Top 10 news stories of 2018

1) RV encampments, city responses among homeless storylines

Homelessness, always a major story in Yamhill County, began with a controversy just days into 2018.

Neighbors near Doran Drive complained to the McMinnville City Council Jan. 9 that the street had become a virtual homeless village with people living in cars, campers and RVs.

RV dwellers such as Jacob Miller insisted he and his family were not homeless. They simply lived differently from other local residents.

Nonetheless, mainstream neighbors attended council meetings en masse, demanding that councilors do something to address their concerns.

Councilors responded by passing a law against parking RVs on public streets April 10 with an effective date of April 18. Police Chief Matt Scales said police took the first couple of weeks to educate people before issuing tickets.

The law requires RVs to have permits to park on city streets. However, only four permits will be issued per year and are limited to 72 hours. Plus, the RV must be parked within 200 feet of property owned or leased by the permit holder.

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Valerie and Jacob Miller chat about the holiday season and their future from their street residence on Dustin Court. The two don’t consider themselves homeless, but have been at the forefront of issues involving RV dwellers and vehicular homelessness this year.

Violators face fines of up to $25 a day for parking an RV on a public street. If the fine is not paid within 14 days, it goes to $35 per day.

However, the law doesn’t allow for towing, so many RV dwellers just continue to rack up fines.

Meanwhile, many RV dwellers and other people living in vehicles left Doran Drive and began parking on Dustin Court across from the offices for Yamhill Community Action Partnership and Marsh Lane near McMinnville Water & Light.

People living along Marsh Lane were told they needed to move their vehicles Oct. 30 so Water & Light officials could install new street lights. The installation took more than a week, but people are only now beginning to take up residence once more along the street.

Police threatened in early November to arrest people living on Dustin Court for disorderly conduct if they failed to move trash as well as their tents and other belongings off the street. No arrests were made, and police confiscated only one tent — which they later returned after finding a dog inside.
The campers simply moved their belongings off the street and onto the vacant lot across the street.

RV dwellers were only part of the homeless story in 2018.

The city council passed a code of conduct June 12 for the public parking structure at Northeast Fifth and Evans streets across from the Yamhill County Courthouse — giving homeless campers 10 days to vacate.

In another law aimed at curbing vagrancy, councilors passed a law July 26 against smoking along Third Street between Adams and Johnson streets.

The council passed another law Aug. 28 that enables a select group of homeless people to live in their vehicles for up to 90 days with the consent of property owners.

Up to three vehicles can camp on sites provided by willing property owners. Oversight will be provided by volunteers for Champion Team, a local nonprofit organization that provides services for people with mental health issues.

The law passed by councilors to allow the program also included a ban on people sleeping in parks, on streets or any other public property.

However, the ban was thrown into question when the Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled Sept. 4 that banning homeless people from sleeping in public violates the “cruel and unusual punishments” clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Major behavior issues in the downtown area were down compared to 2017, in part because of city laws and enforcement tactics, but homelessness remains a major issue locally and across the nation.


2) Relatively unknowns emerge from pack to win local elections

Local elections remained civil, for the most part, but still carried intrigue as two relatively unknowns captured a majority of votes in November.

The precursor to the county elections were heated negotiations with the employee’s union, which almost led to a strike. The unions were then represented in the May primary by president Josh Rojas, running for Commissioner Stan Primozich’s seat, Chelsey Williams (married to a county-employed social worker) challenged Commissioner Mary Starrett and the union’s legal counsel, Jennifer Chapman, made a bid for the Circuit Court bench seat of Ronald Stone, who was being term-limited out. 

Starrett — also challenged by David Wall, who had limited campaigning due to injuries sustained shortly after filing — was able to capture over 60 percent of the primary vote, earning a second term without having to face a runoff. 

Primozich drew a broader field that made an outright primary win practically impossible. Local farmer Casey Kulla and Newberg pest control specialist joined Rojas in challenging Primozich, a financial adviser who had 24 years experience on the McMinnville School Board before becoming a commissioner. 

Marcus Larson/News-Register##County Commissioner-elect Casey Kulla and McMinnville City Councilor Sal Peralta celebrate victories in their respective races on election night.

