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A Look Back at the Top Stories for NBC DFW in 2020 – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



As the year draws to a close, we bring you the annual look back at some of the big news stories that garnered the most attention in 2020 — and they weren’t all related to the pandemic (details of that can be seen closer to the bottom).

The year began with the recognition of a hero who stopped a church shooting followed by the shocking and tragic death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and the lighter story of a (failed) demolition of a building that has come to be known as the Leaning Tower of Dallas. A pandemic began shortly after that and expectedly dominated much of the news coverage throughout the year, but COVID-19 wasn’t the only big story of 2020. North Texans logged-on and tuned-in to read about the death of George Floyd and the turning-point in a worldwide movement combating police brutality and racism — and that led to protests at home and around the country. Readers also read about the loss of icons like Charlie Pride and soldiers like Vanessa Guillen, but also of the capture of two accused killers who had eluded the authorities for years. Of course, there were more offbeat stories that made news as well — things like Murder Hornets, mysterious sea creatures, UFOs and fireballs. Without further delay, here are the most viewed articles of 2020.

Jan. 13 Good Guy With a Gun Gets State’s Highest Honor
Jack Wilson, the armed churchgoer who stopped a gunman who opened fire inside a White Settlement church in December 2019 killing two people, was awarded the state’s highest honor, the Governor’s Medal of Courage, at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

Jack Wilson and Greg Abbott

Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Jack Wilson, left, talks with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, before he is honored with the Governor’s Medal of Courage at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.

Jan. 26The Loss of a Legend: Kobe Bryant, Daughter Killed in Helicopter Crash
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The Los Angeles Lakers star played 20 years in the NBA, inspiring athletes everywhere. With cans of spray paint, brushes and a ladder, local DFW artist Theo Ponchaveli brought Bryant and his daughter to life in a mural in Dallas.

Artist Theo Ponchevelli is painting a mural of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna at SandersFit Performance Center in the Cedars neighborhood in Dallas.

Jan. 28Dallas’ Purple Slime Mystery Solved
Neighbors thought a passing plane was to blame for the purple slime that landed on vehicles near Dallas Love Field on Jan. 9, but that was not what turned out to be the cause.

Neighbors thought a passing plane was to blame for the purple slime that landed on vehicles near Dallas Love Field on January 9. It turns out dye in the dumpster of a nearby cosmetics firm was the cause.

Jan. 31Quick Fix to Bad Credit Ends in Jail
Some ads suggest a CPN (Credit Privacy Number) is a magic solution, a way to boost your credit score, so you can get that new credit card, a new car or a new house. NBC 5 Investigates found using a CPN to establish credit is in violation of federal law that could land you in jail.

Using a CPN on a credit application is a violation of federal law.

Feb. 7Arlington Teen Killed Days After Standing Up to Bully
Arlington High School sophomore Samuel Reynolds, 16, was shot and killed near his home days after police said he broke up a fight between the juvenile suspected shooter and a “smaller boy” who was being picked on.

An Arlington teenager shot and killed this week intervened in a bullying incident between the suspected shooter and another boy days prior to his tragic death, police revealed Friday.

Feb. 8Grand Champion Steer Goes for Record-Breaking $300k
Bids rolled in for the Grand Champion Steer on the last day of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. In the end, ‘Cupid Shuffle’ went for $300,000, the highest amount ever paid in the Junior Steer Competition, and Ryder Day will get to keep every penny.

On the final day of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Saturday, there was a record-breaking $300,000 bid for the Grand Champion Steer — “Cupid Shuffle.”

Feb. 14Aggressive Passenger ‘Tased,’ Arrested at DFW Airport
A man smoking at a customer service counter inside DFW Airport began punching an American Airlines employee after being asked to put out his cigarette. The man tried to hit officers before being stunned and taken into custody.

A man is in the Tarrant County Jail after his dramatic arrest that unfolded in front of passengers waiting for flights at DFW Airport.

Feb. 16The Leaning Tower of Dallas
The Leaning Tower of Dallas was born on Feb. 16 when the planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services building didn’t fully collapse upon detonation. When the dust settled the building’s core, containing the stairwell and elevator shaft, remained upright at an angle. For the next two weeks, people traveled from near and far to take whimsical photographs with the tower in the background. The building finally collapsed in a cloud of dust on March 2 after two weeks of being whacked with a 5,600-pound wrecking ball.

Melissa, Kristin and David as well as Soraya were featured during the Leaning Tower of Dallas segment on Feb. 25, 2020.

The remaining portion of the so-called ‘Leaning Tower of Dallas’ came crashing down Monday afternoon.

Feb. 28Desmond Jones Sentenced Following Outburst in Shavon Randle Trial
After two outbursts during the punishment phase of his trial where he was found guilty of organizing in criminal activity, a Dallas County jury sentenced Desmond Jones to 99 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of 13-year-old Lancaster girl Shavon Randle. Randle was kidnapped in June 2017, in what authorities believe was retaliation for a drug deal turned robbery. Her body was found four days later. Though four people have been charged in the case, none face murder charges.

After two outbursts during the punishment phase of his trial Friday, a Dallas County jury sentenced Desmond Jones to 99 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of 13-year-old Lancaster girl Shavon Randle.

March 9 Frisco Man First Presumptive Case of CV19 in NTX
A Frisco man who traveled to the Silicon Valley area of California is said to have a “presumptive positive” case of the 2019 novel coronavirus, making him the first person in Texas known to have potentially contracted the virus within the U.S.

