It was the year the BP money finally came to the Coast — or at least a large portion of it — and the state Legislators approved a lottery.
It was a big year for casinos, as Mississippi became one of the first states in the country to allow sports betting.
One story brought particularly strong reaction from Sun Herald readers, who watched a video that showed the abuse of a disabled girl on a school bus. This series by Margaret Baker prompted the state Department of Education to launch an investigation and Jackson County schools to change their policies.
Here’s a look back at the good and the bad of 2018:
▪ After 40 years in the U.S. Senate, Thad Cochran resigns and Gov. Phil Bryant appoints agricultural commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, the first woman to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Congress. During the campaign for the special election, Hyde-Smith made a remark about a “public hanging” that turned the race into a race issue. President Donald Trump arrived at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi to campaign for Hyde-Smith the night before the runoff election and she won by a margin of 54-46 percent over Democrat Mike Espy.
▪ In Jackson, it took a special session for Legislators to pass the BP bill, a lottery bill and an infrastructure bill to fund road and bridge work. Now 75 percent of future BP payments will be spent for projects in the 6 Coast counties.
▪ It was a big year for casinos, after Mississippi became one of the first states to allow sports betting. The addition brought a new energy, and all 12 Coast casinos invested in new sports book facilities. The Sun Herald also talked to a bookie about whether legal sports betting is hurting his business.
▪ Island View Casino opened its Beach Casino on the south side of U.S. 90 in Gulfport and parking is being expanded to the west of Treasure Bay Casino to make way for an addition to the casino floor on the east side.
▪ A report in the Sun Herald in May asked what happened to the $1 million-plus jackpots in South Mississippi. After three years without a life-changing jackpot, two people hit for more than $1 million in three weeks during the summer at Coast casinos. A Florida man, while waiting for his $1.3 million jackpot to be verified, continued playing on another slot machine and won an additional $14,000.
Gangs and criminals
Crime reports are always among the top stories of the year, and 2018 had some unforgettable incidents.
▪ A Hattiesburg school guidance counselor living in Stone County was decapitated and her son was charged in her murder.
▪ Former George County jail nurse Carmon Brannan was found guilty of causing the 2014 death of inmate William Joel Dixon, who died after seven days without insulin.
▪ Longtime obstetrician Albert Diaz, who delivered 20,000 babies in his 45-year career, goes to prison for insurance fraud.
▪ Michael “Pretty Boy Floyd” Wilson is captured in St. Martin three days after escaping from a Leakesville jail. Wilson is serving two life sentences on two counts of murder in Harrison County. While he was on the lam, he caught a ride with the editor of a local newspaper and caused a flood of social media sightings.
▪ Gang activity increased alarmingly on the Coast, starting with a deadly Super Bowl party shooting in Moss Point and continued through the year. Coast residents learned about the Gunz, Bricks, Money and other gangs operating in South Mississippi.
▪ A meth-fueled murder conspiracy is exposed as Simon City Royal gang member Joshua Peterman is found guilty of the murder of Tena Broadus after a trial in Harrison County and co-conspirators plead guilty in the case.
▪ Convicted serial killer Samuel Little confesses to five killings in coastal Mississippi and 90 across the country. He is serving two life sentences after being convicted on two counts of murder in Harrison County.
Another look back
▪ Reporter Karen Nelson took Sun Herald readers back to the scene of an alien abduction in Pascagoula, 45 years later.
▪ The Sun Herald followed the story of veterans moving out of the Armed Forces Retirement Home after a large rent increase was announced.
▪ Patients filed lawsuits against former Singing River Health System Dr. Terry Millette for allegedly misdiagnosing patients with multiple sclerosis.
▪ One of the most-read stories at Sun Herald last year was a restaurant inspection report involving “full-size roaches” at Panda Palace buffet in Gulfport.