Cliffhanger: The best-- and worst-- of 2012
When Mark Warner was governor, he once told the Hook the most annoying thing about Charlottesville was its belief that it is the center of the universe.
Guess what? In 2012, Charlottesville was the center of the universe. During the contentious presidential campaign, President Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen, and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan all flocked here. So did the Dalai Lama.
And when the Olympics were happening in London, UVA athletes brought home the gold.
Charlottesville also captured the glare of the national spotlight in February during the George Huguely murder trial for the death of fourth-year student Yeardley Love.
And this summer, all eyes were on Charlottesville again– and not in a good way– for the UVA Board of Visitors debacle in which popular President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign, hired back a few weeks later, and before the end of the year, won a contract extension. Faculty, alums, and students filled the Lawn in support of Sullivan, and frankly, we've never seen anything like it.
We dodged Hurricane Sandy and the misery it brought to the Northeast, but we had a taste of a new meteorological disaster– the derecho– which sliced through this summer. Oh, and 2012 is officially the hottest year on record and there's a helluva drought going on through much of the country.
The landscape of Charlottesville, which turned 250 years old this year, forever changed with the opening of the Shops at Stonefield in November. Traffic seems worse, but now we have a 21st-century movie experience– and Trader Joe's.
If the Mayans were right, it's all over right after this issue comes out. Or maybe it's the beginning of a new era. We can hardly wait to find out.
There definitely was something in the air this year, and once again, the Hook recaps the best– and worst– of 2012.
Most like hell freezing over: Albemarle's portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway, a road that's been in the works for more than 40 years, opens January 6. The 1.4-mile long stretch is known as the John W. Warner Parkway. The next section of the road, McIntire Extended, is looking at completion during summer 2013.
Speaking of road projects once thought dead: Citizens weigh in on the controversial Western 29 bypass in September that was resurrected in a 2011 Board of Supervisors midnight vote. The 6.2-mile bypass awaits approval from Federal Highway Administration and a contract has been awarded.
Most board upheaval (besides UVA's): By January, nearly one-third of Virginia National Bank's board of directors had resigned, including former president and chair Mark Giles, who moved on to chair the Paramount Theater. In May, Giles makes a play to get back on the board and oust founder Hunter Craig, a strategy that fails May 21.
Worst story involving a former school resource officer: Former Albemarle cop and reserve deputy Sean M. Horn, 43, is arrested January 5 for rape. He pleads guilty April 9 to one misdemeanor count of assault and battery of an adult family member, and his 12-month sentence is suspended.
Worst Boy Scout story: Former scoutmaster David Brian Watkins, 49, of Keswick, is charged with forcible sodomy November 28 for an assault that allegedly took place with a then-juvenile victim, who had come forward a week earlier. Police say they believe there could be other victims.
Who killed Linda Doig? The former Clairol model appeared in the Hook's coverage of Occupy Charlottesville late in 2011, and then on the cover of this year's first issue after she turned up dead in the Econo Lodge December 5, shortly after protesters were evicted from Lee Park. Doig was known to be in an abusive relationship, but her autopsy listed chronic alcohol use as the cause of death.
Worst hit to local artists: The owners of Cycle Systems (Coiner's Scrap Iron and Metal) close the Meade Avenue facility to Saturday morning walk-ins, thwarting artisans and junk collectors. By March, the company agrees to open up one Saturday a month.
Most likely to venture onto the national or statewide stage: City Council, which in January votes 4-0 to tell Congress to stay out of Iran. In May, it approves a resolution 3-2 requesting the General Assembly revisit Virginia's pot laws and consider decriminalization.
Biggest turnaround: Debt-plagued Wintergreen Resort is on the verge of defaulting when the Nelson County facility is scooped up by Greenbrier owner Jim Justice in May.
Most convoluted in Jefferson's hometown: The city that has a Free Speech Monument in front of city hall refuses to allow non-commercial advertising on the sides of buses, thwarting the nonprofit founded by Morgan Harrington's parents, Help Save the Next Girl, from spreading the message that her killer is still out there around the second anniversary of her body being found.
Biggest trial: Court Square is jammed with satellite trucks as the trial of George Wesley Huguely, V begins February 6 and lasts for more than two weeks. A jury convicts him of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the 2010 death of Yeardley Love and recommends a sentence of 26 years. Huguely is sentenced to 23 years in prison August 30. Testimony at the trial reveals a culture of heavy drinking and frequent hookups among the UVA athletes.
Least surprising fallout: Playboy picks UVA as the number 1 party school.