A Frisco man who recently traveled to California has a presumptive positive case of the new coronavirus, making him the first person in Texas known to have potentially contracted the virus within the U.S., health officials said Monday.

March 11NBA Suspends Season Due to COVID-19
The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was at the team’s home game against the Denver Nuggets when he got the news. Video posted on social media showed his stunned reaction.

March 13 Gov. Greg Abbott Declares a State of Disaster in Texas
As COVID-19 began spreading in the state’s largest cities, Gov. Abbott issued a state of disaster and held a news conference where he said the state would ramp up testing efforts for first responders and other high-risk patients. The governor’s declaration came after a similar one issued in the city of Dallas banning large gatherings of 500 or more people.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday declared a state of disaster as the coronavirus pandemic spreads to the state’s largest cities.

March 15First COVID-19 Death in North Texas
Patrick James, a 77-year-old man who lived at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Arlington with his wife, dies after contracting COVID-19. James is said to have believed he had the flu and wasn’t tested for COVID-19 because he hadn’t traveled abroad. He later developed double-pneumonia. After Gov. Abbott ordered all residents of the home to be tested for the novel coronavirus, four additional cases were found.

patrick james

NBC 5 News

Patrick James, inset.

March 17Bars, Restaurants Close in Dallas County
Leaders in the city and county of Dallas ordered all community gatherings to be capped at 50 people and that all bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, health clubs and theaters to close as the city combats the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, all restaurants were ordered to temporarily end dine-in service and offer food for pick-up only via drive-through or take-out.

Leaders in the city and county of Dallas Monday ordered all community gatherings to be capped at 50 people and that all bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, health clubs and theaters to close as the city combats the spread of COVID-19.

March 19Tarrant County Bars, Restaurants Close
An emergency declaration in Tarrant County prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people in a single space, at the same time. It closed dine-in service at restaurants, micro-breweries, micro-distilleries and wineries. It allowed take-out, drive-in, drive-thru or delivery service to continue. It also closeed bars, lounges, taverns, private clubs, theaters, gyms and other amusement businesses

At midnight Thursday, a city-wide mandate in Fort Worth will take effect including the closure of bars, taverns, and dine-in services at restaurants.

March 20Gov. Abbott Suspends School, Bars and Gyms Closed
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took statewide action to mirror actions taken locally in Dallas and Tarrant counties earlier in the week by declaring a disaster and ordering schools, bars, clubs and gyms to close and for restaurants to offer only “to go” service.

Texas declares public health disaster, closes restaurant dining rooms and schools for 5 million students.

March 22Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Orders Residents to Shelter in Place
The order states people may leave their residences only for essential activities — including to get supplies for themselves and their families or perform tasks essential to their health and safety and that of others — or to operate essential businesses, such as healthcare, critical infrastructure and retail, including grocery stores.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Sunday issued an order requiring county residents to shelter in place.

March 31Abbott Closes Non-Essential Businesses
Gov. Greg Abbott puts protocols put into place will run through April 30 and, “direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an Executive Order Tuesday implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas.

April 2Joe Exotic, aka Tiger King, Transferred to North Texas Prison
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, was transferred to Fort Worth FMC, a federal medical prison. Dillon Passage, Maldonado-Passage’s husband, said that Maldonado-Passage is in coronavirus quarantine because inmates at the jail where he was held prior to his transfer tested positive for the virus. In April 2019, the former zoo owner was found guilty of trying to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin, a prominent animal rights activist and the founder of Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. With many people spending time sheltering-in-place at home, a Netflix docu-series on Joe Exotic was a popular topic of discussion on social media in the spring.

Joseph Maldonado, aka Joe Exotic

Sue Ogrocki/AP, File

In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado (Joe Exotic) answers a question during an interview at the zoo he ran in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.

April 2Radio Host Gets 25 Years in Ponzi Scheme
William Neil “Doc” Gallagher, a 79-year-old Texas radio host and financial consultant who admitted to conning elderly listeners out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

William Neil "Doc" Gallagher

Dallas County Sheriff’s Office/NBC 5

William Neil “Doc” Gallagher

April 3“Y’all Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Y’all Stay Home”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams joined together Tuesday calling for all residents to stay at home to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Stay at home orders were issued in both Tarrant County and Fort Worth, with the county’s effective until April 7 and Fort Worth’s in place until April 3.

April 5Woman Threatens to Infect on Video
Carrollton police said they were searching for an 18-year-old woman who they said made a terroristic threat online, claiming to have COVID-19 and saying she was going to infect others. Two days later, Carrollton police said they’d arrested Lorraine Maradiaga. They added that she told them she did not have COVID-19, and police said they had no proof to suggest she had tested positive. The Carrollton Leader later reported Maradiaga pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of and was given probation and a $500 fine.

Carrollton police are looking for a woman they say claims to have COVID-19 and is “willfully spreading it.”

April 14Cowboys on Dak, Zeke Party Under Quarantine
Dallas Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones says he’s spoken with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott after TMZ reported over the weekend the quarterback hosted a party with more than 30 people in his Prosper home. Jump to 9:10 in the clip below to hear Jones’ comments. TMZ reported the party with the headline: “Dak Prescott & Zeke Elliott Dinner Party With Dozens of Pals … What Quarantine?!?!”

