FOX 8’s top local stories of 2021


CLEVELAND (WJW)– It was another busy year of news in Northeast Ohio. From charges against a former Nickelodeon star to the death of a beloved Cleveland musician, here are the top 10 local news stories from this year.

The stories are based on total number of pageviews generated on our website.

Drake Bell charges in Cleveland

Jared Bell, who’s known as Drake Bell, was sentenced for attempted child endangering and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. The charges stem from an incident when Bell was scheduled to play the Odeon Concert Club in Cleveland on Dec. 1, 2017.

The victim, who is now 19, said Bell forced her to perform sexual acts backstage at the concert and again at a Cleveland hotel.

“He is a monster and a danger to children,” she said.

Bell, 34, is best known for playing Drake on the Nickelodeon TV show “Drake and Josh” from 2004 to 2007.

Teen shot by Columbus police

Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on April 20.

Body camera footage released by Columbus police appears to show Bryant wielding a knife while going after another person at the scene. Footage from Reardon’s camera shows the officer fire his gun four times before Bryant falls to the ground. Officers at the scene, including Reardon, can be seen administering first aid and CPR to Bryant.

Independence High School business education teacher Austin Owens said Ma’Khia emailed him the same day she was shot.

“The language she used in her five-year plan was somebody who desperately wanted better for her life,” he said to WCMH. “And she wanted to make her parent proud. She wanted to be a productive citizen. I’m not paraphrasing – these are her exact words.”

Ma’Khia was in the foster care system.

Her death sparked protests at Ohio State University and a controversial response from LeBron James.

Alcohol delivery law

Ohio’s alcohol delivery law went into effect on April 12. It started as a way to help struggling restaurants in the early stages of the pandemic.

The law allows for home delivery of alcohol in its original container on all days, including Sundays and holidays. The Ohio Division of Liquor Control vendors must first agree on regulations for home delivery.

Tragic end for missing friends

Alaina Camacho, 18, and Nathan Orona, 20, were last seen on Feb. 1 at Orona’s apartment building on Oneil Boulevard in Lorain. Their families and friends organized search parties, and even got help from the national group Texas EquuSearch and Recovery.

Alaina Camacho and Nathan Orona

On March 28, a fisherman found Orona’s body in Lake Erie near the Hot Waters Marina. The following day, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources returned to the scene and used sonar to search near the pier. That’s when they discovered an anomaly in the water, which turned out to be Camacho’s missing car. The woman’s body was still inside.

The Lorain County Coroner’s Office said they died from accidental drowning and hypothermia.

5-year-old boy killed in Parma

Matthew Ponomarenko, 32, called 911 on March 25 and told dispatchers he had killed his son Jax. He hit the 5-year-old multiple times in his head face inside their home on Russell Avenue near West 45th Street in Parma, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Jax Ponomarenko, 5-year-old boy killed in Parma on March 25, 2021

“It is tragic and unimaginable that a father could murder his own son,” said Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. “Our thoughts remain with the victim’s family and friends as they grieve this tragedy.”

The indictment includes specifications for the death penalty. Ponomarenko pleaded not guilty.

During a memorial, the boy’s brother read a letter and led the crowd in a inging of “The Wheels on the Bus,” Jax’s favorite song.

“Dear Jax, you were the best brother I could have ever had… When you were gonna grow up, I was gonna teach you how to play baseball, basketball and video games… I always picked with you and played with you and ran around the house with you,” said Dominic, Jax’s brother.

From Indians to Guardians

The Cleveland Indians announced their new name, the Guardians, in July with a video featuring narration by Tom Hanks and music by The Black Keys. The name, which also came with new logos, is a nod to the iconic statues along the Hope Memorial Bridge.

(Photo Credit: Cleveland Indians)

The change was met with mixed reaction. Portage County Sheriff Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski wrote a letter, speaking on, “Behalf of the silent majority.”

“For the past few days, the release has been weighing heavy on my mind with disappointment and hopelessness,” he said in the post, which has more than 12,000 comments on Facebook. “These unfortunate decisions are being made while continuously impacting individuals and industries across the nation. Both lawmakers and decision-makers need to begin to think about the majority of their constituents before caving to the impulsive demands being made by a small group of the public.”

The team also faced resistance from a roller derby team, the Cleveland Guardians, which sued the ball club. The two parties settled and the baseball Guardians started selling new merchandise a few days later.

Two killed in Parma bar shooting

Timoteo “Tim” Cruz, 27, of Cleveland, and Sean Acierno, 29, of Parma, were killed outside Rookies Sports Bar and Grill on Pearl Road on March 13.

Acierno was walking through the parking lot when he was shot, according to Parma police. Cruz, a Cuyahoga County corrections officer who was working security, fired at the suspect before he was also shot. Those who worked at the bar called Cruz a hero, while Parma police said his actions likely saved additional lives.

Luis Carlos Candelairo, 30, and Juan Carlos Perez, 27, were charged in connection to a deadly shooting.

Michael Stanley loses battle to cancer

Cleveland musician Michael Stanley died on March 5 at the age of 72 after a brief battle with lung cancer.

His career spanned five decades. Stanley was best known for the Michael Stanley Band, and hit songs “Lover” and “He Can’t Love You.” In 2019, he received the Cleveland Arts Prize Lifetime Achievement award and Cleveland City Council renamed Huron Road “Michael Stanley Way.”

He was honored with a city-wide celebration on March 25, which would have been his 73rd birthday.

Marshon Lattimore arrested

Marshon Lattimore, Cleveland native, former Ohio State Buckeye and cornerback for the New Orleans Saints, was arrested during a traffic stop on March 25. The Cleveland Division of Police said officers pulled the car over on East 97th Street and Carr Avenue for multiple traffic violations.

Lattimore was a passenger and in possession of a loaded handgun, police said. Another loaded gun was also in the vehicle.

He was arrested for failure to notify on CCW and receiving stolen property. Police said the handgun was entered as stolen from Euclid.

Marshon Lattimore

Wayne County dragway shooting

A man was killed and five others injured in a shooting at Dragway 42 in West Salem on June 13. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office said a man was driving recklessly and doing burnouts in his truck when the track owner and others confronted him. It escalated when the suspect, identified as Jonathan Paul Roman Perez, got out of his vehicle and opened fire.

Luis Cuevas, 33, of Cleveland, died. Authorities said he was an innocent bystander.

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