Kulla was known in the county for his farming practices, but an unknown figure in the political realm. Yet, with some crafty campaigning, he earned about 32 percent of the primary vote, slightly behind the incumbent, to advance to the November primary. 

While differences between Primozich and Kulla were clear, the campaign was marked by its participants’ courtesy and focus on the issues rather than on attacking each other. Primozich and Kulla debated the merits of experience versus new ideas and priorities ranging from continued focus on economic development to addressing the challenges of water scarcity in a warming climate.

In the end, it was Kulla’s “different perspective” that captured the majority of Yamhill County voters. 

Chapman entered the race for judge as a longtime McMinnville resident, but with little name recognition in the local legal community, having spent most of her working time in Salem as counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Significant contributions from the local and statewide unions helped fund billboards and other campaign materials to quickly become a known entity. 

Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller earned the most votes in the primary, with about 34 percent, which included a packed field of three other local defense attorneys: Mark Lawrence, Carol Fredrick and Mark Pihl. Chapman advanced with about 25 percent of the vote.

Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County Circuit Judge-elect Jennifer Chapman hugs Jill Payne, who helped her with her campaign, after learning of the second round of election results in November.

In the runup to the general, Chapman — who greatly outspent her opponent thanks to union contributions — touted her civil experience, noting that if Miller were to win, all four judges would have come from the prosecutor’s office with experience heavily weighed in criminal matters. A majority of cases in the legal system were civil, she said.

While that is so, Miller countered, the majority of a circuit court judge’s time is spent on criminal matters. Most civil cases are heard by pro-tem judges. With significantly more trial experience than her opponent, Miller argued she had the best mix of understanding and demeanor to become judge.

But in November, Chapman’s message proved to resonate with voters — just barely. Chapman finished with 19,118 votes to Miller’s 18,945.

The most heated election locally was, surprisingly, that for a McMinnville City Council position. Incumbent Sal Peralta, who was appointed to the position, was challenged by local businesspeople Chris Chenoweth and Leanna Gautney. It was Peralta and Chenoweth who frequently traded barbs during debates over campaign tactics and views on development and the homeless. One tactic criticized was Peralta’s use of “Re-elect” on campaign materials even though he was appointed, a tactic frowned upon by election officials, but within the legal practices of campaigning.

Contention in the race mounted when an anonymous robocall attacking Peralta was sent to many voters in Ward 1. Peralta suspected Ron Fennern, Starrett’s husband, was behind the attacks. Those two both denied any involvement. 

Voters sided with Peralta, who earned 52 percent of the vote. Chenoweth earned 33 and Gautney 15. Thus, Peralta will be able to re-use those campaign signs next time without any controversy. 


3) Falls Event Center declares bankruptcy

The Falls Event Center, the Utah company that owns about half the land and buildings occupied by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, along with the Wings and Waves Waterpark, declared bankruptcy this year.

Founder Steve Down made the purchase in 2016, after previous owner, the Michael King Smith Foundation, went into bankruptcy, following the bankruptcy of Evergreen Aviation International.

The museum leases space from the Falls Event Center, but is an independent nonprofit organization.

Marcus Larson/News-Register##Owners of the Wings & Waves Waterpark and the nearby event center, behind the oak grove, have asked a judge for permission to hire a realtor as it seeks to sell the properties.

Like museum founder Del Smith before him, Down, who made similarly extravagant promises, now finds himself mired in financial troubles.

His company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July, and proceedings are still underway, now under the guidance of a court-appointed trustee.

In May, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in federal court in Utah, accusing Down of misleading investors and committing fraud. Last December, Down signed a negotiated settlement agreement with the SEC, requiring him to pay a $150,000 fine and cease deceptive fundraising practices, while not admitting to any wrongdoing.

In April, the museum sued local subsidiary The Falls at McMinnville, alleging the company was failing to honor an agreement to make monthly payments to the museum of $70,000 in 2017 and 2018, and “conditional monthly payments of $25,000 for the following 30 years beginning in 2019.”

The Falls at McMinnville has also filed for bankruptcy, and the parent company sought permission from the court to sell the waterpark and event center, formerly a chapel, on the museum campus. It included the request in a listing of several local affiliates it wanted to list with a Realtor.

