Top Stories of 2014

The Herald-Times
Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014 8:43 am

H-T Report 

Below are the choices selected for top stories of this year, chosen by the staff of The Herald-Times. If your top story isn’t on our list, let us know in the comments section. Click here to vote.

  1. OH, DEER: City Council approves an ordinance allowing sharpshooting of deer at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve, an action that continues to evoke strong emotions from citizens opposed to the move. A private company hired to conduct the cull could take deer after Nov. 15, but there still is no word from the city on whether any deer have been killed.
  2. REST IN PEACE: Longtime county elected official Jim Fielder, who spent 35 years working the county clerk and recorder offices, is found dead at his home on May 24.  Fielder was one of the few Republicans to consistently win elections in predominately Democratic Monroe County, and his death was a blow to retaining the County Recorder’s Office in the November election.
  3. BUCKET: No, not the Old Oaken Bucket, but the Ice Bucket.  Dumping ice-cold water on your head to raise money for ALS research became a craze this summer.  Sports figures, politicians, attorneys – even journalists – took the plunge for a good cause.
  4. MISERABLE: The polar vortex made a mess of winter in central Indiana in 2014. Bitter cold; successive snowfalls; high prices and scarcities of propane fuel for heating; budget-busting expenses for local road and street departments that cut into summer paving plans.  Several area school corporations had to extend the school year to make up for all the snow days taken during the winter.
  5. CRASH: Two men died on Sept. 18 when the experimental aircraft in which they were in crashed short of the runway while attempting to land at the Monroe County Airport. It was the first fatal crash at the airport since 2006.
  6. ARSON: James Bowyer goes on trial in Brown County for the September 2009 fire that destroyed the Little Nashville Opry, a longtime country music venue outside of Nashville.  The jury acquitted him in January after a one-week trial.
  7. WEDDING DAY: When the year began, same-sex couples were gearing up for a fight against a constitutional amendment to canonize existing state law that prohibited same-sex unions. It ended with couples heading to courthouses throughout the state to get marriage licenses after a succession of federal courts ruled the U.S. Constitution trumped Indiana’s marriage law.
  8. GUILTY: Two Greene County men were sentenced in the abduction and death of a 19-year-old Linton woman in June 2013. Randal Crosley, 25, pleaded guilty to  murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit rape and criminal confinement and was sentenced to 81 years in prison.  Jordan Buskirk, 27,  pleaded guilty to the same charges and also received an 81-year prison term.
  9. GONE: IU women’s basketball coach Curt Miller abruptly resigns in July, citing unspecified personal reasons. The sudden departure came after Miller had led the Hoosiers to a 21-13 mark and an appearance in the WNIT quarterfinals.
  10. I-69: 2014 was another year of progress on the highway, which made news in a number of ways. From concerns about erosion, to late-night construction noise, to wholesale tree clearing, it was impossible for Monroe County to pretend the interstate wasn’t on Bloomington’s doorstep at long last. With the selection of a Spanish-based conglomerate to build Section 5 of the highway between Bloomington and Martinsville, this project won’t be in our review mirror in 2015, either.
  11. BLOOMINGFOODS: Employees of the iconic Bloomington food co-op voted to unionize on Nov. 11. The vote came about a month after the co-op’s board of directors agreed to take a neutral position on the matter of union representation.
  12. CONCRETE GATE: Longtime city employee Justin Wykoff and two other men were arrested by federal authorities in March and accused of bilking the city of Bloomington of an estimated $800,000 by falsifying claims for construction work that was never done. The arrests precipitated a restructuring of financial responsibilities within city of Bloomington government and the adoption of new fiscal policies. Federal charges against all three men still are pending.
  13. ROCKY ROAD:  Indiana Limestone Co., of Ollitic and Bloomington, one of the best-known names in the limestone industry, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, then revealed plans to sell its assets and reopen under a new corporate structure.
  14. CRIME SPREE: Two young men are arrested by Bloomington police after a series of gas station robberies across Monroe County in the same night in November. One of the suspects was wounded by police gunfire when he was confronted while leaving the last store robbed.
  15. RED CROSS:  The downsizing of the local American Red Cross office to just one full-time staffer also meant that the iconic Red Cross Book Fair, which this year completed its 31styear, was being discontinued. Next year, the sale will benefit the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.
  16. CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Mark Kruzan announced in mid-November that he won’t seek a fourth term as Bloomington’s mayor in 2015. That same week, longtime city clerk Regina Moore said she, too, would not seek re-election for a fifth consecutive term. With no incumbents in races at the top of next year’s municipal election, it sets up all sorts of interesting possibilities for the May nominating primaries.
