A recently widowed grandfather stepped up to care for his slain daughter's children. A young couple were walking dogs when a motorist ran them down, killing the dogs instantly and resulting in the 21-year-old man's death. A wolf traveled from the far reaches of Oregon into California and into our sense of wonder.
These and other stories resonated with Bee readers in 2012. Here's an update:
Then: It was a year of heartbreak and adjustment for Don Hatfield, a noted Napa artist. In January, he lost his wife, Janey, to cancer. A month later, his only daughter, Rachel Winkler, died of stab wounds inflicted by her husband, Todd, in their Cameron Park home, leaving the couple's three young children without parents to care for them.
Hatfield, 65, won guardianship of the youngsters in May.
Now: Hatfield is caring for Eva, 5, Ariel, 3, and Alex, 18 months, with help from friends and a couple of paid workers.
He feeds and changes Alex every morning before taking the girls to school, then paints, runs errands and hits golf balls in the afternoons before they get home.
"We play, we have dinner, and at 8, I lie beside them and pray and sing and worship with them before they go to sleep," he said. "It's a pretty good system."
Eva and Ariel have received psychological counseling, and "I think they are doing well," Hatfield said. "Alex is a joy."
The children's father remains in the El Dorado County jail, awaiting trial on murder charges.
"It was quite a year," said Hatfield. "Losing Janey was enough, and then the loss of my daughter was and is horrific.
"But the intensity of my grief has quieted down a bit, and these children have been a gift," he said. "I wish Rachel could see how wonderful they are.
"Maybe she does, in some mysterious way."
Then: Harison Long-Randall, a 21-year-old Grass Valley man, died after a speeding car hit him in a Carmichael crosswalk on July 16. He was walking with his 23-year-old girlfriend and her four dogs. Long-Randall lost one of his legs as he stepped in front of his girlfriend to shield her. He died in a hospital within two weeks.
Long-Randall's girlfriend, Gemily West, suffered severe injuries and is still recovering. She had major surgery on her leg Dec. 18, her brother Trevor said. Her four Australian cattle dogs dogs were killed in the incident.
Now: The families of the young couple cut down in the hit and run continue to struggle. Long-Randall's father said the family is trying to take the loss "one day at a time."
"We've had some rough spots here and there," Chris Randall said.
He hoped the incident would remind people not to drink and drive during the holidays.
Gemily West has gotten two new puppies of the same breed. She named them Kiry and Navi.
The suspected drunken driver in the case, Paul William Walden, 31, remains in the Sacramento County jail facing murder and other charges. His next court date is Jan. 10 at 8:30 a.m., and Chris Randall said he will be there, as he has for all of the previous hearings in the case.
"I won't miss a one," he said.
A FEDERAL CASE
Then: On June 28, Juana Reyes-Hernandez was arrested on suspicion of trespassing in front of the Walmart on Florin Road, where she'd hawked tamales for $1 each for two years to pay rent and support her two small children.
She spent 13 days in the Sacramento County jail and her children were placed in foster care until the misdemeanor trespassing charge was dismissed and she was referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a deportable alien.
Reyes-Hernandez, 46, had spent 16 years in the United States with no criminal history, and her children are U.S. citizens.
Her story triggered strong public response. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, cited the "tamale lady" as a prime example of why police should refer only illegal immigrants convicted of serious felonies to immigration officials. He sponsored the so-called "California Trust Act" to curb the referral of undocumented immigrants guilty of minor infractions.
The Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento said the case pointed out flaws in immigration policy.
"Had she been removed, her children would have been put in foster care and then put up for adoption," said the consulate's Alejandro Celorio Alcantára.
A federal immigration judge on Aug. 6 granted a request by Reyes-Hernandez's lawyer and immigration officials to administratively close the case.
Now: "I'm very happy," Reyes-Hernandez said last week. "I've forgotten all the stuff that happened. All I want to do is be with my family, work and get my kids to the next level."