However, at a hearing on December 4, attorney Peggy Hunt told Judge Kimball Mosier that the creditors’ committee objects to including two local affiliates, McMinnville and St. George, and the trustee was willing to remove them from the list for now.

Of McMinnville, she said, “the trustee is very unclear about what to do with that property at this point.”

At Mosier’s suggestion during the hearing, Hunt said she plans to proceed with individual motions to employ a Realtor for some of the other subsidiaries, leaving aside the question of McMinnville for the time being.


4) Sheridan becomes a center of immigration debate

When 123 men who came to the United State seeking asylum were locked up at the federal prison in Sheridan June 7, one of the most contentious contemporary issues became a local story.

The Trump administration received both widespread praise and condemnation in 2018 for its strict policy on immigration that included massive but supposedly temporary incarceration of immigrants (including children) and refugees.

Before the Trump administration’s crackdown, refugees were traditionally released on bond after a few weeks if they passed what authorities call a “credible fear interview.”

Outrage over the sharp turn in policy sparked the first of many protests June 10. Some 50 protesters stood on the Highway 18 overpass and held signs.
A march to oppose federal immigration policies — including the separation of families and incarceration of children — drew more than 200 protesters to downtown McMinnville June 14.

Rockne Roll/News-Register file photo From left, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer hold a press conference in June after visiting detained immigrants at the federal penitentiary in Sheridan.

Two days later, on June 16, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici (all Democrats) held a press conference near the entrance of the prison to further voice opposition Trump’s actions.

A community protest June 18 at Southside Park adjacent to the prison led to regular worship services focusing on immigration. Services were held on the second Sunday of July and August until the incarcerated men slowly started to be released in August.

Yamhill County volunteers rallied to help the refugees, forming a network to pick the men up at the prison and find them safe places to stay and eventually stable housing while they went through the next steps in the immigration process.

None of the original group of refugees remain at the prison, but volunteer coordinator Katheleen Moss is investigating reports that a man who was visiting his family in Newberg was apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and taken to Sheridan.

Now that the original refugees have been released, Moss said she spends most of her time rallying Sheridan residents to educate them about immigration issues.

Although the protests in Sheridan have stopped, immigration continues to be a local issue. Staff members at the McMinnville office of Lutheran Community Services continue to help immigrants achieve legal status, and activists still protest.

Some 14,300 migrant children and teenagers are still forcibly detained by the federal government, according to confidential official data obtained and cross-checked by the Associated Press.


5) Trail development approved, then remanded

Yamhill County commissioners this year approved farm impact findings for the Yamhelas Westsider Trail this year, and are currently seeking proposals for engineering of three bridges on the initial 2.8-mile stretch.

However, a recent ruling by the Land Use Board of Appeals may delay that progress. The remand by the board means the county must hold another hearing on whether to approve the trail impact findings, under a different set of procedures.

Submitted graphic##An artist diagram of the proposed Yamhelas Westsider Trail with an agriculture crossing gate, created by the Friends of the Yamhelas Westsider last year in partnership with Yamhill County.

In May, commissioners approved a set of findings stating development of a 2.8 mile section of the proposed Yamhelas Westsider Trail will not result in a significant increase in farming costs or appreciably impact farming practices. They approved ordinance 90, which also states the county owns a 12.48 mile segment of former railroad corridor it plans to develop into a trail. The initial development would be the 2.82-mile section connecting the cities of Yamhill and Carlton.

That was appealed to the state board by a group of opponents, and its ruling was released earlier this month.

Trail advocate Stan Primozich leaves the board of county commissioners this month. His replacement, Casey Kulla, has stated support for the trail. However, a farmer himself, Kulla wants to ensure adjacent property owners’ concerns are fully mitigated.

The findings the county approved state it would not cause significant harm to adjacent farms, but did require the county to install “fencing capable of preventing dogs and people from entering adjacent farm fields, and signage at each trail head and trail entry-point, warning users not to trespass or to “touch, pet or otherwise harass livestock.”

They also required the county to place signs notifying trail users to “expect potential dust, noise, agricultural and pesticide smells; and indicating that, at designated agricultural trail crossings, delays may occur, and that farm operators and machinery have the right-of-way over pedestrians and other trail users.”


