Georgia's top 10 stories of 2013

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1 SAXBY CHAMBLISS RETIREMENT: The Republican senator announced in January he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2014. The move set up a free-for-all Republican primary that will showcase the divide between tea party conservatives and the business establishment. Democrats hope a Republican melee opens the door for an upset in the general election. Democrats’ leading hopeful is Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.

ATLANTA SCHOOL CORRUPTION: In March, a Fulton County grand jury indicted former Atlanta Public Schools chief Beverly Hall and dozens of other administrators and teachers, accusing them of engineering a sweeping effort to falsify standardized test results. A massive trial is expected in 2014.

BRAVES TO MOVE; FALCONS TO STAY: The Atlanta Braves had perhaps the most surprising move of the year. They announced after months of secret talks with Cobb County leaders plans to move to a suburban stadium and leave downtown, where they’ve played since moving from Milwaukee in 1966. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed managed to keep the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons happy. He agreed for the city to cover part of the construction costs for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome. Both new stadiums are projected to open in 2017.

SNEIDERMAN TRIAL: DeKalb County prosecutors dropped murder charges against Andrea Sneiderman in the 2010 shooting death of her husband, but a jury later convicted the widow for lying about her relationship with the man who killed Rusty Sneiderman in 2010. A judge sentenced her to five years in prison.

PAULA DEEN: The famous cook and restaurateur from Savannah watched part of her empire crumble after testimony in a lawsuit accusing her of racial discrimination in the workplace. The suit never reached trial, but Deen’s admission that she previously used racial slurs and shared racially charged jokes cost her business deals with the Food Network, Wal-Mart and Target.

BABY STROLLER MURDER: On March 21, a Brunswick mother was pushing her 13-month-old son in a stroller when they were shot in an attempted robbery. Sherry West survived, but her baby, Antonio Santiago, died. Five months later, a Cobb County jury convicted 18-year-old De’Marquise Elkins of murder. He was sentenced to life without parole. Elkins’ alleged accomplice, 15 years old at the time, awaits trial.

EIGHT-VICTIM MURDER CONVICTION: In October, a jury in Brunswick convicted Guy Heinze Jr. of killing his father and seven extended family members. He was sentenced to life without parole.

ETHICS UNDER THE GOLD DOME: In the spring, Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican leaders of the Legislature pushed through an overhaul of Georgia’s ethics rules, for the first time setting caps on what lobbyists can spend on lawmakers. Within months, Deal was dogged by reports he and his inner circle interfered with the state Ethics Commission as it conducted a wide-ranging probe of the governor’s campaign. Deal denied wrongdoing.

DEKALB SCHOOL BOARD: Testing a contentious new state law for the first time, Deal removed several members of the DeKalb County school boards amid allegations of mismanagement and a threat of lost accreditation. He used the law to appoint replacements.

10 PANDA TWINS: Zoo Atlanta celebrated the birth of giant panda twins in July. Following Chinese custom, they announced the names 100 days later. They are Mei Lun and Mei Huan. The pair are the first twin panda cubs to survive in the United States.


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