April 17Abbott Closes Schools
During a news conference Friday afternoon in which he laid out his plan for reopening businesses across the state in the coming days and weeks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said all schools in the state must remain closed for the remainder of the school year.

During a news conference Friday afternoon in which he laid out his plan for reopening businesses across the state in the coming days and weeks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said all schools in the state must remain closed for the remainder of the school year.

April 22Dallas Salon Set to Re-Open, Defies Order
Despite state and county proclamations ordering hair and nail salons remain closed to in-person services, North Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther said she was going to open her shop anyway. Luther opened her shop and ultimately was cited and went to jail over the issue. She was later released upon an order by the Texas Supreme Court after Abbott removed jail as a punishment for defying his order. After Abbott’s Open Texas plan allowed salons to reopen, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz later flew in for a hair cut. Luther later launched an unsuccessful bid for Texas Senate District 30, losing in a runoff to State Rep. Drew Springer.

shelley luther released from dallas county jail


April 23Dak Prescott’s Brother Jace Dies
Jace Prescott, the older brother of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, died by suicide at the age of 31. In September, Prescott was the featured guest on NBC 5’s In Depth with Graham Bensinger where he gave Graham a behind-the-scenes look at his home, favorite places to ride off-road vehicles and fish, and even explains why he had a football field built in his backyard. In the interview, Prescott also opened up about his brother’s suicide and was widely praised for offering a very public message of hope for others struggling with mental illness.

This Sunday, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be featured in an interview on NBC 5 in which he opens up about a very difficult year for him and his family.

April 27Pentagon Releases UFO Videos
The Pentagon officially declassified three videos showing “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAPs. The videos were shot in 2004 and 2015 by military pilots and were released after officials determined they showed no sensitive or revealing military information and to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the videos were real.

The Pentagon officially declassified three videos on Monday showing “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

May 3Murder Hornet Invasion
The first spotting of the two-inch Asian giant hornet, or vespa mandarinia, was verified in the United States in December, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The insect does not generally target people or pets, but is a deadly threat to the already at-risk honeybee hives. Giant hornets of this species apparently enter a “slaughter phase” where they decapitate honeybees and destroy entire hives in the span of a few hours, according to the department.

Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)

Washington State Department of Agriculture

Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the world’s largest species of hornet.

May 6Blue Angels Fly Over North Texas in Thunderous Salute
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew above North Texas in a thunderous salute honoring health care workers and first responders on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. The six McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornets circled their way from McKinney to Allen, The Colony, Plano, Richardson, University Park, downtown Dallas, Duncanville, Grapevine, Keller, North Richland Hills, Arlington, downtown Fort Worth and Saginaw before ending in the skies over Benbrook. The flyover can be seen from several different angles, including a shot from within the cockpit, here.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew above North Texas on Wednesday in a thunderous salute honoring health care workers and first responders on the front line of the fight against COVID-19.

May 10Five Shot Fort Worth Park With 600 People
Five people were injured in a shooting a Village Creek Park in Fort Worth where about 600 people had gathered for a fireworks display, according to police and MedStar. Police said as many as 30 gunshots were reported.

Five people are injured after a shooting Sunday evening as about 600 people were crowded into Village Creek Park in Fort Worth, according to police and MedStar.

Fort Worth police say five officers were on scene at Village Creek Park Sunday when at least one gunman opened fire.

May 12Rare Sea Creature Spotted at South Padre
A sea slug not commonly spotted on beaches appeared on South Padre Island. The creature, called a Blue Dragon, gives a very painful sting that can cause immense pain. David Hicks, UTRGV Director for the School of Marine Sciences, said that while these bright blue creatures are only around one inch, they can eat a Portuguese man o’ war, which is a jellyfish twice their size.

Rare and beautiful blue dragons, a sea slug that eats Portuguese man o’ wars, has been spotted on South Padre Island. Beach-goers are being urged to take pictures but don’t touch them because their defense mechanisms are quite painful.

May 15Rare Identical Quads Born in Dallas Head Home
Four identical quadruplets born March 15 at a Dallas hospital headed home in May after a long stay in special care. Hudson, Harrison, Henry and Hardy were born at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to Jenny and Chris Marr. The hospital said such births are extremely rare and occur in only one in 11 million. “This situation is so incredibly rare that there are only about 72 documented cases of spontaneous, identical quadruplets ever,” Texas Health Dr. Brian Rinehart said in a hospital news release.

Four identical quadruplets born two months ago at a Dallas hospital are home after a long stay in special care.

May 18Mother Fatally Shoots Daughter During Standoff
A 35-year-old woman fatally shot her 8-year-old daughter before taking her own life during a standoff with police in Oak Cliff. The woman had been fighting with her husband prior to the shooting, police said; he called the police when he said she began shooting at him. The child’s older brother was not hurt.

A mother shot dead her 8-year-old daughter before taking her own life during a police standoff at their southern Oak Cliff home early Monday morning, officers say.

May 18Plano-Based JC Penney Plans to Close 240 Stores
Plano-based retailer JC Penney announced it would close nearly 30% of its 846 stores as part of restructuring while under bankruptcy protection. The company planned to close 192 stores by February 2021 and another 50 stores in 2022, leaving the company with roughly 600 stores. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection days before making the announcement that stores would be shut down.

