The week in review

Biggest local murder trial: Former UVA student Andrew Alston is convicted of voluntary manslaughter November 9 in the stabbing death of 22-year-old Walker Sisk a year ago. Alston is sentenced to three years in prison on November 10.

Biggest national murder trial: Scott Peterson is found guilty November 12 of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and dumping her body in the San Francisco Bay.

Best news for death penalty opponents: The number of people sentenced to death drops to a 30-year low in 2003 with 144 inmates sentenced to die, according to the Justice Department.

Latest City Council resolution: Council votes 4-1 November 15 urging the state to repeal House Bill 751, which prohibits civil unions between members of the same sex and refuses recognition of such unions made in other states.

Best news for lesbian parents: Their children are as likely to develop normally as the children of heterosexual parents, according to a study co-authored by UVA psych professor Charlotte Patterson that appears in the November/December issue of Child Development.

Largest park donation: Robert Byrom gives Albemarle County nearly 6,000 acres– bigger than 44 McIntire Parks– between Brown's Cove and Boonesville for the Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park.

Largest tree donation: A 70-spruce from Highland County will be the national holiday tree, the first time Virginia has been so honored.

Highest SAT scores: Western Albemarle's class of 2004 leads city and county high schools– which still top state and national scores– with an average of 1172– down from 1198 in 2003, according to James Fernald in the Daily Progress.

Most new superintendents: Embattled Charlottesville school chief Scottie Griffin hires two new assistants: Laura Ann Purnell and a former Grifin colleague from New Orleans, Gertrude A. Ivory, at salaries of $107,000 and $112,000 respectively, according to another Fernald report. Meanwhile, still no official word on missing Deputy Superintendent Arletta Dimberg, who's been on sick leave from her $133,536 job since September.

Most passengers: The Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport reports 18,529 travelers in October, more than any other month in the airport's history.

Worst upward trend: Workplace fatalities in Virginia increase nine percent last year, up 155 from 142, according to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

Best Virginia hotels: The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond and the Inn at Little Washington once again are the only five-star designees in the Mobil Travel Guide in Virginia. Locally, the Boar's Head Inn, Keswick Hall, and the Omni earn four stars.

Least surprising diet news: Low-fat plans work better over the long term than low-carb diets, according to a recent obesity study.

Highest society wedding: Meghan Randolph Murray, daughter of Columbia Capital co-founder James B. Murray Jr., weds Steven Anthony Bowers in an October 2 ceremony at her ancestral home, Greenmount Farm, officiated by Governor Mark Warner, according to Sunday's wedding announcements in the Progress. (On December 1, another Murray family estate, Bentivar, may be voted onto the Virginia Landmarks Register.)

Best attendance: This year's Virginia Film Festival finds revenues up 54 percent and the 11,074 attendees up 14 percent from 2003.

Best Oscar strategy: Newmarket Films, distributor for The Woodsman, which was directed by former Charlottesvillian Nicole Kassell (and sold out at this year film fest), will release the picture December 24 in hopes of sneaking the gritty tale of a pedophile, played by Kevin Bacon, into a best-acting nomination.

Worst case of shooting oneself in the foot: Waynesboro police Corporal Jason McCall's gun discharges while he's holstering it on a firing range on October 30, the News Virginian reports.