What were the big stories in Ohio in 2016?

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Year in review 2016

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The controversial and historic presidential election that resulted in billionaire businessman and reality television star, Republican Donald Trump, winning the presidency dominated the 2016 news headlines.

Trump’s victory over the nation’s first female major party nominee, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was a roller coaster of emotions leading up to the surprise ending on election night.

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Several stories shocked us in 2016 — Wright State University pulling out the presidential debate or the terrorist attack at Ohio State University — but none compared to the killings of eight people in rural Pike County that still remain unsolved.

Before we begin 2017 with a new slate, we took a look at some of the top Ohio stories from last year (in random order):

Pike County killings

The still unsolved execution-style slayings of eight people in rural Pike County in April mystified law enforcement and the Appalachian community where members of the Rhoden family were killed. The only survivors were three small children.

“This is an old fashioned, cold-blooded, calculated massacre of eight human beings,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in April.

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A short summary of the chain of events that too place after eight members of the Rhoden family were found dead in their homes.

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Authorities found marijuana grow operations at two of four properties where the killings took place and initially speculated that Mexican drug cartels could be involved in the killings. But in October Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told WCPO-TV that he believed the killers could be from the Pike County area.

The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.

Brock Turner

Oakwood High School graduate Brock Turner's six-month sentence for sexually assaulting a woman in California drew worldwide attention and criticism for Santa Clara County Court Judge Aaron Persky and led to a change in California's sentencing law. A former Stanford University swimmer, Turner, 21, served three months of his sentence after being convicted in March of the January 2015 sexual assault of an unconscious, intoxicated woman near a trash dumpster outside a fraternity house.

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Authorities stressed they believe Turner has complied with the law.

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It was controversial locally because Oakwood Municipal Judge Margaret Quinn and Oakwood High School guidance counselor Kelly D. Owens were among about 39 people who wrote letters in Turner's defense during sentencing.

Turner is a registered sex offender serving a three year probation and living in Greene County.

Ronnie Bowers shot to death

Ronnie Bowers, 16, was shot on Sept. 4 near AlterFest after leaving the annual festival at Alter High School. Bowers, a Kettering Fairmont High School junior, died two days after being shot in the 800 block of Willowdale Avenue near Ackerman Blvd. He was described as an "innocent bystander" who was shot after an altercation between two groups at the festival. Three male teenagers were arrested.

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Mat Heck says Ronnie Bowers' death is a senseless tragedy.

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Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck, Jr. wants to try 16-year-old Kylen Jamal Gregory of Kettering as an adult on two murder counts. Two other defendants who said they did not know Gregory had a gun have pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to testify against him. A hearing on how Gregory will be tried is set for late January.

A 17-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of felony tampering with evidence, and misdemeanor assault and menacing. A 15-year-old pleaded guilty to one count each of felony tampering with evidence, and misdemeanor assault and menacing. They have not yet been sentenced.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s bid for president

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential bid lasted longer than most of the other 17 major party candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination but in the end he won only the state of Ohio during the primary. He and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stayed in the race until May and then dropped out, leaving Trump as the presumptive nominee.

Kasich's bid gave him national attention as he placed second in New Hampshire and turned in solid debate performances and was viewed as "the only adult in the room," during the GOP primary debate mud-throwing contests.

Kasich also became known for his practice of hugging supporters, often after they shared personal stories with him.

WSU pulls out of presidential debate

The "Super Bowl of politics" — the first General Election presidential debate of 2016 — was supposed to be staged at Wright State University in September, giving the Fairborn university a high-profile national event and millions of dollars in free publicity. But in July, days after a terrorist attacker in Nice, France drove a truck over revelers, killing or injuring hundreds, Wright State University President David Hopkins shocked the community by withdrawing as debate host.

Hopkins cited rising costs, particularly for security and said the Nice attack made him fear he could not make the campus safe for students and visitors during the debate festivities. Hopkins also cited lackluster fund raising, saying the final straw was losing support from a $1 million contributor he'd been courting.

The first debate instead went to Hofstra University in New York and was watched by about 84 million people, the most in history.

GOP Convention in Cleveland

The Republican National Convention came to Cleveland but even though the state hosted its first convention since 1936 Kasich did not attend. Kasich was openly critical of Trump and in November wrote in U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, rather than vote for Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepts the party’s nomination Wednesday, July 21 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepts the party’s nomination Wednesday, July 21 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

The convention opened with a floor fight by Trump critics that was put down and by the time Cruz appeared on stage he was booed by the crowd when he did not endorse Trump.

Fears of potential violence by Trump protesters or terrorists led authorities to significantly boost security but there were no major problems.

Trump wins Ohio and the presidency

Trump spent a good deal of time in Ohio, appealing in particular to people who felt displaced by the loss of auto industry and other manufacturing jobs. One appearance was in March at a Wright Brothers Aero hangar in Vandalia, where a stage jumper was arrested. The man, Thomas DiMassimo, then-22, was an acting major at Wright State University. DiMassimo pleaded guilty in federal court of a misdemeanor count of illegally entering a restricted area and received a year's probation.

Trump went on to defeat Clinton by 8.1 percent in Ohio and even though she won the popular vote by a nearly 2.9 million margin nationally he won enough states to get the most Electoral College votes, giving him the presidency.

Ohio State University attack

Ohio State University student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, attacked students on campus with his car and a knife on Nov. 28.

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On the latest from the Ohio State Attack

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He was shot to death by a OSU Police Officer Alan Horujko. Artan drove his car into a group of people standing outside Watts Hall and then attacked them with a butcher knife. Eleven people were hospitalized, none with life-threatening injuries. The FBI said Artan may have been inspired by ISIS or radical Islamic leaders. Artan, 20, was a first year OSU student and native of Somalia. He was a documented, legal immigrant who came to the U.S. in 2014 with his mother and siblings after they had spent years in a refugee camp in Pakistan

Medical marijuana approved

Less than a year after voters in 2015 soundly rejected a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, the Ohio Legislature in May legalized medical marijuana. The bill prohibits home-growing and smoking marijuana but allows it to be used in other forms, including oils, tinctures, plant materials, edibles, patches and vapors, for specific medical conditions.

Ohio’s will license 12 large growers and six smaller cultivators. They must be ready to grow marijuana within nine months of getting their initial licenses.

Employees who violate their employer’s workplace drug policies by using marijuana still can be fired and denied unemployment benefits. Local jurisdictions can block medical marijuana dispensaries and businesses.

Harambe death

The death of Harambe the gorilla drew worldwide attention and set off a deluge of social media criticism of zoo officials and the mother of the child whose fall into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden led to the gorilla's death.

The zoo's dangerous animal response team ordered the gorilla shot to death after the 3-year-old boy climbed over the barrier to the zoo's gorilla enclosure and fell in with three gorillas. Harambe, a 450-pound, 17-year-old western lowland silverback gorilla, grabbed the child and drug him around. Two female gorillas obeyed zoo keepers commands to leave the exhibit but when Harambe did not it was determined the boy's life was threatened and the gorilla was killed.

The boy was treated and released from a hospital. The zoo replaced the gorilla enclosure barrier with a more secure one.


Read our best stories in news, investigations, politics, restaurants, sports and more in 2016 at myDaytonDailyNews.com/mustreads.