A look back at the top news stories of 2009 in Washington County Part 1

December 29, 2009

Washington County saw its share of ups and downs in 2009.

For impact, April 9 was one of the worst days of the year. At three different times and in three different places, Washington County lost three men in their 20s, including a homegrown baseball star who had just pitched his first game of the season for his Major League team.

The year was marked by other losses and difficulties -- rising unemployment, the closing of longtime businesses, the fatal effects of H1N1 flu.

Still, there was good news and better times.

Romance writer Nora Roberts opened a theme hotel after a fire nearly wiped out the project.

Local athletes rose to become the best in the state.

After more than 30 years without hands, a Hancock woman celebrated getting a prosthesis in place of a hook she had used.


What follows is a look at some of the highs, the lows and in betweens of the first half of 2009.

Events from the second half of 2009 will run in Thursday's paper.


8 -- An isolated snow squall brought sudden whiteout conditions. Among the accidents was one involving 16 vehicles on southbound Interstate 81 near Inwood, W.Va. Fifteen people from that crash went to local hospitals. Berkeley County had at least eight other crashes at the same time.

11 -- It was the end of the road for Richardson's restaurant in Hagerstown, which closed after 61 years. Fans gathered to share memories of the popular Dual Highway restaurant.

16 -- The former Statton Furniture Manufacturing Co. in Hagerstown was sold at auction for $650,000. The company, which had been in business since 1926, closed in 2008. T. Hunt Hardinge III, the company's president, said it couldn't compete with cheaper manufacturing costs in foreign countries.

19 -- Two people were killed in a 50-vehicle chain-reaction accident on westbound Interstate 70 in Washington County near the border with Frederick County, Md. Thirteen others were taken to the hospital. Seventy-one people were taken to the American Red Cross office on Conrad Court in Hagerstown for shelter. Authorities were not sure if falling snow played a role in the massive crash, which closed I-70's westbound lanes east of Mapleville Road for hours.

22 -- Police chased and caught convicted murderer Kandelario Garcia-Ramos, five days after he escaped from the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown. He was captured after a clerk at Sheetz at U.S. 40 and Md. 66 east of Hagerstown called 911 to report a man loitering in the store. Garcia-Ramos, 23, was serving a 40-year sentence for stabbing to death his former boss in Prince George's County, Md., in 2007. He escaped from MCI on Jan. 17 by climbing two fences -- one 12 feet high, the other 18 feet high -- topped with razor wire, state correctional officials said.


16 -- Two sisters died when a fire ripped through a house near Hancock. Nicole Gross, 15, and Mary Gross, 12, were trapped in their second-floor bedroom when the fire ripped through the house at 220 Old Route 40 about 10:45 p.m. Clarence Franklin Meyers, 38, the boyfriend of the girls' mother, later was charged with first-degree murder in their deaths. He told police he set the fire in the hope of receiving donations from the community.

16 -- The Williamsport High School girls indoor track and field team won the Maryland Class 1A state title, becoming the first team in Washington County history to win a state championship in indoor track.

17 -- Inn BoonsBoro, a boutique hotel developed by romance writer Nora Roberts and her husband, Bruce Wilder, opened. The $3 million renovation project survived a February 2008 fire that gutted the historic Boonsboro building.


4 -- Funding for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown was threatened for the second straight year. A Department of Legislative Services budget analyst's recommendation called for reducing USM-H funding for the next budget year to $175,000, down from about $2 million the campus was receiving. USM-H Executive Director C. David Warner III said the drop would be enough to shut down the campus. Funding was restored in the waning days of the General Assembly session.

7 -- Williamsport High School wrestlers Kemper Baker and Robbie Mies won Maryland state Class 2A-1A state wrestling titles. Baker won in the 119-pound weight class and Mies won in the 215-pound weight class.

8, 9 -- An inmate at the Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown was beaten during two shifts, leading to criminal charges against nine correctional officers. Five officers later were acquitted and two struck plea agreements. A charge against another was dropped. A trial for the ninth officer ended in a hung jury and a judge declared a mistrial.

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