She still makes tamales, but doesn't sell them in front of local businesses.
"I just take orders," she said. "For Christmas, three people each ordered 100 tamales."
On Sept. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the Ammiano bill but pledged to work on a new, improved version. The bill was reintroduced Dec. 3.
Then: Isabel Call, a UC Davis graduate student, successfully fought her insurance company to obtain innovative treatment for her rare and potentially fatal cancer, paraganglioma. Her campaign mobilized thousands of people who pressured Anthem Blue Cross to grant her coverage for proton radiation beam therapy, which she began in June at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Now: Call completed six weeks of treatment, which temporarily left her with a severe sore throat, difficulty swallowing and radiation damage to her skin that "was like the worst sunburn you can imagine," she said.
Her latest MRI showed no sign of the tumor on the left side of her neck that surgeons removed in March.
Aside from some neck stiffness, "I feel really good," said Call, a doctoral student in agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis. "I am lifting weights, eating healthy and my energy level is better than I can remember."
She learned some lessons from her journey, she said, including "the importance of understanding my condition, researching and educating myself about it and taking charge of my health."
POLICE DOG WOUNDED
Then: On May 18, Sacramento police K-9 Bodie and his partner, Officer Randy Van Dusen, were chasing a suspected car thief in Land Park.
The suspect turned and fired at Van Dusen, striking Bodie. A bullet shattered his jawbone, two toes and almost severed his tongue.
Bodie nearly died from the blood loss and spent a week in a veterinary hospital. More than 500 donors from around the world moved by Bodie's story donated $45,000 for his ongoing medical care.
Now: After four surgeries, Bodie is nearly recovered.
His cast was removed Friday and he has begun rehab to strengthen his leg. Van Dusen, who has been working with police K-9 Bandit, estimates he and Bodie will begin patrol training in about a month. He suspects Bodie will be ready to return to work full-time in a few months.
ECONOMIC BLOW TO CITY
Then: The news jolted Sacramento's struggling Franklin Boulevard corridor and California politics, as well.
Campbell Soup Co. announced Sept. 27 that it was closing its 65-year-old south Sacramento factory, moving production to out-of-state plants and eliminating 700 hard-to-replace blue-collar jobs.
Campbell's announcement created new fuel for the debate over California's business climate. Critics said the venerable soup maker's decision was proof that California's red tape and high costs were crippling industry. Gov. Jerry Brown's economic adviser felt compelled to respond, saying the fundamental issue behind Campbell's decision was "an antiquated facility."
Now: The plant remains at full production for now, with no jobs lost. But that will change, likely beginning in February.
OR7 STORY CAPTIVATES
Then: A wild gray wolf crossed into California from Oregon on Dec. 28, 2011, the first of its kind confirmed in the state in 87 years. The event added a new federally endangered species to California and became the state's biggest wildlife story.
The 2-year-old male wolf was dubbed OR7 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which collared it with a GPS tracking device. This allowed a captivated world to track OR7's long migration, a route still updated daily by the California Department of Fish and Game at dfg.ca.gov/wolf.
Now: OR7 appears content to call California home. He has traveled more than 3,000 air miles much more in ground miles as far south as the Bucks Lake vicinity of western Plumas County. Lately he has lingered in northern Tehama County, likely following a large deer herd there. Remarkably, there is no evidence OR7 has killed any domestic animals.
"The other thing that's remarkable is that very few people have actually glimpsed this animal," said Karen Kovacs, wildlife program manager at California's Fish and Game. "Have other wolves traveled great distances? Yes. But very few. For the most part, they don't survive to reproduce because where they travel there aren't other wolves."
There is no sign of a mate in OR7's immediate future. But the prospect grows along with Oregon's wolf population, which is estimated at more than 50, nearly double the number of a year ago.
To plan for more migrants, the California Department of Fish and Game secured a $300,000 federal grant to prepare a wolf-management plan. The Fish and Game Commission will also decide whether to list wolves as a state endangered species, conferring further protection.