The year began and ended with Utahns lining the streets of Ogden, first in remembrance of police officer Jared Francom, killed in a shootout that injured five other officers, and concluding in December in solemn memory of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, a member of an Ogden family relocated to Newtown, Conn., site of the shooting that killed Emilie and 19 of her classmates.
The loss of children, Charlie and Braden Powell, Emilie Parker and Sierra Newbold, were among the horrible tragedies that marked the year. But even in that loss there were signs of great humanity and gathering as Utah — and a nation — came together in support of families suffering loss. Here then is our list, selected by editors, of the most notable and impactful Utah stories of 2012.
The death of Susan and Josh Powell's two young sons, Charlie and Braden Powell, at the hands of Josh Powell on Feb. 5 reverberated throughout the year, even as Susan Powell remains missing and presumed dead, and the grandfather of the children languishes in prison on voyeurism-related charges. The story galvanized residents of two states and called into question the work of West Valley police, and it brought into stark focus how the failings of two fathers destroyed a family and harmed others with whom they came in contact.
Family photos of Susan Powell along with Charlie and Braden.
Salt Lake City's Olympic savior, Mitt Romney, won the GOP presidential nomination but failed to win the presidency. His candidacy as the first Mormon from a major party to win the nomination beamed a spotlight on the LDS faith and brought Utah heavyweights onto the national stage in key campaign roles. His loss brought a pause to the "Mormon Moment."
>> Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks to a group of former Salt Lake City Olympic committee members, marking the 10th anniversary of the games, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012.
Six police officers serving a search warrant were shot and wounded during an unusual shootout at the Ogden home of Matthew David Stewart. Ogden police officer Jared Francom died within hours from his injuries. Thousands lined the streets days later during his funeral procession to pay tribute. Stewart, charged with capital murder and numerous other crimes, claims he was groggy and thought someone was breaking into his home when he opened fire. Investigators say he'd told a girlfriend that if police ever tried to raid his home-grown marijuana operation, he'd "go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill."
>> Ogden officers carry the casket of officer Jared Francom, to its final resting spot during his graveside service at the Ogden Cemetery in Ogden Wednesday, January 11, 2012.
Memorials for Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Emilie Parker, whose family relocated during the year from Ogden to Newtown, Conn., site of the shootings that killed 6-year-old Emilie, 19 other classmates and six educators, brought this national tragedy home to Utah. The shootings have recast the national debate on gun control heading into 2013 and have brought new attention to finding help for those who are mentally ill or who care for the mentally ill.
>> Helen Thompson leaves a message on a sign in Ogden for 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was one of 20 children killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Wildfires ravaged Utah, including along the Wasatch Front in Herriman and Alpine, costing one life and millions of dollars in property damage. The fire season was marked by warm, rainless weather as drought gripped Utah and the United States. All of Utah's 29 counties were on the drought disaster list, with 45 percent of the state's rangeland rated as "poor" or "very poor" for vegetation. When more than 50 percent of the country was declared drought-stricken in July, it was the largest area in the country under siege to those conditions since 1956.
>> Saratoga Springs/Eagle Mountain fire, Friday, June 22, 2012.
Jim Matheson held off newcomer Mia Love to win his seventh term in Congress, this time representing the newly created 4th Congressional District. The close win came despite Love's emergence on the national stage and financial backing by key GOP leaders anxious to support Love, a Mormon whose election would have made her the first black woman from the Republican Party in Congress. Sen. Orrin Hatch also survived, heeding the lessons learned during the ouster of Sen. Bob Bennett by Tea Party-fueled supporters in 2010 by aggressively campaigning to regain his Senate seat. He prevailed at the state convention and cruised to victory.
>> Fourth Congressional District candidates Rep. Jim Matheson and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love participate in their second debate on KSL 5 News in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
The LDS Church announced a change in the eligible missionary age for LDS young men (from 19 to 18) and women (from 21 to 19) in October, altering the landscape in Utah and immediately increasing missionary applications by the thousands. The impacts of the announcement continue to emerge in higher education, where the University of Utah in November established a policy to allow students accepted to the university to defer the start of their schooling for up to seven semesters, or just more than two years, and in the living rooms of families now assessing when their young men and women will serve missions.
>> LDS Church sister missionaries react to the news that new sisters can enter the mission field at the age of 19. Saturday morning session of General conference Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012.
On the morning of June 26, a sliding glass door was found open and 6-year-old Sierra Newbold was missing from her bed in her West Jordan home. She was later discovered floating face down in a nearby canal after having been abducted, sexually assaulted and killed. In July, police arrested Terry Lee Black, 41, a neighbor of the girl. He was charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape of a child.
>> Friends and family release balloons into the air at the funeral of Sierra Newbold at Redwood Memorial Cemetery in West Jordan on Saturday, June 30, 2012.
The March opening revitalized downtown Salt Lake City after four years of construction of the estimated $1.5 billion mixed-use development. Taubman Inc., the owner of the retail portion of the project, partnered with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which owns the site and spearheaded the development that includes 15,000 parking spaces around the downtown core and more than 500 new residential units supported by light-rail and a Harmons grocery store.
>> People cross the skybridge at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 22, 2012.
The year started with a $25 million budget error requiring legislators to appropriate more money in June to cover the shortfall. But on March 26, Gov. Gary Herbert signed an education reform bill that passed both houses of the Legislature with near-unanimous support, garnered widespread acclaim from educators and was described by some as a groundbreaking piece of legislation. The bill seeks to eliminate inconsistencies in school employee evaluations by establishing statewide teaching standards. It ties educator salaries to the evaluation and shortens the time to improve performance before cutting ties with underperforming teachers and administrators. It remained unclear if it would actually improve education and was not without criticism. But it laid the groundwork for the coming legislative session with the promise of more funding for education.
>> Gov. Gary R. Herbert greets students after signing education bills during a ceremony at Falcon Ridge Elementary School in West Jordan, Tuesday, March 27, 2012.
March 30, a hacker from Eastern Europe illegally accessed a Utah Department of Technology Services server containing Social Security numbers for Medicaid claims. It put the personal information of 780,000 people at risk and would cost DTS director Stephen Fletcher his job.
Action was taken to assist illegal immigrants who came to America as children or adolescents. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting applications for deferred action on those illegal immigration cases Aug. 15, meaning undocumented residents who met certain criteria could apply for deferred action on their status. Only 745 residents applied in Utah during the first month, reflective of the uncertainty and fear that is the backdrop to the immigration reform debate.
>> Volunteer Jennifer Buchi (blue) helps Janet Ramos Lopez (center) with her deferred action documents at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in West Valley City Wednesday, August 29, 2012.
Businessman and state GOP fundraiser Greg Peterson was accused of using Internet sites and social gatherings to prey on women and was arrested and charged in July with the sexual assault, rape or attempted rape of five women. He ultimately killed himself in October in his Heber City cabin.
>> GOP activist Greg Peterson who is accused of multiple date-rapes appears for the second day of a preliminary hearing in Third District Court in Salt Lake City Wednesday August 15.