Three of the top local news stories of 2012 came early in the year, seemingly back-to-back, and were full of tragedy. A Bremerton woman was murdered early in the month, an 8-year-old third-grader was shot in her classroom a few weeks later and a state trooper was killed during a traffic stop in Gorst the next day.
Serial killer on the loose?
The body of 61-year-old Melody Brannon was found in the 1300 block of High Avenue in Bremerton around 6 p.m., Feb. 3. Brannon’s murder joined the unsolved May 2011 Warren Avenue murder of 19-year-old Sara Burke. Police said that a June 20, 2011 knife attack on Kenny Cobb as he walked along Burwell Street was also related to the murders and eventually led the Bremerton Police Department to announce the possibility of a local serial killer.
That possibility, with little else by way of explanation from BPD, would terrify residents for months to come. Police went on to release a sketch of a “person of interest” in the case and eventually spoke to him. When asked whether people should keep the sketches up around town after the man was interviewed, police wouldn’t say. No arrests have been made and the cases remain unsolved.
Girl shot in classroom
A few weeks after Brannon’s murder, just before the bell would go off to release students from their Armin Jahr Elementary classroom on Feb. 22, 8-year-old Amina Bowman was shot in her stomach when a .45 caliber handgun in a 9-year-old classmate’s backpack discharged. The girl’s parents, John Bowman and Teri Jolene Bowman, eventually went on to file a civil lawsuit against the Bremerton School District.
The family made claims for $400,000 in medical costs and will seek at least $10 million in general damages. The Bowmans allege that district officials knew the boy posed a safety threat but failed to take appropriate action. Jamie Chaffin, the boy’s mother, faced criminal charges following the shooting and plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm.
An assault charge against Chaffin was dropped after she agreed to testify against her boyfriend, Douglas Bauer. The boy was charged with reckless endangerment and agreed to testify against Chaffin and Bauer.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu was shot in the head by Joshua Blake during a traffic stop on state Route 16 near Gorst in the early morning hours of Feb. 23. Radulescu was the first patrol officer killed in Kitsap County in 34 years.
Blake fled the scene and eventually shot himself as a SWAT team circled in on the house he was hiding in. In the car with Blake at the time of the shooting was 18-year-old Megan G. Mollet, who Blake had told to turn away as he fired across her in the passenger seat to kill Radulescu.
Ultimately, Mollet and five others were convicted in helping Blake to escape the scene of the crime. They received between 6 months in jail and 14 months in prison for rendering criminal assistance in the case.
In March, following a state record 18 terms in Congress, Norm Dicks, a Belfair Democrat who grew up in Bremerton, announced that he would retire. Prior to his 36-year career in the House, Dicks spent eight years on the staff of U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson.
Dicks was a political power broker in the other Washington and his legacy will be marked by the transformations of downtown Bremerton and Tacoma, environmental restoration efforts in Puget Sound and his unwavering commitment to securing a strong military presence in the 6th District.
Dicks’ successor will be Gig Harbor Democrat Derek Kilmer who earned his predecessor’s early endorsement and cruised to easy election victory.
Harrison signs deal
Harrison Medical Center signed a non-binding letter of intent to affiliate with the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System late in the year to expand services, improve the delivery and quality of care, and broaden access to services for individuals, employers and communities in the South Puget Sound and on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.
In announcing the deal, Harrison Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Bosch said, “This is a very positive thing for the communities we serve that can potentially very much enhance quality and reduce costs.”
Leaders of the two nonprofit health systems expect to complete the affiliation process by June 30, 2013. That work will include hammering out an actual agreement, getting approval from state and federal regulators and finalizing the deal.
Hello and Goodbye
The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis left Bremerton for the Middle East Aug. 22 less than six months after coming home from there.
The Stennis was originally slated to head for the western Pacific this month, but Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered her back to the Middle East following a request by U.S. Central Command commander Marine General James Mattis that two carriers be available in that theater following the departure of the USS Enterprise.
The Stennis is slated to return home to Bremerton in April.
Overwater work got underway in the fall or a second explosives handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home to eight Trident submarines. The wharf will be used load and unload ballistic missiles.
Before work began, the Navy agreed to pay $6.9 million in compensation for damaging habitat as part of the $715 million project. It also agreed to pay about $9 million to the Skokomish, Gamble S’Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes for fish projects.
The Suquamish Tribe and Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action, an anti-nuclear weapons group, each filed federal lawsuits seeking to stop or delay the construction of the new wharf.
A three-alarm fire destroyed six businesses in a Silverdale retail complex on the afternoon of Sun., Jan. 8, sending various employees into the parking lots at 9995 Silverdale Way NW as it quickly devoured the building. The fire was the largest in Silverdale for more than a decade.
The fire and resulting damage displaced an estimated 40 employees, but none were hurt in the blaze that started in the Desert Sun Tanning Salon shortly after 2 p.m. Authorities said that the fire started after a tanning bed bulb malfunctioned.
Generally tanning bed fires are contained to the salons in which they occur, largely due to the engineering of drywall material that is rated to withstand fire for up to 45 minutes before succumbing.
“No one expected the whole thing to burn,” said Ken Hwang, owner of the retail complex.
Range shuttered, reopened
After years and years of legal wrangling, the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club on Seabeck Highway was shut down in February. The legal wrangling, though, continues.
An April Washington State Court of Appeals ruling lifted the public nuisance injunction that shuttered the club, after a determination was made that closure of the club caused more harm to the club and its members than it did to the county and area residents by leaving the range open. Further review of the case is expected in 2013 as the wrangling wrangles on.