Allegations that a son killed his father in Gardiner heads the list of the top Kennebec Journal stories of 2014.

The year’s local headlines were also dominated by claims of sexual misconduct against Hallowell’s police chief, ongoing trouble at a state psychiatric hospital, two fires in Augusta that displaced dozens and busts of alleged sex trafficking rings in Litchfield and Sidney.

But the biggest news wasn’t all bad. Community members rallied around fire victims, Augusta’s library received voter approval to expand and a new Richmond-Dresden bridge opened to traffic.

Some of the region’s criminals were convicted and sent to prison, including those charged with murder. Carole and Marshall Swan, the central characters in years of malfeasance in Chelsea government, were sent to separate federal prisons. Also, an Augusta mayor’s judicial appointment set off a game of musical chairs in city politics with a new mayor sworn in after an expensive, heated race.

Gardiner murder

In May, police said in an affidavit that Leroy Smith III, 25, admitted to killing his father, Leroy Smith Jr., by stabbing him in the neck in the apartment they shared on Cannard Street.

Then, Smith allegedly dumped the body in the Richmond woods. He was later arrested by Westbrook Police when he flagged down an officer to ask for directions. During a routine check, police found that he was wanted on a warrant out of Massachusetts. He provided information to Westbrook Police that led officers in Richmond to find his father’s remains.

In Smith’s first court appearance on a murder charge, he yelled that he was a “political prisoner.” In July, he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. He remains at Riverview Psychiatric Center.

Friends gathered in May and remembered Leroy Smith Jr., 56, as a local musician with an infectious laugh, an upbeat outlook and a penchant for carpentry and mechanical work.

Hallowell chief

The Kennebec Journal reported in June that Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason was investigated by the Maine State Police in 2013 after a female officer claimed he sexually assaulted her. No charges were filed against Nason, 49, who admitted to a consensual relationship with the officer. He has denied wrongdoing. She has maintained that an encounter at Nason’s camp was rape.

After that publicity, a Rome woman came forward to the city claiming that Nason took a pornographic picture of her as she slept when they dated in the 1990s. The city hired a private investigator to scrutinize that claim, and he said while Nason admitted seeing the photo, he didn’t recall taking it.

The city manager reprimanded Nason for “lack of judgment,” but he never disciplined him and is now recommending that the city council re-appoint Nason when he comes up for his annual appointment next month. Regardless of that decision, Nason’s situation has led to some change in Hallowell. In October, the council voted to ban romantic relationships between city supervisors and subordinates.

Augusta fires

Large fires at two apartment buildings less than a quarter-mile apart happening within five days rocked Augusta in early December. There were no major injuries, but 32 people were left homeless.

The first fire, in an 18-unit building at 36 Northern Ave., was the larger, displacing 27. The building has been leveled, and burned-out vehicles left behind it were hauled off. The other building, at 20 State St., is set to be demolished.

City and state officials set to work helping residents relocate, which some did within days, while the United Way of Kennebec Valley raised $38,000 to aid victims in getting housing, clothes and food, some of it with help from Augusta schoolchildren.

Riverview problems

In March, the five-year superintendent of Riverview Psychiatric Center was ousted after scrutiny around corrections officers’ use of stun guns and handcuffs to subdue patients at the state mental hospital. That and other events led to a loss of federal certification and the cutoff of $20 million in annual federal funding.

Jay Harper, a former patient advocate, took over as superintendent, but the federal government denied a recertification request in July citing medication errors and other problems. A November report said the hospital wasn’t abiding by the terms of a decades-old consent decree.

Meanwhile, a pattern of criminal assaults by patients against staff has persisted. This month, a female patient was charged with assault after allegedly punching a maintenance worker at the hospital and a week later with violating conditions of release by allegedly assaulting another worker. One patient is accused of attacking mental health workers on three different days in October. In August, a nurse was slammed in the face with a chair allegedly wielded by a patient charged with aggravated assault.

Sex trafficking

Police said they busted two prostitution rings in Sidney and Litchfield, charging three people with sex trafficking on one day in April, the same day that Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill that somewhat shielded trafficking victims from prosecution.

The alleged leader of the Sidney ring, Frederick Horne Sr., 47, ran into trouble again in July, when he was charged with violating bail after attending the Winslow wedding of a woman prosecutors said was one of his trafficking victims.

Murderers sentenced

Two convicted murderers, Courtney Shea and Gary Raub, got decades in prison this year.

In July, Shea, 31, of Vassalboro, was given 32 years in prison for killing 69-year-old Thomas Namer, who Shea said once molested him. Namer’s body was found with fatal stab wounds on Nov. 22, 2013, near Shea’s Riverside Drive home. Friends remembered Namer as someone who helped others by taking them to medical appointments, cooking them meals or giving them rides home from local bars. They said they don’t believe Shea’s claims of molestation.

Raub, 66, got 20 years in prison for killing Blanche M. Kimball in her Augusta home in 1976. He was brought back to Maine in 2012 after living as a transient in Seattle, where police identified him by using DNA found on discarded chewing gum. In June 1976, one of Kimball’s neighbors called police after they had not seen her for a few days. She was found with multiple stab wounds on the first floor of the house.

Kimball was a dental technician and a practical nurse who worked for the Veterans Administration Center at Togus and the state before she retired in 1973. She occasionally took in boarders, including Raub.

The case was the oldest unsolved homicide in state history.

Lithgow Library

More than seven years after a similar plan was rejected, voters signed off on a plan to expand and modernize Augusta’s Lithgow Library in June.

Construction is expected to begin next year after 82 percent of city voters approved $8 million in borrowing to be matched by $3 million in privately raised funds. When the project is complete, the building will have 30,000 square feet of floor space, a cafe, a modern elevator and other upgrades.

During construction, the library will have books and other holdings available in rented space at the former MaineGeneral Medical Center at the corner of East Chestnut and Arsenal streets. Construction on Lithgow is expected to start this spring and take 18 months to two years to complete.

Swans sent to prison

Former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan and her contractor husband, Marshall Swan, were sent to federal prison this year. Their management of town, business and personal affairs have been the subjects of many Kennebec Journal stories since 2010, leading to public outrage, an FBI raid of the town office and charges.

In June, Carole Swan, 56, was sentenced to more than seven years for extortion and workers’ compensation and tax fraud. She’s at a low-security facility in Danbury, Conn. Marshall Swan, 57, got nearly 3 years for falsifying tax returns and failing to report income, and he’s at a facility in Devens, Mass.

Augusta mayor

In May, Gov. Paul LePage nominated William Stokes, then Augusta’s mayor, to serve as a Superior Court judge. Stokes had to resign as mayor after his July confirmation, setting up a hurried November race between David Rollins and William Dowling. Rollins, then a city councilor, beat Dowling with 57 percent of votes.

Rollins spent more than $15,000 on his campaign to serve the last year of Stokes’ term, more than six times what Dowling, a former mayor, spent.

Former councilor Mike Byron ran as a write in, but finished a distant third.

New bridge

In December, a new bridge costing nearly $19 million opened over the Kennebec River between Richmond and Dresden. The Maine Kennebec Bridge is 115 feet above the water at low tide, tall enough to allow boats to pass under it, unlike the old bridge built in 1931, which had to swing open to allow many boats to pass.

The new bridge should be a once-in-a-century occurrence. It’s designed to last at least 100 years.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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