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December 30. 2012 9:07PM

2012: New Hampshire's year in review


Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, top left, Rep.-elect Ann McLane Kuster, Rep.-elect Carol Shea-Porter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. New Hampshire became the first state to have women occupy the governor's office and an entire Congressional delegation. Above, Emma Ciereszynski, 14, of Dover, reacts as she incorrectly spells a word in the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last May. At right, then House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt was a rising star in the Republican Party until it was learned he had fabricated documents detailing an internship as part of his law school studies. (STAFF AND WIRE FILE PHOTOS)

A high-ranking state politician fell from grace. A Seacoast hospital found itself under investigation after an employee allegedly infected numerous patients with a deadly disease. A University of New Hampshire student disappeared and was presumed murdered.

The election season gave New Hampshire a new governor and saw Democrats assume power in the state House and Executive Council, while the Granite State joined with others to give President Barack Obama four more years. New Hampshire made history by having the governor's office and the state's Congressional seats all held by women.

The Granite State was hit by a hurricane and felt the tremors of an earthquake.

A respected police chief in Greenland was killed while several other New Hampshire police officers were shot carrying out their duties.

New Hampshire and the nation felt the sad shock wave after a man murdered 20 children and several adults at an elementary school in Connecticut.

A Paralympic swimmer from Exeter won four medals and a Dover Middle School student spelled - and charmed - her way to the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The world did not, despite interpretations of the Mayan calendar, come to an end in 2012.

These were just a few of the stories that dominated the news in a busy 2012.

Slaughter of Innocents

On Dec. 14, the nation reeled with emotion in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

The killer, Adam Lanza, was born in New Hampshire and an uncle still lives here. His mother had reportedly vacationed in the White Mountains just days before Lanza killed her, six school officials, 20 small children and himself.

Authorities have not figured out why Lanza went on his rampage.

Arlen's triumph

Exeter's Victoria Arlen dominated in swimming events during the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, winning three silver medals and, thanks to a world-record performance in the 100-meter freestyle, a gold medal.

After the Games, she visited family and did several media events during a tour of Scotland. She then headed back to New Hampshire, where she began her senior year at Exeter High School, went to a parade in her honor, signed with an agent for speaking engagements and modeling appearances and began practicing with the sled hockey team at the University of New Hampshire.

"It's still been hectic," Arlen said in October, "but I've been able to hang out with my friends and do normal teenage stuff."

Shot in the line of duty

Six police officers suffered gunshot wounds in the line of duty in 2012.

In March, Manchester officer Daniel Doherty survived several gunshots at the hands of Myles Webster, who was convicted of attempted murder in December. Doherty, still on the road to recovery, said he is looking forward to returning to police work.

One month later, Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney and four other Seacoast-area officers were shot by Cullen Mutrie while serving a warrant to Mutrie, a suspected drug dealer. Maloney, who had led one wounded officer out of the line of fire, was killed. Mutrie killed his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts, then himself. Maloney was just eight days away from his retirement fron the force.

The Greenland shootout was part of a particularly violent month of April, with more than a dozen homicides occurring in New Hampshire during the month.

Hepatitis C scare

Several deficiencies at Exeter Hospital were found by federal inspectors after the hepatitis C outbreak was uncovered in May and late linked to accused "serial infector" David Kwiatkowski. The hospital radiology technician allegedly infected more than 30 Exeter patients by stealing syringes filled with the painkiller fentanyl, injecting himself, and then returning the tainted syringes, partially filled with saline, to be used on the unsuspecting patients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report on Oct. 11 stating that the hospital wasn't compliant in several areas, including infection control, and that it failed to ensure that all areas were identified and investigated related to the hepatitis C infections.

The deficiencies could have meant a revocation of Medicare funding for the hospital, but the agency issued a report in early December saying the hospital had addressed its problems and was in compliance with standards.

Bantering at the Bee

Dover's Emma Ciereszynski spelled her way to the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, coming in eighth place.

But it wasn't just her ability to spell words like "bombycine," that got the attention of ESPN announcers. Ciereszynski's smile and wit, in the midst of other serious or nervous spellers, charmed the national television audience.

Ciereszynski had won the Union Leader's New Hampshire Spelling Bee title to advance to the nationals. She exuded confidence and would frequently banter and joke with the Bee's official word pronouncer, Jacques Bailly.

Contestants hearing the dreaded ding indicating a misspelled word often left the stage in tears. But when Ciereszynski misspelled a word to be eliminated in the final round, she shrugged and smiled.

'Cane and quake

Hurricane Sandy blew through the Northeast in October, with winds and rain knocking out power to 137,500 customers and causing millions of dollars in damage, leading to the state being declared a disaster area. Despite the damage, New Hampshire fared better than other states, particularly New Jersey and New York.

The hurricane hit less than two weeks after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake, centered a few miles over the Maine border, shook New Hampshire in communities as far away as Concord and Manchester. The tremor caused little damage.

A student disappears

In early October, police and state officials began searching the waters near Peirce Island in Portsmouth, trying to find Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott, a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire sophomore. Shortly after the search began, authorities said she was presumed murdered and charged Seth Mazzaglia, 29, of Dover, with second-degree murder for allegedly suffocating and/or strangling Marriott in his Mill Street apartment on Oct. 9.

