Tuesday, December 26, 2006
7 News Features: Seven's Top Seven: Local News
From a silent storm season to loud celebrations over a future without Castro, 2006 was full of surprises, as well as sadness. Seven's Lynn Martinez takes a look back at the last year in South Florida.
WSVN -- The biggest question for South Florida this year was whether Fidel Castro was dead or alive.
When intestinal troubles forced Castro to turn over power to his brother, Raul, celebrations broke out on the streets of South Florida.
Rumors were rampant that Fidel was dead, until he made a public appearance. He looked frail, leading many to believe his time is short.
Meanwhile, refugees trying to escape Castro's Cuba had a deadly year this year. One woman died while her speeding boat tried to elude the U.S. Coast Guard. Another was killed by Cuban authorities.
A group of 15 Cubans who did escape were sent home after Homeland Security said the old Seven-Mile Bridge did not constitute "dry land." There was quick reaction.
Governor Bush criticized the president's immigration policy, and activist Ramon Saul Sanchez went on a hunger strike. A judge later said the decision to send them back was a mistake. Ironically, just a couple of weeks ago, half of that group escaped Cuba once again. But this time, they touched dry land.
The Miami-Dade school board got national attention for banning the book Vamos a Cuba after a parent complained the book painted a rosy picture of the communist island.
In Broward County schools, 2006 was the final chapter for superintendent Frank Till. The board voted him out.
Local politicians were also ousted for their actions. Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton was replaced after he allegedly got into a drunken scuffle with police at the airport.
And state lawmaker Ralph Arza resigned after he was caught leaving a racial slur on a colleague's voice mail.
There were also political beginnings in 2006. Charlie Crist became Florida's governor-elect.
One issue Crist is likely to face is growing gun violence among Florida teenagers. Over a dozen were murdered in South Florida this year alone.
Teenage tragedy also reached overseas. Daniel Wultz of Weston was killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv.
Back in Florida, everyone was talking about this video tape. Guards caught restraining a 14-year-old boy at boot camp. He died a short time later. Seven guards and a nurse were eventually charged.
A surveillance camera also caught the beating of a homeless man in Fort Lauderdale. Those teens were later caught and charged with the beating death of another homeless man.
We also learned this year that alleged terrorists were practicing in our own backyard. Police broke up a self-proclaimed terrorist cell after a raid in Liberty City.
2006 did bring closure for some murder victims' families. Notorious Gainsville slayer Danny Rolling was put to death. And after 12 years of denial, Butch Hinton finally confessed to killing college co-ed Shannon Melendi.
Other local tragedies that grabbed national news: A brutal slaying on Florida's Turnpike in which an entire family was shot, execution style.
At the Loews Hotel on South Beach, an Illinois doctor did the unimaginable when he threw his two young children off a 15th floor balcony and then jumped himself.
2006 was also the year when animals attacked. Gators killed three women in one week, including a Florida Atlantic University student who went for a jog and never came back. In Coral Springs, a woman was mauled to death by her own dog.
Stingrays also made headlines. First, crocodile hunter Steve Erwin was killed by one. Then, a few weeks later, a spotted eagle ray jumped into a boat here in South Florida. An elderly man nearly died after a barb struck him in his chest.But the best news for all of South Florida? No hurricanes. A perfect career closer came for the man who helped us weather so many storms.
As we enter 2007, the biggest storm of the year may end up being the death of Fidel Castro and the impact it wil have on South Florida.