on the first victim, 54-year-old Colleen Hufford, was so vicious that the woman's head was severed.

Nolen's second alleged victim, Traci Johnson, was destined for the same fate, if not for the actions of Vaughan Foods President Mark Vaughan, who is also a reserve deputy with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. Vaughan shot Nolen, Johnson says, as Nolen was cutting at her neck.

"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here," Johnson told News 9 in an exclusive interview in December, "It was him that saved my life."

Nolen's preliminary hearing is set for April.

On April 29th, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections was tasked with carrying the executions of two men, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner. Lockett was scheduled first, but the procedure didn't go as planned and, by the following day, the Governor was calling for a investigation.

"We agree that an independent review of the DOC procedures would be effective and also appropriate," Governor Fallin declared at a news conference.

The Lockett execution grabbed national and international headlines when media witnesses described Lockett as mumbling and writhing in pain when the killing drugs were being pumped into his body. It was just before DOC officials abruptly drew the curtain on the execution chamber and put a halt to any further activity for the evening. 

Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure started, just as the Governor called for the execution to be aborted.

A state investigation, released in September, concluded the "viability of the IV access point" was the major problem, and resulted in extensive revisions to the execution protocol, which, despite legal challenges, will be used for the first time in January. Charles Warner is first on the list

There was more controversy and more unwanted national media attention in February 2014, as Luis Rodriguez died in the Warren Theater parking lot when Moore Police used what seemed to be excessive force in restraining him following an altercation. 

Despite calls for justice and a private autopsy that showed Rodriuez died from asphyxiation, Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn decided the officers' actions did not warrant charges.

On the other hand, dozens of charges, 36 at last count, were filed against Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw after investigators concluded he had been serially assaulting and raping women while on duty. 

Holtzclaw has has pleaded not guilty.

When OU freshman Alan Hruby was charged in the brutal murders of his parents and sister in their Duncan home, in October, it shocked people from Norman to Stephens County. Police believe the lavish-living Hruby was upset that his parents had recently cut off his finances.

Speaking of shock,shock wavess rolled with even greater regularity and force in 2014. Oklahoma overtook California as the earthquake capital of the lower 48 and, according to the US Geological Survey, there were 19 earthquakes ofmagnitudee 4.0 or greater in 2014. 

In the four years prior, there were a total of 11 earthquakes of that strength.

In October, a federal appeals court ruling overturned the voter-approved ban on gay marriage in Oklahoma, sending exuberant same-sex couples flocking to courthouses to tie the knot. Opponents vowed to try and reinstate the ban.

When US Senator Tom Coburn announced in January he would retire at the end of 2014, two years before his term was up, it set off a chain reaction. 

When the dust settled in November, Congressman James Lankford was replacing Coburn, and former state lawmaker Steve Russell had been elected to replace Lankford.

State lawmakers sent a message to Washington when they repealed the Common Core education curriculum in April. 

Washington appeared to send a message back when the US Dept of Education denied Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind waiver request in August. The waiver was reinstated in November after the state certified its temporary PASS standards.

Finally, in one of the happiest moments of the year, Thunder star Kevin Durant brought tears to a lot of eyes, when he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player. 

In accepting the honor, Durant showed the humility that Oklahomans and Thunder fans everywhere have come to love by thanking everyone, especially his mother.

"You're the real MVP," Durant said.