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Top Crime Stories of 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting Top Story


The crime news story that received the most media coverage in 2012 and the crime that had the most far-reaching impact of the year involved the mass murder of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school. Adam Lanza's shooting spree at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown launched a renewed political campaign against assault type weapons which in turn sparked nationwide panic buying of the weapons and their high-capacity ammo magazines.

President Obama's response of appointing a committee to come up with a gun control legislative proposal by January 2013, set off a buying spree for weapons and ammonition that left shelves in gun stores across the country bare and manufacturers backordered in some cases up to six months.

Other top crime stories of the year included a Neighborhood Watch program that went terribly wrong, a former police officer being convicted of killing his third wife, seven life sentences plus 140 years for a Phoenix mass killer, a murder conviction in the Jennifer Hudson family murders, the murder-suicide of a man suspected in the disappearance of his wife, and a 28-year sentence in Peru for Jordan Van der Sloot.

1. 27 Dead in Sandy Hook Shootings

Sandy Hook Elementary
Getty Images
A school and community was forever changed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire on students aged 6 and 7, killing 26 people, 20 of them young children. Lanza killed his mother at their home before taking her car and her guns to the school, sending terror through the community and shock across the nation.

2. George Zimmerman Charged With Murder

Police Photo of George Zimmerman's Bloody Face
Prosecutors continue to pursue the murder case against Florida Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in spite of being in possession of police photos taken on the night of the death that show Zimmerman with multiple bloody injuries. Police officials who conducted the original investigation refused to file charges.

3. Drew Peterson Found Guilty

Drew Peterson
Scott Olson / Getty Images
It took almost 14 hours for an Illinois jury to find Drew Peterson guilty in the death of this third wife, Kathleen Savio. Meanwhile, the fourth wife of the former Bolingbrook police officer is still missing without a trace. Stacy Peterson vanished about three years after Savio was found dead in her bathtub.

4. Jared Loughner Gets 7 Life Sentences

Jared Lee Loughner
Police Mug Shot
Jared Loughner, the Arizona man who killed six people and wound 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will never be eligible for parole after receiving seven consecutive life sentences followed by 140 years in prison. Loughner pleaded guilty after he was forcible medicated to make him competent to stand trial.

5. Balfour Guilty in Hudson Murders

William Balfour Jennifer Hudson family murder suspect
Mug Shot
The former brother-in-law of Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson was found guilty of the murder of her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew. William Balfour was sentenced to three life sentences plus 120 years in prison after a jury that first reported it was hung returned an hour later with a unanimous verdict.

6. Josh Powell, Sons Killed in Explosion

Susan Powell
Family Photo
A man suspected in the disappearance of his wife in Utah in 2009, killed himself and his two sons by setting fire to the house they were visiting after apparently trying to chop the boys' heads off with a hatchet. Josh Powell locked the social worker who brought Susan Powell's sons to the home for a supervised visit and then set it on fire.

7. Joran Van der Sloot Gets 28 Years

Joran Van der Sloot
Police Mug Shot
Joran Van der Sloot, the main suspect in the disappearance in Aruba of Alabama Teen Natalee Holloway, was sentenced to 28 years in Peruvian prison for the murder of another young woman. Van der Sloot was in Peru attending a poker tournament when he met and killed 21-year-old Stephany Flores. It is uncertain just how much of the 28 years he will have to serve under the laws of Peru.

8. Judge Grants Gabe Watson Acquittal

Christina Watson
Family Photo
A man who served 18 months in Australian prison for the honeymoon death of wife while on a diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef, was acquitted on murder charges in his home state of Alabama. A judge granted Gabe Watson's motion for acquittal on the charge of murdering his wife Tina Watson in October 2003.

9. Dougherty Gang Gets Long Prison Terms

Dougherty Gang
Mug Shots
Three siblings who went on a crime spree because one of the brothers became a convicted sex offender, have been sentenced to long prison terms in Colorado and Georgia. Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29; Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26; and Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21, pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Colorado and to bank robbery charges in Georgia. They still face charges in Florida, where their crime spree began.

10. Baby Gabriel's Mom Guilty of Lesser Charge

Elizabeth Johnson
Police Mug Shot
An apparent emotionally disturbed Arizona woman, who first claimed that she killed her infant son to get back at the child's father, was convicted of custodial interference and unlawful imprisonment, while avoiding a conviction for the greater charge of kidnapping. Elizabeth Johnson was sentenced to 5.25 years in prison in the "Baby Gabriel" case.
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