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Top stories: Gangs in Lodi, Energy Center and more

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Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel

Lodi Police Det. Eric Bradley, right, talks with other law enforcement officers at the scene of a shooting Lodi and Crescent avenues on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. The victim’s clothes lay piled at the scene were he collapsed after being shot. The victim was taken to Lodi Memorial Hospital where he later died.

Updated

What were the biggest stories of 2012? We've scoured our archives and reflected on the stories we covered across our beats. Here is our list of the top 10:

1. Lodi unifies to fight gangs

Lodi took strides to drastically reduce gang violence after there was a significant uptick in 2011 and continuing into 2012.

Two shooting deaths in one month toward the beginning of the year caused the issue to come even more to the forefront.

On Feb. 9, 21-year-old Eric Lopez Ramirez was shot and killed on the 300 block of Central Avenue. Then, almost exactly a month later in March, 18-year-old Angelica Osorio was gunned down in front of her home when police said a 17-year-old shooter aimed for her boyfriend.

To battle the problem, Lodi applied for and received a two-year, $250,000 California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention grant this March, with the goal of reducing gang violence by 25 percent. In November, the city received another grant, adding another $305,000 to fighting gangs through 2014. Both grants require the city to match the funds.

One solution that has helped is organizing handball at Lodi and Tokay high schools, and the city sponsored its first handball tournament in September, drawing youths from different gangs to compete against each other.

2. Victims of the 'Speed Freak Killers' laid to rest

After waiting for more than 14 years to bury their daughter, Cyndi Vanderheiden, Clements residents Terri and John Vanderheiden laid her remains to rest in April.

The chain of events started in January when Loren Herzog, who was convicted of murdering Vanderheiden, committed suicide in the trailer that he lived on at High Desert State Prison in Susanville. Herzog was convicted of murdering three people and as an accessory in a fourth case.

In February, Herzog's accomplice, Wesley Shermantine Jr., led investigators to his former property in San Andreas, where the remains of Vanderheiden and 16-year-old Stockton resident Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler were found.

Since then, officers have identified two other women who disappeared in the 1980s, and Shermantine claims there are dozens of other victims.

3. Lockeford priest loses court case, flees to Ireland

Michael Kelly, who had served as priest at St. Joachim's Parish in Lockeford since 2004, was removed from his position this year after a civil court case.

In April, a jury determined in a civil lawsuit that Kelly was liable for committing sexual assault in the mid-1980s. A week later, Kelly unexpectedly flew to his native Ireland for medical treatment and has not returned.

Later that month, the Stockton Diocese settled the case with the plaintiff and agreed to pay $3.75 million.

4. Democrats take control of Lodi state and federal seats

Several of Lodi's state and federal districts were redrawn during statewide redistricting, resulting in new matchups during November's election. Democrats came out ahead in all of the contests.

Rep. Jerry McNerney moved to Stockton and won the new 9th Congressional District seat, which includes the Lodi area and Galt. McNerney defeated Republican Ricky Gill, 25, who has lived most of his life in Lodi.

Two sitting Assembly members were also re-elected, but they are representing Lodi and Galt for the first time. Democrat Richard Pan of Sacramento moved into the newly created 9th Assembly District, which includes the Lodi area. Pan defeated Lodi Republican Tony Amador,

Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, who represented south San Joaquin County and parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties in the Assembly, is the new state senator for the 5th District, representing Lodi and Galt. Galgiani defeated Republican Bill Berryhill.

5. Public projects abound even as budgets remain tight

While agencies struggled to balance their books, money through bonds, state funding and other sources helped build a variety of public works projects in both Galt and Lodi.

In August, the Northern California Power Agency dedicated the Lodi Energy Center, which is located west of Interstate 5. The entire project cost $388 million, and it will power a little less than 300,000 homes on average.

Most of the Central Galt Interchange was open by October. The $20 million project created two overpasses at the city's C Street exit.

Lower Sacramento Road, one of the main thoroughfares connecting Lodi to Stockton, reopened in November after being closed for more than a year.

And now some Lodi residents are drinking Mokelumne River water thanks to the new surface water treatment plant that opened in Lodi this November. The plant will replace 35 percent of the city's annual groundwater usage.

6. Galt Joint Union Elementary School District wins $10 million in Race to the Top funding

As the year ended, word came from Washington, D.C. that the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District was among just 16 nationally to be recognized with major Race to the Top funds — $10 million over four years.

The program encourages excellence and innovation, and that's reflected in Galt's elementary schools, each of which has attained the magical 800 API score target set by the state, despite challenging demographics.

Galt has also worked cooperatively with the teachers' union to revise and improve teacher evaluations and has developed a unique teacher-mentor program.

7. The rise of the Downtown tasting rooms

During the last year, local wineries have opened their doors to wine aficionados in Downtown Lodi, and city officials are hoping it will boost tourism.

Riaza Wines, Scotto Family Cellars, Olde Ice House Cellars and Toasted Toad all opened tasting rooms this year. Two of those tasting rooms — Toasted Toad and Olde Ice House Cellars — also renovated dilapidated buildings on Main Street.

8. Animal control officer killed in Galt

While picking up dogs from an evicted home, a Sacramento County animal control officer was shot and killed through the home's front door, sparking a 17-hour multi-agency stand-off in Galt.

Roy Marcum arrived at the house on 1st Street in November to pick up dogs that a 65-year-old evicted homeowner, Joseph Corey, said he could no longer care for.

As Marcum approached, police believe Corey shot him in the chest with a shotgun through the door. When police arrived, they evacuated about a dozen homes in the area and set up a wide perimeter. The stand-off lasted until 5 a.m. the next day, when officers were able to capture the suspect.

The incident sparked a debate on whether animal control officers should be provided with bulletproof vests.

Corey's arraignment was postponed until Jan. 4, 2013. The 65-year-old is being held without bail in Sacramento County Jail.

9. Boost to local economy as retailers open in Lodi

Several major retailers opened in Lodi this year.

In April, more than 200 people waited in line to flood into the new Home Depot at Reynolds Ranch near Harney Lane and Highway 99. And in November, BevMo! opened its doors with hundreds also waiting in line.

Lodi is waiting on a Walmart Supercenter and Galt is preparing for a Walmart of its own, after both projects cleared legal hurdles this year.

10. Wineries fight against ordinance that would limit events

Winery owners banded together this year to fight a proposed San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors ordinance that would of limited events in the county.

Winery owners argued it would hurt their business and the events are a key of promoting Lodi as a wine region while county residents expressed frustration with noise levels at events like weddings and concerts.

Rural neighbors had complained that wineries were not doing enough to mitigate noise and large crowds at the events.

The proposed ordinance was tabled and no decisions have been made. San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will probably continue the debate in 2013.

7 images

Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel

Lodi Police Det. Eric Bradley, right, talks with other law enforcement officers at the scene of a shooting Lodi and Crescent avenues on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. The victim’s clothes lay piled at the scene were he collapsed after being shot. The victim was taken to Lodi Memorial Hospital where he later died.

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