Year in review: Auburn’s top stories of 2022

The year 2022 was quite a year for news in Auburn, from the community’s efforts to pick up the pieces left by the COVID pandemic to the continuing story of the former Auburn police officer now awaiting trial for murder. We did our best to bring you the local news that mattered most. As we enter 2023, here’s a look back at the most-read articles from the year past starting in January 2022.

Three killed in apparent murder-suicide: Three people, including a child, were killed in a shooting at an Auburn home on the 2100 block of 66th Street Southeast on the night of Tuesday, Jan. 4. The Auburn Police Department said that a 41-year-old man shot and killed his wife, 41, and their 10-year-old child before fatally shooting himself. Another 12-year-old child escaped from the house safely when the shooting began and made it to a neighbor’s house, where the residents called 911.

GoFundMe Page created for survivor of Auburn dog attack: After her kids left for school on Feb. 22, Gyöngyi Maas was out running in her Auburn neighborhood when two dogs attacked and nearly killed her. Maas suffered broken bones, and nerve, muscle, ligament and tendon damage in her arms from the attack. Medics rushed her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where the staff saved her life, Her husband, Mike Maas, created a GoFundMe fundraiser with a goal of $6,850 to help cover the out-of-pocket costs of medical bills and potential legal fees. According to GoFundMe, as of the the new year, the effort had raised $20,680.

Man sues Auburn after police commit hit-and-run in Federal Way: In the spring of 2020, Auburn police officer Kenneth Lyman was driving a SWAT vehicle in Federal Way when he crashed the SWAT vehicle into a stopped box truck, according to police records. Instead of pulling over and assessing the damage, as the law requires, Lyman broke the law and drove away from the scene, according to police records. Peter Manning, the victim of Lyman’s hit-and-run, is now suing the city of Auburn for damages.

Man crashes classic muscle car into telephone pole (from the fire blotter): Firefighters and paramedics assessed a man moments after he’d run his classic muscle car into a telephone pole at a high rate of speed. A private ambulance transported him to Harborview Medical Center.

After 16 months, Athens Pizza and Pasta re-opens on April 1: In December 2020, an electrical fire damaged Athens Pizza and Pasta, forcing the restaurant to close its doors while contractors worked to fix the damage, said Nina Contoravdis, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Bill, and his brother Tom Contoravdis. At first the family estimated the repairs would only take a short time, but after having one contractor fall through, the restaurant was closed for 16 months. In the end, with the support of the community and fundraisers to help cover the costs, Clyde Construction, the company that built the restaurant in 1980, finished the job. “We didn’t let COVID stop us. We weren’t going to let the fire stop us either,” Bill told the Auburn Reporter.

Sunbreak Cafe in Auburn becomes a casualty of COVID and inflation: After 40 years of operation in Auburn, the popular breakfast and lunch restaurant at 22 A Street SW closed for good on July 21, brought to ground by the one-two punch of COVID-19 and inflation, according to owner Tom Hollern, son-in-law of founders Bruce and Jill Alverson.

Judge releases unredacted photos of Auburn cop’s tattoos: A judge released unredacted photos of Auburn Police officer Jeffrey Nelson’s tattoos during a pretrial hearing on Aug. 31. Nelson is awaiting trial for the murder and assault of Jesse Sarey in 2019. Previously, Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps had ordered 38 photos of Nelson’s tattoos to be redacted prior to being released to the public on grounds they would bias the jury pool. Nelson’s defense previously objected to the release of the photos, but during the hearing on Aug. 31, the defense withdrew that objection. During the hearing, prosecuting attorney Mark Larson asked the court to allow photos of Nelson’s tattoos as evidence, arguing they have probative value because they offer insight into how Nelson engages with policing. Nelson’s defense argued his tattoos have no probative value and are meant to prejudice the jury. Most of the tattoos that had been previously redacted consist of phrases in English and Latin, many of them concerned with death. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said Nelson’s trial will not begin until at least this fall.

Auburn man charged with voyeurism: The Auburn Police Department reported a 38-year-old Auburn man had poked his head under the stalls of women’s bathrooms at the Muckleshoot Casino in the early morning hours of Oct. 8 and looked at female casino employees while they were using the toilet. On Oct. 27, nearly three weeks later, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office formally charged Ezra George Nelson with one count of first-degree voyeurism.

Police hunt for latest driver to crash into Donut Star: Auburn Police are still looking for the latest in a conga line of drivers to try to plow a hole in Donut Star at 914 Auburn Way South — on this occasion late on Dec. 6. Kolby Crossley, Public Information Director for the Auburn Police Department, said that the offender ran off. “When we arrived on scene around 11 p.m., we found the car, but the driver had fled. It was a stolen vehicle, and was obviously recovered,” Crossley said. This was by no means the first time a vehicle has crashed into Donut Star. Indeed, the Auburn Reporter chronicled numerous incidents going back to at least 2006.

City plans public hearing about selling wetlands: Kent and Auburn city councils and staff are considering whether the Bridges neighborhood, in the city of Kent limits, should be de-annexed by Kent and annexed by Auburn. The properties that surrounds Bridges are in the city of Auburn. Kent is considering surplus (selling) of the properties to facilitate potential de-annexation of the Bridges neighborhood by the city of Kent to the city of Auburn. While annexations typically transfer ownership of publicly owned tracts to the receiving city, Auburn does not wish to take ownership of these tracts, according to a city of Kent press release. The public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 during the Kent City Council meeting.