6) Major highs and lows at Linfield

Linfield College started 2018 with huge boost to its wine studies program  and ended with redoubled efforts to increase enrollment and stabilize the budget.
In the middle, President Thomas Hellie retired after 12 years and Miles Davis became Linfield’s 20th president in July.

Major developments also include a partnership with a school in France’s Loire Valley offering a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program, including international experience for students studying the wine industry; and the purchase of a Portland campus for expansion of its nursing school.

Davis moved to Oregon from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, where he was dean of the Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business. Like Linfield, Shenandoah is a private liberal arts institution with multiple campuses and  strong town-and-gown ties.

“I have an obligation to represent this college well. That’s very humbling,” said Davis, the first African-American president in Linfield’s 160-year history, soon after arriving. “I have an extreme sense of humility. I know what I know, but I also know I don’t know everything.”

Marcus Larson/News-Register##New Linfield College President Miles Davis details his plans to further the school’s reputation of excellence and student achievement during a July interview.

A few weeks later, Davis and other college officials announced the new bachelor’s/master’s degree program in wine studies.

Already the first U.S. college featuring an interdisciplinary wine studies degree, Linfield is also the first U.S. school to team up with the Ecole Supérieure d’Agricultures in Angers, in France’s Loire Valley.

“It’s such a great opportunity for our students,” said Greg Jones, director of the Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield.

The Evenstad Center was created earlier in the year from a $6 million gift from Domaine Serene Winery founders Grace and Ken Evenstad to augment the school’s wine education program.

It’s the largest donation ever in support of wine studies in Oregon, according to then-president Hellie. “It’s a major investment in the future,” he said, noting that the funds also will pay for design and construction of the Evenstad Wine Laboratory, part of a planned new science building on the McMinnville campus.
Fundraising for the science building is ongoing.

In addition to raising funds, the new president has been emphasizing at every turn the need for increased enrollment.

Linfield’s overall enrollment dropped more than 19 percent over the last five years, leading to budget shortages. Decreasing college enrollment is a national trend that Linfield must find ways to overcome, Davis said.

He is leading a multi-pronged approach that includes increasing services for veterans, more recruitment and better service for first-generation college students, partnering with community colleges to attract transfer students and more. He has spoken to the college community several times about these efforts, saying everyone — from groundskeepers to professors — needs to work together to increase enrollment.

In November, college spokesman Scott Nelson said Linfield’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution saying the school must have a sustainable, balanced budget; must be on a path toward growth; and must maintain its liberal arts core.

Over the last three years, Nelson said, enrollment declines have led to layoffs of 19 staff members, budget reductions in non-academic divisions and other cost-saving measures. This fall, Linfield reduced its contribution to faculty retirement accounts from 16 percent of salary to 12 percent and its contribution to non-faculty retirement from 11.25 percent to 8.45 percent.

As planning for the 2019-20 budget began in the waning weeks of 2018, faculty members worried about potential job cuts. Nelson said there has not been a decision about whether positions will be cut or, if so, how many.

“The goal of restructuring is to focus resources where demand is greatest for current and prospective students,” he said. “In some cases, this will mean shifting resources away from areas without robust demand.”


7) Officers cleared in fatal use of weapons

Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry and Sheriff Tim Svenson determined Sheriff’s Sgt. Sam Elliott and Deputy Stephanie Sulak followed department policies related to the use of deadly force when they fired their duty weapons during a July confrontation with 27-year-old Kelly Sutton Jr. of Amity.

He was struck multiple times on Jellison Avenue, just south of Rice Lane on the northeast side of the city, and died at the scene.

Two residents discovered Sutton had entered their home, prompting a 911 call and response from the sheriff’s office and McMinnville police soon afterward. No Amity officers were on duty at the time.

Senate Bill 111 was passed by the Oregon House in June 2007 during the regular legislative session. It required the creation of local, comprehensive protocols to address use of deadly force by law enforcement.

“When the district attorney finds no criminal issues and clears individuals as justified in their use of deadly force, our review will find them directly within policy because our policy is specific to legal statute,” Svenson said.

Elliott and Sulak were justified in fatally shooting Sutton, Berry announced three weeks after the incident.

The county’s Major Crime Response Team was responsible for the investigation, led by Newberg-Dundee Police Det. Sheldon Clay.

