Year In Review: Inter-Mountain selects biggest news of 2012

We’ve collectively turned the page to 2013. Now, it’s time to turn back to 2012 and review the biggest stories of the year.

The 10 most impactful stories of 2012 are the ones that disrupted our daily routines for days, shook our faith in humanity, catapulted Randolph County into the state limelight and made us lose or gain faith in the United States criminal justice system.

After careful review of the headlines that dominated our front pages throughout 2012, two main themes emerged: merciless, wayward weather and a preponderance of violence.

Tied at the top of the list recently compiled by The Inter-Mountain are, without a doubt, storm stories.

The June 29 windstorm that whipped across the state with little warning left countless central West Virginia residents without power, life essentials like food and water and most importantly, a way to communicate with others to secure those essential resources for survival.

Exactly four months later, Mother Nature dumped several inches – and in some areas several feet – of heavy wet snow, resulting in days upon days of downed power lines.

There were a disturbing number of violent events in our area in 2012.

  • The January murder of 29-year-old Josh Oberg, whose body was found in a shallow grave along Bull Run in Upshur County, disturbed the local community, especially when it was learned that a local restaurant owner had allegedly paid $5,000 to two men in exchange for the homicide.
  • In February, a then-81-year-old man with an extensive history of neurological health problems fatally shot his wife.
  • The stabbing of a Tygarts Valley High School student outside a football stadium just 20 minutes before kickoff left us stunned and deeply saddened in October. Then, in December, we were reminded of the ever-present darkness of domestic violence when a woman who was shot multiple times in the head in Jimtown drove herself to her mother’s house in Coalton to call 911.
  • Not even law enforcement officers, who carry weapons of their own and wear bullet-proof vests, were insulated from such malicious wounding; in May, West Virginia State Trooper Andrew Loudin was shot along Kennedy Drive near Elkins High School.

However, 2012’s top 10 isn’t all gloom and doom. Randolph County officials can now boast that the county superintendent of schools – Dr. James Phares – was snatched up by the state board of education to be the state superintendent.

Now, cancer patients who travel long distances to receive treatment at the Davis Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Center can stay overnight for free at the newly constructed Davis House, easing some of the pain involved with traveling before and after treatments. Meanwhile, people living in the Upper Tygart Valley River Watershed between Elkins and Valley Head will receive clean water, courtesy of the construction of the Elkwater Fork Dam.

And who doesn’t like a happy ending? The Elkins High School football team was first forced to forfeit its wins when the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission ruled that one of the team’s players was ineligible. After further legal research into the matter, the WVSSAC reversed its ruling, restoring the Tigers’ wins and deeming star running back L.J. Lawrence once again eligible to play.

The past year was chock-full of news; a slew of big stories may not have made the top 10 cut, but they inched into the honorable mention category.

The seven stories that were so close include: the death of Elkins sport legend and local youth mentor Roy Simms; Pickens High School student Olivia Hudok challenging the state and county’s stance on immunization requirements; Lena Lunsford’s sentencing for welfare fraud and the ongoing search for her daughter Aliayah Lunsford; local businessman Robert Reckart’s sentencing in federal court for illegally possessing a firearm that discharged, severely injuring a minor; a Randolph County grand jury finding former Elkins Middle School teacher Autumn Faulkner innocent of child sex abuse charges; and a Philippi woman filing a domestic violence protection order petition against Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins and then being indicted by the county.

Find the top 10 original stories in their entirety on pages A7, A8 and A9.