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Top 10 clicked-on stories of 2012
Story No. 2: Search resumes on Lanier for missing 13-year-old Griffin Prince of Buford. Department of Natural Resources Major Stephen Adams answers questions about the fatal boat collision ion Lake Lanier. - photo by Tom Reed

The year 2012 seems highlighted by tragedies, both nationally and here at home.

Gainesville’s reaction to the Newtown, Conn., shooting wasn’t one of the most read stories of the year, but a boat wreck that killed two Buford boys did make the list as it attracted national attention to Lake Lanier as authorities searched for days for one of the bodies.

Of course the year also saw a hot election season highlighted by a controversial transportation tax vote and a number of tight local races. And the landscape of downtown Gainesville changed as Hall County consolidated offices in a building on Browns Bridge Road, the city of Gainesville built a pedestrian bridge from the Georgia Mountains Center to midtown and then the city leased that same center to Brenau University to house graduate programs. Those stories, though, didn’t get interest from as many readers as the ones below.

The following represents those articles that garnered the most page views this year at


1. Texting error leads to lockdowns at West Hall middle, high schools

Luckily it was just a scare in late February when authorities locked down West Hall middle and high schools after a threatening text message.

The text, sent to a member of the West Hall community, said “gunman be at west hall today.” It was supposed to say “gunna be at west hall today.” The auto correct feature on the sender’s phone changed the message, leading the receiver to report it to authorities. It didn’t help that the message was sent to a wrong number.

The auto correct fail was linked across the Web, including on, a collection of strange and funny news, leading to this story’s spot at No. 1.


2. Search resumes on Lake Lanier for missing 13-year-old Buford boy

One of the most tragic incidents on Lake Lanier in recent memory, a June boat wreck that killed Buford boys Griffin and Jake Prince, 13 and 9 respectively, gripped Northeast Georgia for weeks as dive teams searched for the body of one of the boys.

Griffin Prince was found more than a week after he went missing under the water. That story was the 10th most clicked-on story. The effort to find him included local, state and federal agencies working 12-hour days to search depths of more than 100 feet with both sonar and divers.

Both boys went under the water after the pontoon boat they were riding in was struck by another boat.

A tentative trial date has been set for May for the man thought to be responsible, Paul J. Bennett, 44, of Cumming.

The wreck has spurred local and state politicians, along with lake agencies, to call for better lake safety education and possibly more regulations on the lake.


3. School mourns after girl, 8, dies in wreck Monday

A February wreck brought tragedy to World Language Academy in Chestnut Mountain after a second-grader at the school was killed.

The girl was thrown from the right rear window of a Chevy Astro van after it was struck by a Nissan Altima, causing a serious head injury. Three others were injured.


4. GHS will have 1 valedictorian at spring graduation

A debacle in February over who should hold the valedictorian title at Gainesville High School ended when one student asked not to be recognized.

Cody Stephens and Charlie Bryant were initially selected as co-valedictorians, but Bryant eventually stepped down after Stephens’ mother, Valerie Stephens, called for her son, who would be the school’s first African-American valedictorian, to be the only one honored.

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said at the time that the co-valedictorians boiled down to one student who earned A’s in every course credit for 36 units of credit and one who earned A’s in all but one course, which was a B, and took 31.5 course credits. They were separated by less than one one-hundredth of a point.

This month, the school board began looking at changing the way it picks its valedictorian and salutatorian.

Among the most notable proposed changes is waiting until the second semester is finished before choosing the top student. And starting with the 2014 class, the plan is to determine the final grade based on a numerical percentage as opposed to the current system using a grade-point average.


5. Shooting victim dies; 2 suspects sought

In April, a deadly shooting rocked the Hispanic community.

David Sanchez, a well-known businessman who operated a check-cashing business, among other things, was shot outside a chicken processing plant on Memorial Park Drive. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating and has not made any arrests.

Sanchez and a woman were at the plant to cash employees’ checks when they were forced out of their car and multiple shots were fired, authorities said at the time. The woman, who was never identified, was not injured.

The suspects then stole the victim’s car and fled with an undisclosed amount of money, authorities reported.

The sheriff’s office released drawings of two suspects shortly after the incident and in September released a new drawing of a person of interest, which may or may not be a third suspect, they said.

A $10,000 reward fund has been established by the family for information leading to an arrest and conviction.


6. Two people killed in vehicle explosion

Two people were killed in a fiery wreck in February that involved a tractor-trailer truck carrying dog food and a car on Purina Drive.

Gainesville police said there was an explosion and the debris burned for several hours.

Police believe the tractor-trailer, which was carrying dog food, was turning right into the Purina warehouse when the car, traveling on Purina Drive, slammed into the truck’s gas tank area and ended up wedged under it, police spokesman Kevin Holbrook said at the time.


7. Motorcycle gang indictment includes 4 Gainesville men

Federal authorities in August charged 23 people, most with ties to the Outlaw Motorcycle Club, with drug and gun offenses stemming from an undercover FBI investigation.

The operation included executing seven search warrants at the Hoodlums Motorcycle Club headquarters on South Waterworks Road in Buford, among other clubs and residences across the state.

Four of the defendants are from Gainesville and they are now awaiting trial. Three of them are accused of possessing cocaine and conspiracy to sell it. Another man is accused on those charges but relating to methamphetamine.

A trial has not been set.


8. Teen girl’s death ruled a homicide

A Gainesville teenager was found dead in August near the apartment where she lived with her family. The death was ruled a homicide and authorities still have not charged anyone with the crime.

Hannah Truelove, 16, was a Gainesville High School student. Her body was found on a trail in a wooded area behind Lake Lanier Club apartments off Dawsonville Highway.

Investigators are still working the case but have not been able to firmly identify any suspects.


9. Dawson assistant DA found dead

John G. Wilbanks Jr., a supervising attorney in the Hall-Dawson District Attorney’s Dawson County office, was found dead earlier this month in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Wilbanks was being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, with the cooperation of District Attorney Lee Darragh’s office. Darragh confirmed before Wilbanks’ death that he was no longer with the office.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead has said the death will close the investigation, but it has not yet been officially closed, which makes the paperwork available under the state’s open records law.

An incident report from the Fernandina Beach Police Department lists the incident as a suicide.

Darragh called Wilbanks a dedicated public servant and a friend.


10. Sunday afternoon crash in Dawson County kills 1

A March wreck killed a woman riding on the back of a motorcycle on Ga. 400 in Dawson County. The driver also was injured.

The Harley motorcycle was northbound on Ga. 400 when it collided with a Chevrolet Tahoe attempting to cross the highway from Henry Grady Highway.