• September 22, 2014

Top stories of 2013

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Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 4:30 am

The news stories that dominated the past year were a study in contrasts.

Some of the major headlines — such as the conviction of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan — were long anticipated. Others — chiefly the tragic shooting of a Killeen police officer — left the community shocked and stunned.

From the uncertainty surrounding sequester-related furloughs to the inconvenience of road projects, many stories hit home for Central Texans in 2013.

1. Fort Hood shooter convicted

At the end of August, justice was finally served as the court-martial of the Fort Hood shooter concluded.

Nidal Hasan, a 42-year-old Army psychiatrist, was found guilty and sentenced to death Aug. 28 for the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting that killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people. He is now an inmate at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where his sentence will go into an automatic appeal process.

The trial lasted three weeks, and cost an estimated $5 million.

“The panel gave him justice, and I agree with that justice,” said Joleen Cahill, who shared 37 years of marriage with her

husband, retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Cahill — the lone civilian killed in the attack.

2. KPD officer killed

The Killeen Police Department lost one to its own after officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby was killed in the line of duty.

Hornsby, 32, was killed July 14 during a shootout at the Grandon Manor Apartments in Killeen.

The shooter, a 24-year-old Fort Hood soldier, also injured 33-year-old officer Juan E. Obregon Jr. before being killed by other officers.

Hornsby, a four-year veteran of the force, was the first Killeen police officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1917.

3. Furloughs hit Fort Hood

The past year was one of uncertainty for the Defense Department.

It began with sequestration slicing $12 billion from the Army’s budget. To meet the cuts, the department furloughed its more than 800,000 civilian employees for six days this summer.

In October, a stalemate in Congress resulted in a 16-day government shutdown. Most of Fort Hood’s more than 6,000 civilian employees were again sent home from work.

The sequester will continue to impact the defense budget in 2014.

4. Boom in retail growth

Central Texas experienced several new big box stores and many new smaller operations opening and expanding in 2013.

Copperas Cove’s Five Hills shopping center saw its first patrons in January as Whataburger opened. H-E-B soon followed suit, moving from its former location in Cove. Other additions include Eye City, Panda Express, Wingstop, Sports Clips and AT&T.

In Harker Heights, Sam’s Club and Rooms to Go opened along U.S. Highway 190, and a new retail center on Knight’s Way is coming soon.

CVS Pharmacies opened in Copperas Cove and Killeen. Killeen also drew several other new retailers and eateries.

As the year ended, Killeen council members approved rezoning for a new retail hub at Clear Creek Road and Bunny Trail, Killeen Town Center, which will feature another Walmart Supercenter.

5. Highway projects

Highway construction was abundant throughout Central Texas with several projects breaking ground, wrapping up and moving forward.

The Farm-to-Market 2410 turnaround in Harker Heights was completed in May to ease traffic congestion.

The installation of an overpass at the intersection of State Highways 201 and 195 in Killeen finished in the summer.

The U.S. 190 widening project in Killeen began in February and is expected to be complete by fall 2015. It adds one lane in each direction to U.S. 190 between Fort Hood’s main gate and W.S. Young Drive.

In Copperas Cove, the State Highway 9 project continued to build a new 3.2-mile road taking traffic from U.S. 190 to Farm-to-Market 116. It should open in February.

The U.S. 190 bypass project also moved forward, with completion set for April or May.

6. Ex-Nolanville mayor convicted

Former Nolanville Mayor Charlie Lee Stewart, 59, was sentenced Nov. 12 to 60 years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a child.

A Bell County jury found Stewart guilty of repeatedly raping a 12-year-old female relative over the course of several months in 2011 and 2012. Deliberation on Oct. 2 took about 30 minutes.

Stewart will serve his sentence without the possibility of parole, prosecutors said.

7. Pastors killed in car crash

The deaths of three prominent Killeen pastors in a vehicle accident near Pflugerville left the community stunned last fall.

Returning from a conference in Europe, Terry and Jan Whitley, founding pastors of Grace Christian Center, were killed Oct. 10 when their van went off the road and flipped on State Highway 130.

Also killed was Steve Timmerman, the church’s associate pastor, who picked up the couple at the Austin airport. Timmerman also served as a volunteer chaplain with the Killeen Fire Department.

8. Killeen ISD controversy

Four members of the Killeen Independent School District’s Board of Trustees angered many employees after they rejected a recommendation for a health care provider for the 2013-2014 school year.

The board voted in September to stick with Blue Cross Blue Shield as the district’s health care provider, going against the administration’s recommendation of TRS Active Care.

Employees crowded board meetings to criticize the vote, claiming the cost of the plans under Blue Cross Blue Shield were higher than those under TRS.

In October, the district’s administration recommended closing Fowler Elementary School in 2014, as it prepares to open its 33rd elementary school. Parents, teachers and community members lobbied to keep the campus open. A final decision is pending.

9. Heights official retires

After 30 years working in municipal government, Harker Heights City Manager Steve Carpenter announced his retirement Sept. 9, effective today. Carpenter is credited with guiding Heights from a small bedroom community into a viable retail-fueled city. His replacement, David Mitchell, was hired following a 1½-hour interview Oct. 29 with the council. He starts Thursday.

10. Cove House expands

The Cove House Emergency Shelter expanded in 2013 to include a free clinic and a transitional housing unit.

The free clinic opened Nov. 5 at 806 E. Avenue D in the Lovett Ledger Medical Plaza. The clinic is open from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Cove House’s transitional housing unit at 616 Sunset Lane has eight apartments. Tenants can stay 12 to 18 months and are responsible for paying utility costs in addition to rent.

2013’s TOP 10 stories at KDHnews.com

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