May 25 — George Floyd Killed in Minneapolis
George Floyd, of Houston, died while being restrained during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers. In the days that followed, many North Texas police chiefs spoke out against the use of restraint after watching a graphic video of Floyd’s death that showed Floyd on the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

J.C. Penney inside Manhattan Mall

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

May 26Marketing Executive Killed in Dallas; Teen Faces Murder Charge
A 16-year-old boy is facing capital murder charges in the Memorial Day murder of Leslie Squair Baker, a well-liked North Dallas woman described by loved ones as “everybody’s best friend.” Dallas police said the juvenile, whose name will not be released due to his age, shot and killed Baker as the 59-year-old woman sat in her car in her driveway outside her home on Royalton Drive – near Preston Road and Royal Lane. Police later said the murder was the result of an attempted carjacking.

Police say a 16-year-old accused of murdering North Dallas marketing executive Leslie Baker not only faces a capital murder charge in her case, but also a carjacking charge in Richardson that happened a day after Baker’s death.

May 29What Was That Bright Green Fireball?
A North Texas family’s home security camera was recording when a giant fireball fell from the sky.

A North Texas family’s home security camera was recording when a giant fireball fell from the sky Thursday night.

May 30Protesters Smash Windows, Loot Businesses in Deep Ellum
Protesters organized by the Next Generation Action Network smashed windows and looted numerous businesses in downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum as the march moved through Dallas toward police headquarters. The protest against police brutality and racial prejudice was one of many around the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Looters and vandals attacked storefronts, windows and police vehicles in downtown Dallas overnight following largely peaceful protests over the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd.

During a protest and march in Dallas Monday night, NBC 5’s Meredith Yeomans reports a local artist prepared to paint the plaza outside city hall to read “Black Lives Matter,” a project that is approved by the city.

Thousands of people gathered at Belo Garden Park in downtown Dallas on the ninth day of protests in the city against social injustice.

June 3Man Arrested for Assault, Racist Video
A McKinney man was arrested Monday after an encounter with another man in a McDonald’s parking lot began with racial slurs and ended with physical violence. Devonta Brown said the man exited his truck, pulled off his shirt, spit on him and head-butted him. The encounter was recorded on cell phone video; Brown said the confrontation began when the other driver cut him off at the drive-through line.

June 4Texas Ranger Statue at Love Field Removed
Officials at Dallas Love Field Airport decided to remove the iconic statue of Texas Ranger Jay Banks, named “One Riot, One Ranger,” after it came to light “ Banks was involved in efforts in 1957 to keep black children out of a white school” and that “Ranger Banks … was the face of resistance to integration in Mansfield in 1957.” The information was published by author Doug Swanson who released  ‘Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers’ in June.

The iconic statue of a Texas Ranger was hauled away from Dallas Love Field after the controversial past of the man depicted in the statue came to light.

June 9George Floyd Laid to Rest in Houston
George Floyd was fondly remembered Tuesday as “Big Floyd” — a father and brother, athlete and neighborhood mentor, and now a catalyst for change — at a funeral for the black man whose death sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice. The funeral capped six days of mourning for Floyd in three cities: Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born, Houston, where he grew up, and Minneapolis, where he died. The memorials have drawn the families of other black victims whose names have become familiar in the debate over race and justice — among them, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

Hundreds of mourners visited the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, Texas, to pay their respects at the funeral of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. Floyd’s death has sparked weeks of protests against police brutality in cities around the world.

June 9Mother, Daughter Die of COVID Hours Apart
Sherry Tutt talked with NBC 5 July 6 after losing both her mother and sister to COVID-19 hours apart. Tutt said her mother Doris Sims was a beloved, longtime cafeteria worker at the Frank Crowley Courthouse in Dallas. Her sister, Lakecial Tutt, known as Keshia, had two sons and was one of a kind. Both women spent several weeks in separate hospitals and fought the virus for weeks before dying on June 9. Sherry Tutt said six other family members caught the virus as well.

A North Texas family is pleading for people to take COVID-19 seriously after a Dallas mother and her daughter died of the virus just hours apart.

June 11 Kelly Clarkson Files for Divorce
After seven years of marriage, North Texas native, singer, talk show host and current coach on NBC’s The Voice, Kelly Clarkson, filed for divorce from husband Brandon Blackstock. The couple, who have two children together, were married in 2013. In December it was revealed Clarkson claimed in court documents in October that Blackstock operated illegally as her manager for years and should pay her back all the commissions and fees he received.

Getty Images

Clarkson citó diferencias irreconciliables como el motivo de la separación y pidió que no se le exija pagar manutención conyugal a Blackstock.

June 15Zeke Elliott, Others Test Positive for COVID-19
NFL Insider Ian Rapoport ruffled feathers in June after reporting several NFL players, including Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, tested positive for COVID-19. Rapoport attributed the confirmation of Elliott’s test to his agent Rocky Arceneaux. Elliott later said on Twitter that his agent didn’t break the story but did confirm the diagnosis when asked about it by reporters.

June 16Shooting at Galleria Dallas Mall
A man was shot in the food court at the Galleria Dallas by a man police say he knew. Police said the men had been fighting before the shooting took place. The victim survived the shooting. Police released a photo taken from surveillance video, though it’s not clear if an arrest was made.

Dallas police said Tuesday evening that two men, that knew each other, were involved in a shooting inside the Galleria Mall.

