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Newsroom staff picks top 10 stories of 2006

December 31, 2006

Editor's note - Trying to select the top Tri-State-area stories of the year is a tough task because, in some respects, news is in the eye of the beholder.

We took a stab at it anyway.

In a completely unscientific survey, reporters and editors were asked to help compile a list of important stories from 2006. All stories that were suggested were placed on the list.

More than 30 copies of the list were passed out to reporters, editors, editorial assistants and the Photography Department. Each recipient was asked to designate the stories he or she thought were among the 10 most important of the year, but not to rank them in order of importance.

When the lists were returned, the results were tallied. The 10 stories that received the most votes made our Top 10 list. The next 10 top vote-getters made our secondary list.

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You'll find those lists here.

We did not try to rank the stories in order or importance, choosing instead to list them in chronological order.




Jan. 26 - Jeffery Alan Wroten, a correctional officer at Roxbury Correctional Institution, was shot while guarding an inmate at Washington County Hospital.

Wroten, 44, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was guarding Brandon T. Morris in a hospital room when he was shot in the face with his own gun early on the morning of Jan. 26. He was pronounced dead the following day.

Morris was serving an eight-year sentence at the state prison south of Hagerstown for assault, robbery and handgun convictions in Baltimore.

He had been admitted to the hospital the previous day for observation after having a sewing needle removed from his right side.

Morris was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, carjacking and other offenses stemming from the fatal shooting and its aftermath. He could face the death penalty if convicted when he stands trial in Howard County Circuit Court. The trial is scheduled to begin June 4.




Feb. 1 - Hagerstown Mayor Richard F. Trump resigned from office.

He offered only a two-sentence letter of resignation addressed to the Hagerstown City Council.

"As of February 1, 2006, I respectfully resign the position of Mayor. I respect your understanding in this manner and will be glad to cooperate with any matters," Trump wrote.

Trump was elected mayor in May 2005, the only Republican among an all-Democratic city council.

Trump verbally sparred with members of the city council in the months following his election. All five members of the council co-authored a letter accusing him of failing "to follow basic rules of procedure, decorum and civility" and other "inappropriate behavior."

He was replaced by former Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.




July 28 - Police launched a three-state manhunt for Curtis E. Burkett, accused in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Cathy Burkett, in their Garnes Road home, and of William Zimmerman at Longview Campground in Mercersburg, Pa.

Police asked the public to be on the lookout for Burkett's 1980s Ford pickup, which was painted in camouflage. He last was seen driving the truck after the close-range shooting of Zimmerman.

A farmer chopping corn in a field off Mount Pleasant Road in Montgomery Township, Pa., spotted Burkett's truck Aug. 24. When he went over to investigate, he found Burkett's body, a rifle in his lap, outside the truck on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Burkett's remains were found about a half-mile from the campground where Cathy Burkett and Zimmerman were shot.




Aug. 6 - Fire ripped through the Morgan County Courthouse, causing up to $5 million in damage to the historic structure in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

The fire started in the ceiling and spread throughout the circa-1908 courthouse. The blaze started in the ceiling of the second-floor courtroom as a result of an electrical short involving the building's original wiring, investigators with the West Virginia Fire Marshal's office later determined.




Aug. 8 - A former police officer who pleaded guilty to two federal civil rights charges made racial threats because he was angry that the Hagerstown Police Department fired him, his attorney said.

The former officer, Jeffrey Scott Shifler of Maugansville, admitted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that he made racial threats against a Hagerstown city councilwoman and students at two high schools.

Shifler faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, plus a $100 fee, on each count. His sentencing date was postponed several times and a new date has not been set.

Authorities said that Shifler anonymously targeted 25 people and institutions with threats, insults and false crime reports from March 2004 to February 2006.




Aug. 20 - Two people fishing in Back Creek east of the small community of Shanghai, W.Va., made a grisly discovery - two red suitcases in the water containing what appeared to be human remains.

Authorities found that one of the suitcases contained a head and arms, and the other contained a torso.

Authorities determined from dental records that the remains were those of Debra Ann Fielder, 49.

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