2019 was an eventful year in local news. From tourist attracting events like the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, the National Folk Festival in Salisbury or the White Marlin Open in Ocean City, to the events no one could predict like a tornado touching down in Sussex County or the chaos that unfolded at an unsanctioned car show in Ocean City. Delmarva News Now is counting down the top 5 local news stories of 2019.
#5 – Guilty Verdict in Hebron Horse Farm Trial
After law enforcement uncovered horrific animal abuse at a horse farm on Cherry Walk Road in Hebron in 2018, the owner, Barbara Pilchard stood trial, being found guilty on 16 counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and 48 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse and neglect. Officials found 98 live horses on her farm in deplorable conditions, and six horses were found dead. Pilchard was sentenced in May to 90 days for each of the six horses that died. She was also fined $1000 for each of the thirteen horses she was found guilty of abusing and neglecting.
#4 – “Jordan Mania” at Ocean City’s White Marlin Open
In August, the region’s attention turned to Ocean City for the annual White Marlin Open fishing tournament. Particularly, attention turned early to an 80 foot yacht docked in OC named “Catch 23,” quickly identified as that of NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan. Just days after it’s spotting, Jordan flew in to Salisbury-Ocean City Regional Airport, eventually participating in the tournament. Although he did not win, he garnered a lot of buzz on social media.
#3 – Unsanctioned Car Show Roars into Ocean City, Wreaking Havoc
In Late September, an unsanctioned car show styled after the “H20i” event roared into Ocean City, leaving mayhem in it’s wake. Police enforced a special events zone, which reduced speed limits and increased fines for violations. As thousands flowed into the resort town so too did burnouts, street racing and more violations. The most severe was a hit and run incident in which a vehicle conducting a burnout lost control, plowing into a crowd and striking at least one person. Mayor Rick Meehan spoke out just a day later saying what happened “can never happen again.” saying the event placed “our town” “under siege.”
#2 – Tornado Touches Down in Sussex County
In April, mother nature’s fury was felt in the heart of Delmarva, in southwestern Sussex County. An EF2 tornado touched down in the early morning hours of April 14th, remaining on the ground for over 6 miles just between Seaford and Laurel. At it’s max, the tornado had sustained winds of 120 miles an hour, according to the National Weather Service. Left in it’s wake were several damaged structure including roofs ripped off of homes and barns and telephone poles snapped. One person suffered minor injuries.
#1 – A Turbulent Year for James M. Bennett High School
In 2019, several staff members at James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury faced legal troubles, many stemming from the 2018 arrest of Guidance Counselor Allen Mitchell, arrested on rape and child pornography charges. In February, Principal Amy Eskridge was criminally indicted for neglecting to report abuse. In December, a former Vice Principal at the school was charged with one count of failure to report abuse and neglect as well. Towards the end of the year, in an unrelated incident, a Physical Education teacher at the school and wife of Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, Elizabeth Day was arrested and charged with attempting to possess a controlled dangerous substance. Mrs. Day is on administrative leave pending the investigation. Her arrest was our #1 trending story of the year online.