The fatal shooting of Todd Chance gained considerable attention when his body was found on Aug. 25 with his car discovered miles away. But that was nothing compared to when detectives announced the suspect was Chance's school principal wife.
The year also saw a teacher with four DUIs, the shooting of a police informant by Bakersfield officers and an attorney who found himself in need of legal representation after fatally shooting his wife. Add in a double homicide that marked the first time anyone was killed inside a medical marijuana dispensary in Kern County, and the year didn't lack in unusual -- and at times shocking -- breaking news.
Following are some of the year's most notable stories:
Todd Chance killing
The body of Todd Chance was discovered in a field off a dirt section of Noriega Road and Enos Lane. Detectives believe the 45-year-old was shot in his 2011 black Ford Mustang and then dumped sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Aug. 25.
He had two bullet wounds in his chest. Investigators believe his wife is the shooter.
Jenea Chance was arrested on suspicion of murder Aug. 29 but released days later when the District Attorney's Office requested further investigation. The Fairview Elementary School principal has not been charged, and no other suspects have been named.
Detectives say Jenea Chance, 46, and her husband drove to the field, and she shot him. They say she then abandoned the car near the intersection of Tigerflower Drive and Wheatland Avenue, just off Highway 99 near Panama Lane.
Her attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, said detectives rushed to judgment and should be investigating other suspects. The location of where the car was left makes it possible that Todd Chance was the victim of a carjacking, he said.
Humphrey has said it would take a "criminal genius" to carry out the killing the way detectives have portrayed it, and his client is not that type of person.
Chance was placed on paid administrative leave following her arrest.
Pot dispensary shooting
Police say gang member Aaron Patrick Burris and 16-year-old accomplice Miracle Jackson entered the First Reliable collective at 217 Chester Ave. the morning of July 17. Two men were dead inside the business when they left.
Police say in court reports that Burris, 32, and Jackson were captured on surveillance footage looking over the marijuana. The reports say Burris shot and killed 55-year-old Tony Sherman and ordered 23-year-old security guard Devin Daniels to hand over money and pot before shooting him, too.
The footage shows Jackson wiping clean a front counter that both she and Burris had touched, according to the reports.
Burris and Jackson are charged with murder, robbery and gang offenses. Their next court hearing is Jan. 29.
Lawyer shoots wife
Mark Joseph Madrigali didn't deny shooting his wife during the early morning of July 12. The attorney told police, however, that it was an accident.
Trivia Jean Madrigali, 51, died about a month later from complications of the gunshot wound, and charges against Mark Madrigali were amended to first-degree murder. Madrigali is out on bail and is being represented by attorney H.A. Sala.
Police reports filed in court say officers smelled alcohol on Mark Madrigali's breath as they talked to him in front of his northeast Bakersfield house the night of the shooting. Trivia Madrigali was found lying face down on the living room floor, covered in blood.
Sala has said the shooting was not intentional or premeditated, but family members of Trivia Madrigali told detectives that Mark Madrigali had been abusive to her in the past.
The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 29.
The suspect believed responsible for a series of rapes in east Bakersfield was arrested and charged with 21 felonies on Dec. 17, ending months of anxiety for residents concerned about his striking again.
Billy Ray Johnson Jr., 33, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes and is being held on $5 million bail. A motion for a change of venue is scheduled for Jan. 13.
Prosecutors have said Johnson's DNA links him to assaults that occurred July 1, July 18, Aug. 1 and Aug. 19 and involved five rape victims. Four others were victims of false imprisonment, and one was a victim of an assault with the intent to commit rape. The crimes led to the formation of a joint investigative task force between the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff's Office to catch the rapist. Johnson has been in custody since Oct. 14 on an unrelated weapons charge.
Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman has said Johnson is innocent and has been made a "scapegoat."
Officers kill police informant
Jorge Joel Ramirez called Bakersfield police the evening of Sept. 16 and said he knew the whereabouts of wanted criminal Justin Bryan Harger.
Police had been searching for the 32-year-old Harger for three weeks after hearing from the U.S. Marshals Service that he might be in the area. As an untested police informant, police said Ramirez failed to tell officers Harger was armed with a handgun and wearing a wig, and also gave inaccurate information about the vehicle they were driving.