Least surprising lawsuits: Yeardley Love's mother, Sharon, files a $30 million civil suit against Huguely two months after his conviction and also sues UVA's head lacrosse coach, Dom Starsia, assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale, athletic director Craig Littlepage, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Hungriest: Twenty UVA students go on a hunger strike in protest of the university's pay scale and in support of a living wage. On February 27– day 10– they meet with President Teresa Sullivan to demand a $13 an hour minimum for employees. By March 1– 13 days later– they end the strike.
Biggest vaginal probe controversy: When the General Assembly passes a bill that requires women to have an transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion– even though experts say such a procedure is medically unnecessary– protests on the Capitol grounds draw hundreds. Riot-clad police arrest 30 people March 3 when they refuse to leave the Capitol steps on a day in which the legislature isn't in session. Governor Bob McDonnell amends the bill to require an abdominal ultrasound.
Worst place to stage a protest, part 1: On the steps of the Capitol, where three Charlottesville women were arrested, handcuffed and held for hours. See above.
Worst place to stage a protest, part 2: At a Board of Visitors meeting. Associate Dean of Students Aaron Laushway threatens silent sign-carrying students, who call for Rector Helen Dragas' resignation, with being "terminated" if they don't leave the Harrison Institute, site of the BOV meeting. UVA insists the students were blocking the exit, despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
UVA-inspired rape law: Susan Russell, mother of a UVA student whose 2004 alleged rape was never prosecuted, gets the General Assembly to pass a law that requires campus police to work with other local law enforcement in investigating cases of sexual assault.
Most mysterious alleged abduction: Eight months after Kelly Porterfield claimed she'd been kidnapped and forced to drive 300 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, the FBI closes the case in February, never issuing an alert for the alleged abductor.
First murder of the year: Robert Edward Snead Jr., 51, is found dead in his Fairway Avenue apartment March 5. Wanda Maria Turner, 47, is arrested that evening in Norfolk and charged with his murder.
First sketchy story to emerge from Culpeper: Michael Wayne Hash is released from prison March 14 after a judge determines evidence was withheld in the brutal 1996 murder of Thelma Scroggins, and that police and prosecutors engaged in "outrageous misconduct" in convicting Hash of capital murder. Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding is instrumental in the investigation that gets Hash released.
Second sketchy Culpeper story: A police officer shoots and kills unarmed Patricia Cook, 54, who was sitting in a church parking lot February 9. Culpeper Police refuse to identify the shooter for three months, until the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star names Daniel Harmon-Wright, 33, who is indicted by a grand jury for murder at the end of May. His mother, Bethany P. Sullivan of Orange, a former Culpeper police chief secretary, is also charged with three counts of forgery of public documents and three counts of uttering.
Latest in the water wars: Belmont resident Stan Braverman files suit March 23 against four government bodies alleging that Charlottesville illegally sold three reservoirs. His case is dismissed May 18. Meanwhile, Ragged Mountain Reservoir is drained and the surrounding terrain blasted in anticipation of a new dam.
Best Belmont Bridge design: A plan to remove the bridge entirely wins a UVA School of Architecture contest. The bridge is slated for a $14.5 million replacement.
Most controversial replacement: The Belmont Bridge, which some contend the city has neglected and which could have been repaired instead of expensively replaced.
Most surprising bust: Trendy Belmont is the scene of a thriving crack cocaine ring with a professional clientele. Seven people are sentenced in federal court in April, and four others prosecuted in state court.
Most problematic bid process: Former city spokesperson Ric Barrick is investigated for bid-rigging after city watchdog Rob Schilling uncovers emails suggesting Barrick told his preferred vendor to lower his price to get the city contract. No charges are filed, and Barrick resigns March 21. Later in the year, filmmakers complain about being asked to bid on a documentary in conjunction with Charlottesville's 250th birthday that they are later told the city has only $20K to do the job.
Latest chapter at Virginia Quarterly Review: Editor Ted Genoways resigns April 4 after nine years, the suicide of managing editor Kevin Morrissey in 2010, the staff quitting, accusations of workplace bullying, and 25 National Magazine awards. Donovan Webster is named interim editor. On July 25, Morrissey's family files a $10-million suit against the University of Virginia, former UVA President John Casteen, Genoways, and two human resources employees.
Latest in the recycling wars: Allied Waste launches a "separate, don't contaminate" ad campaign that takes aim at Van der Linde Recycling's popular, single-stream recycling.
Newest addition to the downtown landscape: The Crossings opens in April, a 60-room residence for low-income and homeless people on the corner of 4th and Preston Avenue.
Newest festival: Former City Council candidate Paul Beyer launches the Tom Tom Founders Festival April 13– Jefferson's birthday– and lines up 30 days of SXSW-like music, art, and innovation.
