AUGUSTA — The killings of a Winthrop couple sometime early Halloween morning — allegedly by their 17-year-old son — tops the list of local news stories for 2016.

Other top stories include an election in which Kennebec County voters opted to turn out a sitting sheriff for a deputy sheriff in neighboring Lincoln County.

Andrew Balcer, now 18, is charged with murder in connection with the deaths of his parents, Antonio and Alice Balcer, both 47, in the family’s home on Pine Knoll Road. Because the younger Balcer was a juvenile at the time, much of the information about the homicides, including how they died, remains under wraps.

A judge ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation before deciding on the state’s request to treat Balcer as an adult in the criminal justice system.

In the town of Washington, two people died in March in a five-vehicle crash on Route 17. A tractor-trailer driver now faces two manslaughter charges in connection with the crash. Investigators say Randall Junior Weddle was intoxicated and speeding when the crash occurred.

Weddle has pleaded not guilty to all the charges related to the March 18 crash, which killed Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren, and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head.

On Election Day, voters went 33,387-31,644 for independent Ken Mason, of Readfield, over the Democrat, Oakland’s Ryan Reardon, for Kennebec County sheriff. Reardon, who has held that title since April, had succeeded Randall Liberty, who resigned to become warden at the Maine State Prison.

Mason had been with the Augusta Police Department before going to Lincoln County.

Reardon joined the Kennebec Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy in 2007 after more than a decade with the Waterville Police Department.

A rehabilitated and expanded Lithgow Public Library reopened in August after 14 months at a temporary location. The $11 million project was funded with an $8 million city bond as well as $3 million raised by the Friends of Lithgow Library. The city showpiece, with the original 1896 granite block portion still intact, stands on the northwest corner of Winthrop and State streets.

Augusta now has turned its attention to building a new fire station — the first in 51 years.

The station, under construction just off Leighton Road in north Augusta, also is being financed by a $3.6 million bond issue approved by voters that includes a new ladder truck. The new station is scheduled to open in January 2018.

In Gardiner, it was out with the old as the T.W. Dick buildings came down. The former steel fabricating mill, founded in 1890, was demolished, and a medical arts building and affordable senior and workforce housing are expected to take their place on Summer Street along the bank of Cobbosseecontee Stream, a block from the city’s downtown.

In April, the former Stevens School property in Hallowell was sold to Mastway Development LLC, controlled by Matt Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop. The state-owned property, originally used as a boarding school for girls, had been for sale for a decade.

In Litchfield, residents organized a recall effort that removed Timothy LaChapelle from the Selectboard by a 167-50 vote held Dec. 20.

Calling for transparency in the town’s government, LaChapelle had been elected in June over two other candidates, including a two-term incumbent. Since then, he made multiple accusations about malfeasance by town employees, all of which they and other town officials have denied.

Prominent people who died during the year included Kennebec County Probate Judge James Mitchell, 74, of Vassalboro. His widow, former Maine Senate President and Speaker of the House Elizabeth Mitchell, was elected in November to replace him.

Stefan Pakulski, longtime Readfield town manager, died March 5 after his first few months as Hallowell city manager. He was 57.

In other news, an exchange of gunshots turned the Augusta Wal-Mart parking lot into a scene from an old Western movie until armed bystanders took control.

While no one was shot in the June 26 incident, one of the alleged shooters was beaten by two others, police said. Drugs and money were reported to be root of the dispute. Two men were indicted on charges of attempted murder as a result of that fracas.

In Dresden, a brick chimney stands amid the rubble of a large, barnlike structure at 633 Gardiner Road that was once a church, a restaurant and most recently housing for people receiving treatment for substance abuse and mental illness, until it burned Oct. 2. Investigators said the blaze probably was started by someone smoking. Eleven people were at the Freedom Center and fled the fire, which was reported at 3:30 a.m.

In September, the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus celebrated 150 years of serving veterans, marking the occasion with a gathering that included Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and Maine’s entire congressional delegation.

In other news, two Augusta parents, Christopher Norwood and Karen Lea, were charged with endangering their young children in separate incidents.

A 2-year-old boy was rescued Sept. 17 as he was drowning in the Kennebec River, and an Amber Alert was issued for a 3-year-old Augusta girl on Oct. 4 when she disappeared after police and firefighters responded to a report of a medical emergency at a Sewall Street home. The girl was taken to the city police station later that evening.

The boy was revived and later released from the hospital to “a safe location” designated by the state Department of Health and Human Services, according to Augusta police at the time.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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