This year saw a mix of ups and downs, but if voting with your mouse is any indication, the following local news stories produced by the Centre Daily Times staff were among the most-read and most-impactful headlines of the year.
Here’s a look, month by month, at the biggest local stories of 2013.
A story that had played among the biggest in 2011 and 2012 continued to play the starring role throughout 2013. Gov. Tom Corbett wasted no time in 2013 to issue a terse statement — and subsequent lawsuit — against the NCAA, which issued historic sanctions against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The governor challenged the NCAA, saying that as a trade association, it violated antitrust laws by the way it sanctioned Penn State. Corbett claimed, “These sanctions are an attack on past, present and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our commonwealth and our economy. As governor of this commonwealth, I cannot and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight.”
In June, a judge threw out Corbett’s suit, calling it “a Hail Mary pass.”
Also in January, four Penn State cheerleaders were kicked off the squad for violating team rules in connection with the accidental fall of a teammate. On Oct. 15, 2012, Paige Raque, then a freshman cheerleader, fell 39 feet out of a downtown apartment window and was badly injured.
A tragic event in 2013 was the sudden death of Park Forest Elementary School pupil Mack Brady. The third-grader, the son of Elizabeth and Christian Brady, died from a swift and severe bacterial infection. Students returned to school after the holiday break to learn of the news.
What followed, however, were countless events, remembrances, memorials and fundraisers to honor the boy who had so much impact on his friends, family and community. In October, Park Forest Elementary erected playground equipment in the form of a teepee — one of Mack’s favorite images.
More Penn State scandal fallout ensued in February when Sue Paterno, wife of the late Joe Paterno, told Katie Couric that her husband was never aware that Sandusky was a pedophile.
“Let me ask you this, Katie — Jerry adopted children, the experts vetted him,” Paterno told Couric on her show “Katie.” “He had foster children, the experts vetted him. The executive director of Second Mile is a child psychologist. If the experts don’t know, how can we know?”
Later that month, Sue Paterno again defended her late husband, blasting a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh that labeled her husband part of a cover-up and previewed a review of the Freeh document, which tarnished the legacy of the legendary Penn State coach.
“I am here to tell you as definitively and forcefully as I know that Mr. Freeh could not have been more wrong in his assessment of Joe,” Sue Paterno wrote in a letter to Penn State Nittany Lion lettermen.
March was a bloody month in the region as two domestic violence incidents left four people dead and one wounded.
In Decatur Township, Clearfield County, a former state police officer shot and killed his ex-wife in a supermarket in the middle of the day before turning the gun on himself.
Traci Miscavish, 49, of Philipsburg, was killed by Mark R. Miscavish, 51, at the County Market grocery store where she worked.
The murder-suicide followed the wife’s filing for divorce a week before and the husband’s arrest in January on charges that he attacked her and threatened to kill her.
Also in March, a Petersburg, Huntingdon County, father shot and killed his 2-year-old son and and shot and injured his estranged wife during a custody exchange.
Police said that Kenneth Ayers also shot at his mother during an altercation at her home.
He then drove away and was found hours later near Warriors Mark, where he had killed himself.
In April, the Sandusky aftermath ramped up again when the NCAA’s former enforcement director said Penn State’s president “sold the school down the river” in 2012 by accepting the sanctions that punished the university for the Sandusky child abuse scandal.
That and other statements were revealed in a series of emails that the investigator, Ameen Najjar, wrote in August to Nevin Shapiro, a former University of Miami football booster who blew the whistle on eight years of alleged NCAA violations at the south Florida school. Outside of the reference to Erickson, the emails had nothing to do with Penn State and were filed as exhibits in a bankruptcy case for Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year sentencing for orchestrating a $930 billion Ponzi scheme.
The email that blasted Erickson was written Aug. 7, 2012. Two months before that, though, Najjar had been fired by the NCAA for reportedly ignoring orders from the organization’s lawyers not to pay Shapiro’s attorney during the investigation into Miami.
Perhaps one of the most compelling and widely read stories of the year was when a State College High graduate, while serving in Afghanistan, lost his legs in an improvised explosive device accident.
Instantly, the struggle and courage of Adam Hartswick, an Army senior combat medic, grew into countless fundraisers, events, letters of support and prayers to help the 22-year-old hero.
Hartswick, of Pine Grove Mills, was severely injured in Kandahar province when he stepped on an IED while trying to tend to wounded soldiers from an ambushed U.S. platoon.
Within six months, Hartswick was walking with prosthetic legs, speaking to classes, and attending ceremonies and appreciation events.
The end of June was marked with two days of strong thunderstorms that swamped roads, homes and land across Centre County. Floods damaged businesses, houses and roads, and several apartment complexes were evacuated. A West Pine Grove Road home was completely destroyed.
“It’s probably the worst flooding I’ve seen here in the last decade in terms of roadway flooding,” Shawn Kauffman, Centre Region Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said.
Kauffman said dumpsters were seen floating down the street in the alley behind Alpha Fire Company in downtown State College. A funnel cloud was spotted over Boalsburg.
Later in 2013, municipalities affected by storm damage were OK’d to receive federal and state money from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and its federal counterpart.
