These are the stories that generated the most 2020 interest (No. 1-5)

Published 12:20 am Thursday, December 31, 2020

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The year 2020 included 12 months of unique experiences that no one could have predicted.

It was packed with a global pandemic, elections and natural disasters that had plenty of specific, local impact.

For Port Arthur Newsmedia and its main entities — The Port Arthur News and — it was a year of growth as we hyper-focused coverage on Port Arthur and Mid-County, dedicating a reporter specifically to crime, courts and public response coverage.

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The results, in terms of readership, speak for themselves. experienced a little more than 3.2 million page views in 2019. That number skyrocketed to more than 5.5 million page views in 2020.

Our online statistics allowed us to track the stories that were most read over the past 12 months, and the following is that list, weighted heavily by our readers’ interest in crime and first response coverage.

In many cases, readers came back on multiple occasions to follow updates as new stories on the same subject were published over a few days or a few weeks. In those cases, the entries are combined into one.

These are 2020’s most read stories:

1 – Nederland fireworks dynasty linked to date-rape drug ring, 9 arrests, 2 deaths

On July 15, U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox announced eight individuals had been arrested, many with ties to Jake’s Fireworks located just north of Nederland city limits on Twin City Highway, pursuant to a federal indictment that alleges drug and money laundering violations.

A joint law enforcement task force arrested the defendants.

Authorities said their investigation of the organization began in 2018 when the Drug Enforcement Administration intercepted mail parcels of a chemical identified as 1,4 butanediol, commonly referred to as “BDO.”

BDO is a chemical manufactured only for industrial or laboratory use as a floor stripper or vehicle wheel cleaner and is not intended for human consumption. Investigators determined when BDO is ingested, it immediately metabolizes into GHB (a known date-rape drug) with the same effects, causing potential overdoses, addiction and death.

DEA traced the seized parcels to their origination point, Right Price Chemicals, a business located on Twin City Highway and owned by Jake Daughtry, Joe Daughtry and Sandra Daughtry.

Local developers Joe Aref, left, and Warren Pena look over blueprints outside the old Market Basket building on Jefferson Drive. The men bought the property and are bring several businesses to the spot. (Courtesy photo)

2 – Check out what’s in store for old Market Basket in Port Arthur

On March 7, two local developers talked about their plan to convert a large vacant building into many thriving businesses.

Joe Aref and Warren Pena partnered to purchase the old Market Basket site in the 1800 block of Jefferson Drive adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The building sat vacant for 20 years with no tenants until it got into the right hands, Pena said.

The men led the repairs and signed leases. The former grocery store is about 50,000 square feet total in size, and approximately 21,000 square feet of that space is now used for La Vaquita meat market, which moved in Nov. 18.

Carlos Uriostegui and Sergio Magana partnered on the grocery store, which now boasts a restaurant, bakery, meat department and so much more.

3 – INDICTMENT: Port Arthur 18-year-old yells “I got me one” during deadly shooting

An 18-year-old Port Arthur man was indicted for a Beaumont killing and an aggravated assault.

A Jefferson County grand jury handed down the indictment Dec. 2 on Christopher Mitchell for the Oct. 11 shooting death of Christopher Sellers, 24, and shooting and injuring another man the same night in Beaumont.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Beaumont Police heard shots fired in the 1000 block of Nolan Street and found the body of Sellers. The second victim, age 18, was located and brought to St. Elizabeth Hospital for treatment.

On Oct. 13, Beaumont Police re-interviewed a witness who, the affidavit stated, was riding with the four men when Mitchell reportedly leaned out the passenger side window and started shooting a pistol. The witness allegedly heard Mitchell yell out “I got me one.”

4 – Nederland man indicted for aggravated sexual assault of a child

A 26-year-old Nederland man was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury June 24 for aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Peyton Cole Smith was arrested May 15 at his home on the charge.

The alleged incident was recorded on an approximate 57-second video dated in January.

A person was able to identify the child and the adult male in the video. A search warrant was obtained and evidence was recovered at the scene, according to the affidavit. Authorities said the victim is a 5-year-old girl.

5 – Mayor to call for mandatory evacuation of Port Arthur starting Tuesday morning

On Aug. 24, Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie announced he was calling for a mandatory evacuation from the city starting at 6 a.m. the next day as tropical storms Marco and Laura approached the area.

Bartie informed Port Arthur Newsmedia of his decision in a one-sentence text just before 11:30 a.m. Aug. 24. He said he could not go into details as he was in a meeting at the time.

“I’ve got to do this for Port Arthur,” Bartie said.

Bartie sent his text at 11:27 a.m., 17 minutes after the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management posted on Twitter a recommendation from County Judge Jeff Branick for any resident “that has the ability and wherewithal to voluntarily evacuate” to consider doing so.

A ferocious-looking Hurricane Laura made landfall early the morning of Aug. 27 near Cameron, Louisiana, with powerful, Category 4 winds.

The storm took a more northerly turn late the night before, meaning Southeast Texas was spared from the worst effects of Laura.

For the rest of the list, read