CINCINNATI – Some are tragic, others are inspirational – and a few are outlandish.
The Tri-State’s top 9 stories of 2014 may be different, but they all have one thing in common: They glued us to our screens and didn’t let go.
Let’s count them down. Here are the top 9 local news stories of the year (based on how many times they were clicked):
9)Shooting halts I-75; mother and son killed
LEBANON, Ohio – Traffic on I-75 in Warren County slammed to a screeching halt for more than an hour Friday, Sept. 12 after gunshots rang through the interstate.
Those bullets came from 41-year-old Terry Froman, an Illinois man who police said had just kidnapped his estranged girlfriend and tried to evade highway troopers in a multistate search.
The search ended when authorities pulled Froman over near mile marker 31 just before 1:30 p.m. When they approached his car, troopers said Froman opened fire inside his vehicle.
One of those bullets killed his hostage, 34-year-old Kim Thomas, deputies said. Another was a botched suicide attempt. Authorities said Froman put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
The details that followed stunned the region. Deputies said Froman had taken Thomas after shooting and killing her 17-year-old son, Michael “Eli” Mohney, at her home in Mayfield, Kentucky.
"What we believe, apparently the son intervened and tried to protect his mother, and it cost him his life," Graves County Sheriff Dewayne Redmon told WCPO.
Froman was hospitalized after the shooting but was not seriously hurt. He now faces the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping and discharging a firearm on prohibited premises. His three-weekend trial in Warren County is scheduled to begin Aug. 3.
8) Football star declared brain dead after crash
MORROW, Ohio – Brayden Thornbury wasn’t just a star athlete at Little Miami High School; His friends said he was a wonderful person and a positive leader loved by many.
Thornbury, a senior, was critically injured Saturday, Sept. 6, when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tree along East Pike Road in Morrow. Six days later, his teammates and community members mourned together when it was announced Thornbury was brain dead and taken off life support.
The crash that led to the running back’s death happened a night after he scored a touchdown and rushed for 146 yards in Little Miami’s 59-29 loss to Western Brown.
Little Miami’s game against Indian Hill was canceled after news of Thornbury’s death broke. School leaders said they were heartbroken to lose such an incredible young man.
“He was the role model that exemplified the youth of the Little Miami Community,” school officials said in a release following his death. “Not only was Brayden known as this kind of person, he was known for his accomplishments in his community with his church.”
— Little Miami Schools (@LM_Schools) September 11, 2014
Thornbury played football in Little Miami for 12 years, and played basketball and lacrosse for the Panthers.
In an effort to rally behind Thornbury, community members printed T-shirts with the words "Pray for Bray” on the front. Proceeds from the sales went to his family and demands for them were "overwhelming."
7) Boone County family in cross-country search for daughter
FLORENCE, Ky. – Jena Chisholm’s disappearance in December 2013 led a Northern Kentucky family on a cross-country search for answers.
The 20-year-old vanished on the night of Dec. 19, and what followed was a mystery that captivated the Tri-State.
Jena had been living with her dad Tim Chisholm in Union, Kentucky before she disappeared. They spent the evening together and when they got home, Tim said everything seemed fine.
"The next morning there was a note on the table that said she went to stay with a friend of hers," Tim said. "We had a great breakfast and day and (she said) she'd be back for a doctor's appointment on the 26th."
But Jena didn’t show up for her appointment, and her family members became concerned.
Using a “Find My Phone” application, they tracked her signal to St. Louis, Missouri, then Albuquerque, N.M., then Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and back to Las Vegas until her phone shut off and didn’t turn back on.
"We tried to call, we tried to text, she didn't answer a thing,” Jena’s mom, Tina Chisholm, said.
Jena took her dog Chamber with her. Her parents said she loved Chamber and took him everywhere.
Thirteen days after Jena’s disappearance, Chamber was found tied to a fence outside a hotel in Las Vegas. Jena was nowhere in sight.
Finally, on Jan. 3, Jena called her mother from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a hotel and casino along the city's popular strip. Police said no foul play was suspected – Jena had just run away.
6) Booby traps found at popular Northern Kentucky park
COVINGTON, Ky. – Park officials said they were baffled when they found life-threatening traps along the trails of Covington's Devou Park in November.
Authorities said someone hung fishing lines between several trees, each about neck high and pulled tight. The barely visible lines were capable of killing bikers, runners and even walkers who didn’t notice them, police said.
The hazards were taken down, but authorities asked the public to stay alert.
"Just be aware that there's a potential for danger," Chad Irey of the Devou Park Trail Project told WCPO.
Police and park officials said they had never seen anything like these traps before. It was a first for the park.
The person or people responsible have not been caught.
5) Fire turns Indian Hill mansion to rubble
INDIAN HILL, Ohio – No one could look away on Jan. 10 when flames ripped through a $4 million home in Cincinnati’s prestigious Indian Hill.
More than 80 firefighters worked to put out the blaze that swallowed the 10,000 square-foot mansion. Flames as high as 30 feet belched from the black smoke, and were seen from as far away as Kenwood and Loveland.
The home in the 9600 block of Cunningham Road was a total loss.
