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Year in review: Top Fort Wayne news stories

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What you said

Here's how you ranked the local news stories of the year in our online polls, from most to least important.

Derecho storm hits Fort Wayne, 43

Plumadore, Tinsley, Fabini make national news, 34

Paul Moss' ethics questioned, 20

122nd base's future, 7

City's first female fire chief, 3

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 4:32 pm

Gone with the 91-mph wind

A powerful storm that blew through Fort Wayne in minutes June 29, followed by another one July 5, left residents for days without electricity – and, more important, air conditioning – while the cleanup took months and cost the city at least $2.5 million. More than 78,000 people were left without power – some for nearly a week – in the area, with a wind gust June 29 recorded by the National Weather Service at 91 mph. Even the weather service's weather radio transmitter based in Allen County went off the air because an emergency generator was inoperable.

The city set up cooling centers after both storms, and after the July 5 storm, the American Red Cross opened a shelter where residents could stay and sleep because of the high temperatures.

The storms downed many trees, their roots pulling up sidewalks and their limbs taking down power lines. According to city spokesman Frank Suarez, the city racked up a $2.5 million tab – including goods, services from outside contractors and overtime pay for police and firefighters – dealing with the aftermath of the storms.

The needed sidewalk and driveway repairs weren't included in that total, he said.

Ethics questioned in late-night call to sheriff

When Allen County Coucilman Paul Moss' car was stopped at 2:30 a.m. June 2, he did what most county residents can't: he called Sheriff Ken Fries.

The two county officeholders don't debate that the call was made. What became an issue involving the Allen County Ethics Commission was whether the call let Moss off the hook from taking a field sobriety test.

On Nov. 30, the commission, minus member and former Allen Circuit Court Judge Tom Ryan, who had walked out of an earlier meeting on the matter and resigned from the board, said it was satisfied with a written apology from Moss – who admitted no wrongdoing – and dismissed a complaint filed against him.

According to a Fort Wayne Police Department report, a Sheriff's Department officer stopped Moss' black 2011 Cadillac, and after allegedly smelling alcohol in the car, the officer requested assistance from a city officer doing drunken-driving patrols in the area. Moss called Fries, and Moss was subsequently allowed to leave.

In an interview with columnist Kevin Leininger, Moss said he had been in bed when his daughter Carolyn called. She and five friends were at a bar, realized they shouldn't drive, and called for a ride. He picked them up and was taking them to a friend's house when he was stopped for reasons that remain unclear, since the officer didn't say and Moss didn't ask, Leininger reported. "I was texting one of (Carolyn's) friends," Moss told Leininger for a June 9 column. "Maybe I was swerving."

While Moss admitted to having a "few beers" at a golf outing earlier in the day, he said he had not consumed alcohol for at least six hours before the stop. The smell of alcohol that the officer noticed came from the five young people packed into his car, Moss insisted – not from him.

Moss said he declined the field test because he considered it unreliable and called the sheriff simply to speed up the process of taking him downtown for a more accurate test. Fries denied ordering his officers at the scene to grant Moss special treatment, and that claim was subsequently supported – or at least not contradicted – by statements from the officers that were submitted to the commission.

Local criminal investigations make national news

Throughout the year, Fort Wayne was in the national news for FBI searches that included property owned by an ex-NFL player and his brother; the unsolved killing of April Marie Tinsley and the sentencing of a man in another little girl's murder, in which her body was cut into pieces.

*The FBI, using local enforcements including the Allen County Sheriff's Department's SWAT team, carried out searches of several Fort Wayne homes and properties Dec. 6 and 7 as part of the agency's "Safe Streets" initiative, which deals with violent street gangs and drug-related violence. As of today, the FBI has not released information about any charges brought against anyone in the case. Agent David Crawford previously confirmed the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies searched homes in the 6600 block of Cherry Hill Parkway, the 7000 block of Wayward Court, along with a property in the 8700 block of Wheelock Road on the first day. According to news partner WANE-TV, other properties searched included one in the 4200 block of Wedgewood Drive, one in the 9600 block of Stowaway Cove, one in the 10200 block of Sona Marie Court and one property in New Haven. The next day, the FBI searched properties in the 2000 block of Falcon Ridge Court, the 10000 block of Unita Drive and the 700 block of Lawton Place.

Two of the properties searched the first day are owned by former NFL player Jason Fabini – who issued a statement late Dec. 6 that said he was not the target of the FBI's investigation – and his brother Michael.