A second person, Kathryn McDonough, 19, of Portsmouth, was arrested on Christmas Eve on accusations she gave police a fake alibi for Mazzaglia.

Marriott's body still hasn't been found.

Election season

The year began with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney winning New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Republican primary. Romney, who outlasted challenges from several rivals, ultimately was defeated by President Barack Obama.

At the state level, several Republicans and Democrats entered the race to replace popular four-term Gov. John Lynch, who had announced that he would not seek reelection. In November, Democrat Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne.

Republicans, who swept races in 2010 to take majorities in the state House, Senate and Executive Council, found themselves hanging onto only the Senate, as Democrats took back majorities in the House and Executive Council.

Women rule

Hassan helped make history, as her election, along with the wins by Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster for the state's two U.S. House of Representatives seats and the presence of sitting U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, meant New Hampshire became the first state to have women occupy the governor's office and an entire Congressional delegation.

In addition, Portsmouth state Rep. Terie Norelli was selected as Speaker of the House.

Bettencourt's sudden fall

Former state House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt was considered a rising star among state Republicans. At 28, he was the youngest to have served in the House's number two post.

Then he suddenly announced his resignation May 25, saying he was going to leave the House in June to accept a new job that would be a conflict with his elected position and was looking forward to getting married.

That story quickly fell apart.

On May 26, the New Hampshire Sunday News reported that Bettencourt, at the time a third-year student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, had fabricated documents detailing an internship with Chichester attorney and former state Rep. J. Brandon Giuda that, Giuda told the Sunday News, never happened.

"When I saw the reports, I was blown away," Giuda said at the time. "Because it was literally a fiction novel, making up things that never occurred."

Bettencourt immediately resigned from the House on May 27 after acknowledging his actions. He didn't graduate from the law school, despite a picture of him in cap and gown at a graduation ceremony with Maine's U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. He had received a hollow tube with no degree.

Boy beaten, mom and boyfriend run away

In November, the state reeled in horror and anger after 3-year-old James Nicholson was allegedly beaten and burned by Roland Dow, the boyfriend of Nicholson's mother, Jessica Linscott. The boy was hospitalized for weeks with severe injuries that caused partial blindness.

The couple ran away after dropping the boy off at Exeter Hospital after he'd suffered multiple seizures. Their flight prompted a nationwide search that ended when the pair were arrested after watching a parade at a theme park in Orlando, Fla.

Dow has been indicted on assault charges and Linscott was charged with several counts of endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly failing to take action when her son suffered his injuries.

Huge fire on a nuclear sub

In May, a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard worker set fire to the nuclear submarine USS Miami, causing $400 million in damage, apparently because he was anxious over text messages with his girlfriend and just wanted to get out of work, authorities said.

Casey James Fury, a painter and sandblaster from Portsmouth, pleaded guilty in November to charges he set fire to the submarine in May and again in June. The first fire caused the majority of damage. The second was quickly extinguished and caused little damage.

Doctor assaulted

Dr. Eduardo Quesada and his wife were brutally attacked in their Bedford home Nov. 24, with both suffering severe injuries.

Police have not caught the assailant or named a suspect. The incident rattled the community and led to a public grilling of Police Chief John Bryfonski in early December about police actions in the hours and days after the attack, including police not entering the Quesada home until 30 minutes after the incident was reported by his wife.

The assault also caused a sharp increase in the number of Bedford residents requesting permits to carry a concealed firearm.

Other noteworthy events in the last year included:

-- There was no closure in the murder of Celina Cass, an 11-year-old West Stewartstown girl whose body was found in the Connecticut River in 2011. No arrests have been made.

-- Manchester city schools contended with issues of overcrowding, leading some partnering communities that send students to Manchester, including Hooksett and Candia, to consider rescinding their contracts.

-- The year saw announcements of some high-profile resignations and retirements, including those of Manchester schools Superintendent Thomas Brennan, Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirschberg and Catholic Medical Center CEO Alyson Pitman-Giles.

-- Former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman of Nashua died in November at the age of 82.

-- After several months of controversy, the City of Keene agreed to accept a $285,933 Homeland Security grant to buy a LENCO BearCat armored vehicle. Opponents said the tank-like vehicle was a waste of tax dollars that would militarize the police force.

-- The Portsmouth High School baseball team saw its 89-game winning streak, a national interscholastic baseball record, come to an end in April.

-- In Mont Vernon, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed the name of a body of water at the foot of Grand Hill from Jew Pond to Carleton Pond.

-- The Balsams Grand Resort and Hotel in Dixville Notch was sold to local developers who have said they plan to renovate the resort.

-- The Northern Pass power line controversy continued with PSNH parent Northeast Utilities and local North Country foes vying for land rights needed for the line from Hydro Quebec.

-- In late March and early April, James Earl Rand, 44, of Concord, went on a crime spree, committing several robberies. His actions are notable because Rand, who has a long criminal history, was freed from prison in error March 30 when officials made a mistake during parole proceedings.

-- In July, Russell Ouellette resigned as a Manchester alderman after he was arrested on sex assault charges.

-- After years of waiting for funding, the federal prison in Berlin was opened.

-- A misreading of the Mayan long-count calendar claimed that the world would end on Dec. 21. You're reading this, so it seems we're moving on to 2013. Happy New Year.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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