2013 was a big year with big headlines here in Connecticut. From the growing national debates over gun control and mental health awareness stemming from the Sandy Hook tragedy, to local campus lockdown scares, and major issues and breakthroughs in public transit and local government, Connecticut found itself in the middle of a lot of news this year. Here are the top stories of the last 12 months.
THE AFTERMATH OF NEWTOWN
Repercussions from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December 2012 continued into 2013, as Connecticut saw wave after wave of responses to the shooting. Both the Governor and the legislature appointed task forces after the tragedy, as the shootings prompted debates over gun control, mental health and school security. Heartbroken observers arranged fundraisers, and the Sandy Hook Community Foundation was formed to distribute funds. Debates continued all year long, including response to the release of the 911 tapes and a summary of the official report released in December, which offered insight into the gunman, Adam Lanza
EAST HAVEN PLANE CRASH
Four people died when a small plane trying to land at Tweed New Haven Airport in August went crashing down into a pair of homes in East Haven. Two sisters – 13-year-old Sade Brantley and 1-year-old Madisyn Mitchell – inside the East Haven home were killed. Their mother escaped safely. Bill Henningsgaard, 54, was piloting the small plane with his son Maxwell, 17. They were the only ones in the plane and both were killed. They were from Washington, visiting colleges in the northeast as Maxwell was set to graduate high school in 2014. Both homes damaged in the crash were demolished.
THE IMPACT OF SANDY
The impact of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy was still felt strongly throughout this year, not only in Connecticut but New York and New Jersey as well. CT stepped up to help out our neighboring states’ displaced residents, as well as rolling out state-funded aid for small businesses affected by the storm.
SKAKEL GRANTED NEW TRIAL
Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was granted a new trial for the 1975 murder of his Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley, for which he was previously convicted. The ruling was a dramatic reversal after years of unsuccessful appeals. Since the ruling, Skakel has been freed on bond and granted permission to travel, although the CT Supreme Court has yet to decide an appeal by prosecutors on the new trial ruling.
After living through a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting, Connecticut campuses reacted swiftly and firmly in response to campus threats. Connecticut underwent three campus lock downs in less than two months, as schools responded to reports of weapons on campus at Central Connecticut State University, Yale and the University of New Haven.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AT UCONN
Seven women came forward claiming UConn’s response to their allegations of sexual assault when they were students at the school was inadequate. Women’s right attorney Gloria Allred joined the cause, in an effort to get the University to change its approach to sexual violence on campus. hearings surrounding the case have led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education as of December.
CAPITOL HILL CRASHER FROM CT
Stamford’s Miriam Carey made national news when she attempted to breach the barrier of the White House in Washington in early October. The harrowing chase unfolded between national monuments in DC, and it was not long before the CT license plate on Carey’s black Infiniti was identified, establishing where she came from during her fateful drive down Constitution Avenue.
ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES PLAGUE HARTFORD
In a city the size of Hartford, there are bound to be some administrative issues, but 2013 saw more than its fair share. City officials were accused of abuse of city-issued credit cards, then an aide to Mayor Pedro Segarra was put in the spotlight for improper use of a city vehicle… after he had resigned from his position. Another official crashed a city vehicle in September. The city also came under scrutiny regarding its Emergency Dispatch Center, which faced complaints about incorrect dispatch addresses and use of racial slurs on police radios.
NEW TRIALS FOR PEREZ
Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was granted not one but two new trials— While the judge found enough evidence to uphold Perez’s conviction, he said two sets of charges should not have been combined into a single trial.
THE BUSWAY GETS UNDERWAY
The New Britain-Hartford Busway project advanced dramatically in 2013, with construction nearly complete in some areas. The Department of Transportation has shared news of their progress— even a tour of the busway under construction– as the CTfasttrak gets ready to launch in early 2015. The 11-station project includes stops in New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford, and is planned to offer an easier, faster commute to and from Hartford.
DONOVAN AIDE SCANDAL
A 2013 court case reached back to the 2012 Congressional campaign, when former Chris Donovan aide Robert Braddock, Jr. was convicted and sentenced in connection with illegal contributions to Donovan’s failed run for Congress in 2012.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA PLANS MOVE FORWARD
CT lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 which allows doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat certain illnesses and creates a state licensing system for dispensing it. If 2012 was the genesis of the program, this year was the planning stage, as many towns throughout Connecticut approved, rejected or bid for inclusion in the “budding” program.
MAJOR PROBLEMS FOR METRO-NORTH
Metro-North and the commuter railroad’s passengers might be glad to turn the calendar page to 2014. The rail service saw a derailment in Fairfield, the death of a worker in West Haven, and serious electric problems which slashed service in September, followed by an accident on the Hudson line and allegations of falsified time sheets.
JACKSON LABS BREAKS GROUND
The Jackson Laboratory broke ground at the University of Connecticut Health Center in January. The $1.1 billion research facility hopes to discover discover precise genomic solutions to disease, in an effort to make medicine more precise and predictable.
FEDERAL CHARGES AGAINST MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT LEADERS
Former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Michael Thomas and his brother, Treasurer Steven Thomas, were charged with stealing more than $800,000 in tribal funds and federal grant money intended for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.