These 10 stories were the most impactful for the region in 2017

The death of a Middletown judge, a trial involving two men charged with aggravated arson and murder in the death of a Hamilton firefighter, a controversial Confederate monument in Franklin Twp. and comments from a Middletown City Councilman that made national news were some of the major events this year.

Here are 10 of the biggest stories in the Journal-News coverage area this year:

1. Carlisle baby death trial moved to 2018

RELATED: Trial in Carlisle baby case moved to 2018

Brooke Skylar Richardson, 18, is charged with aggravated murder and several other felonies in a case that captivated the community this year.

Prosecutors say the Carlisle High School cheerleader gave birth to a baby girl on May 6 or 7, caused the baby’s death then covered it up by burning it and burying it in the yard.

The bill of particulars filed last month by the prosecution had little additional information about the charges against Richardson. But the jury will have to consider if the evidence is enough to convict her of either aggravated murder or involuntary manslaughter.

2. ‘Superbubz’ dies in Fairfield

First-grader Walter Herbert set an inspirational, land-speed record in academics this year by graduating through eight grades in a single school day while displaying high marks in the subject of bravery.

RELATED: Fairfield boy battling cancer graduates 8 grades in single day

Young Walter — appropriately nicknamed “Superbubz” — was battling cancer at the time.

Despite ailing from his struggle with high-risk, Stage 4 neuroblastoma, the spirited 6-year-old, who attended Central Elementary, told his parents and teachers he wanted to experience graduating through all 12 grades.

RELATED: Battle with cancer ends for Fairfield’s brave ‘Superbubz’

“He really just loves coming to school. He loves riding the bus and eating lunch at school,” said Central Principal Karrie Gallo, who led the school district’s efforts to honor Walter and his wishes.

Walter died on Oct. 6, and Reds star Joey Votto attended his visitation.

3. Confederate monument in Franklin

A 90-year-old marker honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway became controversial in August following the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The source of the controversy started when the city of Franklin removed the monument from the corner of South Dixie Highway and Hamilton-Middletown Road. City officials said the monument was removed because it was within the right of way of Dixie Highway. The monument was one of many erected around the nation by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The removal of the five-ton stone marker prompted public outcry. It may be several months until the marker is back on public display.

RELATED: Franklin Twp. to display, re-dedicate Confederate marker

RELATED: Franklin Twp. leader meets with Confederate marker protest group

4. AK Steel research center opens

AK Steel’s new, $36 million Research and Innovation Center that opened this year represented a “new attitude” for the city of Middletown, said numerous local and state officials.

RELATED: AK Steel unveils $36M research and innovation center

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan said the 135,000-square-foot facility, which is located on 16 acres in Middletown’s Renaissance District just north of Atrium Medical Center, is “truly a showpiece on I-75.”

“The state of the art facility is a testament to AK’s history in Middletown, but also their future here,” Mulligan said during the center’s grand opening.

RELATED: McCrabb: Opening of AK Steel research center a ‘home run’ for area

5. Wes Retherford guilty of OVI

Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford was found guilty of operating a vehicle while impaired on May 3, nearly two months after he was found passed out in an idling pickup truck parked in a fast-food drive-through.

Butler County Area II Court Judge Kevin McDonough sentenced Retherford, who pleaded no contest, to 180 days in jail, with 175 days suspended. Retherford, R-Hamilton, got credit for two days he served following his March 12 arrest, and the judge ordered him to attend a three-day alcohol intervention program.

RELATED: Wes Retherford found guilty of OVI charge

6. Judge Mark Wall dies

When Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall died on Feb. 11, it devastated his staff and others in the legal community.

After Wall died in February, Melynda Cook Howard was appointed as his replacement, then she lost a contentious three-way election between James Sherron and Elizabeth Yauch to complete the final two years of the Wall’s term.

RELATED:Judge Wall was respected by peers, criminals alike

During Wall’s visitation, members of the Middletown Division of Police Honor Guard stood solemnly next to Wall’s casket that featured a U.S. Army emblem in the lid, representing his service with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was buried the next day.

RELATED: Middletown Judge Mark Wall remembered for compassion, fairness

7. Wolterman trial

Lester Parker and his nephew, William Tucker, are both in prison after convictions for aggravated arson and murder following a November trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

They were accused in the death of Patrick Wolterman, a Hamilton firefighter who died while fighting a fire at Parker’s home at 1310 Pater Ave. on Dec. 28, 2015. The home was Parker’s, and Parker convinced Tucker to set fire to the house with pills as payment, according to prosecutors.

The death struck the Hamilton community, the trial this year provided some closure for those affected.

8. Councilman’s Narcan comments grab national attention

Middletown City Councilman Dan Picard had no idea the impact his comments made during a council meeting would have.

Picard, frustrated over the amount of money and public safety services being devoted to drug overdoses, asked if it was possible for the city to not respond to such calls.

RELATED: Middletown council member: Can we stop responding to overdoses?

Noting people with cancer don’t get free chemotherapy from medics, nor do people having heart attacks get a free heart bypass in an EMS run, Picard asked if there was a law that requires the city to respond to overdose calls.

Picard suggested issuing a court summons to a person who overdoses and ordering them to complete community service to work off the costs of the EMS run and Narcan.

9. Community responds after mother of 9 dies

RELATED: ‘Overwhelming’ response for 9 Middletown children who found mother dead

RELATED: Men possibly connected to Middletown mom’s death in custody

A Facebook post led hundreds of people to donate thousands of dollars to a family whose mother of nine died of an apparent overdose.

On Dec. 14, the Middletown Division of Police posted that it was accepting donations for the family of Jimeta Sanders, 31, who died the night before in her kitchen.

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said the response was “overwhelming” in the first hour after the post. The police training room in the lower level of the City Building wasn’t large enough to hold all the presents that had been donated, with several donated bikes parked in the hallway.

10. School construction in the region

Fairfield Schools made history by opening three schools – Central, Compass elementary schools and Fairfield Freshman School – in August as part of $80 million upgrade to the 10,000-student school system’s infrastructure.

And while Middletown Schools won’t be formally opening its new Middletown Middle School on the high school’s campus until August 2018, many renovated and expanded classrooms were put into use in the last half of 2017.

The district’s $96 million construction project is already transforming the high school campus and includes the region’s most technologically advanced gym – the Wade E. Miller Arena – which opened earlier this month.

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