From the hard news to viral moments, 2018 has been a memorable year in El Paso.
Here are 25 of KTSM’s biggest stories of the year, listed in no particular order, based on website clicks and social media interactions.
After 25 years, Daniel Villegas’ name has been cleared. The 41-year-old man who was arrested in 1993 on suspicion of a double murder, was found not guilty by an El Paso jury on Oct. 5.
This was the third trial for Villegas, who had a mistrial in 1994 and was found guilty in 1995. He spent nearly 20 years behind bars when his conviction was overturned and he was allowed to bail out of jail.
- Daniel Villegas goes to trial for third time in 1993 El Paso double murder
- Daniel Villegas trial: Who’s who in the El Paso murder case
- Daniel Villegas Trial: A Complete Timeline
In June, the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Homeland Security selected the Tornillo Port of Entry to serve as a temporary shelter for more than 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children.
The largest portion of kids at the Tornillo shelter are from Guatemala, followed by children from El Salvador.
The facility was originally slated to close by the end of 2018, but will remain open through early 2019, according to the Trump administration.
- KTSM tours the Tent City in Tornillo
- Dozens Protest Detention of Migrant Children Outside Tornillo ‘Tent City’
- U.S. Conference of Mayors visits Tornillo in response to immigration laws
- Hundreds protest ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Immigration Policy in East El Paso
- Lena Dunham, Sia, other stars join protest of immigrant separations in Tornillo
A Facebook video posted by a local teenager made national headlines for showing an El Paso police officer pointing a gun at a group of heckling children in July.
The five-minute-long video racked up millions of views and shares before it was deleted.
The officer in the video was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and is back patrolling the same neighborhood where the incident happened, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen announced in August.
- Viral Video Affidavit: Police allege teen refused to get on sidewalk
- South-Central El Paso resident shares neighborhood history with police
- Parents file civil rights lawsuits against El Paso officer involved in viral video, four others
- Kids in Viral Police Video Arrested for Vandalism at Ascarate Park
An El Paso mother was killed, and three children were injured, in a crash outside West El Paso’s Tippin Elementary on the first day of school back in August.
According to a police report, Roger Hawkins, 58, was driving out of the school parking lot when he allegedly hit Kharisma James, her two children, as well as another mother, Senthilpriya Rajagopal, and her son, Athindra Sathish Kumar.
The father of James’ children, Sonny Holland, removed his children from the school three weeks after the incident.
“My decision was based on my children seeing too much of their mother’s death that day in that parking lot,” Holland wrote in a Facebook post. “We just didn’t need the constant reminder of what happened when I either took them to school everyday or whenever they had recess, etc.”
- Autopsy report of mother killed in Tippin Elementary School parking lot rules death an accident
- Father of injured children in Tippin crash to mother: ‘You sacrificed your life to save theirs’
- New Crash Report Reveals Tippin Elementary Mom Hit Twice, New Victim Also Revealed
- Emotional vigil for victims affected by Tippin incident
The West El Paso community mourned the death of Giselle Martinez, 13, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in September.
Martinez was walking home with her little brother when she was hit.
The driver suspected in the crash, Samuel Thomas Garcia, 17, later turned himself in to police.
“She’s up there in heaven. It hurts so much. I never expected to leave my granddaughter. My first one,” her grandfather told KTSM.
- Nurse tried to help 13-year-old killed in hit-and-run crash
- ‘It hurts so much’: Family remembers teen killed in hit-and-run crash
- Driver arrested in Montoya hit-and-run that killed 13-year-old
The Ysleta ISD community came together to remember Amanda Weyant Ferguson, 28, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash in the Cincinnati Entertainment District early Thanksgiving morning.
Ferguson was a six-year employee of the district and most recently served as a 6th grade teacher at Eastwood Heights Elementary School.
Joel Velazquez, 24, remains in custody, as a U.S. Customs and Immigration hold prevents him from bonding out.
- Remembering Amanda Weyant Ferguson
- Man charged in hit-and-run death of El Paso teacher
- Man charged in hit-and-run death of El Paso teacher previously arrested for assault
- TABC investigation underway following deadly Thanksgiving hit-and-run
Franklin High School students and staff united to help two students who were injured in a rollover crash in Santa Teresa in November.
Student-athlete James McClain-Green and Nathalie Diaz were both seriously injured, but are on the mend. Two drivers were arrested for DWI.
Dozens of El Pasoans donated blood to help the victims and joined to pray for their recovery.
- Franklin High School pray for two students seriously injured in car crash
- Alleged DWI driver ran stop sign, had headlights off before crash that injured Franklin athlete
- Franklin athlete James McClain-Green speaks out following November crash
- Franklin star fighting for his life after car crash
In July, I-10 West at Missouri was completely closed for more than a day after a semi-truck careened off the interstate and up the highway’s embankment before becoming engulfed in flames.
The driver, Abel Garcia, told KTSM that he was reaching for a water bottle at the same time he felt what he believed was a flat tire.
Garcia said he lost consciousness and awoke because smoke was filling the cab. Fortunately, he was able to exit safely and without injuries.
- Semi-Truck Driver Talks with KTSM About Fiery Crash
- VIDEO: Driver in fiery semi-truck crash makes miraculous escape
- PHOTOS: Fiery semi-truck crash forces shutdown of I-10 West near Downtown
Republican incumbent Ted Cruz defeated El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke in a highly-contested race for U.S. Senate in November.
Statewide, Cruz received 4,244,204 votes compared to O’Rourke’s 4,024,777.
The race made national headlines and even garnered the attention of celebrities including LeBron James and Beyonce.
During the election, El Pasoans broke a record with 17,294 votes cast during the first day of early voting.
- Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz pose together for picture at airport
- How the race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke became the closest in Texas in 40 years
- LeBron James, Khalid share Beto O’Rourke’s speech on National Anthem protest, Ted Cruz responds
A federal search warrant revealed that Souther’s New Mexico’s Sunspot Solar Observatory was shut down due to child pornography in September.
The warrant states the suspect would use the observatory Wi-Fi and a personal laptop to download the child pornography.
An investigation by the FBI revealed that a janitor is the main suspect in the search, however he has not been charged with a crime even though his name is on the warrant.
The Wyler Aerial Tramway closed to the public in September after an inspection found it had surpassed its life expectancy.
A report compiled by Colorado-based Tramway Engineering, LTD states that “continuing to operate the tram exposed the State of Texas to high liability” based on several findings.
It goes on to say that if the tramway was to be replaced, it would take more than $7 million to build.
Local immigration advocates scrambled to help after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dropped off nearly 1,500 migrants right before Christmas.
Roughly 400 immigrants were left stranded at El Paso’s Downtown Greyhound bus station on Dec. 23. ICE released another 1,200 people shortly thereafter.
The Annunciation House and other local shelters continue to seek donations and volunteers to help the migrants.
- Annunciation House: Mass release of migrant families is ‘unacceptable’
- Hundreds of migrants spend Christmas in El Paso
- Local shelter now housing migrants needs donations
A heartwarming reunion of a local high school student and her deported father went viral in June.
Eastlake High School graduate Leslie Silva met her father at a local port of entry so he could see her before she crossed the stage
Silva says he had been deported three times and missed her and her sisters’ graduation ceremonies.
An El Paso woman died in November after suffering complications at a Juarez plastic surgery clinic.
Laura Avila, 36, was placed in a coma on Oct. 30 after suffering cardiac arrest from anesthesia at the Rino Clinic.
Gabriel Barron, a beloved Bel Air Middle School student, died in April after being diagnosed with a rare leukemia.
As soon as Gabriel was diagnosed, the Bel Air community rallied behind the teen, organizing fundraisers, organizing visits by law enforcement and creating a GoFundMe page.
KTSM’s Estefania Seyffert followed every setback and triumph during his treatment process.
In March, more than 1,000 El Pasoans took to the Downtown streets to voice their concerns while urging lawmakers to pass new laws to prevent gun violence.
“It’s not OK for so many lives to be taken away. Not old, not young, not teachers, not students,” one student said.
El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke was also in attendance.
The El Paso Streetcars officially began operating in Downtown El Paso in November after years of restoration work.
The street cars are the same ones that ran on El Paso streets until 1974 and will be operated and serviced by Sun Metro.
Each of the six cars are painted in one of three original color schemes representing the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
All aboard! In February, the United Soccer League (USL) announced that El Paso will be the next addition to the league for the 2019 season.
MountainStar Sports and USL officials announced the team name, El Paso Locomotive FC, in October.
The team name had been a mystery since March when a name-the-team contest was announced. Other possibilities included the Tejanos, Stars, Estrellas and Lagartos.
- El Paso Locomotive FC schedule released
- El Paso USL add five members to staff
- El Paso USL inks Salgado as first player signing
- El Paso USL names Lowry head coach
“Tee” time at El Paso’s first Topgolf location officially began in February.
The 65,000-foot driving range features more than 100 golf bays, two sports bars, a full-service restaurant, and kids activities.
The venue is the company’s 41st worldwide, and 10th in Texas.
Although R&B star Khalid continues to ascend to global fame, the American Teen doesn’t forget the city he calls “home”.
Khalid was most recently in town in December when he paid a visit to Socorro ISD’s Ernesto Serna School to surprise each student with a gift and hug.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo returned the love by presenting the singer with the key to the city in September.
- ‘With love, to the 915’: Khalid drops new single ahead of El Paso concerts
- Khalid showcases El Paso in teaser video for new EP ‘Suncity’
- Khalid snags Top New Artist at Billboard Music Awards, thanks El Paso
Twin brothers Darian and Dominique Smith get it done on the field and in the classroom at Andress High School.
The brothers star on the football and baseball fields for the Golden Eagles, and are number 1 and 2 in their class academically, both possessing GPAs above a 4.0.
Their hard work earned them both full-ride academic scholarships to the University of Notre Dame in December.
When it comes to first birthdays, many parents go all out to commemorate the occasion — and one local mother rang in her son’s first year with some El Paso flair.
Crystal Salas created a Chico’s Tacos-themed photo shoot for her son, Jeremih’s, first birthday back in January.
The photos show Jeremih in a server uniform with a cake depicting the restaurant’s famous rolled tacos and crinkle-cut fries.
It was one Northeast El Paso Chick-fil-A employee’s pleasure to escort customers to and from the restaurant in the rain in July.
Matt Nunez, 24, is the Executive Hospitality Director at the North Hills Crossing location, and has worked for the company for seven years.
Nunez plans to continue working to help others by entering the medical field, leading his church’s student ministry, and possibly opening a Chick-fil-A location of his own.
The internet has been flooded with lip sync challenge videos, but the Las Cruces Police Department’s performance is being called one of the best.
The Las Cruces Police Department posted its rendition of Toby Keith’s “I Should’ve Been a Cowboy” in July.
The video became so popular that Toby Keith himself gave the department a shout-out on Twitter.
- NM State Police officer takes lip-sync challenge through Las Cruces, Santa Teresa
- Dona Ana County sheriff’s deputy joins law enforcement lip-sync battle
More than two dozen local children received the gift of loving homes just in time for the holiday season.
12 families adopted 29 children during a superhero-themed National Adoption Day event at the El Paso County Courthouse in December.
Officials say many of the adopted children were previously in the foster care system and were victims of abuse and neglect.
“For the first time, they will have a loving and forever home,” Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, Judge of the 65th District Court, said.