June 17Crews Prepare to Remove Confederate War Memorial in Downtown Dallas
Crews began prepping to remove the 60-foot tall Confederate War Memorial in Dallas’ Pioneer Park in mid-June. The monument, designed by Frank Teich and installed in Old City Park in 1897, was moved to Pioneer Cemetery in 1961. It was donated to the city by the Daughters of the Confederacy and has status as a Dallas landmark. The monument is described as follows: the central obelisk is 60 feet tall with a Confederate soldier at the top; four Confederate figures (generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston, along with Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States) at each corner. All of the figures are 19 feet tall with pedestals; and sculptures are marble with granite bases. Once disassembled, the sculpture will be stored at Hensley Field, part of the Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex and the site of the former Dallas Naval Air Station. The monuments were removed by June 22.

Work crews are preparing to remove the 60-foot-tall Confederate War Memorial at Pioneer Park Cemetery in downtown Dallas.

June 30Vanessa Guillen Remains Found
The remains for Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, who was reported to be last seen April 22 in a parking lot at Fort Hood, where she was based, were found near the Leon River in Bell County. The 20-year-old soldier’s car keys, barracks room key, ID card and wallet were found in the room where she was working the day she disappeared.

An Army commander confirmed Monday that dismembered remains found last week buried near Fort Hood belonged to a 20-year-old soldier who vanished more than two months ago from the Texas base.

June 30Suspect in Vanessa Guillen Death Kills Himself
Aaron David Robinson, a suspect in the disappearance of a 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier, killed himself as law enforcement approached him after he fled the Army base.

E-4 Specialist Aaron David Robinson was one of two suspects in Guillen’s disappearance, according to CID, the Army’s primary criminal investigative organization

July 2Gov. Greg Abbott Orders Texans to Wear Masks
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered that face-coverings must be worn in public across most of the state, a dramatic ramp-up of the Republican’s efforts to control spiking numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Abbott, who had pushed Texas’ aggressive reopening of the state economy in May, had previously said the government could not order individuals to wear masks. His prior virus-related orders had undercut efforts by local governments to enforce mask requirements.

On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mandatory face mask ordinance for all counties in the state of Texas that currently have more than 20 cases of COVID-19.

July 3 What Activities Put You at Risk
The Texas Medical Association has released a chart explaining which behaviors put you at risk of getting COVID-19. The TMA said physician experts were asked to assign a risk of 1 (least risk) to 10 (riskiest) to each of these activities using the following criteria: Whether it’s inside or outside; proximity to others; exposure time; the likelihood of compliance; and personal risk level. They were asked to assume that participants in these activities are following currently recommended safety protocols (including wearing masks) when possible. See the chart here.

The Texas Medical Association has released a chart explaining which behaviors put you at risk of getting COVID-19. According to the organization, the activities included in the chart were ranked by physicians from the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and the TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases.

July 12Beloved Pleasant Grove Teacher Murdered
Jennifer Hickmon, who coached P.E., volleyball, basketball and track at the all-boys sixth through eighth-grade Young Men’s Leadership Academy for 13 years, suffered a violent death inside her home. Jeffrey Alan Scott, Hickmon’s boyfriend, was arrested on July 15 after an officer-involved shooting in San Marcos. Dallas police said homicide detectives interviewed Scott and that after he was read his rights he gave a voluntary statement admitting to the murder of Hickmon.

Students and staff at Young Men’s Leadership Academy in Pleasant Grove join a devasted family in mourning the loss of Jennifer Hickmon who was killed in her home. NBC 5’s Maria Guerrero reports on the beloved coach and educator.

July 16East Texas Town Removes Fence Between White, Black Cemeteries
Municipal crews dug up a fence between two adjacent but separate historically Black and historically white cemeteries in Mineola, about 75 miles east of Dallas — a lingering relic of the Jim Crow era. For more, click here to read the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s coverage.

Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph

Skipper Horman of Mineola Public Works cuts through the fence between the segregated Black burial area at Cedars Memorial Gardens Cemetery, formerly Mineola City Cemetery, on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

July 23Bodies of Missing Mother, 2 Kids Found in Farmers Branch
A mother and her two daughters who had been reported missing were found dead inside their car in a parking lot, according to the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department. According to a missing persons flyer sent to NBC 5, 31-year-old Natalie Chambers and her daughters, 4-year-old Izabel and 2-year-old Elise were last seen leaving their house in Forney at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Police said they were headed to a playdate in Grapevine.

Investigators with the Farmers Branch Police Department are working with the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office after the bodies of Natalie Chambers, 31, and her daughters, 4-year-old Izabel and 2-year-old Elise, were found inside their car in a parking lot in Farmers Branch. Police said the trio from Forney were headed to a playdate in Grapevine when they were reported missing…

July 31Bill Mack, Midnight Cowboy, Dies
Longtime North Texas radio DJ and award-winning country music songwriter Bill Mack died of COVID-19 just two days after being diagnosed, according to his son, Billy Mack Jr. Mack first hit the airwaves in Fort Worth in 1969 as a disc jockey on WBAP 820-AM where he hosted the Country Roads Show and played music for overnight truckers. The show, which was broadcast out of the historic WBAP studios where NBC 5 also first went on the air, was later renamed the Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show, which is associated with his moniker. The show, with its clear channel signal, reached listeners in Texas and across much of the United States. Mack’s country music songs were recorded by more than five dozen artists culminating in 1996 with a Grammy award for Best Country Song and Song of the Year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Radio Music Awards for the song Blue. That same song also won 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes her first Grammy for her recording of the song.

Longtime North Texas radio DJ and award-winning country music songwriter Bill Mack has died of COVID-19, according to his son.

