MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From historic levels of cold weather, to a Minnesota model who made waves with her swimwear, from a boy who was miraculously found after being lost with his dog overnight, to a series of downtown Minneapolis robberies that saw at least 18 people facing charges, Minnesota encountered a diverse swath of stories in the year 2019.

Here are WCCO’s most-read stories of the year. (Note: The number following each headline indicates its ranking on the overall list of the 20 most-viewed stories.)


READ MORE: What To Do When Severe Weather Strikes While Boating

Jan. 10: Sheriff: Jayme Closs Found Alive In Wisconsin, Suspect Arrested (#4)

Jayme Closs and aunt Jennifer Smith (credit: Healing For Jayme: Facebook)

Thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs, who went missing almost three months earlier from her Wisconsin home, was located alive in early January. She miraculously escaped from Jake Patterson, the man who kidnapped her and murdered her parents. WCCO’s Mary McGuire spoke with a woman over the phone who confirmed she was the one who first encountered Jayme Closs that afternoon. She said she was walking her dog and nearing her cabin when she saw the 13-year-old walking down the road. Closs approached her and told her that she needed help.

Jan. 29: ‘It Is Getting Cold, Fast’: Thousands In Twin Cities Lost Power In Dangerous Cold (#5)

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It was already one of the most dangerously cold stretches of winter weather the state had seen in many years, but things got even more urgent when the power failed for many customers, with “feels like” temperatures far, far south of the zero-degree mark. At the peak of the outage, about 8,000 residents were affected in the Twin Cities metro area.

Feb. 6: Man Shoots School Bus Driver On I-35W In Minneapolis (#9)

Kenneth Lilly on his cellphone after shooting at a school bus (credit: CBS)

MnDOT traffic cameras were rolling when a man got out of his vehicle, and shot a school bus driver. Police said the bus driver was hit in the head, but did survive the incident. There was also a student aboard the bus at the time of the rush-hour shooting. The shooter, Kenneth Lilly, was sentenced to 86 months in prison.

March 7: Minnesota Senate Passes School Snow Day Bill (#12)

It was a record-setting brutal winter, and Minnesota schools were also setting records for the number of snow days they’ve had to call because the weather was just too awful. The Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill allowing school districts to write off snow days. Otherwise, they would’ve attended classes well into June.

March 19: Minnetonka’s Andy Steinfeldt, 71, Breaks World Planking Record (#14)

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Andy Steinfeldt, 71, spent his day at the Sabes Jewish Community Center trying to break the Guinness World Record for his age holding an abdominal plank position. According to the JCC, he held the plank for 38 minutes, breaking the previous record of 36 minutes, 58 seconds.


April 10: 58 Arrested, 28 Victims Rescued In Twin Cities Undercover Sex Trafficking Operation (#13)

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The Final Four brought tens of thousands of visitors to town but it also attracted a flurry of sex trafficking activity. Nearly five dozen people faced potential felony charges following their arrests for attempting to solicit children for sex or for trafficking victims, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

April 12: Child Thrown From Mall Of America Balcony; Suspect Emmanuel Aranda Has Past Convictions Connected To Mall (#1)

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It was a crime that shocked the nation. A child was rushed to a hospital after being thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America, and one person was taken into custody. Since then, the boy has been in the process of an amazing recovery.

April 29: Minnesota Model, Halima Aden, Makes History As The 1st To Wear Burkini In Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (#6)

Halima Aden on the cover of two editions of Vogue magazine (credit: Vogue)

A Minnesota woman broke boundaries in the modeling world, becoming the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. Twenty-one-year-old Halima Aden was born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, but she grew up near St. Cloud, Minnesota. The Somali-American model made history back in 2016 for becoming the first fully-covered Muslim woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota pageant.

May 2: ‘I Was Just Shocked’: Student Secretly Records Months Of Hibbing Teacher’s Verbal Abuse (#17)

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For months, a seventh-grade science teacher at Hibbing High School was caught on cellphone video insulting and degrading students, from rants about their intelligence, to their looks. He was caught calling his students “idiots” and “dipsticks.”

June 7: AMBER Alert Suspect Taken Into Custody After Abducting 2 Kids (#11)

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Investigators say one early Friday morning, 24-year-old Jeffrey Lo attacked his estranged girlfriend before taking their daughters and speeding away in a minivan. Eventually police found the van and then a K-9 led them into the woods where they found their suspect. Police said when they found Lo he was holding his two daughters and he did not have a weapon on him. He surrendered to officers and the girls appeared to be unharmed.

