Year in Review: The Top 12 Montgomery County Stories in 2018

1. Elrich Becomes County Executive

Voters roared in 2016, passing term limits on County Council members and the county executive. In 2018, the voters continued to roar.

First, in the Democratic primary, voters winnowed a list of 38 candidates down to four in the council’s at-large race. Next, voters chose Marc Elrich as their party’s choice for county executive in a 77-vote decision that nearly gave the nomination to millionaire David Blair.

Then when it seemed Elrich had an easy pass to victory in Democrat-heavy Montgomery County, Councilmember Nancy Floreen departed the Democratic Party to wage an independent campaign.

As the campaign moved forward, rank-and-file Democrats began to question four-term Floreen’s ties to development, while Republican Robin Ficker failed to gain traction.

Elrich won easily with 65 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, candidates had the option to finance their campaigns with taxpayer-funded subsidies. The fund spend about $6 million between the primary and the general elections.

2. Damascus J.V. Football Scandal

A Montgomery County grand jury indicted four teenage boys as adults in shocking assaults that took place on Halloween inside the freshman football locker at Damascus High School. The boys, all 15-year-old members of the school’s junior-varsity football team, attacked others with a broom.

The boys face rape and other charges were held over on Thanksgiving but were released on bail afterward, according to online court records. The trials could start as early as February.

3. Tessier Murder Case Ends with Suicide

Laura Wallen’s tragic death turned into a national story that especially rocked the people of Montgomery and Howard County.

Faculty, staff, and teachers were alarmed when high school teacher Laura Wallen of Olney suddenly stopped showing up to school without any notice and without getting a substitute in September 2017. At a press conference that month, Tyler Tessier pleaded for Wallen, his pregnant girlfriend, to come home.

But it turned out investigators were looking at Tessier as their main suspect for the disappearance of Wallen. When police found Wallen’s body—she was shot in the back of the head—they had enough evidence to charge Tessier for murder.

Tessier was supposed to stand trial this past September. However, that morning police confirmed that Tessier died by suicide in his jail cell; it was the second suicide in the county’s jail that summer. Because of these suicides, the jail director ordered the removal of bed sheets from all jail cells.

Later that morning, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, held a press conference in the lobby of the Montgomery County Courthouse. McCarthy said the family and justice system were “robbed” of what would have been a day of “reckoning.”

Although the case was dropped by default, McCarthy and his colleagues mapped out the evidence they were planning to reveal during the trial.

“[Tessier] had psychopathic behavior that he carried on as he maintained a dual relationship with two women,” said McCarthy. “For Tyler Tessier, lying was like breathing. He lied about everything.”

4. 2018 Is D.C.’s Wettest Year Ever (and it’s not even close)

Record rain pelted the Washington D.C. area in 2018 dumping over 64 inches on the region. The previous record was 61.33 inches in 1889. That’s not a typo. Not 1989. 1889. Benjamin Harrison was the U.S. President at the time.

Not only breaking but shattering a 129 year-old record is not an aberration according to longtime FOX 5 weathercaster and Montgomery County resident Sue Palka. She thinks climate change is the cause of not only the record rains but other weather abnormalities in recent years. “I honestly believe that is part of our new world…we better be ready (for) frequent extremes.”

64 inches of rain is obviously a mind-boggling amount but hard to put in perspective. The Capital Weather Gang, one of the favorite go to sources for weather info in the region, took on the task.

According to the CWG, 2018’s record rainfall totalled approximately 76 billion (with a “b”) gallons of water and would:

  • fill 115,000 swimming pools
  • sustain the world’s thirst for three weeks
  • weigh the equivalent of almost 3,500 Washington Monuments


According to Palka, “It’s been an incredible year and frankly I’m ready for a new weather pattern. Bring on 2019.”

5. Pedestrian Safety

Montgomery County lost 15 residents this year to fatal pedestrian involved collisions.

In September Captain Tom Didone called the pedestrian fatalities “concerning,” noting similar themes in many of the incidents: they occurred in the evening, pedestrians weren’t crossing at crosswalks, and pedestrians were wearing dark clothing. According to Didone, in fatal pedestrian collisions, 80 percent of the time pedestrians are at fault for the collision.

Two of the most alarming (nonfatal) pedestrian collisions occurred in October. In the first incident, four Kennedy High School students were struck by two cars as they waited for a bus in the Aspen Hill area. In the second incident, two Northwest High School students were struck by two two cars colliding on Georgia Ave.