Aug. 3Emmitt and Pat Smith Announce Separation
After 20 years of marriage, NFL great Emmitt Smith and his wife Pat announced on Instagram they were separating. They have five children total, one each from previous relationships, and three from their marriage. They couple said they will move forward with love and compassion for one another as co-parents and friends.

Aug. 5Beirut Explosion Resembles Texas Tragedies
A massive blast at a port warehouse in Beirut where 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was being stored reminded many of similar explosions in Texas.

A day after an explosion shattered Lebanon’s capital, the death toll is rising and a major rescue operation is underway. Many are still missing. NBC 5’s Meredith Yeomans reports.

A Lebanese woman now living in Garland is sharing her story of heartbreak for her family and her country after the explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital killed nearly 160 people and injured about 5,000.

Aug. 19Massive Plastics Plant Fire Sends Toxic Plume Over North Texas
An overhanging power line fell onto plastic sheeting in a storage area at the Poly-America manufacturing plant in Grand Prairie, starting a massive fire that burned and smoldered for more than 24 hours. Miraculously, no injuries were reported.

A massive fire at a plastics facility Tuesday night in Grand Prairie that can be seen for miles is likely to continue burning for the rest of the day and could knock out electricity in the area for some time, firefighters say. Watch NBC 5’s team coverage with reporters Alanna Quillen and Larry Collins and Meteorologist Grant Johnston.

A massive fire at a plastics facility in Grand Prairie continues to smolder close to 24 hours after it started. Meanwhile, officials are urging people to stay indoors because of the “toxic plume” rising from the scene that could be an irritant for people with respiratory issues.

Aug. 26Yaser Said Captured in North Texas
Yaser Abdel Said, a Lewisville cab driver wanted in connection with the brutal slayings of his two teenage daughters, was taken into custody in North Texas after more than 12 years on the run. According to the FBI, Said, who was considered armed and dangerous and known to carry a weapon while driving his cab, was apprehended in Justin without incident by SWAT agents from the FBI’s Dallas Field Office after some “good old-fashioned, aggressive, initiative-based police work.”

Yaser Abdel Said, a Lewisville cab driver wanted in connection with brutal slayings of his two teenage daughters, is in custody in North Texas after 12 years on the run.

The Department of Justice revealed new details Friday in the 12-year search for Yaser Said, a Lewisville man who is accused of killing his teenage daughters in what has been described as an “honor killing,” and who was taken into custody earlier this week in North Texas by an FBI SWAT team. NBC 5’s Meredith Yeomans reports.

Aug. 27Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall, Dozens Killed
In a year that saw the busiest named storm season on record, it was Hurricane Laura that was the strongest when it made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast. Five people were killed in the Lone Star State, 27 overall, after Laura made landfall in late August. The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph) put it among the strongest systems on record in the U.S. Not until 11 hours after landfall did Laura finally lose hurricane status as it plowed north and thrashed Arkansas, and even by Thursday evening, it remained a tropical storm with winds of 40 mph (65 kph).

The sounds of cleanup will be underway along the Texas Louisiana border for a while as residents pick up the pieces after Hurricane Laura. NBC 5’s Scott Gordon reports.

Sept. 8 Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall Resigns
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said after just three years on the job, Chief Renee Hall had resigned. Hall was the first woman to lead the Dallas Police Department, which is the ninth-largest department in the nation. She is just the fourth person to hold the job full-time in the last 20 years. In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 following her resignation, Hall said she was offended by the treatment she has received from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and that she believes the mayor’s recent attacks on her leadership have become personal. After looking for her replacement for several months, the city said they’d hired Eddie Garcia, the former Chief of Police in San Jose, California.

Dallas police Chief Renee Hall is resigning at the end of the year, the city manager says.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 Investigates, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said she is offended by the treatment she has received from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and that she believes the mayor’s recent attacks on her leadership have become personal.

Sept. 14‘Cheer’ Star Jerry Harris FBI Investigation
A spokesperson for Jerry Harris, one of the stars of the Netflix docu-series “Cheer,” which chronicles the ups and downs of the Navarro Junior College cheer squad, denied reports that he solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors. “We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed.” Three months later, in December, federal prosecutors filed new charges against Harris.

Jerry Harris is being investigated by the FBI. According to USA Today, who cite multiple sources, authorities are looking into allegations that the 21-year-old “Cheer” star solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors.

Sept. 22Carla Walker Cold Case Murder Arrest
After nearly 50 years, an arrest was made in the Carla Walker cold case murder. Police said 77-year-old Glen Samuel McCurley was in custody Tuesday in connection with the 1974 murder of Carla Jan Walker, who was 17-years-old when she was abducted, held captive and sexually assaulted before being murdered and left in a ditch after a Valentine’s Day dance. Investigators said the abductor snatched the young woman from the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car in a bowling alley parking lot. Her boyfriend, Rodney McCoy, told police the man pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him before something hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious. McCoy said he later woke up to find Walker was gone and blood coming from his head. Three days later Walker’s body was found dumped in a culvert near Benbrook Lake. Read more here.

An arrest has been made in a Fort Worth cold case that went unsolved for nearly half a century.

Sept. 28David Finfrock Bitten by Snake While Clearing Brush
NBC 5 Senior Meteorologist,and avid outdoorsman/adventurer, David Finfrock is recovering after being bitten by a rattlesnake while volunteering at a local Audubon center. Finfrock tweeted that he was clearing ragweed at the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill when he was bitten by the snake through his jeans. Finfrock made a full recovery.