  17.  BAD PRESS: Six members of the Indiana University men’s basketball team got into the media for the wrong reasons during 2015.  One was arrested on drunk driving; two for being underage and trying to enter a bar; one player hit another player with his car after a night out; two players were suspended for reportedly failing a drug test. And that all was before the first game of the season.
  18. SPIERER: The parents of Lauren Spierer lost their fight to get answers for their daughter’s disappearance and presumed death in June 2011. The Speiers had filed a lawsuit against the young men who were with their 20-year-old daughter that night, accusing them of supplying her with alcohol and being negligent in her care.  A federal judge ruled the Spierers could not provide a link between her daughter’s intoxicated condition and whatever happened to her after she left the men’s company.
  19.  MURDER-SUICIDE: Police say a 77-year-old man and a 76-year-old-woman who were found dead together on Valentine’s Day in a room at the Meadowood Retirement Community health pavilion died as a result of an apparent murder-suicide. Police said Robert White appeared to have shot his wife, Ruth, and then himself with a .38-caliber revolver.
  20. MONROE HOSPITAL:  When Monroe Hospital filed for bankruptcy protection in late July, it was just the latest chapter in a rocky history for the 32-bed facility. The hospital had struggled to fill beds and meet revenue needs almost since it opened in May 2005.  Prime Healthcare, based in Ontario, Calif., acquired Monroe Hospital in November.
  21. DATA BREACH: IU announces at the end of February that there had been a data breach, which exposed personal information of 146,000 students and recent graduates. IU spent an estimated $130,000 in direct costs and staff time dealing with the breach and operating a call center to deal with notifications and questions. The information was encrypted and there were no reports of anyone’s identity being stolen.
  22. STEEP CLIMB:  A lot of attention was focused this year on Fairview Elementary School and its efforts to get off of the state’s list of failing schools.  A new principal, a protest by parents over initial restructuring plans and a consecutive F on the state’s grading scale kept the school in the news. The Herald-Times published a multi-part series looking at the challenges facing educators and students at a school where a high percentage of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  23. BANK JOBS: A string of bank robberies, five in six weeks, ends with the arrest of a suspect on Jan. 11 following the fifth robbery.  Patrick C. Hardy, 40, was arrested on preliminary charges of robbery, forgery and possession of cocaine.
  24. FAMILY TRAGEDY: Firefighters discovered the bodies of 46-year-old Carla Gilliland and her son Parker Gilliland-Wampler, 15, inside the smoldering remains of their home outside of Ellettsville on July 10. A gun was found near the bodies, and investigators ultimately determined that Gilliland fatally shot her son before setting the house on fire and turning the gun on herself.  Family members later detailed a mother’s downward spiral of depression, chronic pain and addiction to painkillers that preceded the tragedy.
  25. LAST BELL:  The bell rang for the last time on Dec. 5 at IU’s Proton Therapy Center as its 2,079th – and last – patient completed his treatment series. IU had announced the closing in late August,  citing the 10-year-old facility’s poor financial condition as the primary reason. The closing also meant the end of the road had come for Jill’s House, the facility that since 2008 had given out-of-town patients undergoing treatment at the center – and their families – a place to stay.
  26. BREAK-IN, ASSAULT: Police arrest two Indianapolis-area teenagers in November who they say broke into the locked apartment of three IU students they did not know and sexually assaulted two of them. When police arrived, gunshots were exchanged, and both suspects received nonlife-threatening wounds. A third teen was arrested after he was found in a nearby parked car with one of the wounded suspects.  Charges are still pending.
  27. CHAMPS: The Bloomington South girl’s softball team wins the state title on June 15, the same day that South’s Denise Azcui wins the state girl’s singles tennis title.
  28. DEATH OVER UKRAINE:  IU graduate student Karlijn Keijzer is killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is allegedly shot down over Ukraine on July 17. A Dutch citizen, Karlijn came to Bloomington to study chemistry and row with the IU rowing team. Her parents and sister came to Bloomington in September participate in a memorial to her.
  29. ELECTION 2014: Same old, same old, could describe the 2014 general election in Monroe County. Democrats won most of the local races; incumbents prevailed across the board in legislative contests; turnout was low; and final votes weren’t posted until the wee hours of the next day.
  30. IVY TECH: Jennie Vaughan is named chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington region, succeeding John Whikehart, who retired. The appointment came two weeks after the Ivy Tech Board of Trustees decided Bloomington should remain a stand-alone. The school later launched a “Here We Grow Again” capital campaign to raise $4 million toward a $24 million expansion of the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building.
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