Tragedy, controversy, the annoying, the sometimes not-so-serious, and the in-depth made its mark on the Tri-State, and WCPO.com, in 2013.
Beyond the full coverage of weather events, high school sports scoreboards, your favorite new places to eat, and the daily comprehensive coverage of 9 On Your Side, the following were some of the top read local stories for 2013.
The top story for the first half of 2013 grabbed national attention, and unfortunately claimed the life of a child. Hundreds were on I-275 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, when a sudden snow squall hit, creating white out conditions that resulted in a 96-vehicle crash in Hamilton County.
It was on that roadway that Sammy Reagan, 12, lost her life when hit by a cable barrier that snapped under the pressure of vehicles hitting it. At least four others were also transported to area hospitals in critical condition that day.
Days after the initial accident, Hamilton County dispatcher Barrett Cohen who handled one of the initial calls from the crash said Martin Luther King Day 2013, and Reagan’s death, would bother him for quite a while.
"It was like this thing just keeps getting worse and worse,” he said.
During a sentencing hearing, Hamilton County Judge Robert P. Ruehlman reminded voters, and long-time poll worker Melowese Richardson, the sanctity of Election Day voting.
Ruehlman sentenced Richardson to a five years in jail for voter fraud, a charge Richardson pled no contest to.
"I'm Melowese Richardson. I take the law into my own hands. I do what I want," Ruehlman said in court. "It's about criminal activity. You are a criminal.”
Richardson’s conviction stemmed from a Hamilton County investigation into charges of voter fraud during the 2012 presidential election. Specifically, the poll worker for 18 years was convicted for voting twice for President Barack Obama.
"I think he (Obama) would be appalled by your conduct if asked about it," Ruehlman said.
Richardson spoke out after she, along with 19 others, were named as potential suspects for voting irregularities in January.
"I can't understand these charges against me," Richardson said in a Feb. 6 interview. "Have they never heard of a simple mistake? Have they never heard of overlooking? Mailing in a ballot (and) registering to vote at a precinct after you've forgotten that you mailed in a ballot?"
It was a day of confusion and fear for parents, faculty and students on April 29 at LaSalle High School when reports came in of a shooting inside a classroom. Placed on lockdown, students waited as first responders sorted what happened at about 9 a.m. It would be revealed that a 16-year-old student attempted to take his own life in a classroom.
"He shot once and that's all I heard," a student in the classroom told reporters after the event. "Then I was gone."
That student who shot himself survived the incident. No others were hurt.
Many stories popular on WCPO.com were not marked by tragedy or sadness. Some dealt with the serious issues of the every day.
For example, when Mount Healthy High School barred Laneisha Williams, 18, and Nyasia Mitchell, 19, from going to the senior prom for how they were dressed, a flurry of debate was raised over standards, and who decides them.
"They can have no curvature of the breasts showing," Principal Marlon Styles said when asked about the late April incident that barred the girls from attending prom.
Mitchell though felt she was dressed no differently than other students.
The girls' story went viral, and eventually, the girls were promised they would be reimbursed for the cost of the prom tickets. The school stood by its decision.
A much smoother social event happened in Cincinnati, when the much anticipated Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati grand opening took place on March 2. A WCPO review of the establishment, including food and drink, along with entertainment and tables, was mostly positive.
So was the revenue generated by the casino itself as it became the most successful of Ohio's initial casino offering under a new state law.
Perhaps one of the more interesting stories out of the casino in 2013 involved a mistake made by casino employees, who eventually would award two Kevin Lewises a $1 million each in a sweepstakes drawing.
A man searching for scrap metal on Sunday, April 7 made a tragic discovery that gave a Fairfield family partial closure.
Andy Hicks found Katelyn Markham’s remains in a dump site along U.S. 52 in Cedar Grove, Ind. Markham had last been heard from alive at about 1 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011.
"I'm sorry she had to be found this way, but I’m happy (her family) knows where she is now," Hicks said. "I hope they figure out what happened and get complete closure because I know this is only partial closure."