As part of a 3 1/2-page report, Berry said an officer is justified in using deadly force when the officer reasonably believes his or her life or the lives of others are in imminent danger.

Elliott was being strangled by Sutton prior to firing two shots at him.

“Even with that, and once there was some separation between he and Mr. Sutton, Mr. Sutton again lunged toward him,” Berry said.

Sutton, who was unarmed, was then shot by both Elliott and Sulak, according to Berry.

He concluded by saying, “I find that the actions of the officers, although with a tragic result, were justified given the overall circumstances and conduct of Mr. Sutton.”


8) Individual tragedies affect communities

Dieter Aulig ... Meighan Cordie ... Traci Spurgeon .... They were crime victims that made headlines and shook the communities of Willamina, Dayton, McMinnville and beyond in 2018.

The juvenile grandson of rural Willamina resident Aulig, who died in June when a fire engulfed the family home, was charged with one count each of murder, first-degree aggravated theft and first-degree arson.

He was identified as Nicholas J.D. Aulig by the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office. 

A second suspect, identified as Jacob Thomas Brooks of Willamina, was charged with one count each of first-degree aggravated theft and first-degree arson.
Those charges against the boys, who remain lodged in the county’s juvenile detention facitily, could change according to District Attorney Brad Berry.

They allegedly conspired to steal about $50,000 from the 79-year-old Aulig, who died in the fire, and his wife, Theresa Aulig, who sustained non-life threatening burns.

In the early morning hours, the Yamhill Communications Agency dispatched West Valley Fire District personnel to a full-involved residential fire at 38100 S.W. Tenbush Lane, about two miles northwest of Willamina. The home was at the end of a gravel driveway.

When the first personnel arrived, the residence was totally engulfed. The fire was intense and additional agencies responded.

Firefighters could not enter the residence. Only after flames were suppressed was Dieter Aulig found dead in what remained of the burned ruins.

The Fire Investigation Team, consisting of members of the sheriff’s office, Oregon State Police and state Fire Marshal’s Office, in addition to other county fire personnel, launched an investigation into the blaze.

Arson was suspected once fire accelerant was located in the house.

Through witness interviews and follow-up work, Nicholas Aulig and Brooks were identified as suspects. Aulig, who lived with his grandparents, was located at a friend’s residence in Willamina. Brooks was detained after a surveillance team spotted him at a Willamina residence.

Search warrants were executed by the sheriff’s office in Willamina, and the $50,000, in addition to other evidence related to that theft, was recovered.

The death of Cordie, 27, was eventually ruled accidental. However, her mother, Jennifer Weathers, pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence of intoxicants and recklessly endangering another person, Class A misdemeanors, in connection with the August death.

The 50-year-old Weathers, a King City resident, will enter a plea and be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Marcus Larson/News-Register Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry gives a press conference on the investigation into Meighan Cordie s death with Sheriff Tim Svenson, left, and Sheriff’s Office detective Will Lavish, right. Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry gives a press conference in late September on the investigation into Meighan Cordie's death with Sheriff Tim Svenson, left, and Sheriff’s Office detective Will Lavish, right.

Weathers earlier chose not to enter a diversion program, designed for individuals charged with DUII for the first time.

A large scale search was launched for Cordie, the mother of a 3-year-old, when she disappeared on her way home from a wedding and reception on Grand Island. It was later determined she died instantly when she exited her mother’s moving SUV, slammed into a guardrail just north of Dayton on Southeast Foster Road and slid down an embankment.

Her body, hidden at the bottom of the steep slope, wasn’t discovered until some joggers spotted it off the roadway several days following the incident.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death accidental. Investigators concluded the death was tragic, but was not a crime, Berry said.

The case of a May assault on Spurgeon, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, remains a mystery. She was severely beaten, transported by McMinnville Fire Department ambulance to the Willamette Valley Medical Center and transferred by Life Flight helicopter to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland with life-threatening injuries.

“It’s still a major who done it,” McMinnville Police Chief Matt Scales later said. “Historically, information will bubble up on a case. There are people who generally talk about a case. Criminals often brag about what they have done. We don’t have anyone who has said, ‘I heard this happen.’ That is the most head-scratching thing.”

In the days following the incident, police requested public assistance with locating video surveillance footage along sections of highway between McMinnville and Tualatin between 2 and 4 a.m. Saturday, May 12.

