There were stories that made you cry, stories that made you smile and stories that left you outraged.
The year 2007 saw some tragic deaths, devastating fires, uproar over school uniforms and body paint, some heated political races, a local woman who posed for Playboy and a 12-year-old who grew a world-record marigold.
With 2007 officially at a close, the Register is taking a look back at the year’s top local news stories. A poll of the newsroom determined the following as the top 10 most important news stories of the year:
1. Local soldiers lost
In what will be remembered as some of the darker moments in 2007, the area lost two of its own. Keith Kline of Oak Harbor was killed when a roadside bomb exploded July 5 in Baghdad. Kline, 24, a 2002 Oak Harbor High School graduate, was a member of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade based at Fort Bragg. Family and friends remembered Kline as a loving person who always found a way to make them laugh.
Staff Sgt. Jon Martin of Bellevue was injured when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb Nov. 9 while serving his third tour in Iraq. He died Nov. 22 in a German hospital. Martin, 33, a 1993 Bellevue High School graduate, was a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. Hundreds came out for his funeral procession.
2. Two deaths at Lions Park
Four shots heard. Two bullets found. Two lives lost.
Those were the certainties of the events surrounding the July 27 deaths of Rachelle Baskey and Larry Barnett Jr. on the shoreline of Lions Park.
Police determined the case was a murder-suicide with Baskey, 24, shot by Barnett, 25, who then turned the gun on himself. Both were killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.
Neither had a pulse when EMS workers arrived in Lions Park. Baskey was pronounced dead at the scene. Barnett was pronounced dead a short time later at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
3. Marina districts
Both Sandusky and Port Clinton had waterfront development issues on the ballot this November, and both marina district projects were approved. Both marina districts faced some controversy surrounding their public space. Proponents for the plans hope the redevelopment projects will help the economy.
4. School levies approved
Area voters showed support for local schools in November by passing four levies. Sandusky, Margaretta, Perkins and Monroeville school districts all had levies that were approved. It was the second time the Sandusky and Margaretta levies appeared on the ballot after they were voted down in May.
Perkins voters passed a 2-mill renewal levy for permanent improvement; approved by 64 percent of voters.
Margaretta voters passed a 1.5-mill renewal levy for general permanent improvements; approved by 61 percent.
Sandusky voters passed a 5.4-mill operating levy; approved by 57 percent.
Monroeville voters passed 3.2-mill emergency expense renewal; approved by 63 percent.
5. Christopher Newton execution
Former Huron resident Christopher Newton got his wish May 24 when he was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
Newton, who said he wanted to die, had the longest execution delay in Ohio history, nearly two hours after it was scheduled.
In November 2001, he stomped, strangled and drank the blood of his Mansfield Correctional Institution cell mate, 27-year-old Jason Brewer. Newton refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty against him.
6. Devastating fires
The year saw several damaging fires level properties, close businesses and leave tenants homeless.
On Oct. 17, a 10-month-old baby was severely burned and 17 residents of the Erie Apartment building were left homeless after an unattended cigarette touched off an early evening fire.
On Feb. 5, fire leveled a portion of the Hermes Dairy Farm in Perkins Township. The blaze quickly ate up straw and hay stored above the milking barn, leaving that part of the barn destroyed and killing about 50 calves.
On July 18, a fire ripped through the dining area and kitchen at Margaritaville. The fire was traced to an electrical panel in a wall, according to the Sandusky Fire Department. Only the outside bar was open for the remainder of the summer.
On Aug. 1, two greenhouses at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center were destroyed by a raging early morning fire. More than 60 area firefighters were able to stop the fire before it reached the nursery and retail center.
7. Kelleys Island plane crash
A plane carrying a Lima man and his two sons, ages 7 and 9, plunged into Lake Erie around 9 p.m. Sept. 3.
Jeff Hutchison, 46, of Lima was piloting his 1962 Cessna 172C Skyhawk when it went down east of the Kelleys Island Municipal Airport. His body and the body of his 9-year-old son, Jeremy David, were found Sept. 4 in Lake Erie by rescue divers. Joel Hutchinson was rescued by Kelleys Island resident Chuck Herndon, 60, who plucked the 7-year-old out of the water and brought him to safety on his row boat.
8. Grant Avenue murder
An argument that began with harsh words between neighbors ended with a shooting on July 7. Gerald Gilliam, 39, died a few hours after being shot. His next-door neighbor, Andrew D. Johnson, 59, was charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Perkins police said alcohol, marijuana and racial slurs all played a role in the events leading up to the slaying.
Sandy Gilliam, Gerald’s wife, told police Johnson and her husband were “best of friends” and the two would drink together often and go to each other’s houses for cookouts.
9. Scrap metal scandal
The question of missing scrap metal in Port Clinton arose in April when Kenneth Heschel, former service department supervisor, gave then-City Auditor Nancy O’Neal $1,200 without a receipt. Heschel said it was from selling city-owned scrap to Burns Iron & Metal Co. in Fremont. Heschel later confessed that he and Rich Babcock pocketed a portion of the money from the sale of scrap metal.
Babcock, 56, former safety-service director for the city, was indicted Aug. 28 on one felony count each of theft and theft in office by an Ottawa County grand jury. Heschel was granted immunity.
10. MetroParks closes Greenway
In late November, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Erie MetroParks had taken private property for the Huron River Greenway trail without compensating landowners.
The Greenway runs several miles north from Milan, following the path of an old rail line. Owners of property on either side of the trail said their deeds gave them control of the property after the railroad abandoned its right of way.
YOUR TOP TEN
1. Bellevue gathers to mourn Sgt. Martin
2. Hermes dairy fire
3. Two dead from Lions Park murder-suicide
4. Kalahari is nation’s largest indoor waterpark
5. Cedar Fair to close Geauga Lake
6. A tale of two Marina Districts
6. MetroParks closes Greenway
8. Gravelle sentencing
9. Sandusky school uniforms
10. Oak Harbor soldier remembered
FIVE MOST COMMENTED-ON STORIES OF 2007
1. Three seek one trustee’s seat in Perkins Twp. — 1,059 comments
2. WESTERHOLD: It’s about the secrets, not about the gun owners — 888 comments
3. Trustees draw fire in Perkins — 737 comments
4. Sex offender fails to move or register new address — 568 comments
5. Perkins schools plan August levy — 512 comments
FIVE MOST VIEWED STORIES OF 2007
1. Schools baffled by body paint brouhaha
2. Bellevue’s Binger is June Playmate
3. Three seek one trustee’s seat in Perkins Twp.
4. WESTERHOLD: It’s about the secrets, not about the gun owners
5. Boat runs into Cedar Point breakwall; eight injured