Topping the list of major 2013 stories for the region were Maine’s response to a catastrophic rail disaster, a brutal murder in the rural town of Detroit, the emergence of the man dubbed the North Pond Hermit, new hospital construction and the arrival of natural gas pipelines.

Rail disaster

Maine residents rallied to help their neighbors just over the border in Quebec after a runaway oil train derailed, exploded and burned much of downtown Lac-Megantic in July. The derailment and fire of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways train killed 47 people.

A Farmington-based fundraising effort called the Lac-Megantic Relief Fund raised $38,851 for its partner community. In addition, the Rangeley Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce raised $17,000 for the community and the Farmington library donated $3,000. The bidding process to sell the railroad was still underway at year’s end.

Natural gas

Natural gas wars heated up this year as the fuel started flowing this month from a Maine Natural Gas pipeline to Augusta’s first residence to be heated by natural gas. The Brunswick-based Maine Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which also owns Central Maine Power Co.

Meanwhile, Summit Natural Gas of Maine, which is competing for customers in Augusta and building a pipeline from Windsor, through Augusta, north to the paper mill in Madison, was notified of a $72 million lawsuit by one of its contractors. Work has stalled and deadlines have been missed.

The ‘North Pond Hermit’

Christopher T. Knight, dubbed the North Pond Hermit, who spent decades living alone in the woods not far from the camps he repeatedly robbed, gained national and international attention in 2013. Knight, 48, was arrested in April on burglary and theft charges involving 1,000 or more burglaries. Knight told investigators he lived for 27 years in the woods of North, East and Little North ponds in the Rome and Smithfield area.

Knight told police he burglarized unoccupied camps at night, carrying off propane tanks, tools, batteries, sleeping bags, food and occasionally beer.

Knight, who spend about six months in jail, pleaded guilty to a handful of charges and now is out of jail and living in the community while participating in a special program that requires him to appear in front of a judge once a week.

Missing, found alive

Nicholas Joy, 17, was skiing at Sugarloaf March 3 when he went off a trail on the back of the mountain and got lost.

The Medford, Mass., teenager was missing for two days as searchers combed the mountain and surrounding area looking for him. Joy wandered in circles, but eventually built himself a snow cave to protect himself from the elements.

He was found two days later by a Massachusetts snowmobiler who grew up in Maine and was familiar with the area. The snowmobiler, Joseph Paul, spotted Joy’s tracks in the snow and brought him out of the woods.

In September, Arthur Wakeman, an 86-year-old Benton resident who spent two stormy, wet nights in the woods near his home in September, was found alive and taken to a Waterville hospital. Family members did not say why he disappeared.

Joslyn Retamozzo, 7, and Joel Retamozzo, 6, were found unharmed in August in South Carolina more than 1,100 miles from Waterville, where they were taken. Their mother, BethMarie Retamozzo, who does not have custody of them, faces a criminal restraint by a parent charge.

Missing, found dead

Vaughn Giggey III, 40, was found dead several days after he went for a nighttime walk in August to his mother’s home in Skowhegan. His death did not look suspicious and he was found in a small stream in rugged woods near his home, according to police. There is still no word on the cause and manner of death.

Three men snowmobiling together on Rangeley Lake were reported missing in late December and believed to have fallen into an open section in the ice. The search for the men ended in mid-May when the bodies of Glenn Henderson, 43, of Sabattus; Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China; and John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, were recovered.

Missing, not found

Ayla Reynolds was 20 months old when she was reported missing from her home in Waterville on Dec. 17, 2011. She still has not been found. In May 2012, state police said she is likely dead, but the case remains active.

Searches for Reynolds continued throughout the year, including the most reacent one, off Hussey Hill Road in Oakland. Police vowed after that search that they won’t stop until they find the child.

Tennessee resident Geraldine Largay, 66, was reported missing while hiking the Appalachian Trail in July, after she failed to make a scheduled meeting with her husband in Wyman Township. She was never found. The search remains open, but the family held a memorial service for her and offered a $15,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.

