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Top 10 stories of 2007
FLS newsroom's Top 10 stories of 2007

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file/ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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1. Death of congresswoman Jo Ann Davis from breast cancer

2. UMW fires President William Frawley after he is charged twice in two days with driving under the influence, in Fairfax and Fredericksburg

3. Boom in medical services--HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital opens; plans for hospitals in Stafford and Spotsylvania progress; Fredericksburg poised to host Virginia's fourth Level-II trauma center; and three urgent-care centers to open

4. Domestic-violence deaths

5. Real estate downturn slows area economy, increases foreclosures

6. Kalahari water park at Celebrate Virginia

7. Transportation funding bill passes General Assembly, but abusive-driver fees anger residents

8. Drought leads to water restrictions in some localities, disaster declarations for farmers

9. UMW announces plans to buy Park & Shop shopping center

10. Stafford, Spotsylvania and Culpeper try to tackle illegal-immigration issues

Date published: 12/30/2007

The shooting rampage by Seung-Hui Cho on April 16 at Virginia Tech left 32 people and the gunman dead.

It was the worst school shooting in American history, and made national and international news.

Locally, parents with students at Tech, and alumni who still feel close to the school, worried about their children and their school. But "Hokie Spirit" and outpourings of support from around the world helped prop up the stunned university community.

Two of the victims had local ties: Emily Hilscher was a freshman from Rappahannock County majoring in animal and poultry sciences. Reema Samaha's father, Joe Samaha Jr., is a commercial real estate agent with North Stafford's Coldwell Banker Elite.

Earlier this month, Tech officials announced that Norris Hall, where most of the shootings occurred, would be turned into a center for violence prevention and peace studies.

Two domestic-violence deaths shock Spotsylvania

Two Spotsylvania families were shaken in the early fall; in each case, a man was charged with killing another family member.

Kayla Reynolds, 13, was shot in the back of the head in August. Her father, Earl Wayne "Butch" Reynolds, was charged with killing her and wounding Kayla's sister.

Less than a month later, 16-year-old Walter Smith Jr. was charged with raping and killing his 22-year-old sister, Betsy Mary Smith. He is also charged with beating his 2-year-old niece a sledgehammer, fracturing her skull nine times.

Bill Neely, the county's commonwealth's attorney, criticized the county's Department of Social Services for its handling not just of those cases but also of others in the past. Records show Spotsylvania has the lowest percentage of "founded" domestic-abuse cases when compared with surrounding localities.

The state is now investigating Social Services, specifically its Child Protective Services division.

5. Kalahari water park

Just as Fredericksburg City Council members were wringing their hands over how the city's financial future depends on the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex's developing as promised, a Wisconsin company announced plans to build a $200 million water-park resort in that development.


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