Police drove to three locations that night trying to meet with Harger and Ramirez, and finally caught up with them after midnight in a parking lot at the Four Points Sheraton, 5101 California Ave. Police said Ramirez, 34, got out of the front passenger side of the SUV he and Harger were in and refused officers' demands to get back in.
Ramirez turned as officers approached him, and at that moment one of the officers was shot in the face by Harger, police said. Both Ramirez, 34, and Harger were killed in the ensuing gunfight, which involved five officers. The officer shot was released from the hospital later that morning.
Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos, representing the family of Ramirez, filed a claim Dec. 13 against the city of Bakersfield, contending police were aware Ramirez was an informant working with them and knew he was in the car with Harger. Damages or injuries listed on the claim include violation of civil and constitutional rights, and wrongful death.
Bath salts killing
Dylan McNabb told police he felt no remorse after shooting his grandmother in the face. He said the voices in his head told him killing his grandmother was the only way to release family members who were suffering in hell.
Police reports filed in court say that's the reason 19-year-old McNabb gave for killing 79-year-old Imogene McNabb on Oct. 6 in the northwest Bakersfield home he shared with her and his father.
McNabb told investigators he'd smoked "bath salts" the morning of the killing. "Bath salts" is a term used for designer drugs containing synthetic chemicals similar to amphetamines.
McNabb's next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Chase in Ridgecrest
Ridgecrest resident Sergio Munoz was responsible for the most high-profile crime to strike that northeastern Kern County city in years.
Munoz shot and killed 22-year-old Brittany Matheny and wounded her boyfriend, Thaddeus Meier, on Oct. 25. The 39-year-old also kidnapped Matthew Guidangen and Amanda Garcia, put them in his car's trunk and held them hostage during an 80-mile-per-hour pursuit on Highway 395 in which he fired at officers and passing vehicles, and also shot into the trunk.
The chase ended south on Highway 395 close to Kramer Junction with eight members of three law enforcement agencies firing on Munoz and killing him. Guidangen and Garcia survived.
Munoz had recently lost his marriage, his kids and his job.
Dead child on bus
A bus driver came upon a man and a child lying next to a road outside California City the morning of Nov. 20.
He realized the child was dead after Matthew Berry carried the 2-year-old on board. The driver alerted authorities, and police and paramedics were waiting as the bus pulled up to a California City intersection.
An autopsy found that Pharaoh Van Vactor suffered bleeding on the brain caused by blunt force trauma, abdominal bleeding and bruising on his body from head to toe. The boy was the child of Berry's girlfriend. Berry is charged with murder, and his next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10.
The 26-year-old told investigators that the toddler suffered fatal injuries after flying out of his car seat and hitting the dashboard of Berry's truck while the two were off-roading in the desert outside California City on Nov. 19. Berry said the truck became stuck in the sand and that he performed CPR on Pharaoh but was unable to go for help, and the boy eventually died.
Investigators told him his story didn't match the injuries found on the boy.
Conviction in death of boy, 3
Dustin Wedel received 31 years to life in prison in early December for inflicting continuous abuse that caused what prosecutors described as the "excruciating" death of a 3-year-old boy.
Wedel was convicted of inflicting injuries upon James Lee Fanshier from November 2010 up to the boy's death on Jan. 23, 2011. James suffered broken ribs, a broken arm, injuries to his pancreas, bowels and genitals, and bruising over much of his body.
Prosecutor Andrea Kohler said Wedel was jealous of the attention his girlfriend, Stormy Roberts, showered on James, and didn't want the child in his life. Roberts had become James' caretaker following a relationship with the boy's father.
Defense attorney Fred Gagliardini argued there were several possibilities for how James suffered his injuries, including that the biological father could be responsible. But, as Kohler said, Wedel was the only person with the boy when he suffered his worst injuries.
Brandi Lynn Sherman's driving habits resulted in her losing her license for four years, and being sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation.
The former teacher racked up four DUIs since 2011, the latest occurring on July 28 when a California Highway Patrol officer spotted her vehicle stopped in the left-turn lane at a light on North Chester Avenue in Oildale. The officer watched as the traffic signal went through two cycles without Sherman moving, and arrested her after she finally went through the intersection.
Her three other DUI convictions occurred in February 2011, March 2011 and September 2012. She could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison if convicted of another noninjury DUI or if she violates her probation.
Sherman resigned in September as a teacher at Sillect Community School, a year-round public school program run by Kern County Superintendent of Schools.