York County's top stories of 2017

Staff report

Here's a look back at the top 10 local stories of 2017:

York City mayor assaulted

Kim Bracey was running for a third term as York City’s mayor last fall when her adult son, Brandon Anderson Sr., allegedly assaulted her Sept. 30 at her campaign headquarters on South Beaver Street.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey hugs Jen Schreiber, left, during a election returns watch party at Coomb's Tavern in York City Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

Anderson, 31, punched his mother in the face, kicked her while she was on the ground and also attempted to hit her with a wooden flagpole before being stopped by a bystander, according to charging documents.

Brandon Anderson

The mayor’s son spent nearly a week in custody after his arrest on simple assault and harassment charges and took a paid leave from his $52,000-a-year job at York City’s wastewater treatment plant.

More:York City officials can't say who approved promotion, raises for mayor's son

City officials have said very little about the case, which shined a spotlight on Bracey’s potential conflicts of interest as Anderson’s mother, alleged victim and employer.

Anderson, who is still employed by York City, is awaiting trial.

Bracey loses re-election bid

Michael Helfrich’s gamble to run on the Republican ticket for York City mayor paid off Nov. 7, with the City Council president ousting two-term Mayor Bracey from the office.

Helfrich, a Democrat, lost the Democratic primary to Bracey by a little more than 300 votes in May, but he secured enough write-in votes from Republicans to earn that party’s nomination for mayor.

Michael Helfrich arrives after the polls closed at Holy Hound to a room crowded with supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Helfrich has said he accepted the Republican nomination to give York City residents of all political affiliations another option in the municipal election.

More:Michael Helfrich: From 'creek freak' to York City mayor-elect

According to the York County Voting and Elections Office, Helfrich defeated Bracey by just 120 votes.

York Suburban superintendent charged

Criminal charges were filed Nov. 28 against former York Suburban superintendent Shelly Merkle, ending months of speculation about her sudden departure from the school district.

In this file photo, York Suburban Superintendent Shelly Merkle gives an update on her district during a news conference regarding the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the York City School administrative building in York City, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Merkle, 54, of Spring Garden Township, is awaiting trial on two counts of second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief for allegedly vandalizing two of her former assistant's vehicles Sept. 11 on district property – acts that police say were caught on video surveillance.

More:Suburban's ex-superintendent charged; alleged victim claims pattern

The school board and district administrators were tightlipped about the case from the beginning.

On Sept. 14, Merkle began what district officials later described as a medical leave of absence, although that information was not revealed until more than a week later.

Emails between York Suburban School District officials, obtained by The York Dispatch, appear to show a coordinated effort, starting Sept. 14, to clamp down on information about her absence.

Helen Thackston Charter School to close

The boards of Helen Thackston Charter School and York City School District agreed in October to close the school following the 2018-19 school year, heading off a series of charter revocation hearings.

Helen Thackson Charter School solicitor Brian Leinhauser addresses the board during a rescheduled board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

Thackston solicitor Brian Leinhauser said the charter school’s board looked at the time, energy and money that was going to be needed to successfully fight revocation, and the members decided it was in the students' best interest to invest those resources in the classroom before closing.

More:With Thackston closing, its CEO already planning new charter school

The district’s school board unanimously voted to pursue revocation in June, when it adopted a resolution outlining a laundry list of alleged issues at Thackston, including overdue audits and declining student performance.

As part of the agreement to remain open through the 2018-19 school year, Thackston must meet several benchmarks or risk being shut down at the end of the current school year.

One of those benchmarks is completion and approval of three years of overdue financial audits — for school years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 — by no later than Jan. 31, 2018.

Tierney trial

Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook excoriated the actions of Jodie and Stephen Tierney moments before sending one of them to state prison for more than two years last summer.

More:Tierneys claim financial hardship in court filings

On Aug. 29, Cook sentenced Jodie L. Tierney, of Windsor Township, to 2½ to six years in state prison for providing alcohol to teens, including two who died in a fiery crash.

Jodie Tierney

Stone Hill, 17, and his 16-year-old friend and passenger, Nicholas Mankin, were killed on June 16, 2015, when Stone lost control of his SUV, which flipped, slammed into a utility pole and burst into flames on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township.

The judge said the Tierneys took "minimal accountability" for their actions despite their "overwhelming guilt" and added that she has spent 33 years in family law — as a judge, an attorney and a child advocate.

"The parenting displayed (by the Tierneys) in this case rivals some of the worst I've ever seen," Cook said.

