News 12's top stories of 2013

December 31, 2013

12 On Your Side

(WRDW) - News 12 takes a look back at some of the the CSRA's biggest stories of the year.

2013 started with a new sheriff in town. Richard Roundtree, Richmond County's first African-American sheriff, began his new position and instituted a new philosophy of community policing.

Also new on the block was a new school. in January, Augusta State University merged with Georgia Health Sciences University to create Georgia Regents University. The name change sparked a number of protests to "Save the A." In the end, GRU President Dr. Ricardo Azziz announced a bit of a compromise with the name Georgia Regents University-Augusta.

February was a month filled with mourning after five people died as a plane crashed coming into the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport. The pilot and co-pilot survived. Those killed were all employees of the Vein Guys.

Devastation continued into March when a tornado ripped through the quiet town of Gibson. Luckily, no one lost their life, but some lost just about everything else. Day by day, Gibson picked up the pieces and their faith turned out to be some pretty powerful glue.

Shortly after people were forced out of their homes in Gibson, people from all over the world flooded into Augusta for the Masters. After both Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera birdied the final hole, they battled two extra holes in a playoff. That's where Scott claimed the green jacket, becoming the first Australian to ever wear one.

In May, a couple on their first date was brutally beaten on Augusta's Riverwalk. After weeks in the hospital, two arrests, and multiple surgeries, Ashley Solesbee and Wesley Spires are still together, proving love and faith is a stronger force than anyone who could have attacked them.

Just weeks later, Richmond County investigators say a man shot his parents and brother. Search warrants say the bodies were found burned and partially dismembered in the woods behind a Hephzibah elementary school. Ryan Jones could face the death penalty.

This summer, our area became flooded with too much of a good thing. The rain started in June and seemed to never stop. It turned neighborhood streets into rivers, caused other roads to cave in, and left a lot of homes waterlogged. Nearly 20 inches of rain through June and July created flooding problems all over the area and filled up the Savannah River to dangerous heights and speeds. Eventually the flood gates opened, and twenty-two raging waterfalls rushed out of the Strom Thurmond Dam. The Army Corps of Engineers said the move was to protect our area, even though it made the river rise even more for a short time.

It was the race of his career and the win of a lifetime for Aiken when Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes in June. At 85-years-old, Cot Campbell has been chasing the three jewels of the Triple Crown for a very long time. He checked off the Preakness 23 years ago, and finally this year, the Belmont.

Columbia County made an announcement in July that promised to bring a lot of jobs to the area; Bass Pro Shops was planning to come to town. 24 hours later, Richmond County leaders had an announcement of their own. Rival chain Cabelas would be opening up a location too at the Village at Riverwatch Shopping Center. The news stopped Bass Pro Shops in its tracks. The company pulled out before crews even broke ground.

The month of July continued with surprising announcements when Sheriff Richard Roundtree admitted Richmond County has a gang problem. The war on gangs broke after News 12 got exclusive video of a shootout caught on camera. Later we learned several people in that video were connected to gangs and other shootings around the area.

Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten was arrested for theft by taking of a motor vehicle. Law enforcement officers seized the car he's accused of taking which, according to the District Attorney, belonged to a man who died in April of 2011. After a longstanding career with the county, it was a story that left many stunned.

The brutal murder of a Barnwell doctor was also shocking because it revealed a secret life of Dr. Charles Mann. After Dr. Mann went missing, a 2-day search led investigators to Spirit Creek, where mystery turned to tragedy when they found the doctor's body. 22-year-old Glenn Riggs has been charged with his murder. In court, investigators said Riggs lured him into his home. They say he choked Dr. Mann and hit him in the head with a 25-pound weight.

In North Augusta, the fight continues to bring a 150 million dollar development and the Augusta Greenjackets across the river. The North Augusta City Council passed a TIF that would help finance the project, but now it's facing a lawsuit from a local homeowner's association.

In another unanimous vote, Augusta Commissioners vote to fire City administrator Fred Russell. He's been with the city for more than a decade.

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