The biggest story of the year came as 2012 was winding down, when the shooting deaths of 20 young children and six adults at a Connecticut school shocked the nation and the world.
On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home, then took her guns and forced his way into nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. There he killed the children and several school staff members.
Besides its emotional impact on people everywhere, the story hit closer to home with the discovery that Lanza and other members of his family have their roots in Southern New Hampshire and Haverhill, with several still living in this area.
The other stories of the year in Haverhill included a deadly home invasion and a fatal blaze that had firefighters blaming an elderly woman’s death on Fire Department staffing cuts.
Shooter in Newtown school massacre had N.H. ties
As the nation watched in horror on Dec. 14, The Eagle-Tribune confirmed Adam Lanza was born in Kingston in 1992 and that several members of his extended family still live in Southern New Hampshire and Haverhill.
Police said his brother told them Lanza had a “personality disorder.’’ Classmates and others who knew Lanza said he was a bright young man who kept mostly to himself. Investigators are still piecing together his motives for the shootings.
Lanza killed himself after the other shootings, bringing the death total to 28 – the 20 students, six school staffers, Lanza and his mother.
The deaths brought prayer services and vigils in Newtown, the Merrimack Valley, Southern New Hampshire and elsewhere. The deaths also brought a visit from President Obama to Newtown for a prayer service and kicked off a national debate on gun control and the need for better medical treatment for people with mental disorders.
— Bill Cantwell
Two killed in River Street home invasion
Four people were shot July 23 in William Melchionda’s ground-floor apartment at 631 River St.
Melchionda and Anddy Guzman died.
Police said three masked men entered Melchionda’s apartment sometime between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Police reports show the invaders’ motive was their belief illegal drugs and a large amount of cash were being kept in the home.
An Essex County Grand Jury eventually indicted three people on murder and other charges. Juan Carlos Sanchez, 20, of Lawrence and Joshua Cloutman, 20, and Angela Walsh, 21, both of 631 River St., were each indicted on two counts of murder, home invasion, armed robbery and armed burglary. Police said Guzman, 20, of Lawrence was one of the men who invaded the home and was accidently shot by Sanchez during a violent struggle.
Guzman was found outside the home with a fatal gunshot wound. He was wearing a black mask and had an empty pistol holder, police said. Sanchez told a witness interviewed by police that he mistakenly shot Guzman, investigators said. Cloutman and Walsh, who police said lived in an upstairs apartment with their child and Cloutman’s mother, were charged with helping plan the home invasion in exchange for some of the marijuana the home invaders planned to steal from Melchionda’s apartment, police said.
None of the cases have come to trial yet.
— Shawn Regan
Fatal fire sparks feud between mayor, firefighters
A few days after Mayor James Fiorentini cut staffing for the Fire Department’s rescue truck in March to cover a budget shortfall, 84-year-old Phyllis Lamot died in a fire at 477 Washington St.
A few hours after the early-morning blaze, the firefighters union held a press conference in front of the burned-out building to say Lamot may have survived the fire if the mayor had not cut two men from their rescue truck. One firefighter went so far as to say the mayor should be charged with murder for taking the rescue truck out of service over a dispute with the union.
A few days later, firefighters apologized to the mayor and agreed to have two of their men work the rescue truck for free for two weeks. The mayor said the city would find money to fully staff the rescue truck with paid firefighters after that. The cause of the fire was eventually ruled accidental and fire officials said it spread quickly because of medical oxygen that was being used in the home.
— Shawn Regan
BB shooter shatters school bus windows
Two school buses — one carrying 4- and 5-year-olds and the other with high school students — were shot at Dec. 20 with BB or pellet guns, shattering windows and spraying glass.
The incidents occurred less than a week after the massacre in Connecticut in which a 20-year-old man shot and killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The day after the Haverhill shootings, police officers rode on school buses and followed them in cruisers and unmarked cars. Since then, officers have quietly patrolled school bus routes, looking to protect children and perhaps even catch a BB gun shooter in the act.
Police said they believe the BBs were fired by the same person, possibly in a vehicle that drove past the buses. There have been no arrests, but police have vowed to do all they can to catch the shooter or shooters.
— Shawn Regan
Police accused of giving breaks to state troopers in crashes
Police Chief Alan DeNaro suspended Sgt. Harry Miller, Lt. William Leeman and Patrolman Christopher Pagliuca without pay for five days each for their roles in the handling of a March crash involving Charles Noyes of Haverhill, former deputy superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.
The officers were cited for writing untruthful or incomplete reports, unsatisfactory job performance and violating police ethics. Miller was suspended for an additional five days for what officials called his questionable investigation of a 2005 crash involving former state trooper Paul Regan of Rowley, who retired from the state police in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel. The city learned about the Regan case during its probe of the Noyes case.
The Haverhill officers appealed their suspensions under Civil Service rules, which triggered disciplinary hearings that have yet to be resolved. The officers face additional punishment ranging from longer suspension to demotion and even firing.
— Shawn Regan
Hunking School repaired, city plans replacement
Temporary repairs were completed to Hunking Middle School last summer, paving the way for about 140 students to return to the building in the city’s Bradford section.
The students had been moved to the formerly vacant Bartlett School six months earlier, after problems were discovered with a section of Hunking’s foundation that raised fears a portion of the building would collapse. The repairs are expected to make the building safe for at least four years.
Haverhill has begun an $800,000 study to determine what kind of replacement school should be built, how much it will cost and where it will be built. Haverhill is in line for state money for part of the project. Local voters will eventually be asked to approve paying the city’s share of the cost.
— Shawn Regan
UMass Lowell plans satellite campus for downtown
The University of Massachusetts Lowell plans to open a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill next fall.
It will be the college’s first-ever satellite campus.
This month, college officials announced they are looking for 10,000 square feet of space for six to eight “smart classrooms’’ and administrative offices for the satellite spot, which will focus on continuing education, University Chancellor Martin Meehan told The Eagle-Tribune. He said the satellite campus will become a reality with help from state Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, who is a UMass Lowell alumnus and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Money for the campus is included in the state’s fiscal year 2013 budget, officials said.
Meehan said officials don’t have a site in mind yet and that requests for proposals will be sought, allowing property owners to offer their buildings. Once the campus finds a home, Meehan said he expects it will boost economic activity in the area. Mayor James Fiorentini said he expects the campus to boost the downtown’s sluggish daytime economy. He said it is the latest in a string of improvements to the area in recent years, including the construction of hundreds of new condos and apartments in old shoe factory buildings, an $11-million parking deck and a thriving restaurant district.