Sophia Sappa, left, the sister of Gabriel Coury, and their parents Michael and Shellie Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Sophia Sappa, left, the sister of Gabriel Coury, and their parents Michael and Shellie Coury. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Year in review: Kent's top stories of 2023 | Photos

Month-by-month look back at Kent News top articles

A look at a few of the top stories each month in 2023 in the Kent News:


Kent firefighters rescue plane crash victims: Approximately 30 emergency personnel responded to the Jan. 7 plane crash. Firefighters scrambled 15 feet up on ladders to rescue the two men who were seriously injured in the plane after it crashed into the roofs of two units at Affordable Self Storage, 1721 Central Ave. S., just north of the Auburn Municipal Airport. The pilot could only make right turns, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which has yet to issue a final report.

Kent judge dismisses charges in Meridian Elementary case: A Kent Municipal Court judge released a man from the city jail Jan. 24 who initially had been charged with allegedly intimidating a school employee and harassment for incidents that caused a November 2022 lockdown at Meridian Elementary School. The man, 26, had criminal charges dismissed Jan. 18 by Kent Municipal Court Judge Michael Frans after state officials estimated mid-July 2023 would be the earliest they could have room for him for restoration treatment at a mental health facility. The judge had ruled the man incompetent to stand trial and ordered treatment.


Kent middle school teacher fatally stabbed: Gail Gese, 66, who taught at Cedars Heights Middle School in Covington, part of the Kent School District, was found Feb. 1 stabbed to death in her Tacoma home. Her son was charged with murder and faces a trial date in 2024.

Police contract with Puget Sound Fire for co-responder team: Kent Police are contracting with Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority to provide a co-responder program featuring a nurse and a social worker. The program is an effort to handle calls that might be a better fit for a social worker or nurse than an officer.

Carson appointed new fire chief: Brian Carson, a longtime member of the former SeaTac Fire Department, is the new Kent-based Puget Sound Fire chief. Carson, who was promoted from his job as an assistant chief with Puget Sound Fire, replaces Matthew Morris, who retired after more than five years as chief.


Commission approves pay raises for Kent mayor, city council: The City of Kent’s Independent Salary Commission approved a pay raise for city council members and the mayor in a move that will make the city’s elected officials some of the highest paid among comparable cities in the area. Council members pay was increased to $3,000 per month from $1,431 per month for annual pay of $36,000 for the part-time position. The mayor’s pay increased to $16,500 per month from $14,012 for annual pay of $198,000 per year for the full-time position.

SeaTac girl pleads guilty to hit-and-run murder: A 17-year-old SeaTac girl pleaded guilty to the July 2021 hit-and-run death of Greg Moore, 53, while he was jogging near his home in Maple Valley. A judge sentenced her to remain in custody until she turns 21. The girl saw a jogger and tried to bump Moore with her vehicle to “scare him,” according to a witness statement. A woman found Moore dead in the ditch later in the morning that day in front of the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.


Man charged with attempting to kill two homeless women: A 36-year-old Tacoma man faces two counts of first-degree attempted murder for allegedly shooting two homeless women in 2022 in Kent after they refused to have sex with him. King County prosecutors on April 21 charged James-David Joseph Algarin, who lived in Kent at the time of the shootings on April 14, 2022, for shooting and injuring the two women after he stalked them that night. He remains in the King County jail pending trial. His bail is $1.5 million.

ShoWare Center operating losses in 2022: The 6,200-seat, city-owned arena had operating losses of $744,191 in 2022, according to the ShoWare income statement. The ShoWare Center had expenses of $3.91 million and revenue of $3.12 million. That revenue included $675,000 from the arena’s federal Shuttered Venue Operating Grant to help cover losses from canceled events during the pandemic. That’s the second highest annual loss since the $84.5 million arena opened in 2009. The facility lost $752,324 in 2014.


Voters reject school bond measure: Voters in the Kent School District firmly defeated Proposition No. 1, a $495 million bond proposal to upgrade schools. The measure received 52.02% (13,879) no votes and 47.98% (12,801) yes votes, according to results released April 28 by King County Elections during an updated count three days after the April 25 special election. A bond measure needs a 60% majority to pass.

NASA selects Blue Origin for lunar lander contract: NASA selected Kent-based Blue Origin for a $3.4 billion contract to develop a human landing system for the agency’s Artemis V mission to the Moon. Under this contract, Blue Origin and its National Team partners will develop and fly both a lunar lander that can make a precision landing anywhere on the Moon’s surface and a cislunar (between the Earth and the Moon) transporter, according to Blue Origin. The partners include Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics.


T-Birds fall short of winning Memorial Cup: The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds had hoped to win the franchise’s first Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Memorial Cup, but the Quebec Remparts dominated the T-Birds 5-0 to capture the Memorial Cup June 4 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia. Seattle had won the Western Hockey League title to advance to the Memorial Cup.

Man fatally shot inside AMC Theatre: Abubakar Ahmed, 19, of Tukwila, was fatally shot inside the AMC Theatre at Kent Station at about 12:19 a.m. June 13. Police are still looking for the shooter.

Van Doren’s Landing Park reopens: Now in a new but similar location, the city of Kent’s Van Doren’s Landing Park near the Green River showcases a custom Mount Rainier climbing structure for children among many other features. City crews closed the park in 2020 as part of the Lower Russell Levee Setback project by the King County Flood Control District.


