THIS WEEK'S MOST READ STORIES: Prized McBaine bur oak vandalized; Phil Pressey leaves

Sunday, April 14, 2013 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 15, 2013
The word "PROM?" was spray painted on the bur oak tree. John Sam Williamson Jr., who looks after the tree on his property, said the paint won't damage the tree because the bark is already dead. He's learned from experience that the best approach is to let it come off on its own.

COLUMBIA — The top-read stories this week concerned a vandalized 90-foot bur oak, another chapter in the Ryan Ferguson saga and a farewell, as Missouri men's basketball career assists leader Phil Pressey announced he'll skip his senior season t0 enter the NBA draft.

Here are the week's 10 most read stories, according to Google Analytics:

1. In this week's most read story, John Sam Williamson Jr. discovered Friday that his state-champion, 90-foot bur oak was the victim of vandalism. Spray-painted on the tree, in big red letters: "PROM?" Williamson said the bur oak, which has been in his family for six generations, has been the subject of mischief on multiple occasions over the years. (6,649 page views)

2. Ryan Ferguson's attorney filed for a governor's pardon on Monday. It's Ferguson's 15th attempt to overturn his conviction in the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. Also on Monday, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School held a public discussion that featured key players in Ferguson's case, including Ferguson's attorney from his original trial, a "48 Hours" correspondent and a representative from a nonprofit that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted criminals. (1,277 page views)

3. Missouri men's basketball point guard Phil Pressey announced Wednesday that he'll skip his senior season to enter the NBA draft. The career assists leader for the Tigers won't be changing his mind: He signed with a sports agency, which forfeits his college eligibility, according to NCAA bylaws. (1,073 page views)

4. The Columbia Police Department is investigating the death of a man in his home in south Columbia as a homicide. Brian Daniels, 46, was found dead Wednesday after officers responded to a report of a robbery at Daniels' home on Cimarron Drive. On Sunday, police arrested two men in connection with the homicide. (1,005 page views)

5. A Columbia School Board member frustrated with the lack of bearded men in politics has started a Super PAC intended to raise unlimited funding for politicians with worthy beards. "There has been an obvious decline in popularity of beards for politicians," Johnathan Sessions, the brains behind the pro-beard committee, said. "My generation has become more accepting of beards as a grooming choice, and that's a change I would like to see reflected in politics." (897 page views)

6. A fire at the Ash Street Place Apartments Tuesday caused an estimated $450,000 in damage. The fire started after a bathroom lighting fixture malfunctioned, the Columbia Fire Department said. There were no injuries, and several cats were safely removed. (853 page views)

7. After Missouri men's basketball junior point guard Phil Pressey announced his intent to enter the NBA draft, fans took to social media to weigh in. Some were optimistic and encouraging, some were snarky and denigrating, and most predicted a less-than-stellar post-collegiate career for the Tigers' point guard, who divided fans this season with his mix of brilliant play and late-game blunders. (786 page views)

8. A Columbia man died and another was injured in a car accident April 7 on Mexico Gravel Road. According to a release from the Columbia Police Department, Rodolfo Rodriguez, 25, was driving westbound on the road with Dante V. Jones, 24, when his vehicle left the roadway during a turn and collided with a raised concrete water drain. Both men were wearing seat belts at the time. (770 page views)

9. MU professor and Missourian reader Bill Wickersham finds the media coverage of potential UFO phenomenon lacking. Wickersham has followed the UFO phenomenon for more than 50 years and says that major media outlets have "defaulted" on the issue and mocked UFO believers. He laid out seven steps journalists should follow to enhance UFO coverage. (719 views)

10. Missourian columnist David Rosman writes that the trend of national and state GOP politicians pushing to be more inclusive contradicts the right-wing extremists within their own party. He provides examples of the Republican party's "foot-in-mouth disease" on the national and state levels. (651 page views.)

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