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2012: A Look Back

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2012 began with a cold case that heated up again in Sibley County.

A former area woman, Amy Ann Romero, was arrested in Missouri and charged with leaving her newborn in the woods to die back in 2001.

Although a body was never found,  Romero entered a guilty plea to second–degree felony manslaughter; she'll spend 96 months in prison.

 

On February 19th, an intruder entered a home in Blue Earth and went on a rampage.

When it was done, Christopher Fulmer was fatally beaten, and three females in the home were injured.

Brian Daniel  Freeman , the estranged husband of one of the women in the home, was taken into custody and eventually charged with first–degree murder; he's pleaded not guilty, and his trial is pending.

 

On May 8th, Burton James  Ewing Junior left the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center on a day pass with his mother.

At Seven Mile Creek Park, police say he tried to kill her; deputies arrived to find him stabbing her repeatedly.

Ewing now stands charged with first degree murder.

Court records show  he plans to use the defense of 'mental illness.'

The incident happened while another manhunt was on for a patient who left without permission: William Daniel Pfeffer was captured without incident.

The cases marked a turbulent year for the Security Hospital... director David  Proffitt was ousted in March after less than a year of contentious relations with staff.

 

Nearly two years after James Nibbe was murdered in his Lake Crystal home, his wife pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

Jennifer Nibbe entered the plea in June; the defense hinted that going to trial would have revealed secrets about the victim.

Nevertheless, the judge handed down a sentence of 17 years in prison. ###

In November: a woman prompts a nationwide search after going missing with her two children.

21 year–old Reina  Gandarilla of Mankato is charged with one felony for taking her children from their rural Pemberton foster home.

The three were found six days later in a Mankato motel.

 

The most controversial court case of the year began on a Friday evening in August, when MSU football coach Todd Hoffner was escorted off the field; within the week, he would be charged with making and possessing child pornography... something family and lawyers denied from the start.

Hoffner's attorneys asked for — and got — the charges dismissed by a judge on the final day of November.

But while the criminal case is over, Hoffner's status with the University remains in limbo... and legal issues will run into the New Year.

 

Drownings in Minnesota hit a ten–year high in 2012, according to the DNR.

And southern Minnesota wasn't spared from the tragedies.

On May 15th, Jenny Mae Kraling, was tubing with 3 male friends North of the  Rapidan Dam when she fell off the tube and went under.

Her body was recovered after an intense search and rescue effort.

Authorities say she was not wearing a life vest at the time.

 

And on the early morning hours of October 27th, Brady  Hruska and 4 friends were duck hunting on Lake Elysian when their boat capsized, sending the hunters into the water.

Crews found  Hruska 's body around eight hours later.

His loss left a void, but also an inspiration for the WEM football team, which made a vigorous run at the state title as they played in his honor.

 

A mild winter gave way to the worst  drought in decades in 2012.

As the year came to a close, roughly 62 percent of the continental U.S. remains in some form of  drought.

Nearly 22 percent of the lower 48 states are in extreme or exceptional  drought.;

Despite the drought, Minnesota's corn harvest actually increased 15 percent over 2011, with the soybean harvest nearly nine percent higher.

 

2012 saw one of those proverbial political earthquakes, as the DFL party rode a Democratic wave back into power, claiming both houses of the legislature from Republican control.

Voters also rejected two initiatives favored by Republicans, a constitutional ban on gay marriage and a voter ID law.

Politicians did cross party lines on one issue, as lawmakers finally passed a bill to build a Vikings stadium... a vote that often pitted Republican against Republican and DFL'er against DFL'er.

Groundbreaking is tentatively set for October 2013, with plans to open in 2016.

 

The year in sports will get it's own segment, but two big stories stand out:

The MSU football team overcame the distraction of the Todd Hoffner case to reach the division two final four.

Under acting coach Aaron Keen, the Mavs had an undefeated regular season, but in the semi–final, just didn't have an answer for the power–house Blazers out of Valdosta State.

And Division One football had a Mankato flavor as well, as former Scarlet quarterback Philip Nelson became the starter for the Golden Gophers in October... replacing the injured MarQueis Gray and the struggling Max Shortell.

 

Mankato gained some clout on the entertainment circuit.

Sir Elton John led a pack of big names performing in the key City in 2012.

The Rocket Man performing for nearly seven thousand fans at the Verizon Wireless Center in April... the highest grossing and quickest selling show in the venue's history.

Other big names performing in town were Eric Church, Marilyn Manson and White Zombie, and the red Headed stranger, Willie Nelson.

 

And Mankato's own Shelby Tweten wowed the judges on American Idol… not just with her voice, but her inspiring story of dealing with bipolar disorder.

Expect more great things from her in 2013.