*"America's Most Wanted" on the Lifetime Network took another look at the unsolved killing of 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley. Tinsley went missing April 1, 1988, and her body was found in a ditch days later.

Host John Walsh began Aug. 24's segment on the crime with views of him walking up the steps of the Rousseau Centre, now home to the Fort Wayne Police Department. It featured comments from FWPD crime scene technician Chris Miehls, retired FWPD detective Dan Camp and former FBI profiler Jennifer Eakin, who are or have worked on the case. It also featured the visual of a piece of evidence that the police department released earlier in the week, a sex toy that was found near Tinsley's body. Tips can be submitted to the FWPD at 1-800-237-7867, and information about the case can also be viewed at the police department's website at www.fwpd.org/april/press.htm. Or go to www.amw.com and search for “unknown April Tinsley killer.” Search under the Media tab for more.

*Michael L. Plumadore was sentenced June 18 to life plus 36 years in prison for the killing of 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon. Plumadore, who was a family friend baby-sitting Lemmon and her sisters when Aliahna went missing days before Christmas 2011, pleaded guilty in May after being charged with murder, abuse to a corpse and removing a body from the scene of a suspicious death, all felonies.

Plumadore had allegedly told police that on the night of Dec. 22, 2011, he killed Lemmon on the front step of his mobile home in the 9400 block of North Clinton Street near Diebold Road by hitting her on the head repeatedly with a brick, according to court documents. He later said in court that he then used a hacksaw to dismember the girl before storing body parts in a freezer and disposing others in a trash bin at a nearby gas station.

The girl wasn't reported missing until the night of Dec. 23, prompting a massive police search. Plumadore initially told police that when he awoke between 9 and 10 a.m. Dec. 23 he realized Aliahna was gone, but the other girls said her mother had come to pick her up, a family member told The News-Sentinel before Plumadore was charged.

Plumadore, after being questioned multiple times, reportedly confessed Dec. 26 to killing the girl, telling investigators where Lemmon's remains could be found.

An autopsy revealed both head and suffocation injuries to the girl.

In June, Lemmon's third-grade teacher and classmates at Holland Elementary planted a dwarf Korean lilac in a memorial garden.

City's first female fire chief sworn in

Amy Biggs was sworn in in July as the Fort Wayne Fire Department's first female chief in its 173-year history. Henry named her as the successor to former Chief Pete Kelly, who announced his retirement earlier this year and officially left the department in June.

Biggs, who was assistant chief and a 17-year veteran of the department before her appointment, is a Fort Wayne native. Biggs said Kelly left the department in good shape with up-to-date equipment and facilities. "We've been fortunate to maintain the quality of services that we have," she said in June.

She manages a department of more than 380 firefighters and support staff posted at 18 fire stations. She oversees fire protection for 110 square miles.

Worries about 122nd base jobs

With the nation's debt at roughly $15 trillion, the Air Force released its cost-cutting plan – which threatens more than 150 jobs at the 122nd Fighter Wing based in Fort Wayne.

The base has 1,200 personnel assigned and an annual economic impact of more than $58 million in the area, according to data supplied by the 122nd Fighter Wing.

The Blacksnakes' base at 3005 Ferguson Road, next to Fort Wayne International Airport, converted to the A-10 ground-attack plane in June, six months ahead of schedule. However, the Air Force said in March it planned to replace those planes with the MC-12W, a medium- and low-altitude plane designed for reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence-gathering. Because the MC-12 requires less manpower to fly, 152 jobs, 85 of them full-time positions, would be eliminated at the base, the Air Force said.

A proposal that would allow the local unit to keep its A-10s is currently before the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. House passed the $633 billion defense budget – which calls for the 122nd Fighter Wing to remain an A-10 unit.

Although Senate leaders hoped to pass the bill soon, there's no guarantee that President Obama will sign it. He has threatened to veto previous versions of the bill, saying it overspends on the military, and the threat still stands, a White House spokesman said in an Associated Press story.

Master Sgt. Darin Hubble, spokesman for the 122nd, said Air Guard leaders, including Fort Wayne's commander Col. David Augustine, remain confident about keeping the A-10s but need to see the new budget approved by the Senate and Obama. "Col. Augustine is confident that we'll have fighters at the fort for some time to come," Hubble said for a Dec. 21 News-Sentinel story on the budget news. "The main thing is getting it in writing. Right now we're still on that MC-12 budgetary concern."