My picks for top news stories of 2011

It didn't have a name, but I got the feeling he called it "lunch."

At the end of the year, most newspapers regurgitate their top stories in the form of top-ten compilations. Which comes in handy during those slow news days around the holidays.

In the course of going through the stories I wrote last year, I found a few that really stood out. But not for reasons that would qualify them for the Ashland Times-Gazette’s Top Ten Stories of 2011.

I’ll share them here with a little running commentary.

• In March 2011, two Amish cousins were busted for drag-racing in their horse-drawn buggies near Savannah, Ohio. One of the buggies struck an oncoming car and overturned. No one was hurt in the crash. The Amish men were on their way to church. Not surprisingly, this story went viral, making international news.

• In May, two men were arrested after they stole a piggy bank from a local restaurant. Employees had placed the bank on the counter to collect donations to help people diagnosed with cancer. There’s a special place in hell for these guys.

• In July, Ashland Police responded to what I jokingly referred to in the story as a “Code 18A — a wild turtle on the prowl.” A woman called police to report that a large turtle was approaching her house. The softshell turtle had escaped from a turtle trapper in the neighborhood, who also happened to be the mayor’s nephew. Mayor Glen Stewart heard the call on a police radio in his office and knew right away what had happened.

• My favorite story happened in November. I was at my desk and a call came across the scanner from a sheriff’s deputy urgently requesting backup. He was investigating four suspicious characters in a pickup truck near a wooded area by Charles Mill Lake. One of the men got into a scuffle with him. The fight ended when the deputy threatened to zap the suspect with a Taser. Before the dust settled, the scene was bumper-to-bumper with police cruisers from five different law enforcement agencies. I wasn’t going to do a full story at first, but it just kept getting better and better. Turns out the guys were cutting trees on public land and got a chain saw bar stuck. Two of them had outstanding warrants. However, it was originally thought that the warrant one guy had was outside the pickup radius, so the officers cut him loose. When a Mansfield Police officer arrived, they found out he also had a warrant from that jurisdiction. The officers jumped into their cruisers and pursued the pickup truck down State Route 603, pulled it over and arrested him. In addition to arresting two guys on outstanding warrants, citations also were issued for damaging the trees and littering. One of the suspects had tossed a Mountain Dew can on the ground during the initial investigation.

• Also in November, State Highway Patrol troopers from the Ashland post arrested a woman twice in the same night for OVI. Seems she had been released to a “responsible” party. When she went to retrieve items from her vehicle at the impound lot, someone saw her get behind the wheel of the vehicle of the person who had come to give her a ride home. The witness notified the Highway Patrol and a trooper stopped her in nearly the same spot where she was originally arrested. The second time around, she was not released to a “responsible” party but taken straight to jail.

• In August, Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man who took his mom’s pickup truck and trashed cornfields, turfed yards, and stole signs and lawn ornaments in western Ashland County. They were able to trace him through a trail of mud and corn stalks, finding the truck ditched in the yard of a friend. Turns out the friend, a juvenile, had been along for at least part of the ride.

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