Charleston looked back at 2011 and decided the victimization of children is what affected us most.
The economy hung in the balance and the usual ebb and flow of politics remained constant, but it was the serial-abuser tag hung on a youth coach and the perplexing unsolved shooting death of a 5-year-old girl that Post and Courier readers made the top stories of the year.
South Carolina also welcomed a new governor in 2011 — Republican Nikki Haley — the state’s first female and minority chief executive. Her public tenor had shown optimism and openness, though that didn’t always prove to be the case.
Beyond the failure to protect our youngest, Charleston also led America into the national Civil War sesquicentennial, debated the spread of cruise ships and continued to chase in vain a shadowy serial arsonist who has been lighting up the dark for almost a decade.
For the Top 10 local news stories of 2011, see Page 11A. For the top 10 sports stories, see Page 2C.
1 On the outside, Louis "Skip" ReVille appeared to be a coach dedicated to advancing the lives of children. Working or coaching young people at stops around the Lowcountry, his home life featured a wife and newly arrived triplets. Prosecutors say it was cover for something much more sinister. ReVille remains behind bars in the Charleston County jail on more than $1 million bail in connection to multiple sexual-abuse charges filed on behalf of nine alleged victims. He is said to be cooperating.
2 It was an attempted home invasion punctuated by a powerful shotgun blast that traveled through a door and walls. Shotgun pellets penetrated a 5-year-old girl's head. At the time, hopes were that Allison Griffor was only wounded. Two days later, the West Ashley child died. The shooting remains one of Charleston's more painful unsolved crimes.
3 Authorities have tried various tactics to find the culprit. Yet after a decade, the elusive Charleston serial arson case continues. At least 85 suspicious fires have sparked throughout the central part of the downtown peninsula, most set on or near porches, with apartments favored by young people the common target. Mayor Joe Riley announced the city's reward has been doubled -- from $25,000 to $50,000 -- for the tip that convicts those responsible.
4 Gov. Nikki Haley was elected on a platform of openness and good stewardship with taxpayer money. But the words didn't match the deeds when The Post and Courier uncovered emails showing that Haley already had dictated the findings of an independent panel studying health care reform before the group met for the first time. The state's Department of Health and Human Services provided the emails to the newspaper in mid-December in response to a public records request. Haley's office failed to include them in its response to a separate, nearly identical request in May. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has asked for an investigation into whether South Carolina misspent a $1 million federal grant by dictating the outcome ahead of time and whether it should return the funds.
5 Love them or hate them, the cruise ship industry is here. But the boats remain on rough seas. For 2012, the State Ports Authority and the city find themselves defending Carnival Cruise Lines in a lawsuit filed by a coalition of downtown neighborhood, preservation and environmental groups who say the large, white pleasure ships are too big, visit too often, snarl downtown streets and take away too much of the city's charm.
6 The sentencing of partners Erica Mae Butts and Shanita Latrice Cunningham provided riveting courtroom drama. Moments after the pair learned that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison, the decorum was shattered by wailing and screaming as they and their families absorbed the reality of life behind bars. Temporarily forgotten was the reason why they were there: the death of 3-year-old Serenity Richardson. The pair beat the girl for days until her fragile, bruised and swollen body finally gave up. Richardson's mother said she has only clothes, toys and a lock of hair to remind her of her daughter.
7 Gov. Nikki Haley's weeklong trip to Europe in June was billed as a hunt for "jobs, jobs, jobs." But it ended up costing taxpayers more than $158,000 and involved an entourage of more than two dozen people staying in some of the nicest hotels available. Haley defended the trip, saying it takes a polished appearance to land interest from investors who could bring jobs to the state. A deeper look at Haley's flights triggered travel-reporting reforms.
8 Completing a beltway-type, highway loop around Charleston has been on the region's drawing board for decades -- and will stay that way. Local government still can't decide whether to complete Interstate 526, aka the Mark Clark Expressway, from West Ashley across Johns and James islands toward the James Island connector. More debate is expected from the Charleston County Council in 2012.
9 The disappearance of Charleston woman Kate Waring took months to solve. So when the last of her two killers was sentenced in April, justice was finally served. Heather Kamp received 39 years in prison for the 2009 murder of Waring, whom she had befriended, conned and ultimately betrayed. Kamp's prison term is 14 years more than co-defendant Ethan Mack, her boyfriend and partner in the slaying.
10 Maybe something positive will come out of the tragedy that took the life of Mitchell Hollon, 54. The bicycling enthusiast and noted anesthesiologist was struck and killed in July while riding across the James Island connector. Advocates said Hollon's death illustrates the need to make the region more cyclist friendly. There is some positive movement: The S.C. Transportation Department this month gave its support to convert a lane on one of the lower Ashley River bridges to a bike and pedestrian path.