Women’s March on Washington

As hundreds of thousands of women rallied in the nation’s capital Jan. 21, one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, dozens of Yorkers were among them, determined to change their local communities when they returned home.

A protestor argues with a woman participating in the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C. Saturday, January 21, 2017. Amanda J. Cain photo

Whether marching to show their children the political power of women or to condemn the 2016 presidential election results, many of the women participating in one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history said they felt “compelled” to lend their voices to the show of dissent against the country’s new leaders.

More:Nationwide Women’s March launched year of reckoning, local activism

“I marched because the country was headed in the wrong direction,” Spring Garden Township resident Colleen Burkett, 72, said at the time. “I needed to be somewhere where everybody was coming together to express their concern and show the world that we really do care.”

Trump inauguration

As early as 6 a.m. Jan. 20, crowds that included several people from York County lined the streets in Washington, D.C., to witness President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Trump supporters described the experience as surreal, magical and exciting. Throughout the city, they celebrated as Trump and Vice President Mike Pence took their oaths, hugging each other, shaking hands and shouting at the occasional protester, "Get over it."

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump waves as he walks with first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron during the inauguration parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Think it’s tough to be a kid? Try being a “first kid” - the child of an American president. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

While the moment was magical for those looking forward to Trump's presidency, supporters and protesters alike said there was tension in the air.

More:Smashed windows, chaotic confrontation near inauguration

The streets surrounding the Capitol building were lined with people – protesters holding signs with statements such as "Not my president" and "Not my Fuhrer" with photos of Trump looking like Adolf Hitler and supporters of Trump wearing "Make America Great Again" hats that were popularized during the campaign.

Northeastern student killed

Northeastern High School junior Abigail Osborn died a day after being injured in a hit-and-run crash in the early morning hours of April 23.

The 16-year-old, who had recently been named among the Distinguished Young Women of York County, was an honor student and soccer player at Northeastern, where she also was involved in school theater productions.

Abigail Osborn

Abigail had been scheduled to perform in Encore, the countywide showcase for high school musicals, on the day she died, according to Lyn Bergdoll, the organizer for the show.

More:York Haven driver who fatally struck Abby Osborn pleads no contest

The Distinguished Young Women organizers posthumously honored her during the May program with the Spirit Award, and the high school’s girls’ soccer team held an inaugural “Abby’s Practice” in August to raise money for a scholarship created in her honor.

The driver who struck her — David Michael Kent Jr., 24, of York Haven — pleaded no contest Nov. 29 to the second-degree felony of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, the second-degree misdemeanor of tampering with evidence and the summary offense of careless driving.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.

Overwhelming response to hurricanes

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated gulf states and Puerto Rico between Aug. 25 and Sept. 20 — and the charitable response from Yorkers overwhelmed some organizations that collected emergency supplies for victims of the storms.

Volunteers organize boxes of goods donated for Hurricane Harvey relief. The donations, which filled ten tractor trailers, will be transported to Houston by Bailey Coach on Friday, September 8.

When John Bailey announced his effort to raise supplies to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey, he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from York countians.

“In eight days we filled 11 tractor-trailers," he said. "It’s incredible.”

More:'Logistical nightmare' getting hurricane donations where they're needed

In all, he estimates about 800,000 pounds of goods were donated by local schools, small businesses, places of worship and individuals after Irma and Harvey struck — so much that he could no longer handle the delivery of the donations.

Bailey had to leave that to higher-level agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.

Yorkers continued to pitch in after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico — an effort local relief organizers expected to continue indefinitely.

"We truly are dealing with a real-life humanitarian crisis of epic proportions for U.S. citizens,” said Oziel Bones, a volunteer from the York Spanish American Center. “We will do whatever it takes for as long as we have to.”

Mount Rose headaches

New, temporary traffic patterns put in place in September at the Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange frustrated motorists, including some who took to social media to vent at what they say was poor planning.

New traffic patterns in the Mount Rose Avenue construction area are causing traffic woes, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

“Avoid Mt Rose and 83 like the plague,” MaryAnn Beaverson wrote on a York Dispatch Facebook post at the time. “What a freakin’ mess.”

More:'What a freakin' mess': Mount Rose/I-83 work frustrating motorists

Beth Spahr called the interchange a “nightmare” and described waiting through “many light cycles” on Greenhill Road when a tractor-trailer got stuck in the new, tight, left-turn lane to reach I-83 South.

The new traffic pattern in the southbound lanes on I-83 near Mount Rose Avenue is part of a $58.3 million project to reconstruct and widen 1.3 miles of the interstate and rebuild the interchange.

The project is expected to be finished in July.