Hospitals projects

The $16 million Thayer Center for Health renovation, which included moving some MaineGeneral Health operations from other areas of Waterville and Fairfield to the building got underway in 2013. The Thayer project follows construction of the $312 million Alfond Center for Health in Augusta, which took patients from the Thayer hospital. The move marked the end of admitting patients for overnight stays at Thayer. Thayer will continue to operate a 24-hour emergency department, with an entrance off North Street. Patients who come to the emergency room and require hospital admission will be taken by ambulance, if necessary, to the Alfond Center for Health — an approximate 20-minute trip south on Interstate 95.

New police station

After years of working in the cramped basement of City Hall in small rooms with no windows, poor ventilation and leaky ceilings, police moved into a brand-new $3.4 million, 12,000-square-foot brick building overlooking College Avenue and Colby Circle in July.

The new station at 10 Colby St. is about twice the size of the current one.

Crime and punishment

The owners of a Norridgewock day care center that was shut down after four children were molested there are facing a civil lawsuit filed by the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of one of the children.

The lawsuit claims assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Horace Barstow as well as negligence by his wife, Barbara Barstow, owner of ABC 123 Daycare. Both denied the charges in written statements filed to the court. Horace Barstow, 67, was convicted in June on four counts of unlawful sexual contact with children and is in prison. His sentence included 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended and 10 years’ probation. He also must register as a sex offender for life.

A Livermore Falls man was shot to death in Rome in September after breaking into a mobile home wearing a ski mask and brass knuckles, according to state police. Police say the intruder, Christopher Dennison, 44, of Livermore Falls, entered the home owned by Richard Duffy, 48, who shot and killed Dennison.

A Palmyra man was indicted in September by a Somerset County grand jury in connection with the bludgeoning death of another man in July in Detroit.

Jason C. Cote, 22, is charged with the murder of Ricky B. Cole on July 17. Cote is alleged to have beaten Cole, 47, with a pipe in a mobile home Cole was renting on Main Street in Detroit.

Detectives with the State Police Major Crimes Unit found Cole dead in the blood-spattered mobile home. Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy report. The state medical examiner’s office concluded that Cole had died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck. Cote is scheduled to stand trial in May.

A murderer originally from Oakland who was attacked at the Maine State Prison in Warren died of blunt force trauma to the head, police said.

An autopsy on Alan D. Powell Jr., 57, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that the death was a homicide. Powell was attacked in an outdoor recreation area by Guy Hunnewell III, 42, originally from Fairfield.

Powell was serving a life sentence for stabbing and strangling Martha Daigle, 64, on June 29, 1989, inside a Waterville apartment house. Hunnewell was sentenced to 40 years in prison for fatally stabbing Stephanie Gilliland, 20, of Benton, on Dec. 30, 1997.

At the time of his death, Powell had served about 22 years of a life sentence.

A Skowhegan woman charged in connection with the New Hampshire murder of her brother’s former wife was indicted in October by a grand jury on three charges. Michele D. Corson, 44, is charged as an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit hindering apprehension.

Corson, a mother of three grown children who managed a now closed consignment shop in Skowhegan, is accused of taking a gun from Skowhegan to New Hampshire to help her brother murder Amanda Warf on March 7. Warf, 36, was the former wife of Corson’s brother, Aaron Desjardins, 36, of Epping, N.H., who is charged with murder. Additional court dates are pending.

Justin V. Smith of South China, was 26 when he was shot in the face outside a Waterville pub in December 2012 by Matthew Partridge, 30, of Winslow. Partridge pleaded guilty to manslaughter in August and will serve at least 15 years in prison.

Winning

The Oakland man who spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building an Iron Man costume in his basement won first place at a costume contest in Salem, Mass., in October. Thomas Lemieux, 28, showed off his costume — a replica of one of the Iron Man suits worn by actor Robert Downey Jr. in the popular superhero movie franchise — to the judges and a crowd of nearly 1,000 costumed attendees at the Hawthorne Hotel’s annual Halloween costume ball in October.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367 [email protected] Twitter: @Doug_Harlow