The Sun Journal looked at the 10 most-shared stories on our website in 2012. Stories that were quirky, useful, scary or fuzzy dominated readers' attention this year.
May 11, 2012
State health officials worried about the public's safety shut down Farmington's Fortune Fountain Chinese restaurant in May. It was the second time in six months that excessive violations prompted an imminent health hazard suspension of owner Fortune Fountain Restaurant Inc.'s license to prepare and serve food.
This past summer, a relative of the owners, who had retained partial ownership after moving to Massachusetts three decades ago, came back to restore the business. Ricky Lam reopened the restaurant in the late fall after extensive renovations to the kitchen, restrooms and storage facilities and changed the name to "Lotus Blossom."
May 2, 2012
The Chick-A-Dee Restaurant on Route 4, a local landmark that specialized in fried seafood, closed after 77 years of operation this May.
The popular restaurant was opened in 1935 by Francis Donovan. The last owner, William Hird Sr. and his wife, Anne, bought it in the early 1970s.
The Hirds said they had to close due to the poor economy.
Rhonda and Jim Hart of Buckfield opened The Landmark Restaurant in the former Chick-A-Dee's location in November. Hart acknowledged that the name was a nod to the old establishment.
Feb. 4, 2012
After the article was published, Libby and his office were flooded with donations from around the nation.
"We've had calls from Laguna Beach, Calif., Georgia, Oregon, Wisconsin," he said at the time. "Just everywhere."
The Rumford Falls Times reported this month that Hometown Energy established a fund of $80,000 from donations after the article to help those in need of heat in winter. Libby said that Hometown Energy was able to help more than 100 people since September using that account.
7. The Franco Factor: A French Canadian genetic disorder can cause killer cholesterol levels in even the healthiest person
Feb. 5, 2012
Familial hypercholesterolemia, known as FH, is a genetic disorder that causes extremely high cholesterol levels at an extremely young age.
FH is found most often in people of Native American or French Canadian descent. In America, experts say, about one in every 300 to 500 people has the disorder.
Dervilla McCann, a Lewiston cardiologist who has been studying FH for two decades, believes the Lewiston-Auburn area, with its large French-Canadian population, has about 10 times the rate of FH as the rest of the country.
May 6, 2012
Bill Robinson of Cooper — a small community in Washington County — was hunting on the opening day of turkey season last May. But he was in for a surprise.
Robinson was hunched under a tree, using a turkey call to attract other wild turkeys.
“I’ll never forget looking up and seeing a jaw full of teeth coming at me,” Robinson said to Tom Walsh of the Bangor Daily News, the day after being attacked and bitten on the right arm by a coyote.
“When he bit down on my upper arm, he went through four layers — a heavy jacket, a sweatshirt, a long-sleeved shirt and a T-shirt,” he said in the article. “As I peeled off each layer, there were two holes in each one. When I got to my arm, it was just burning and bleeding out of two holes.”
Once the coyote realized it had jumped a human and not a turkey, it sprinted away.
Jan. 11, 2012
In early January, a late-night crash in West Paris left two teenagers dead and a community in shock.
The driver, Kristina Lowe, 18, of West Paris was at a gathering police described as an "underage drinking party" at 12 Yeaton Road in West Paris. A woman at the party who wished to remain anonymous said Lowe was already drunk when she arrived.
Lowe tried to leave the party late Friday night and ran into a tree at the end of the driveway, the woman said.
Lowe's friends brought her back into the house and took her car keys away from her, the source said. Lowe later took her keys back and left the house with several other partygoers to follow Rebecca Mason, 16, who wanted to return her father's truck, which she wasn't supposed to be driving, the woman said.
Mason, also of West Paris, died in the crash.
Shortly after leaving Mason's house to return to the party, Lowe's vehicle crashed off Route 219. Police have said Lowe was intoxicated and was texting on a cellphone prior to the crash.
Lowe's lawyer argued that icy conditions, not alcohol or texting, caused the crash. In December, a judge granted a motion to suppress statements that Lowe made to police from her hospital bed that she was texting and driving. Lowe's attorney said that the state had no forensic evidence that she was texting and driving at the time of the crash.
March 14, 2012
A former Verso mill worker held the mill manager hostage for 10 hours before surrendering peacefully.
The mill was in lockdown during the standoff, but work continued. Trucks delivering pulp and wood chips were not allowed to enter the grounds, however, and were lining up. Some waited several hours before leaving with their loads.
Francis Smith III of Norridgewock was sentenced in November to 12 years in prison with all but five suspended, for felony charges of kidnapping, three counts of criminal threatening with a weapon and one count of terrorizing, as well as a misdemeanor charge of assault.
Smith's lawyer said he was depressed about being terminated from his job and did not expect to live through the ordeal.
Nov. 5, 2012
A 4 1/2-hour standoff that tied up traffic around the Auburn Mall in November ended peacefully when a Mechanic Falls man was taken into custody by Auburn police.
Randolph Nutter, 45, was charged with engaging in a police standoff. Nutter said he was hooked on prescription painkillers, which may have led to the drama in Auburn's shopping district, according to court documents.
The standoff created traffic jams in various spots around the Twin Cities.
During the standoff, the Veterans Bridge and northbound and southbound lanes of Center Street in front of Shaw's were closed to all traffic.
Police rerouted Center Street traffic around the back side of the Auburn Mall, and Auburn Public Works crews set up barricades to block access to the Shaw's and mall parking lots.
Because of the bridge closure, traffic was clogged along the Longley Memorial Bridge. At 3:30 p.m., a long line of cars could be seen running down Court Street in Auburn and Main Street in Lewiston.
Aug. 10, 2012
Ben Staples, a 2002 graduate of Jay High School and wounded veteran, said a Best Western employee in Monahans, Texas, mocked him and laughed at him when he asked for help down the stairs from his third-floor hotel room. The elevator was broken.
Best Western issued a corporate statement, offering an apology. They also refunded his hotel bill.
Staples was still upset.
The Monahans News reported that the hotel owner said hotel policy is to call emergency medical services to request help, but he wasn't sure why the policy wasn't followed.
Staples posted the story on his Facebook profile, and it went viral, with some calling for boycotts of the hotel chain.
Jan. 14, 2012
The Lewiston animal shelter experienced such a surge in adoption requests for dogs and cats that potential adopters had begun waiting outside the shelter doors, sometimes for hours, sometimes overnight, to make sure they were first in line when the pet they wanted came up for adoption.
Since we first ran the story in January, "adoptions are still soaring," said Zach Black, operations manager for the Great Androscoggin Humane Society. As of Dec. 26, 4,157 animals were adopted in 2012, a 15 percent increase over the year before. The number of animals surrendered at the society decreased by 12 percent in 2012, as well.
Adopters continue to stand in line and wait outside for the shelter to open, Black said. When the GAHS brought up cats from New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago, people started lining up five hours before the shelter opened at 11 a.m.
"I would say it's been a great year," Black said.
Staff writers Ann Bryant, Terry Karkos and Lindsay Tice contributed to this report.