BOSTON — Suicide and allegations of sexual misconduct darkly dominated the news in Massachusetts in 2017.
There was ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez’s hanging in prison and Michelle Carter’s manslaughter conviction for sending text messages urging her boyfriend to kill himself.
As the year drew to a close, the husband of Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg was accused of sexually assaulting several men, including some who had dealings with the Legislature, and a former television news anchor accused actor Kevin Spacey of molesting her teenage son.
Not everything that grabbed attention and headlines was so dire: The New England Patriots won a fifth Super Bowl, and a hospital worker claimed a $758.7 million Powerball jackpot — the largest undivided lottery prize in U.S. history.
A look back at those and other top stories:
In a suicide shrouded in mystery, the former star tight end for the New England Patriots hanged himself in the prison cell where he was serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. Just days before, he had been acquitted in the deadly 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston. A researcher said Hernandez suffered substantial damage to parts of the brain that affect memory, judgment and behavior from a degenerative disease linked to head blows .
A young woman who as a teenager encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas was sentenced to 15 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter. Michelle Carter was convicted by a judge who said her final instruction to Conrad Roy III caused his death. Carter was 17 when Roy, who was 18, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.
REVILED CARDINAL DIES
Cardinal Bernard Law , the disgraced former archbishop of Boston whose failure to stop child molesters in the priesthood triggered the worst crisis in American Catholicism, died in Rome at age 86. He was reviled by many Catholics for shielding priests he knew had engaged in sexual abuse by secretly reassigning them to new parishes without alerting parents or police.
SEX AND THE STATEHOUSE
The Massachusetts Senate’s ethics committee launched an investigation into allegations that Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s husband sexually assaulted several men, including some who had dealings with the Legislature. Rosenberg, who was not implicated, stepped down as leader of the chamber. Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley vowed to open a separate, criminal investigation of Bryon Hefner if victims came forward.
SPACEY SEX ALLEGATION
Former Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh accused ex-“House of Cards” actor Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting her teenage son last year at a Nantucket restaurant. In an emotional news conference, Unruh said Spacey allegedly plied her son with drinks before sticking his hand down the teen’s pants and grabbing his genitals. Neither Spacey nor his lawyer commented. At least two dozen men have accused Spacey of sexual assault or misconduct.
LORD OF THE RINGS
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl title, staging a dramatic against-all-odds comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the first overtime clash in NFL championship history. Tens of thousands of giddy fans welcomed the team back to snowy Boston with a duck boat parade . It was redemption for Brady, who began the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the “Deflategate” scandal involving underinflated footballs.
BOSS, I’M NOT COMING BACK
A 53-year-old Massachusetts hospital worker became an instant working-class hero after she won the biggest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history: a $758.7 million Powerball prize. Mavis Wanczyk told reporters she broke the news to her employer the way the rest of us only dream of: “I called and told them I will not be coming back.” Wanczyk chose to take a lump-sum payment of $480 million, or $336 million after taxes.
BLOGGER BEHEADING PLOT
A man who authorities say fell under the influence of the Islamic State group was convicted of plotting to behead a conservative American blogger for organizing a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Jurors found David Wright guilty of all charges, including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries. Co-conspirator Nicholas Rovinski got 15 years.
BUMP STOCKS BAN
Massachusetts became the first state to impose a ban on bump stocks since the deadly October shooting at a Las Vegas music festival that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others. Authorities said the shooter used one of the devices, which are designed to make semi-automatic rifles mimic the firing action of fully automatic weapons, when he opened fire from his hotel room on concertgoers below.