Leaders celebrate completion of Lower Russell levee: City of Kent and King County leaders held a grand opening to celebrate the completion of a $58 million levee project along the Green River that included the relocation of Van Doren’s Landing Park. Leaders cut a ribbon June 28 at the park to make the completion of the Lower Russell Levee Setback project official. The improvements to the 1.4-mile levee along the east bank of the river between South 212th Street and South 228th Street (Veterans Drive) will help protect surrounding residential and commercial development from flooding and create additional flood storage and fish habitat.

Kentwood grad dies after being shot near Lake Meridian: Madeline “Maddie” Goldsmith, 18, a recent Kentwood High School graduate, was fatally shot July 4 in Kent near Lake Meridian. She was found inside a vehicle after the 10:30 p.m. shooting. No arrest has been made.

Candlelight vigil honors Kent Little League catcher: The community turned out to honor Gabriel Coury, 12, who was killed nine days earlier in Kent by an alleged drunk driver along the shoulder of 132nd Avenue SE near SE 230th Street as he rode a scooter home from a park. The driver faces a vehicular homicide charge and is on electronic home detention pending trial.


Four killed in ATV crash in Central Washington: Four people in their 20s were killed in a rollover ATV crash July 29 in Central Washington, about 22 miles from Ellensburg. The victims included Devon Anonson, 26, of Kent; Halle Cole, 24, of Maple Valley; Benjamin Gomez-Santana, 23, of Covington; and Conner Jenkins, 24, of Orting.

Man charged with murder in Kent apartment complex shooting: A 25-year-old man, accused of fatally shooting a 43-year-old Seattle man at the Kent Phoenix Court Apartments, reportedly left his cellphone at the scene of the July 15 incident. Kent Police detectives used that cellphone information, video surveillance and reports from witnesses to track down and arrest Jaiquane Sherrod Wheeler on Aug. 9 for investigation of killing Jeffery Ray Winn. King County prosecutors charged Wheeler on Aug. 10 with second-degree murder and first-degree assault (for shooting at another man). Wheeler is in the King County jail awaiting trial.

Police chief fires officer: Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla fired Officer Michael Morfoot for conduct unbecoming, including Morfoot telling The BLVD Apartments staff, during a response call to the complex on the West Hill after they reported trespassers, to exact “street justice; whoop their ass and swing a big bat,” rather than calling police for assistance, according to police records obtained by the Kent News through a public records request. Morfoot’s firing will go in front of an arbitrator in 2024 as he and the Kent Police union contest the firing.


Sound Transit to pay $1.75M to city: Sound Transit will pay the city of Kent an additional $1.75 million over two years to extend a staffing agreement because of the delay to open a light rail line in 2026 rather than 2024. The city and Sound Transit agreed to a contract in 2018 for $6.7 million to cover city staff time and fees. With the additional staff time required, the total cost will go up to $8.45 million, according to city documents.


Man charged with murder on home detention: Despite being charged with first-degree murder in the June 15, 2023 shooting of Miles Clark at a park behind the Kent YMCA, Elijah A. Cain, 19, awaits trial on electronic home detention at his parents’ house in Puyallup rather than in jail, after posting $2 million bail.

State board says reduce sentence in Kent Denny’s shooting: The state’s Clemency and Pardons Board has recommended that Gov. Jay Inslee reduce the prison sentence of a man who shot and injured five people in 2007 at the Denny’s restaurant in Kent. Frank Lee Evans, 39, but 23 at the time of the shooting, broke into tears as he listened to comments from the five-member board about why they unanimously supported his petition for commutation of his sentence, according to a video of the Sept. 8 hearing. Inslee has yet to make a decision. Evans still has 20 years to serve on a 36-year sentence.


Sound Transit approves contract for parking garage: Sound Transit has awarded a design-build contract for a second Kent Station parking garage with 415 spaces for Sounder train commuters. The garage is scheduled to open in 2027. The Sound Transit Board approved a contract with Puyallup-based Absher Construction. The $62.5 million project will include a new structured parking facility, additional surface parking as well as pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

One school district levy passes, other fails: Voters approved on the November ballot the Kent School District’s Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy, but turned down the Capital Projects and Technology Levy.

Kentlake student killed in wrong-way driver crash: Nasturcia Baileigh, 17, a Kentlake High School senior, died in a two-vehicle, wrong-way driver crash early Friday morning, Nov. 17 in Kent in the 15600 block of SE 272nd St. Nasturcia was the passenger in a vehicle driven by her mother that was hit by a wrong-way driver, who also died in the crash. Nasturcia’s mother was critically injured, but survived.


Auburn to annex Bridges neighborhood: The cities of Auburn and Kent agreed that Auburn will annex about 1,000 people in the Bridges neighborhood, effective Jan. 1, 2024. The residents of Bridges wanted the change since they live on a municipal island of Kent in the southeast part of the city surrounded by properties in the city of Auburn.

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Two men were injured when a small plane crashed into a storage unit in the 1700 block of Central Ave. S., at about 1:19 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire

Two men were injured when a small plane crashed into a storage unit in the 1700 block of Central Ave. S., at about 1:19 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire

Children play on the new Mount Rainier climbing structure at the relocated Van Doren’s Landing Park in Kent along Russell Road. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent Parks

Children play on the new Mount Rainier climbing structure at the relocated Van Doren’s Landing Park in Kent along Russell Road. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent Parks

Brian Carson, left, the new Puget Sound Fire chief, and Matthew Morris, who retired as chief. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire

Brian Carson, left, the new Puget Sound Fire chief, and Matthew Morris, who retired as chief. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire

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