The region's top five stories of 2012 - The Daily Progress: News

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The region's top five stories of 2012

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Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 10:00 pm | Updated: 6:08 pm, Sun Dec 30, 2012.

Charlottesville’s 250th year was a remarkable one, defined by scandal, statesmanship and sadness.

In 2012, the University of Virginia revolted against its governing board, a jury convicted a UVa lacrosse player of killing his ex-girlfriend, a young politician was derailed by a sex charge, a murder-suicide claimed four lives and the national election roared into town with visits from a sitting president and the No. 2 man on the opposing party ticket.

Those were the stories that grabbed the largest headlines, but the last 12 months offered much more for Central Virginia to discuss, debate and digest.

The year also brought visits from a howling, havoc-inducing windstorm in the summer and, in the fall, a world icon who symbolizes peace and tranquility -- the Dalai Lama.

A road 45 years in the making finally opened and a massive retail development off U.S. 29 lurched to life.

A closer look at the stories that shaped 2012:

1. Sullivan sacked, saved

The University of Virginia’s historic Grounds convulsed in June, when the school’s Board of Visitors forced President Teresa A. Sullivan to resign, igniting a firestorm seldom seen at the buttoned-down school that Jefferson built.

Surprise changed to outrage as more details of the ouster filtered out. At least one prominent alum knew the coup was coming. But explanations from the officials behind the action remained scarce. Trading conspiracy theories quickly became one of the top pastimes in town.

After roughly two weeks of campus insurrection, the board relented and reinstated the first female president in the school's almost 200-year history.

Fallout for the university and the officials involved rolls on. The school's accrediting board recently placed UVa on warning, citing a failure to comply with governance standards — a rare if not unprecedented sanction for one of the state's proudest institutions. To get the warning lifted in a year, the university must prove it has righted its governance policies.

The troubles continue especially for the woman at the center of it all, Rector Helen E. Dragas, who led the effort to down Sullivan. Dragas faces confirmation in the state legislature early in the new year. While Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell reappointed Dragas in late June, others in his party as well as Democrats have lined up against her.

2. Huguely goes on trial

After three weeks of emotional testimony from George Huguely's fellow lacrosse players, relatives and former love interests, jurors in February convicted him of murdering ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love. Huguely was also found guilty of grand larceny for stealing Love's laptop computer and throwing it in a trash bin.

The horror began shortly before both Huguely and Love were to graduate in the spring of 2010, when Huguely shook his former lover, wrestled her to the ground then pushed her onto a bed. The final chapter was written four months ago, when Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire sentenced Huguely to 23 years in prison.

Love's mother, Sharon, filed one $30-million wrongful death suit against Huguely, and another against the Commonwealth of Virginia, UVa Athletics Director Craig Littlepage and two men's lacrosse coaches.

Huguely is serving out his sentence in Keen Mountain Correctional Center, a high security prison in Oakwood. He was an All-American lacrosse player in high school and studied anthropology at UVa. Love also played lacrosse at UVa and studied government and Spanish.

3. Supervisor charged with forcible sodomy

The arrest of Albemarle Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler on a forcible sodomy charge sent shockwaves through the county in mid-October.

Dumler, 27, the youngest supervisor in county history, was something of a fixture on the downtown Charlottesville social scene and a rising star in local Democratic politics.

On Oct. 16, the self-employed lawyer and University of Virginia law school graduate was arrested in the middle of the night at the county police station on Fifth Street.

Dumler was released the day after his arrest when fellow Democrat Cynthia Neff posted his $50,000 bail. Dumler remains a member of the Board of Supervisors, has declared his innocence and is awaiting trial. He has charged in court documents that his accuser and another woman conspired to wreck his career and reputation.

4. Triple murder-suicide stuns Stony Point

On an August night in a small house across from Stony Point Elementary School, a teenager killed his brother, sister and mother and then himself. Police said they found a handgun and a .22 caliber rifle at the scene, but still have not said how the family died.

Police determined that Noah Philip Romando, 19, killed siblings Lily, a Murray High School student, and Andrew, a Sutherland Middle School student, and their mother, Elizabeth Walton, 49.

In the following days, mourners set out memorials for the slain family members at Albemarle and Murray high schools and Sutherland Middle School. Friends remembered the family for its kindness.

The motive behind the killings remains a mystery. Police were mum in the immediate aftermath and have said little since.

A search of the family home in the 3800 block of Stony Point Road turned up five shell casings, a Ruger 10-22 rifle and a Motorola cellphone.

Noah Romando was a 2011 Albemarle High School graduate who worked at Harris Teeter and was attending Piedmont Virginia Community College, according to his Facebook page. Lily Romando was an avid photographer, friends said.

5. Battle for the Old Dominion

Virginia provided some of the most hotly contested terrain in the 2012 election, which led to Charlottesville getting a solid dose of presidential politics in the run-up to November.

President Barack Obama visited the city Aug. 29 to rally a crowd of about 7,500 people at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion before swinging by his campaign office on the Downtown Mall. While in town, Obama took part in an online chat on the popular content-sharing website Reddit, a site conceived in Charlottesville seven years ago by University of Virginia students.

Two months later, Obama got a boost from The Boss.

Rocker Bruce Springsteen played a free show Oct. 23 at the pavilion, where he performed for 40 minutes and riffed on Obama’s record.

That same week, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan flew into Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport and traveled across the street to Crutchfield’s Albemarle headquarters, where he rallied a crowd of about 1,500 people.

As expected, the Charlottesville area was friendlier to Democrats.

Obama won almost 76 percent of the vote in the city of Charlottesville compared to Mitt Romney’s 22 percent. The president also carried Albemarle by a margin of 55 percent to 43 percent. Romney took Greene, Fluvanna, Madison and Orange counties, while Obama took Nelson County.

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