After these incidents, the county council sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan, advocating that the speed limit on Georgia Avenue be reduced to 45 mph.

In November, the county launched a new high tech effort in Silver Spring, hoping to educate drivers about how they can act quickly when they encounter unexpected pedestrians and bicyclists on the roads.

6. Northwest Girls’ Volleyball Team Win Fourth Straight State Title

Not one. Not two. Not three. But four straight 4A state titles. That’s what the Northwest High School girls’ volleyball team accomplished by beating Urbana in the state 4A final in College Park on November 20.

Led by All-Met player of the year and four-time All-Met selection Jenaisya Moore, the Jaguars beat Urbana in straight sets improving their season record to 19-1. Moore and her senior teammates lost only twice in their entire high school careers.

With a four-peat under their belts, is a five-peat in the cards for Northwest next year? Perhaps but it will be quite a challenge because the Jags are losing six seniors including Moore – who will be attending Ohio State in the Fall – off this year’s team.

7. Quince Orchard Football Team Wins 4A State Title

The Quince Orchard football team had won two state titles in their school history but none since 2007. That all changed this year with a 13-1 campaign that culminated in a 40-33 victory in the 4A state final against North Point in Annapolis. The Cougars scored 27 unanswered points in route to taking the title. They got to the final by dethroning three-time defending state champs Wise 31-6 in the semi-final game at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Cougars high powered offense was led by All-Met running back Marquez Cooper who ran for 247 yards in the final putting him over 2,000 yards for the year.

8. Police Shootings

Robert White was out for a walk when he met Officer Anand Badgujar. Badgujar insisted White talk with him. White instead became combative. In moments, the officer shot him.

The Howard County’s State’s Attorney’s Office, which has an agreement with Montgomery over police-involved shootings, found no reason to charge the officer. Montgomery County police’s internal review continues.

In another police-involved shooting, John Carlos Natera-Perez was shot and killed after he barricaded himself inside his ex-girlfriend’s townhouse. He tried to set the home on fire with his 3-year-old son inside.

And in November, Devin Conlon Brunner was shot after waving a pistol at neighbors in his Germantown cul-de-sac. Brunner has been jailed and faces six assault charges.

9. MCPS Students Get Politically Active Outside the Classroom

Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted unanimously on a resolution allowing high school students to receive excused absences for participating in political protests and civic engagement activities.

This year in particular, MCPS students proved to be engaged politics. A week after the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, hundreds of MCPS students gathered at Montgomery Blair High School to participate in a walkout protesting gun violence. From Blair, they marched into Washington D.C. to stand in solidarity for those impacted by gun violence.

The protests didn’t stop there, however. In March, students joined lawmakers by taking to the streets of Washington D.C. to demand that congress take action.

The Board of Education is continuing to modify the student absence policy regarding political demonstrations. They’ve made changes that would simplify the process for students receiving an excused absence.

The Board is asking for the public’s feedback on their changes to the policy by Sunday, Jan. 13.

10. Damascus Varsity Football Team Breaks Maryland All-Time Consecutive Wins Record

When Urbana set the state record with 50 consecutive wins from 1998-2001, it promised to last quite a long time. 17 years later, Damascus, the three-time defending state champs, broke the revered record.

On October 19, the Hornets beat Walter Johnson tying the mark at 50. Then the following week, they beat Seneca Valley to set the state record at 51.

At one point, Damascus had the longest active winning streak in the country.

The streak reached 53 consecutive wins until Damascus, playing at home, was upended by Oakdale 24-7 in the state 2A West final, their bid to four-peat thwarted. It was the Hornets’ first loss since November of 2014.

11. The Ike Leggett Legacy

Ike Leggett ended 12 years as county executive, capping off a public service career spanning decades.

He made his first run at the County Council in 1986 — a race he didn’t want to pursue. But he won, and he won handily.

“That’s a reflection I think not so much about me, per se. I think it’s a reflection of the very kind, generous and supportive people of Montgomery County,” he said in an interview with Montgomery Community Media.

Eventually, Leggett left the council and became county executive.

12. Pursuit of Amazon HQ2

In the end, Montgomery County once again lost to Virginia … and New York … and Nashville.

For a year, online retail giant Amazon teased communities across the country with the promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs. Maryland offered as much as $8 billion for the company’s HQ2, including $1 billion in tax incentives from the county.

Amazon opted for Crystal City, where workers could walk to National Airport, as well as New York and a center in Nashville.

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