Wednesday, December 30, 2009
7 News Features: 7's Top 7 - Local
The year 2009 had its share of big stories happening in Florida. Shootouts, scandals, rescues and one sports team breaking ground for the next decade. These were the big stories making news in South Florida and across the Sunshine State, in tonight's ''7's top 7.'' Here's Robbin Simmons.
WSVN -- There's a billion reasons why this story tops our list in '09.
Scott Rothstein: "I made a very, very serious mistake."
That's the dollar amount once influential attorney Scott Rothstein stands accused of swindling from investors in one giant Ponzi scheme.
Rothstein: "What I get, I guess I deserve."
NFL receiver Donte Stallworth plead guilty to DUI manslaughter for the death of a man on Miami Beach.
Stallworth: "I can and will honor his memory by committing my time, my resources and voice to educating the community about drunk driving."
Another high profile sports star in the hot seat. Race car driver Helio Castroneves found not guilty on charges of tax evasion.
Castroneves: "The fans, thank you so much. You've been sending prayers, so many little things."
Play ball! The Marlins finally scoring the votes needed to build a new ballpark.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez: "This is the official site of the Florida Marlins!"
But the mayor was less enthusiastic a few months later when his staff pay raises would come under fire in the midst of heated budget debates.
Alvarez: "These decisions were made over a year ago."
South Florida schools also faced budget battles.
Local activist: "This is the way they treat the people who have been the people teaching their kids?"
South Florida high schools were the site of violence in '09.
A fight at Coral Gables Senior High was caught on surveillance video. Andy Rodriguez is now facing murder charges in the stabbing death of fellow student Juan Carlos Rivera.
And Teah Wimberly found guilty of killing her friend Amanda Collette at Dillard High last year.
Tom Gorzynski: "They are the most loving and wonderful brothers..."
It was brother-on-brother violence that led to the death of another Broward teenager.
Gorzynski: "I am in an unimaginable amount of pain..."
The two boys were arguing over the volume of music.
Two horrific scenes that shocked South Florida: people, set on fire-- one of them igniting herself.
Cell phone pictures captured the scene at the Mall of the Americas in West Miami-Dade. The woman later died.
But it was 15-year-old Michael Brewer's will to live that captured the attention of a community and the nation.
Valerie Brewer, mom: "He surprises me every day..."
The Deerfield Beach teen was released from the hospital just days before Christmas. Three teens are accused of setting him on fire.
In Boynton Beach, the Coast Guard was called in to rescue Haitian migrants after their boat capsized. Ten would die, including an infant.
"It looks like a direct hit on the house, the house is fully engulfed...."
A Cessna crashed into a home in Oakland Park-- killing the pilot.
Beach goers tried to rescue two beached whales in Hollywood. The beaked whales later died.
More than 20 horses found slaughtered in South Florida, presumably for their meat.
Richard Cuoto, Animal Recovery Mission: "Really hideous, really hideous, the people that did this, disgusting monsters."
Cats were viciously killed as well. The dead cats were left out for their owners to find. Tyler Weinman pleaded not guilty to 19 charges of animal cruelty.
Some frightening medical news in Florida this year.
First, 3,000 veterans were exposed to hepatitis and HIV through unsterilized colonoscopy equipment at the VA hospital in Miami.
And, in Palm Beach County, a medical mystery over a cluster of cancer cases.
7 News investigations created major news.
Mike Foreman, construction consultant: "Take a deep breath, it's your last fresh air."
Carmel Cafiero: "Whooo."
Carmel Cafiero exposed the hidden danger behind the walls of thousands of homes built with toxic drywall imported from China.
Carmel Cafiero: "We have pictures of you shooting up."
Man in car outside clinic: "No you don't."
Also exposed: The seedy side of South Florida's pain industry.
Addicts crushing, snorting, shooting up at local pill mills.
Father Albert Cutie was exposed after racy photos surfaced of him with a woman on the beach.
Father Albert Cutie: "I began to have a spiritual and deep ideological struggle."
In Florida politics, U.S. Senator Mel Martinez called it quits early.
Tomas Regalado was elected the new mayor of Miami, leading to the resignation of Police Chief John Timoney, who, earlier in the year, took the vocal lead against assault weapons.
Timoney: "These are weapons of war, and they have no place on the streets of Miami."
The high powered AK-47s were used in two deadly South Florida shooting sprees.
Mother: "He was my heart, he was my baby."
In Liberty City, nine were shot, two killed, after a gunman opened fire during a dice game.
In Overtown, another shooting. This time 12 were wounded and two would later die.
And, by year's end, another Florida family tragedy happened on Thanksgiving.
Jim Sitton: "My 6-year-old daughter is dead, and I just wanted to let everyone know that she is in heaven."
Paul Michael Merhige is accused of killing the girl and three other family members at a Thanksgiving gathering in Jupiter. He's still on the loose.
And we wrap up 2009 with a December deluge!
South florida under water, swamped by slow moving storms stalling cars, flooding homes and shattering rainfall records, making for a damp end to the decade.