1. Nineveh house fire
Sirena Slusher-Abbott died after suffering serious burns trying to save two of her children, Hailey Slusher-Abbott, 22 months, and John Slusher-Abbott Jr., 5 months, from a house fire in Nineveh on Nov. 22. The children died. Firefighters and police officers were unable to get into the house, at 1044 E. County Road 775S. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
2. Charges in Richmond Hill explosion
A series of court hearings began for three people charged with multiple felonies, including murder and arson, after a southside home exploded and killed the couple next door. A Greenwood teacher and her husband were killed. Homeowner Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Bob Leonard all face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Investigators said the three conspired to blow up the house to collect insurance money. The three will have separate trials, slated for this year.
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3. Company closes, city loses millions
Pharmaceutical company Elona Biotechnologies closed after not being able to secure private investors. The city of Greenwood, which was the company’s largest investor, sought to recoup more than $9 million in losses. Greenwood sold at auction the failed company’s building, generic insulin patents, other documents and equipment, recovering $1.7 million. The city spent $12.5 million in loans and grants, interest and legal fees and recovered $2.8 million, but it might lose even more money if a judge awards back pay to former Elona employees.
4. Man convicted in rape case
Shawn Corbally, a twice-convicted rapist, was sentenced to 270 years in prison after a jury convicted him of eight felonies, including rape and criminal deviate conduct. Corbally was arrested after a woman reported being repeatedly raped at knifepoint by a stranger while her children slept in her Greenwood apartment. The victim testified in the trial and also at Corbally’s sentencing, saying she hoped he went to hell for what he had done. Corbally disputed the DNA evidence against him and said he planned to appeal.
5. Under construction.
Drivers heading through Franklin, to downtown Indianapolis and around the county had to maneuver around construction for most of 2013. Franklin completed major projects, including the nearly $4 million first phase of North Main Street and $3.5 million in downtown parking and streetscape projects. Motorists, residents and businesses dealt with torn up streets and closures for months. Commuters headed to Indianapolis had to find new routes to work to get around Interstates 65 and 70, which were closed between the north and south splits in downtown Indianapolis for construction to allow more overhead. More than 400 oversized trucks had hit bridges between the splits since 1999.
6. Rash of school bomb threats and a new focus on school security
In September, four bomb threats were found in Johnson County schools during a two-week period. Two students were arrested at Whiteland Community High School, Greenwood Community High School was evacuated while police searched the building, and about half the students at Central Nine Career Center didn’t attend classes after a note was found with a threat to blow up the school.
Throughout the year, local schools focused on overall security improvements, including new construction projects to build secure entrances at schools in Franklin, Greenwood and Center Grove, adding cameras and buzzers at entrances, and hiring new police and school security officers for inside buildings after a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., at the end of 2012.
7. Walmart comes back to Center Grove area
Walmart got permission in August from Greenwood to build a store in the Center Grove area. Residents complained that the store would increase traffic backups at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road and in nearby neighborhoods. But plans for the store were appropriate for the commercial zoning of the property, so the city didn’t have much choice except to approve the project, officials said. Walmart has committed to paying for about $200,000 in road work, including a median and turn lane, to help with traffic. The store had been planned to open in the fall, but construction has not started.
8. Worthsville Road
Greenwood annexed about 1,800 acres around a future Interstate 65 exit at Worthsville Road. The city is annexing the land to protect its investment in widening Worthsville Road between U.S. 31 and I-65, helping pay for the new interchange and other infrastructure. The road widening project would expand Worthsville Road from two lanes to four lanes and create a higher-speed boulevard. The city plans to guide development at the new exit. Officials want high-end homes and offices, rather than gas stations, to be built at the new entrance to the city.
9. Technology in schools — iPads, online classes
Two local school districts made big purchases to ensure their students would be better prepared for the kinds of technology they will use in college and their career. Center Grove schools spent $1.2 million on iPads for all of the nearly 2,400 students who attend Center Grove High School. And Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools paid $560,000 for 1,150 iPads for the school district’s sixth- through 12th-graders. Center Grove also became the first Johnson County school district to begin offering online courses to students at the high school, as well as classes that blended traditional and online lessons. School officials are monitoring the programs to see what changes and additions should be made in the future.
10. Center Grove superintendent raise
In December, Center Grove’s school board unanimously approved a 19 percent raise for Superintendent Richard Arkanoff. The $30,000 raise brought his total base salary to $187,622, higher than any other Johnson County public school superintendent. Residents and members of the United Teachers Association of Center Grove questioned the raise and asked the board if such a pay increase was the best use of taxpayer dollars. Board members defended their decision, saying that Arkanoff was a valued leader and that they didn’t want to risk him leaving for another school district that paid more.