NBC 5 Senior Meteorologist and avid outdoorsman/adventurer David Finfrock is recovering after being bitten by a rattlesnake Monday while volunteering at a local Audubon center.

Sept. 30Lotto Texas Jackpot Swells to the Largest in North America
After growing to $47 million, the Lotto Texas jackpot was not only the game’s largest prize in more than a decade but was also the largest jackpot in North America (at the time). One lucky player from Seguin took home all $47 million after picking all six numbers at the Pic N Pac 10 on Highway 123. Prior to that win, there was only one other Lotto Texas jackpot winner in all of 2020, a Laredo resident that claimed a jackpot prize of $17.5 million for the drawing held on Jan. 15.

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NBC 5 News

Oct. 1Couple Stabbed on Evening Walk in Arlington
A violent robber brutally attacked and stabbed a couple multiple times as they enjoyed their evening walk in their southeast Arlington neighborhood. Police said Islam Duy complied with the robber’s demands, but was stabbed multiple times anyway. Duly, who came to North Texas from Kurdistan to pursue the “American Dream,” didn’t survive his injuries. Police later arrested Osagie Ayanru and said there was corroborating evidence linking this attack to other similar robberies. As of Dec. 30, Ayanru remains in the Tarrant County Jail charged with aggravated robbery and theft.

A man is dead and his wife is recovering after being brutally attacked and stabbed multiple times in a robbery Wednesday night as they enjoyed their evening walk in their southeast Arlington neighborhood, police say.

Oct. 9 Empty Nest Photo Shoot
A Texas couple who decided to share the news of their newfound status as “empty nesters” found online fame in the fall. Dalila and Juan Perez had photos taken when the last of their four children moved out of their home in August. When the photographer shared the photos online — they garnered an immediate response. Despite the cheeky photos, Dalila said she struggled when her children started moving out. With them now spread out across Texas, in San Antonio, Dallas and Corpus Christi, Dalila and Juan have plenty of reasons to travel.

Dali and Juan Perez.

Melyssa Anne Photography

Dali and Juan Perez.

Oct. 11Dak Prescott Suffers Gruesome Ankle Injury
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture in his right ankle that required surgery and ended his season. Doctors who are experts in the field said it will take months to recover but that a full recovery is absolutely possible. The team turned to back Andy Dalton to lead them through the rest of the season, but when Dalton was knocked out due to a concussion, had to turn to two other quarterbacks, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert, to field a team.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture in his right ankle that will require surgery. NBC 5 Sports’ Pat Doney and Paul Jones discuss what it means for Prescott and the Cowboys moving forward.

Nov. 1Actor Eddie Hassell killed in Grand Prairie
Actor Eddie Hassell, 30, was fatally shot in southwest Grand Prairie in what police are describing as a random robbery. Hassell was staying with a woman who told police he’d gone outside to go to her car and moments later he’d been shot and the car was gone. A witness identified the shooter, an 18-year-old man out of Arlington who was later arrested and charged with capital murder. Hassell, who was born in Corsicana and lived in Waco, appeared in many movie and television roles, including NBC’s science-fiction series “Surface,” “Devious Maids,” the Academy Award-nominated film “The Kids Are All Right,” and other projects, according to E! News.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Nov. 9Mom It’s Me, Mother Meets Son 45 Years Later
Brenda Van Sickle was just 16 when she delivered a baby boy in 1975. Forty-five years later her son reached out to her and the two met in person. Van Sickle says meeting her son wasn’t the end of a journey, rather that it’s now an ongoing journey.

A North Texas mother met the son she placed for adoption as a baby – 45 years ago.

Nov. 11Dallas Rapper Mo3 Gunned Down on Highway
Dallas rapper Mo3 was chased down on foot and gunned down in a brazen attack in broad daylight on a Dallas freeway. Melvin Noble, aka Mo3, stopped on the busy highway, got out of his car and attempted to run before being shot. A 22-year-old parolee was arrested and jailed in connection with the shooting in early December. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

A 22-year old parolee was in jail Thursday for the brazen November 11 Dallas freeway murder of rap music artist Mo3, known to his family as Melvin Noble.

Nov. 20‘Definition of a Serial Killer’ Jeremy Harris Arrested, Accused in Several Shootings
Dallas police said 31-year-old Jeremy Harris, the man suspected in the murder of Blair Carter, his ex-girlfriend’s father, and is also charged in three other apparently random murders in Dallas, including the Halloween murder of SMU student Robert Urrea, the murder of Adam Gautreau, a homeless man, and Kenneth Hamilton, a man who was fatally shot as he sat in his car at a stoplight. Police said Harris is the definition of a serial killer and that he may be implicated in other non-fatal shootings that took place that week in Frisco, Prosper and Denton.

Dallas police say the man suspected of killing an SMU student on Halloween night has been arrested and detectives are calling him a serial killer. NBC 5’s Maria Guerrero reports, police say he may be linked to a string of murders and shootings in several North Texas neighborhoods.

Nov. 25Cowboys Coach Markus Paul Dies
Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning head coach, 54-year-old Markus Paul, died surrounded by family members after being rushed from the team’s Frisco practice facility and hospitalized the day before. Paul was a college standout at Syracuse before joining the NFL as a player. When his playing career ended, he spent 21 years as a coach with the Saints, Patriots, Jets, Giants and Cowboys. At last check, Paul’s cause of death was still pending.

markus paul

Dallas Cowboys

Markus Paul, with the Dallas Cowboys, 2020.