"Please pray for my family, you will soon see on the news that our home has burned down and there is nothing left of our possessions,” 20-year-old Chase Decker wrote on Facebook. He is the son of the home’s owners, Maria and J.R. Decker.
Officials said miscommunication between dispatch and first responders, a lack of water on site and no sprinkler system in the home helped fan the flames.
Emergency crews also had no public fire hydrants to use because of the home’s distance from the main road. The Deckers' property did have a private hydrant installed, but the device’s water reservoir was quickly depleted, officials said.
Investigators have yet to release a cause for the blaze almost a year later, making this story one of 2014’s biggest mysteries.
4) Blue Ash police, homeowners struggle with 'portal to hell'
BLUE ASH, Ohio – There’s a portal to hell in Blue Ash.
That is, if you listen to paranormal investigators, teenagers and folks who like to get spooked.
“It’s one of the best known, but least seen, urban legends around here,” CreepyCincinnati.com blogger Rick Fenbers said about the local legend that enthralled Tri-Staters this Halloween. “A group of Satanists supposedly used to meet there in some type of altar room and conduct their rituals… They must have been pretty good, because the legend claims they managed to open a doorway to hell.”
But what Fenbers and others call “Satan’s Hollow,” neighbors and cops call a nightmare.
This "doorway to hell" tucked in the woods behind an apartment complex is actually a storm drain – and it’s on private property.
“It’s rough on the homeowners,” Blue Ash Police Lt. Steve Schueler said. “People park in their driveway and try to get into the drainage system and nobody likes that. (The owner) has had to chase off some people, for sure.”
WCPO is not disclosing the location.
The folklore of “Satan’s Hollow” may sound farfetched, but it has spread through the region for more than a decade. The spot is even listed in several “most haunted” lists online.
Many claim screams are heard coming from inside the tunnel at night. Others report floating faces and unexplainable apparitions, Fenbers said.
Blue Ash police and city officials said those are just rumors causing teens and adults to break the law.
Schueler said officers are called to the property about twice a year to remove trespassers. The intruders are mostly teens, he said. But sometimes, it’s paranormal investigators that do the visiting – and what they find might surprise you.
3)Lauren Hill inspires the nation
CINCINNATI – People can’t get enough of Lauren Hill.
The 19-year-old from Indiana has received a standing ovation from a crowd of 10,000 people. She's been featured on a box of Wheaties. She's been name-dropped by LeBron James.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has even declared a local holiday in her honor: Dec. 15 is now known as Lauren Hill Day.
The story of the freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph has captured the heart of the nation.
Why? Because despite a terrible diagnosis, she has stayed positive and accomplished incredible things.
Hill was told Nov. 20, 2013 that she has Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable form of brain cancer with a near-zero percent chance of survival.
But that hasn’t stopped her. Hill has remained determined to eliminate the disease that’s killing her.
The local hero has raised almost $1 million for The Cure Starts Now Foundation and desperately wants to give hope and better treatment to the DIPG victims who come after her.
2) Dad arrested after son skips church to play
BLANCHESTER, Ohio – The trouble for Jeffrey Williamson started when a bus from the Woodville Baptist Church came to pick up his children.
"My kids run in the house in the living room and tell me, 'Hey, Dad, the church van is here. We're leaving. We're going on to church,'" Williamson told WCPO after the incident in May. "I said, 'OK.'"
But Williamson’s 8-year-old son Justin didn’t get on the bus. The child instead ended up at the Family Dollar store on busy Ohio Route 28 about a half-mile from home.
Blanchester police were called after reports of a wandering child. They said Justin didn't know where he lived, and it was only after talking to a customer that they learned his address.
Williamson said Blanchester police then showed up at his door with Justin.
"The next thing you know, the officer comes up to me and says, 'You're under arrest.' My kids start crying their eyes out wondering why I'm getting arrested," Williamson said.
Williamson was charged with child endangering and claimed he lost his job at McDonald's after the story was on the front page of a local paper.
And the No. 1 story of the year was…
1) Missing UC student found dead near his apartment
CINCINNATI – Where is Brogan Dulle?
That was the question that gripped the entire Tri-State for more than a week in May.
Just about anywhere you went in the region, you could find a flier with the missing 21-year-old University Cincinnati student’s face on it.
He had vanished, last seen the night of May 18 at his apartment at 179 East McMillan St.
After a night out with his friends, Dulle told his housemates he left his cellphone behind – possibly at a restaurant nearby – and would retrace his steps to find it, police said.
He never returned.
Eight days later on May 26 – and after countless hours of searching from authorities and members of the community – police found Dulle in the basement of the building next to his apartment, hanging by a cord with a bottle of wine by his side.
— Kareem Elgazzar (@ElgazzarBLVD) May 27, 2014
"Maybe this was planned days in advance, but we just don't know that," Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey told WCPO after the discovery of Dulle’s body. "It's been a long week. It's been an investigation that's raised more questions than answers – and there are probably questions we'll never have answers to."
Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco ruled Dulle's death a suicide the following day, saying the 21-year-old died from asphyxiation by hanging.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said no foul play was involved, and Dulle had a crowbar in his possession when he entered the building.
More than half a year later, many still have questions about Dulle’s death – questions that may never be answered.