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The top 5 most watched KGW Investigates stories of 2021

From a pay-per-view autopsy to a $112,000 Google review lawsuit, these were the investigative stories you watched this year.
Credit: Jeff Patterson, KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — Each year the KGW Investigative team receives hundreds of phone calls, tips and emails and this year was no different. 

In 2021, we tried to go beyond the headlines, providing additional context for some of our community's most pressing issues — gun violence, homelessness and COVID-19.

These are some of the most watched from this year. 

Do you have a story idea for the KGW Investigative Team? Email newstips@kgw.com or call 503-226-5041.

Washington couple sued for $112,000 after leaving one-star reviews

In July, KGW Investigates met a Vancouver couple who were being sued for $112,000 after leaving one-star reviews for a local roofing business. 

Autumn Knepper and Adam Marsh called Executive Roof Services (ERS) concerning repairs to a leaky roof for the house they were renting. Both said they had a negative interaction with the receptionist. Shortly after, Knepper and Marsh wrote one-star Google reviews describing their experience on the company's page.

Within weeks, the couple received letters from the Jordan Ramis law firm on behalf of ERS that demanded they take down the reviews. When they refused, the couple was served with a lawsuit seeking $112,000 and $28,000 per week.  

The couple, who couldn't afford an attorney, raised approximately $9,000 via GoFundMe in the weeks following the KGW Investigation.

Pay-per-view autopsy event hosted at Portland hotel

In October, a joint investigation with KING-TV, KGW's sister station in Seattle, discovered a bizarre event that took place in a Portland hotel ballroom — a live autopsy.

The autopsy, organized by a media company called Death Science, had attendees pay upwards of $500 to watch a full dissection of a real human cadaver. 

The event went forward despite objections from the Multnomah County Medical Examiner who felt it was unethical. 

WATCH: Widow of man dissected in front of paying audience did not give consent

After the initial investigation, KGW learned that the man whose body was dissected in front of a paying audience was David Saunders, 98. Saunders, who was a World War II veteran, had died of COVID-19 earlier in the year. 

Saunders' family honored his wishes by donating his body to science but said they had no idea it would be used for this purpose, calling the event "reprehensible."

Impact of a single homeless camp: $18,347 in cleanup, 1,000+ complaints, endless conflict

If there's one topic that dominated local headlines in 2021 it's Portland's ongoing homeless crisis. Hundreds of camps dot the map but how does each one impact the surrounding community? To answer that question, KGW Investigates profiled a single encampment along Southeast Powell Boulevard and 57th Avenue— talking with nearby neighbors, business owners and homeless residents.

An analysis of city data found more than $18,000 had been spent cleaning and removing the site and more than 1,000 complaints had been filed by neighbors.

This single encampment highlighted the dynamic playing out in dozens of neighborhoods across the city.

Woman died homeless while Oregon held $800,000 of her unclaimed money

In June, KGW Investigates shared the tragic story of Cathy Boone — a local woman who died homeless while the state held more than $800,000 of her unclaimed money.

In 2016, Cathy Boone’s mother, Patricia Lupton, passed away. Lupton's estate assets, valued at $884,407, were left to Boone but she was nowhere to be found.

Court records show after her mother died, an attorney and personal representative assigned to her mother’s estate tried to locate Boone. They took out advertisements in the local newspaper, messaged her on Facebook, emailed family members and tried reaching Boone by phone. A private investigator hired to find Boone also came up empty.

In July 2019, a Clatsop County judge ordered $884,407 of the estate’s assets be sent to the Department of State Lands, which handles unclaimed money from estates where heirs cannot be located or refuse payment.  

In January 2020, 49-year-old Cathy Boone was living on the streets of Astoria when she died.

City demands Portland homeowner pay $11,000 to cut down elm tree within 30 days

Who pays for removal when the city determines a diseased tree must go? If you're a Portland homeowner, you do. As one Eastmoreland resident discovered that can be a costly and stressful process.

Earlier this year, Diane Morgan noticed a written notice on the Elm tree in front of her home. It was from the city of Portland and demanded the tree be cut down because it was infected with the fast-spreading Dutch elm disease. 

Morgan was given 30 days to remove the tree on her own dime, learning it would cost $11,000 to do so.

A KGW investigation found that the city used to take responsibility for removing diseased trees in the right of way but that policy changed in 2017. Now, homeowners are asked to foot the bill.

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