Top Rockford stories of 2012 - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Top Rockford stories of 2012

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Dodge Dart unveiled. Dodge Dart unveiled.
Rockford teachers walk the picket line. Rockford teachers walk the picket line.
Rita Crundwell pleads guilty to stealing $53 million for the City of Dixon. Rita Crundwell pleads guilty to stealing $53 million for the City of Dixon.
Volunteers search for Katrina Smith. Volunteers search for Katrina Smith.
On The Waterfront comes to a permanent end. On The Waterfront comes to a permanent end.

As 2012 winds down it was still big year for the Rockford area.  It saw it's share of memorable news stories.  Every year, we do our best to pick out the top 13 that had the biggest impact for all of us.  Here's a look back at them, in no particular order.

Dodge Dart Unveiled

We start with the Belvidere Chrysler plant's big win.  It unveiled the first vehicle under the Fiat-Chrysler partnership, the Dodge Dart. It also meant hundreds of new jobs not just at the plant but for the Belvidere community.

Rockford's New Bishop
Another new addition to the area,  Bishop David Malloy was ordained as the Rockford Diocese new leader. In May, thousands of people came to the BMO Harris Bank Center to view the rare occasion.

Drought
The summer brought almost no rain leaving Illinois in one of the worst droughts in decades. Farmers took a big hit. Some had to plow crops under, other sold off livestock. NBC News expects say we will feel the drought affect at the grocery store over the next few years.

Rita Crundwell Arrest & Plea
A place already feeling a big loss, the City of Dixon.  It discovered its comptroller stole $53 million of taxpayer money.  Rita Crundwell recently pleaded guilty to defrauding the city.  She will be sentenced February 14th.
  
Baby Noah
A little boy never had the chance at life after his body was found among the garage at a Roscoe recycling center.  Noah, as he was named by the Winnebago County Coroner's Office was laid to rest this summer. No family has stepped forward to claim him and an autopsy on exactly how he died has come back inconclusive.  His case is still an open death investigation.

Kody Walsh Murder, Search & Arrest
A murder on I-90 left the community on edge after the suspect ran from police for about a week. Kody Walsh was accused of killing Lori Daniels, 36, of Janesville inside a car near south Beloit. Walsh was captured in Memphis,Tennessee. He is in jail awaiting trial.

Katrina Smith
Thousands of people joined together this fall to find a missing woman. Katrina Smith disappeared on October 22nd.  Volunteers searched for three weeks before her body was found in the Rock River in Ogle County. Now her husband Todd Smith sits in jail charged with her murder.  He'll be in court in January.

Belvidere Teens Killed (Brenda Gutierrez & Thalia Arredondo)
2012 included some tragic accidents... Two Belvidere teens died on their way to cheer at a boys basketball game. Brenda Gutierrez and Thalia Arredondo's car skidded off the road in February. The pair became known as the perfect two.

Jeannie's Passing
WREX was not without its own loss.  13 News anchor and b103 morning host Jeannie Hayes died suddenly in November. She went into a coma from complications of a rare leukemia. She never knew she had cancer before she died. Jeannie was 29.

REACT Chopper Crash
Rockford Memorial Hospital suffered a loss just a month later.  Three of its medical helicopter crew members died in a crash near Rochelle December 10th.  Pilot Andy Olesen, flight nurses Jim Dillow and Karen Hollis all gave decades to helping the most critically ill.

Rockford Officer Involved Shootings (Phillip K. Johnson, Logan Bell, Demetrius Bennett)

Three Rockford Police Officer involved shooting has sparked questions about deadly force.  Phillip Johnson Junior was shot and killed during a traffic stop at the end of January. In October, Logan Bell was shot when he pointed what looked like a handgun at police. It turned out to be a pellet gun. And Demetrius Bennett was shot by Rockford Police in his home November 1st after officers say he lunged at them with a knife. Some community members have called on the Rockford Police to make changes to how it trains officers to deal with these incidents.

Rockford Teacher's Strike
Rockford teachers faced strong emotions from the community after they took to the picket line.  March 29th educators went on strike for the first time since the 1980s. It ended in 2 days but not without canceling school and disrupting families.

OTW No More
A final goodbye comes for a long running Rockford music festival. On The Waterfront announced it is bankrupt.  Forcing the nearly 30 year old labor day weekend tradition to end.

The 13 News Weather team also does it own top stories.  Click on the 13 Weather Blog for the top weather events of 2012.

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