TAMPA, Fla. - From a scandal that rocked the Lakeland Police Department to a deadly sinkhole in Seffner and the George Zimmerman trial, here is a look back at the year in headlines.
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February In Seffner, an enormous sinkhole opened up without warning underneath the home of Jeffrey Bush, 36, swallowing him and taking much of the home with it. The home was condemned and later demolished. Two neighboring homes were also condemned. Click for photos and to read:
Later in the year, another sinkhole opened up underneath another home, this time in Dunedin. No one was hurt and everyone got out safely, though the home and the neighboring home had to be demolished. Click for photos and to read more:
March In Lakeland, a sex scandal began to unravel within the Lakeland Police Department when Sue Eberle, a long-term City of Lakeland employee, provided a list to detectives of her sexual encounters with current and former Lakeland police officers. After an internal investigation, 11 officers and two city employees either resigned, retired or were fired, including Eberle. Controversy continued to swirl around the department after questions were raised about an officer's behavior during a May traffic stop where the officer instructed a woman to shake out her bra during a drug search. And in September, another officer was under investigation for armed sexual battery, accused of sexually assaulting a woman while responding to a call. A 911 dispatcher was also disciplined for calling her sergeant after the victim called 911 and laughing about the complaint.
April A community rallied around 2-year-old Ireland Nugent after she lost both of her feet in a lawnmower accident. After several successful surgeries, the little girl was welcomed home several weeks later and is now walking again with new prosthetic legs. Click link to read:
An international manhunt was launched after Joshua and Sharyn Hakken were accused of executing an elaborate kidnapping plot involving their 2 and 4-year-old sons. The boys were in the custody of their grandparents when deputies said the couple abducted the children and hopped a boat in Madeira Beach, setting off Amber Alerts in multiple states. The couple was captured about a week later aboard their sailboat in Cuba. Click to read:
July All eyes were on the city of Sanford as George Zimmerman went on trial for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense and after a two week long trial, a jury agreed. The case spawned national conversations about gun control, gun laws, and discussions on the Stand Your Ground Law, even though that particular law wasn't invoked in this case. Click to read story and reaction:
August In August, residents in St. Petersburg voted to stop the controversial Lens design that was set to replace the current pier, which closed for good at the end of March. Mayor Bill Foster, who lost re-election in November to Rick Kriseman, called for more public input this time around and said he hoped to have a new pier by 2017. Click to read:
After an I-Team investigation, Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill was charged with DUI after reports showed his blood alcohol level at .367, four times the legal limit. O'Neill was found sleeping in a red SUV parked and still running in the middle of the road. I-Team investigators starting asking questions about why the case was closed after O'Neill was transported to the hospital, though there was dash cam video of O'Neill intoxicated. The state attorney's office investigated and charged him with DUI. O'Neill was later suspended. Click to read:
September College students and residents in communities around the University of South Florida were on edge after a one-night crime spree that included a string of rapes and armed robberies. The suspect, Charlie Christopher Bates, 24, stole a car, changed his appearance, then led deputies on a chase that was televised live, ending in a deadly shootout. Click to read:
In Lakeland, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped from an old cement tower to her death after deputies said she was terrorized by as many as 15 girls through online messaging and texts. Two girls were arrested on stalking charges which were later dropped, but the case prompted worldwide discussion about cyber-bullying. Rebecca's mother, Tricia Norman, continues her crusade against cyber-bullying by talking to children and pushing for anti-bullying legislation. Click to read:
October The Tampa Bay Rays made it to the playoffs in October, but the Red Sox rebounded to take the best-of-five playoff in a 3-1 victory. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series. Click to read more:
A 32-foot Sperm whale stranded itself on Madeira Beach at the end of October, drawing crowds of hundreds hoping for its safe return to the ocean. Unfortunately, the whale, which suffered a chronic infection, had to be euthanized. Click to read:
November Dontae Morris was found guilty in the 2010 murders of two Tampa police officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. The officers' murders set off a four day manhunt for Morris, who was seen on dash cam video shooting the officers at close range. Morris was sentenced to death. Click to read:
December It's called "Black Monday" in the NFL for a reason: five coaches throughout the NFL were let go as the football season came to an end, including for Tampa Bay Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominic. After just two seasons and an 11-21 record, Schiano was fired, along with Dominic who spent 19 seasons with the team. Now we wait for word on who will take the reigns for 2014.