Biggest tree hugger: Robin Hanes is arrested April 10 when she refuses to move from the base of a 75-year-old spruce on the corner of 18th and Market streets targeted by chainsaw-wielding contractors.
Most tree huggers: When word goes out that seven magnolias around the Rotunda would be felled in the course of a roof replacement to the World Heritage site, nearly 4,000 people sign an online petition to save the magnolias, and the trees are spared.
Worst election fraud: While newly enacted voter ID laws went into effect across the country, the only arrest we're aware of locally was of former Republican congressional candidate Feda Kidd Morton, who is charged with falsely certifying a petition in 2011, a Class 5 felony. She enters a plea in September that could reduce her conviction to a misdemeanor if she completes her probation, which forbids any politicking.
Most harrowing: The first reported rabid bear in Virginia attacks two men at Royal Orchard estate on Afton mountain April 17. Farm manager Bobby Bryant is chased around a Gator until colleague Patrick Thompson manages to get a shot off from the utility vehicle's roof with a 20-gauge shotgun. Neither man is injured.
Biggest crown grant v. public waterways lawsuit: Angler Dargan Coggeshall is sued for fishing in the Jackson River in Alleghany County in 2010 by property owners who claim title to the riverbed from a 1743 King of England grant. The state's attorney general refuses to weigh in on the matter of riverbed ownership, and in October, a judge rules in favor of the crown.
Most head-scratching investment: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway buys Media General's 60-plus newspapers, which include the Daily Progress. (A part owner of the Hook/C-Ville Weekly, Ted Weschler, is Buffett's top strategist.)
Cruellest arson: The Haunted Monster Mansion in Natural Bridge is torched April 16, the second time the fabulous fiberglass creations of Mark "Professor" Cline have been destroyed.
Worst news for CHO travelers: US Airways drops its three nonstop flights to LaGuardia in July– although Delta adds one.
Best way to get to New York: The Starlight Express slashes its price and increases the frequency of its trips to the Big Apple.
Biggest foreclosure: Barnes Lumber in Crozet, previously heralded as a future downtown mall west of town, is instead sold at auction June 27. A shill for Union First Market Bank makes the winning bid of $1.9 million.
Soggiest: The unearthing of a 50-year-old time capsule, which for two years no one could remember where it was buried, was a bust May 27 because water leakage destroyed the artifacts.
Most shocking ouster: The press release comes on a Sunday morning, June 10, seemingly timed to make sure no one sees it, announcing that President Teresa Sullivan, fewer than two years into her tenure, is stepping down because of "philosophical differences," according to the Rector Helen Dragas/Vice Rector Mark Kington-signed release.
Most dramatic reversal: The badly damaged Board of Visitors unanimously votes to reinstate Sullivan June 26.
Most unbelievable, part 1: Despite the debacle, Governor Bob McDonnell reappoints Dragas for another term.
Most unbelievable, part 2: Despite widespread criticism of her handling of the bungled Sullivan coup, Dragas refuses to resign.
Biggest water controversy: Citizens discover a Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority plan, approved more than a year ago, to add chloramines– the disinfectant that sent D.C. lead levels in drinking water soaring– to the public water supply. Following two public hearings, the ruling bodies of Charlottesville and Albemarle and each entity's water works vote to reject the use of chloramines July 25 and will install granular activated carbon filtration instead.
Latest with downtown's favorite skeleton: The Landmark Hotel sells for $6.25 million at bankruptcy auction June 21 to Waynesboro-raised John Dewberry, who is now an Atlanta real estate developer. The Halsey Minor/Lee Danielson project that has sat idle since February 2009 will be known as the Dewberry if it ever is completed.
Worst weather: A new-to-Virginia meteorological phenomenon called a derecho sweeps in from the west June 30, kills two in Albemarle, snaps trees, and leaves thousands without power for days.
Worst end to a political run: James Halfaday, a candidate for City Council in the 2011 race, is sentenced to 60 days in prison July 5 for lying about where he lived.
Worst reefer madness: In a daylong jury trial July 18, Philip Cobbs, 54, is acquitted of possession of two pot plants. Six potential jurors are dismissed when they say they would not convict someone of marijuana possession. And the day before his trial, Cobbs spots a helicopter circling his property on the annual marijuana eradication day. Albemarle police say it was a Virginia State Police copter; VSP flatly denies the pre-trial flyover.
Toughest match: After the hard-fought women's soccer semifinal game between bitter rivals Western Albemarle and Fluvanna, Western's Christina Domecq accuses Fluco Katrina Ditta of biting her arm. Ditta is convicted of misdemeanor assault July 16 and given a 90-day suspended sentence. Her appeal is slated for early 2013.
