The Norman Transcript

January 1, 2014

Tornadoes named state’s top story

By Jill Bleed
The Associated Press

NORMAN — Even in a state accustomed to Mother’s Nature fury, 2013 was extraordinary.

In a two-week period in May, violent tornadoes and powerful flash flooding walloped the state. The one-two punch of tornadoes that struck Moore and El Reno in May was picked by Associated Press members as the story of 2013.

The top four stories follow:

1. Tornadoes: One of the most powerful tornadoes to hit Oklahoma formed May 20 just southwest of Moore and roared into the city, killing 24 and leaving at least $2 billion in damages.

Less than two weeks later after the storm at Moore, a twister with the second-highest winds ever recorded near ground level hit south of El Reno, part of a thunderstorm complex that produced flash flooding and high winds that killed two dozen people in the Oklahoma City area. Three scientists who studied tornadoes were among those killed.

2. Australian player-random slaying: A 22-year-old Australian who came to Oklahoma to play college baseball was gunned down while jogging in Duncan.

Christopher Lane, 22, was shot in the back Aug. 16 while running down a tree-lined street. Lane, a Melbourne native, was a catcher at East Central University in Ada and was preparing to enter his senior year. Lane was visiting his girlfriend’s parents’ in Duncan.

Three teenagers were arrested. Two of them were charged as adults with first-degree murder. A third teenager was initially charged as a youthful offender but later charged with first-degree murder.

3. Statehouse corruption: Two former state legislators were convicted in 2013 for their roles in a felony bribery scheme.

Former Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, was convicted by a jury of offering a bribe for withdrawal of candidacy and sentenced to a year in prison. He was accused of setting up former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, in an $80,000-a-year job at the state Medical Examiner’s Office in exchange for her not seeking re-election in 2010 so a Republican colleague of Terrill’s could seek her open seat.

Following Terrill’s conviction in October, Leftwich waived her right to a jury trial and was found guilty by a judge of accepting a thing of value to withdraw. She received a one-year suspended sentence and is appealing her conviction.

4. Indian child welfare dispute: An adoption case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately was resolved.

Dusten Brown, a Cherokee Nation citizen, was charged in South Carolina with “custodial interference” after attempting to void the 2009 adoption of Baby Veronica by a Charleston couple.

After the nation’s highest court said Brown couldn’t press claims under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Matt and Melanie Capobianco traveled to Oklahoma hoping to pick up the child, who had lived with Brown’s family since age 2.

Brown gave up his fight for the child after Gov. Mary Fallin took steps to extradite him to South Carolina and the Oklahoma Supreme Court removed a stay that had directed that the girl remain with her father.

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