Locations of interest included Highway 99W through Lafayette, Dundee, Newberg and Sherwood Highway 18 between McMinnville and the junction with Highway 99W and the Newberg-Dundee Bypass between the Highway 99W and Highway 219 intersections.

The targeted areas helped trace her drive home from work, police said. However, the request has still failed to produce any solid leads known to the public.


9) County bans commercial solar on high valued farm soils

After receiving numerous applications in 2017 for commercial solar facilities, and multiple objections from neighbors, farmers and land use watch dogs, the county Planning Department and county commissioners took action this year. Notices were sent to nearly 5,000 land owners of a March public hearing on a proposal to ban the arrays from high value farmland. County planning commissioners voted unanimously in April to ban the arrays from high class farm soils, and in May after a second hearing, the commissioners followed suit, this time on a split vote, with commissioner Mary Starrett voting in opposition. Both hearings involved several hours of testimony.

The county has approved 20 such sites, covering some 233 acres. However, the ban on new applications went into effect August 1.

In recent years, companies leasing acres of farmland for siting solar panels have targeted western Oregon counties. The companies lease land, usually 12 acres, located near Portland General Electric substations. A state law requiring large utilities to buy at least eight percent of their electricity from renewable sources, within 10 years, has elevated the solar market statewide.

The parcel size — 12 acres — is intended to avoid a state law requiring special exceptions for larger areas.

The issue quickly became controversial. Some farmers embrace an opportunity to turn less-used portions of land into a source of long-term income. Others see potential destruction of irreplaceable soil. Opponents argue solar panels can be sited in many locations other than farmland; Planning Director Ken Friday told commissioners the ban still leaves more than 180,000 acres in the county available for commercial solar arrays.

Outgoing Commissioner Stan Primozich supported the ban, stating, in part, he was convinced by testimony from neighbors living near approved facilities, who said the installations confirmed their fears, both in disruptions to their lives and in damage to the soil.

However, Commissioner-elect Casey Kulla, who takes office this month, has argued against it. Kulla argues that, rather than banning the arrays from high-class farmland, the county should seek ways to make them more compatible with farming. His suggestions have included requiring farmers to allow livestock to graze around the panels, or grow crops beneath them.


10) We Three launched into national spotlight

Residents of McMinnville and the surrounding area have long been fans of We Three, the band featuring Humlie siblings Joshua, Bethany and Manny.
This year, the band soared to national fame on the popular TV variety talent show “America’s Got Talent.”

The Humlies drew raves from the judges on their first appearance, the show’s season opener, at the end of May.

Judge Simon Cowell, notorious for his harsh pronouncements, called We Three “special.”

“I honestly think they’re at the start of something big here,” he said.

The musicians’ father, George Humlie, watched from the wings during that first performance, when the siblings played “Heaven’s Not Too Far.”

They wrote the song in honor of their mother, Kelley Humlie, who died in early 2016 after a battle with cancer. The lyrics are written from her perspective, as if she were talking to her children, giving them advice and reassuring them they will meet again.

Rusty Rae/News-Register##The three Humlie siblings make up We Three. Seen here in a rehearsal are (from left) Bethany Blanchard, Joshua Humlie and Manny Humlie. Beloved locally for years, the band earned a huge new fan base following appearances on America’s Got Talent.

“Heaven’s Not Too Far” brought the audience to tears, especially judge Mel B of Spice Girls fame, who said she’d lost her father last year.

Like Cowell, she and the other judges were quick to compliment the trio.

“I love your voices. I love how you harmonize,” Heidi Klum said.

Howie Mandel added, “I felt it.”

From there, We Three impressed judges and viewers each time they performed. They advanced through the Judge Cuts rounds, then onto live voting. The ride ended when they barely missed a spot in the finals.

Since the show ended, The Humlies have cut a new album, written more songs and done some performing — including at album release events in Portland’s Crystal Ballroom and in McMinnville.

“It’s cool to connect with people and do something that’s meaningful to them,” Joshua said of their live performances during a News-Register interview in November.

Backed by a management and promotions team, they’re planning a tour in 2019.

“We’re very excited to travel and share our music,” Bethany said. “Right now, we have a lot of momentum.”


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