Best in show: Eleven athletes with Cavalier ties go to the Olympics in London, and two– Matt McLean and Lauren Perdue– bring home gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle relay.
Biggest casualty of the grocery influx: With Wegman's, Fresh Market, and Trader Joe's on the scene, Giant in Seminole Square, the first upscale market to appear since Foods of All Nations, closes its doors August 30.
Best run for Jeffrey Kitze: The 51-year-old convicted rapist appeals a stalking conviction August 7 in Charlottesville Circuit Court and is found not guilty, with jurors blaming the stalking law. The man who spent 20 years in prison for viciously assaulting his sister's roommate the day after both women graduated from UVA Law School is found not guilty of a probation violation November 13, despite a judge expressing confidence that his behavior will land him in court again. Kitze remains in prison for violating parole.
Worst run for dogs: Leashless pooches fall afoul of a June 1 Albemarle ordinance, and their owners are subject to fines. When hunting season begins, frustrated owners of busted hunting dogs, which are supposed to be exempt, show up at the Board of Supervisors.
Worst scandal to hit Foxchase: The upscale Crozet neighborhood reels when Theresa Lynn Brady, 33, is arrested August 21 for the attempted murder of her Albemarle Fire and Rescue husband by allegedly injecting him with insulin. She's still in jail and has a court date in January.
Worst scandal to hit a Board of Supervisors member: Scottsville supe Christopher Dumler is arrested and charged with forcible sodomy October 18 from a liaison he maintains was consensual. He continues to sit on the board and will refrain from voting on matters that could be a conflict of interest.
Worst spate of Albemarle Dem arrests: A week after former supervisor candidate Cynthia Neff posts bond for Dumler, she's arrested for driving under the influence.
Worst spate of UVA employees charged with attempted abduction: A 19-year-old UVA student is grabbed November 9 while walking on Stadium Road, and fights off a mask-wearing man. Matthew Rene Beaulieu, 26, an Aramark employee at UVA's Runk Dining Hall, is arrested shortly after the attack, and police discover handcuffs, duct tape, and a butcher knife in his car. And James Kevin Key, a housekeeping supervisor, is charged following the alleged attempted abduction of a toddler November 24 at Fashion Square. Key is escorted off mall property, and arrested nearly a week later.
Least surprising race: U.S. Representative Robert Hurt easily wins reelection over Dem challenger Brigadier General John Douglass. The campaign is enlivened when Douglass takes a swat at a Hurt tracker August 21 in Farmville, but the incident fails to rise to the "macaca" level that took down George Allen in 2006 and is not blamed for Douglass' loss.
Most unfathomable slayings: Beth Walton, 49, and her children Lily Romando, 16, and Andrew Romando, 14, are killed August 28 by Walton's oldest child, Noah, 19, who then fatally shoots himself.
Biggest clemency petition: Robert Davis, the Crozet man who has spent nearly 10 years in prison for what he says was a coerced false confession for the 2003 murders of Nola "Ann" Charles and her three-year-old son, goes to Governor Bob McDonnell with his petition in September. Filing in support of Davis is the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.
Biggest art of the deal: Donald Trump finally gets Albemarle House, the former home of Patricia Kluge, for $6.5 million. The mansion, which had once been listed for $100 million, had been foreclosed upon, and the Trump-owned front yard posted with "no trespassing" signs made it a tough sell for other potential buyers.
Best news for the Greenwood Superfund site: The Environmental Protection Agency pulls out 27 years after a fatal explosion at the Greenwood Chemical site and $30 million in cleanup. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will continue to clean the groundwater for the next few decades.
Biggest roiling at Monticello: Did Thomas Jefferson back off his earlier position to free slaves because they were just too essential to supporting his lifestyle? Henry Wiencek's book, Master of the Mountain: Jefferson and his Slaves, makes national news but gets denounced by some local scholars.
Biggest changes to the cinema-going experience: The same year the Virginia Film Festival celebrates its 25th year, Charlottesville finally gets a stadium-seating, Imax multiplex when the Stonefield Regal 14 opens its doors November 9. Carmike fights back with $1.50 movies, the downtown Regal turns indie/art house, and Vinegar Hill holds on for dear life– and tries to raise money to go digital.
Most dramatic towing tale: Nicholas Rigterink, 29, finds himself staring at the barrel of a gun when he complains November 12 to the owners who watch as cars are towed from a recently closed service station on Jefferson Park Avenue. Gladys Hoff maintains she and her husband were protecting their property; Lee Hoff, 75, is charged with brandishing a firearm December 5.
Most disturbing disappearance: Nineteen-year-old Dashad "Sage" Smith missing since November 20, is still not found as this issue goes to press.