READ MORE: Feds Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked To Organic Strawberries; Cases Reported In Minnesota

June 10: Ilhan Omar To Repay Thousands Amid Controversy Over Personal Tax Returns (#16)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (credit: CBS)

The Campaign Finance Board discovered Rep. Ilhan Omar filed tax returns stating she was married to one man when, in fact, she was married to another. The revelation was a part of an investigation into allegations that Omar had misused campaign funds. Omar agreed to repay $3,500 and pay a $500 fine.


June 27: ‘We Just Aren’t Sure Which Way To Go’: FDA IDs Dog Foods Possibly Linked With Fatal Heart Disease (#8)

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The Food and Drug Administration investigated more than 500 cases of canine heart disease linked with grain-free dog food. WCCO’s Christine Cordero first reported on the issue in fall of 2018, and earlier in 2019 the FDA confirmed grain-free dog food may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of dogs.

Sept. 5: Sheriff: Missing Canadian Soldier Patrik Mathews, Linked To White Supremacist Network, May Be In Minnesota (#10)

Patrik Mathews (credit: Roseau Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Patrik Jordan Mathews, from Manitoba, went missing on August 24. His truck was found about four miles north of the United States border near Minnesota’s Lost River State Forest. He is alleged to have ties to a white supremacist network, and may be actively recruiting members. As of December, he was still reportedly nowhere to be found.

Sept. 16: 20 Arrested, 18 Charged In Brutal Downtown Minneapolis Robberies (#3)

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The attacks were caught on surveillance video, taking place in August. Police say groups of people would target one person, assault them, and often to take their cellphone and wallet. Police said during a three-week stretch in August, 48 robberies were reported in downtown with 23 happening in one week. The 18 suspects ranged in age from 15 to 27.


Oct. 16: Ethan Haus, 6, Found Safe After Going Missing For Nearly 10 Hours Near Becker (#2)

Ethan Haus and Remington (credit: CBS)

A 6-year-old boy who went missing overnight was safe and sound thanks to a massive search effort that ended after a drone with a thermal camera spotted the child and his dog in a cornfield north of the Twin Cities. Some 600 volunteers turned out to help search for Ethan Haus, who went missing just after 4 p.m. after getting off his school bus and running off to play with his dog. After Ethan’s family couldn’t find him, the call for help was issued.

Nov. 5: Police: 1 Student Hospitalized, Another Arrested After Stabbing At Bloomington’s Jefferson High School (#19)

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The Bloomington Police Department says officers were called to Thomas Jefferson High School around 12:30 p.m. on a stabbing involving two female students. Police say the incident occurred in the hallway near the front of the school. During the incident, the school went through normal lockdown procedures.

Nov. 11: ‘I Did It! I Did It!’: Young Hunter With Down Syndrome Bags His 1st Buck (#15)

Pierce Pennaz with his buck (credit: Pennaz Family)

It was a magical moment dad and son weren’t able to share a year ago. Nineteen-year-old Pierce Pennaz has Down syndrome, and thanks to a new law he was able to go hunting with his dad and bag his first buck in Jackson County. It wasn’t a trophy buck, but for father and son, it was still a treasure. The video of Pierce’s first deer spread across Facebook.

Nov. 19: Report: Kentucky Man Married His Daughter After They Killed Her Minnesota Boyfriend (#20)

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A Kentucky man and his two adult daughters were charged with killing a Minnesota man on Valentine’s Day. The victim was reportedly in a relationship with one of the daughters, who then appears to have married her father about a month after the murder.

Dec. 1: Police: 2 Children, 2 Adults Dead In Apparent South Minneapolis Murder-Suicide (#7)

David Schladetzky, Kjersten Schladetzky and their 2 sons .(credit: Facebook)

It was a heartbreaking end to the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A murder-suicide left four people dead, including two children and their mother. Investigators said that the two boys were shot while playing outside by their father, who then killed his ex-wife before killing himself.

Dec. 5: 3 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers Killed In Black Hawk Helicopter Crash Near St. Cloud (#18)

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Three Army National Guard soldiers were killed in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in Stearns County. Minnesota National Guard officials say say the aircraft’s three-member crew lost contact with air traffic controllers at St. Cloud Army Aviation Facility. The crew was conducting a maintenance test flight.