Last week we took a look back at the first half of 2008 in southeastern North Carolina. Wednesday, we end the year with the second half of our Year in Review. Healthcare got a boost in 2008. New Hanover Regional Medical Center added a Surgical Pavilion and the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children's Hospital. Construction also began on the Brunswick Novant Medical Center in Supply. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority merged water and sewer service for Wilmington and New Hanover County, promising increased efficiency. In its first months, though, customers received mistaken bills for exorbitant amounts and many others received no bill at all until mid-autumn. The disappearance of Fort Bragg soldier Holly Wimunc ended a week after a fire at her Fayetteville apartment when her burned body was found near Sneads Ferry. Her husband, John, and another Camp Lejeune Marine are charged in her murder. Ricky Thorpe resigned as Navassa's Police Chief in late July, days after being charged with DWI while driving a police car on-duty. The town has not yet named a permanent replacement. New Hanover County deputies, responding to an early-morning shooting August 6th, found one of their own fighting for her life. Detention officer, Tarica Pulliam, died hours later. The prime suspect, Pulliam's ex-boyfriend, Anthony Bowen, shot and killed himself in front of officers in Onslow County the next day. Deputies trying to tell 80-year-old Eloise Wentz of her son Alexander's death, found quite a surprise inside his Monkey Junction home; Eloise's body in a freezer. Investigators believe she died of natural causes. Criminals meant new jobs in Columbus County when the $100 million Tabor Correctional Institution opened just after Labor Day. Work on an addition is scheduled to start in early 2009. Wilmington got a new fire chief for the first time in decades when Buddy Martinette replaced Sam Hill. Hill retired in March after 20 years as chief and 50 years in the fire department. Tropical Storm Hanna caused $9 million worth of damage to Holden Beach and destroyed part of Second Street in Ocean Isle Beach in September. The storm was the last major event TV viewers in southeastern North Carolina could watch using analog TV signals. On September 8th, our five-county area became the first TV market in the country to broadcast only in digital. The rest of the country makes the transition in February. Screen Gems Studios broke ground on the largest sound stage east of California. The studio hopes the 37,000 square-foot building will lure larger productions to Hollywood East. John McCain's first Tar Heel State visit, since winning the Republican presidential nomination, was a stop at Cape Fear Community College in October. The next week, James Taylor played a free concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater to support Democrat Barack Obama. Democrats skipped another candidate’s forum in Wilmington. This time it was Kay Hagan, who went on to beat incumbent Elizabeth Dole for US Senate, and Bev Perdue, who during the primary campaign, came to town within a day of the forum. So far, the governor-elect has not scheduled her promised visit. It took 110 years, but a dark period in Wilmington's history received its place in the sun as a memorial to the victims of the 1898 race riot was unveiled and dedicated. November 12th was a busy day in Wilmington. An early-morning fire destroyed Valino's Restaurant. A couple hours later, the principal of Snipes Academy found 19-year-old Daryon Walker shot and killed on campus. And later in the day, a New Hanover County judge ordered property owned by State Senator Julia Boseman auctioned off to settle a foreclosure. A Brunswick County judge made the same ruling on property Boseman owns in Winnabow the next day, before she made a deal with the bank to settle the foreclosure and keep a family who lives their from losing their home. Earlier in the year, a home Boseman once shared in Landfall with her ex, former UNCW softball coach Melissa Jarrell, and some lots she owned in Pender County, also went into foreclosure. Having had no success arresting Gladwyn Russ III at his home for threatening to kill his wife, New Hanover County deputies decided to arrest him at his father's funeral, using a taser on Russ as he helped put the casket in the hearse. Sheriff Sid Causey apologized and disciplined five deputies for what he called "a mistake." Former Brunswick County Sheriff, Ron Hewett, reported to the federal prison in Butner in November to begin a 16-month sentence. The start of December meant workers needing to get into the state port had to have a special ID card. It also meant the closure of the Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry through January, as crews fix the ramps at each dock. It was two weeks off from school for students at Malpass Corner Elementary in Pender County after a fire in a boy’s bathroom, leaving many parents scrambling for childcare and Christmas and spring breaks cut short to make up the days. One worker died, and two more were hurt, when a concrete girder collapsed during construction of the new bridge to Oak Island, December 3rd. Work is stopped until an investigation into what happened wraps up. A couple other stories that lasted most of 2008, and are likely to continue in 2009: The funding problems for Southeastern Mental Health Care and the debates about an international port in Southport and a cement plant in Castle Hayne. So what was the biggest story of 2008? According to the results of our online poll that began last week, viewers thought the top story was Ron Hewett being removed as Brunswick County Sheriff and going to prison. That story was the overwhelming pick with 59% of the vote. Thanks to all of you who took time to log on and vote.
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