After a state autopsy was performed on Markham's remains over the summer, Katelyn's family were eventually able to put her to rest during an Aug. 25 funeral. That autopsy declared Markham's death a homicide.
Authorities continue to search for clues that will lead them to anyone involved in her death.
Reporters Lucy May and Dan Monk collaborated with WCPO digital staff to serve up region health inspections on area restaurants. Some of those findings made readers' skin crawl.
Take the China Experience at Eastgate Mall for example. That restaurant received negative reviews for cockroaches in 2012. The eatery's owner pointed out the roach problem was part of a broader mall problem with the insects at the time, and pest control measures took care of the issue by August 2013.
Of course Eastgate wasn't alone in its food safety issues. Over 33,000 violations at 5,000 food service facilities were found in May and Monk's reporting. There were also issues with how those violations were reported, according to the WCPO report.
A mysterious series of dog illnesses forced one local pet care location to temporarily close mid-August. The Pet Spot of Norwood reported three dogs died after experiencing an undetermined stomach virus. Test results ran by the Ohio Department of Agriculture were inconclusive, and the Pet Spot reopened without further incident.
The mystery deepened when another dog died in another kennel in Ohio and yet more dogs died in Michigan from a similarly mysterious illness.
At last check, veterinarian officials suspected a new strain of virus spread from pigs to dogs and caused the fatal outbreak.
In June, former Colerain High School teacher Julie Hautzenroeder was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery. The 36 year old was accused of sleeping with two former students at her condo between the dates of April 16 and May 15.
In October, Hautzenroeder stood trial and was convicted by a jury on one count of sexual battery stemming from the incidents.
August 6, 2013 changed the life of Alisha Waters forever, and shed light on the limits and lack when it comes to Emergency Protective Orders.
Waters was heading to work that day when her estranged husband chased her into her place of employment in the quiet Northern Kentucky neighborhood of Fort Thomas. Dennis Mathis shot his wife who had filed for divorce, and attempted to get a restraining order, against him. Mathis turned the gun on himself with fatal results.
Waters survived the attack, though she found herself facing paralysis and a long road to recovery afterward.
"To the family that's been beside me since day one to the friends who never let me down and to the ones I met along the way, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you've done for me," Waters said in one of many videos she posted on YouTube.
Don't Waste Your Money reporter John Materese always looks out for consumers, either to save them money, or giving them tips on how to avoid annoyances.
One of John's most popular stories online this year had a very specific regional impact: Asian stinkbugs are invading homes in the fall to slumber with humans in the winter months. Speaking with local residents and experts John offered some easy solutions on how to deal with the stinky infestation.
In one of the most disturbing homicides in 2013, authorities found the body of Brittany Stykes along US Route 68 in Brown County, Ind. inside her vehicle in August. She was four-months-pregnant and shot at least once in the head, according to police.
Also with her was Aubree, Brittany's 14-month-old daughter, who sustained a gunshot wound to the head.
"One of the best, sweetest persons you ever wanted to know,” said Sonya Benjamin, a neighbor to the Stykes family, about Brittany at the time of her death.
Aubree received multiple surgeries since being found. Authorities continue their search for possible suspects, and a motive for Brittany Stykes' death.
On Saturday, Dec. 21, Covington police received a call that an Army veteran, Michael Vaughan, posted troubling comments on his Facebook page from his Michigan Avenue home. That call, and the subsequent house check, sparked a 19-plus hour standoff after Vaughan opened fire on police officers visiting his home.
Vaughan's children were home for much of the situation, but eventually released to police. Hours later, Vaughan would surrender after setting fire to his house and being shot in the arm in one final exchange of gunfire with police.
Vaughan faces one count of attempted murder of a police officer. Covington Police Chief Spike Jones also confirmed his department would like to question the man about a fatal house fire that occurred in January 2013 in Latonia.
Vaughan's case, and investigation will continue into 2014.
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