The storms between June 26 and July 11 caused about $1.8 million in damage to local infrastructure. The bulk of the destruction in Centre County occurred in Bellefonte, State College and Howard boroughs, and Liberty, Gregg and Howard townships.
In July, 30 people were left homeless when a fire ravaged the Waupelani Heights apartment complex in State College.
Firefighters rescued two people from an outside balcony of a burning apartment building, throwing up a ladder as flames poured from structure.
Red Cross volunteers located places for the displaced to stay.
Several State College police officers sustained injuries after a scuffle with a group of men who had open beer cans on East Prospect Avenue in State College.
One man kicked multiple officers, causing minor arm abrasions before trying to run. Alcohol was believed to be a factor. Trying to apprehend another man, one officer broke his finger.
The student member of the Penn State board of trustees withdrew as a plaintiff in the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA, saying he was threatened with being removed from the committee that was searching for the next university president if he didn’t drop out.
Peter Khoury, a master’s student, said he didn’t want to jeopardize the role in which he serves as the voice of more than 84,000 undergraduate and graduate students across all university campuses on the search committee.
“My decision to come off of the suit entails looking at my unique position being a student who represents the university’s interest and also looking at what would be best to continue ensured and effective participation of a student in critical university matters here,” Khoury told the Centre Daily Times.
The NCAA announced it would restore some of the scholarships Penn State lost in the sanctions from the Sandusky scandal, because the organization said it recognizes that the university had pushed ahead with “significant momentum” to make sweeping changes to the way it operates.
Penn State’s football team will see five scholarships added back each year starting in 2014-15, with the full complement of 85 scholarships restocked for 2016-17. The NCAA had never reduced a penalty.
The NCAA’s executive committee unanimously approved giving back the scholarships after a recommendation from former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who was appointed by the NCAA to oversee Penn State’s progress in adopting a number of reforms to enhance its security, ethics, governance and compliance structure. NCAA officials said they took up the recommendation because the restored scholarships would benefit student-athletes.
In October, five people were charged with selling heroin to authorities in a series of undercover buys in Centre County.
State police said that Robert Carlin and Amanda Grieb, both of Philipsburg; Holly Simcisko, of Moshannon; Erika Miller, of Milesburg; and Christopher Long, of Clarence, faced felony charges.
Police said the five were charged for their roles in selling heroin in Patton and College townships and Pleasant Gap, Snow Shoe and Milesburg.
According to two separate criminal complaints, Carlin, 26, and Grieb, 21, sold eight bags of heroin for $200 on two occasions in May in Sheetz convenience store parking lots in College and Patton townships and once outside a restaurant in Spring Township.
Simcisko, 20, and Miller, 20, were charged for their alleged roles in selling eight bags of heroin in August near the Milesburg fire hall.
Simcisko also allegedly sold undercover authorities four bags of heroin in August at a home in Snow Shoe and another three bags there in September.
Penn State’s first choice for its next president was taken out of contention after the search process revealed that he was allegedly padding his pay at his State University of New York job without authorization, according to a news report.
The candidate, David Smith, the president of SUNY’s Upstate Medical University, was placed on paid leave there. According to the report, a headhunter firm that Penn State hired to help find the successor to Erickson learned that Smith allegedly arranged for extra pay through outside companies linked to the university. The report attributed the information to anonymous sources.
Penn State will continue its search for its next president into 2014.
A massive blaze tore through a local business, causing the total loss of the building. The fire started in Scott’s Landscaping just off U.S. Route 322, and when Centre Hall Fire Company arrived, the flames were already through the roof, Chief Harry Hockenberry said.
No injuries were reported.
A 20-year-old Penn State student died when he fell from a downtown State College apartment balcony.
Conor F. MacMannis, of Stafford, Va., was pronounced dead at the scene by county Coroner Scott Sayers. MacMannis fell from a ninth-floor balcony of the Penn Tower apartment complex.
Police believe a synthetic drug being marketed as LSD, or acid, led to his death.
A Penn State student from Maryland was killed when he jumped from the Fraser Street parking garage in downtown State College, borough police said.
Police identified the student as Andrew M. Magargle, 22, of Pasadena, Md. Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers ruled Magargle’s death a suicide and said the death was a result of chest trauma.
“Preliminary investigation shows no evidence of criminal activity,” police said in a report.
Penn State waived the attorney-client privilege so former university lawyer Cynthia Baldwin could testify in 2012 to the grand jury that was investigating Sandusky and three ex-administrators accused of covering up for the longtime coach, according to documents that were unsealed in December.
The waiver was discussed during a 30-minute closed-door conference on Oct. 22, 2012, that involved the judge supervising the grand jury, prosecutors, Baldwin’s lawyer and a university lawyer. The conference came days before Baldwin took the stand at the grand jury on Oct. 26.
In the conference, prosecutors said their intent was to not have Baldwin testify about the January 2011 grand jury appearances of the ex-administrators — former athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz — and what she did to prepare them for it.
Attorneys for Schultz, Curley and former President Graham Spanier say charges against their clients should be dropped in part because of Baldwin’s role in the grand jury proceedings.