NBC 5 Sports Director Newy Scruggs reflects on the life and legacy of Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 54.

Dec. 3Roll Back: Bars Close, Capacity Reduced Due to Hospitalizations
With the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing above 15% for seven straight days, many North Texas businesses were again forced to reduce occupancy levels or close until the number of COVID-19 patients goes back down. Since Dec. 3 the hospitalization rate has not had more than two consecutive days below 15% and as of Dec. 30, the hospitalization rate in TSA-E had risen to 24%.

North Texas is entering the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic a rollback in restrictions to stop the surge. All non-essential businesses must immediately reduce occupancy levels from 75% to 50%, but as NBC 5’s Allie Spillyards reports when the requirements go into effect depends on who you ask.

Dec. 9Accused Serial Killer Billy Chemirmir Faces More Charges
Billy Chemirmir, a man accused of smothering more than a dozen women living in North Texas retirement homes and robbing them of their jewelry, has been indicted on three additional charges of capital murder, bringing the total to 17. Chemirmir’s attorney says his client maintains his innocence.

Billy Chemirmir, a man accused of smothering more than a dozen women living in North Texas retirement homes and robbing them of their jewelry, has been indicted on three additional charges of capital murder, bringing the total to 17.

Dec. 12County Music Legend Charlie Pride Dies
Charley Pride, country music’s first Black superstar whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records, has died. Pride grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player and first made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues — but it was in country music where he earned his legendary status as the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pride, who was part of the Texas Rangers’ ownership group, died Saturday in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media. Pride was 86.

Charley Pride, one of country music’s first Black superstar whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.

Dec. 21The Great Conjunction, a Unique Astronomical Event
What’s called the “Christmas Star,” is actually two planets — Jupiter and Saturn — so close in the night sky that they look like one bright star. The planets pass each other in orbit every 20 years, but this year’s conjunction is more rare; the planets pass close by every 400 years but it’s only visible at night every 800 years. The last year this conjunction was visible at night was March 4, 1226. It will not occur again until approximately the year 2820.

A unique astronomical event is happening in the sky over North Texas, the “Christmas Star” also known as the “Great Conjunction,” or the moment when Jupiter and Saturn appear at their closest.

NASA says the planetary conjunction known as the ‘Christmas Star,’ which is only seen once every 800 years, will be visible on Monday night. Stargazers in Texas should look for the formation during dusk or just after sunset.

Dec. 21 Two Killed in Plane Crash Along Texas 360
Two people were killed when a single-engine plane came down on the northbound Texas 360 frontage road. The plane, a Wheeler Express CT, crashed about one mile west of the Grand Prairie Municipal Airport and caught fire. Both people on board the plane crashed. The cause of the crash remains under investigation

A small plane crashed along the Texas 360 service road in Grand Prairie Monday afternoon.

COVID-19 Pandemic

News of a new virus out of Wuhan, China first began to circulate in early January. The first case in the U.S. was confirmed in Washington state later that month but it wasn’t until March 9 that the virus was believed to have reached Dallas-Fort Worth. Less than a week later the first local death was reported in Arlington. Sports, school and other events were canceled, businesses were closed (some forever) and new phrases such as “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” suddenly became all too common.

Our COVID-19 Tracker page was launched in March and is a one-stop resource for tracking the spread of the virus around North Texas and the state. Charts in the tracker are updated daily and visually show the positivity indexes, R-value, hospitalization rates, cases and fatalities, and several other popularly tracked metrics. A link to the tracker is below.

Now, nine months after the pandemic began, more than 5,000 North Texans have died and nearly half a million others have been infected. With two vaccines now being administered to combat the virus, there is light at the end of the tunnel following a very long, painful year.

The timeline below highlights some of the more significant moments in the fight against the spread of the virus in North Texas and across the Lone Star State.

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Bad Credit

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders



Illustration by Sarah Maxwell, Folio Art

When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.

The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.

But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.

What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.

Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.

The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.

The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.

That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.

Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.

Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.

Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.

By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.

Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.

“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”

In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”

The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.

While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.

Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).

For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.

The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.

In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.

Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.

The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.

Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.

The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.

It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending op­erations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.

Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.

Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”

Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders Source link Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders

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Bad Credit

What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?



Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.

Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders

Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:

  • Super prime: 850 to 781
  • Prime: 780 to 661
  • Nonprime: 660 to 601
  • Subprime: 600 to 501
  • Deep subprime: 500 to 300

The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.

This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:

  • A past or active bankruptcy
  • A past or recent vehicle repossession
  • Recent missed/late payments
  • High credit card balances
  • No credit history

There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.

Questionable Credit Auto Loans

If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:

  • What Is Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
  • In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.

Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.

Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans

In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:

  • 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
  • A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
  • Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
  • Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
  • Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.

Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!

Ready to Get on the Road?

With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.

Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.

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Bad Credit

Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune



By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.

“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”

Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.

“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”

Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.

“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”

Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.

Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.

For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.

Indispensable Lessons

Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.

“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”

Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.

“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”

Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.

“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”

In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.

“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.

Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.

“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”

Legacy Building

While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.

“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”

Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.

Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.

“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.

Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.

“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”

In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.

“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”

“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit and or email [email protected]; you also can follow her on Facebook ( and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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