We had a busy 2016. From police shootings to kush abuse to an ambitious plan to protect Houston from hurricanes — and even a firsthand account of a robbery in broad daylight — we sought to bring readers personal stories of the people who shape and are shaped by southeast Texas.
Some of these stories are humorous; many are heartbreaking. But all illuminate topics and issues we believe readers deserve to know more about. Here's a selection of our best cover stories from this year.
Sorry for Life?: Ashley Ervin Didn’t Kill Anyone, But She Drove Home the Boys Who Did
When Ashley Ervin was sentenced to life in prison for capital murder, her bedroom was decorated with Mickey Mouse everything.
Now 26, Ervin didn’t kill anyone — but she drove home the boys who did. Those boys included her boyfriend and a long-lost childhood friend from back when her family lived in public housing a decade earlier. Save for when she voluntarily told the police everything, she has never really talked to anyone, not even her mom, about what happened that night. “Really, I try not to,” she says, “because I know that I’ll be stuck there if I keep thinking about it.”
The Suffers Brace for Stardom as the World’s Most Dangerous Gulf Coast Soul Band
Every show, The Suffers launch their arms into the air.
The plus-size Houston band always begins a performance with their arms thrust toward a limitless sky and a roar to signal their arrival. It’s their way of cutting through the tension, knifing their way through any nervousness and anxiety. Only this time, something is different. A light hangs overhead like a heavenly body giving them instructions. That’s what it feels like for The Suffers on this night. It’s a Tuesday night; the band is days ahead of releasing their self-titled debut album. The stage is Comedy Central, and the moment is The Daily Show.
Officials Can’t Remember the Last Time HPD Saw an Unjustified Shooting. Here’s Why.
John Domingues rushed to the corner of Francis and Sampson, in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward, as soon as he heard the call for “shots fired” crackle over his police radio. It was just after midnight when Domingues pulled up near the row of shotgun houses and saw Jason Rosemon, a fellow Houston Police Department officer, standing at the north end of the street. When Domingues stepped out of his cruiser, he could see what Rosemon was staring at: Kenny Releford, 38, was on the ground bleeding from two gunshot wounds.
Terror Trap: It's Easy for the FBI to Bust Extremist Plans It Helps Create
Jordan Furr and her family were in Bush Intercontinental Airport, just about to board the plane to Toronto, when federal agents barreled down the jetway and changed their lives forever.
As one agent threw her husband, Michael Wolfe, against the narrow tunnel’s steel wall and slapped on the cuffs, two other agents pulled the couple’s infant son out of Furr’s arms and grabbed the stroller holding the couple’s daughter. Furr, 22, screamed for her kids as an agent escorted the 23-year-old Wolfe to the gate and out of the terminal, to God knows where. The agents who grabbed the couple’s children handed them to Children’s Protective Services officials; Furr was handcuffed and escorted through the airport, on full display.
Get a Ticket While Being Poor in Houston? Here's How You Might Wind Up in Jail
As on most Sundays, Rosie McCutcheon enjoyed the walk home from the Highland Heights Church of Christ on March 14, 2010. When the family got back to the small house McCutcheon rented in Houston’s Acres Homes neighborhood, she went to the kitchen to grab some onions and bell peppers. She sat on the porch watching the kids play in the front yard while she chopped vegetables and prepared lunch; after years of being the primary caregiver for several of her grandchildren, she was used to multitasking.
That’s when McCutcheon noticed the Houston Police Department cruiser parked down the street. She saw an officer seated inside, staring in her direction. Not long after the two made eye contact, McCutcheon says, the officer pulled into her driveway, exited the cruiser and asked McCutcheon if she knew why he was there. By the time she responded “Yes, sir,” the kids had stopped playing.
When Seeking Basic Medical Care, Transgender People Face Discrimination in Houston
Shortly before she was set to start college, Rose tried to kill herself. When she decided to check herself into Houston Methodist Hospital on Fannin for psychiatric treatment, she says, the doctor in charge of her care didn’t want to let her leave. Not because she was a danger to herself or others, but because he wanted to hold her indefinitely until she gave up her belief she was a woman. According to her, only the fact that she was a voluntary committal and no longer a minor set her free back into the world.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Doesn’t Always Take Care of Its Own
Donald Robertson was blindsided. He was stopped at a red light on the North Sam Houston Parkway East frontage road on June 24, 2006, his patrol car next to a big white van sitting in the inside lane. The light turned green. As Robertson entered the intersection, a blue 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix sped through the stoplight — then brakes squealed and screeched as the Pontiac slammed into the patrol car’s front passenger side, throwing Robertson and his white Chevrolet Impala into a concrete barrier 15 yards away.
Kush City: Houston Has Become a Major Hub for the Latest Drug of Choice
Sypho Turner is only 56 years old, but when he sits on the trash-strewn pavement below the Southwest Freeway overpass near the Wheeler Metro Station in Midtown, the low light deepens his cracked skin, turns his toothless smile into a black pit and makes his battered face look like a well-worn catcher’s mitt. He’d pass for at least a few decades older, perhaps even for a corpse. Years of smoking crack cocaine will do that to a man. But the fresh bruises and scabs on his arms and head — “battle scars,” as Sypho excitedly describes them — aren’t from crack. In fact, Sypho says, he hasn’t smoked crack or even weed in a few years. His scars are instead from kush, the new drug of choice among Houston’s homeless.
What Happens After You Get Robbed in Broad Daylight in Montrose
My friends in college used to call me “Bad Luck Meagan,” a nickname I earned thanks to a near-hilarious number of brushes with misfortune: stolen iPhones, parking tickets after five minutes of expiration, debit-card information theft — you get the idea. I thought I had left the moniker behind following graduation in 2015 — but after being robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight in the middle of Montrose last month, no more than 100 feet from a quaint coffeehouse and surrounded by million-dollar condos?
Yeah, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Ike Dike is Gaining Support, But Will It Really Save Us?
As water rushed through the streets of downtown Galveston, Bill Merrell, a marine scientist at Texas A&M University at Galveston and an island resident for more than 30 years, glanced around the second-story room of the 19th-century office building — it survived the 1900 hurricane with the roof intact — and spotted a bottle of wine he’d been saving for seven years. The wind roared by at more than 100 miles per hour as a huge wall of water, the deadly storm surge, slammed into the upper Texas coast in the early morning hours of September 13, 2008, as Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston.
He recalls barely tasting the first glass — the copper tinge of adrenaline blocked everything else as the hurricane moved overhead — but the second glass was smooth. “At that point the hurricane is there outside the window and all you can do is hope the building holds together and the roof doesn’t come off. You’re helpless,” he says now.
The 2016 Turkeys of the Year
“But soft, what wind through yonder window breaks,” William Shakespeare wrote in his first draft of Romeo and Juliet, originally titled Tango & Cash. “It is the east/and this flatulent turkey/is the sun.”
Although that turkey didn’t make it into the final draft, we’ve paid tribute to its memory every Thanksgiving, taking time to reflect on the past year’s most memorable moments, especially the ones when someone did something really, really stupid.
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Kashmere High Struggles to Survive, but Don't Count It Out Yet
It’s the smallest comprehensive high school in its district in one of the most poverty-ridden areas of Houston. Its scores and attendance levels haven’t met state standards for seven years and the state has sent in one of its experts to take up residence.
Yes, that’s right, that’s Kashmere High School, and everybody knows about it. And the only surprise, as school district trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones puts it, is that “I think people are definitely shocked that it hasn’t closed before now."