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Year in Review: Laguna Niguel's Top 2011 Stories

From tragic car crashes to an attempted suicide jumper and the loss of a little girl, it was a busy news year in the city and Patch was there every step of the way.

As 2011 comes to a close and a new year is aproaching quickly, Laguna Niguel Patch decided to do a quick roundup of the city's top news stories.

From a beloved community member robbed of her life much to soon to a new City Hall, this past year was busy in Laguna Niguel. And of course, Patch was there every step of the way reporting on breaking news, developing stories and it will continue its efforts in 2012.

Without any more ramblings from the editor, here, in our opinion, are 2011's headline-making news stories.

1. The Death of : Still fresh in many minds, Steves, 48 was killed when a car crashed into her as she was kneeling at the curb near Rancho Niguel and Nueva Vista on Sunday, Feb. 13. "An active volunteer is an understatement.  She started many programs and was such a bundle of energy and enthusiasm that parents wanted to do anything they could do to help around the school.  She was a motivational force of motivation," said good friend and .

The good Samaritan's death made national news and earned a nod from which presented her daughter Hannah and son Jonathan with a posthumous certificate in her name called The Compassionate Action Award.

In May, Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies arrested in a phone booth at a Walgreens in Yorba Linda about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Hall, who had two prior convictions for driving under the influence, was charged with murder in the drug-induced crash, the Orange County District Attorney's office said at the time. (After his second conviction, authorities warned Hall he could face a murder rap if he killed someone while driving under the influence.)

He remains in jail on a $5 million bond and a is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2012.  

2. Train Tracks Car Accident: On June 22,  76, of Laguna Niguel, died when her car jumped the curb at Starr Drive, went through a greenbelt, over a chain-link fence and hit the train tracks below. Officials said at the time her Toyota Camry was traveling at high speed. No one else was hurt. The crash caused major traffic tie-ups, including the closure of the southbound 5 freeway off-ramp at Avery Parkway. Metrolink trains were also delayed  for several hours.

3. Jewelry Heist: On Jan. 2, during a daring midday heist that came to an end when a gun-toting clerk chased the man from  at 27271 La Paz Road to the end of the strip center. The heist happened shortly after noon when the man who said he had "lots of money to spend" entered the store  and asked the owner to see a $25,000 diamond-encrusted watch. He also asked the clerk to see a 4-carat diamond ring, valued at about $22,000, officials said at the time. When the clerk came back with the ring, the suspect, who had placed the watch on his wrist,  put his hand in his jacket pocket, acting as if he had a gun, officials said. The man grabbed the ring and ran for the door, followed by the clerk, who fired  a shot in the air outside as the suspect fled. 

4. Hockey Mom: Kathia Maria Davis, middle-aged hockey mom who was  on suspicion of seducing two of her son's former teammates pleaded to charges of unlawful intercourse and lewd behavior with minors. If convicted, the 44-year-old faces a maximum sentence of 12 years and eight months in state prison. She is currently free on $100,000 bail. According to prosecutors, in 2005 or early 2006, the Laguna Niguel mother allegedly plied one of her son's 13-year-old teammates with alcohol during a sleepover, then kissed and masturbated the boy after her son and daughter fell asleep on the floor nearby. In 2010 and 2011, Davis allegedly had intercourse four times with another of her son's hockey friends, a 16-year-old boy. Alcohol was also involved in those encounters, prosecutors allege. She was arrested in September, after the second boy spilled details to his mother, who then notified authorities. Davis is charged with two felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14, four felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, and a sentencing enhancement for substantial sexual conduct with a child, the D.A.'s office said.

5. Suicide Jumper: In mid-September, tollway overpass at Camino Capistrano in Laguna Niguel. He spent 12 hours at the edge of a support beam rocking back and forth on his knees, exercising and drinking from a bottle of Jack Daniels. The saga began about 4 p.m. when the Orange County Sheriff's Department received a call that a man was about to jump from the overpass, authorities said at the time. Metrolink trains were halted in both directions and traffic was congested in and around the area. The on-ramp to the 73 tollway at the 5 freeway was closed, causing delays to the south in San Juan Capistrano. California Highway Patrol officers and a SWAT team also were there. At 4 a.m., the man surrendered and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, authorities said.

6. New City Hall: City employees moved into the 40,800-square-foot building in late August after many months of construction. The estimated $22-million building that was paid for in cash is two levels. The overall theme is based around government, hence the  that showcases a larger-than-life monument of the preamble of the Constitution. Its engraved words begin with "We the people," and it is the centerpiece of the courtyard, a place where visitors can gather. At night, the monument is lit up so it can be seen by those seated in the  There is also an  with four rows of graduated seating that can be used for ceremonies, awards, proclamations and other special events, although it is not large enough for a rock concert. A large flagpole with a flag is used as a memorial to veterans. Also outside is the "," just off of the parking lot. It includes markers that hold plaques "telling the story of Laguna Niguel from its earliest beginnings in prehistoric times to its incorporation in 1989. The city held a that brought out many.

6. Maddie James Death: In typical Wyland fashion, the artist known the world over for his hand-painted ocean life murals made a splash when he stopped by in Laguna Niguel to pay tribute to , 5, who died March 13 from an inoperable brain tumor. The man who has painted thousands of ocean scenes on murals across the globe was invited by the school and the Maddie James Foundation to add his personal touch to a canvas in Maddie's name. The little girl loved the ocean and the foundation named for her raised the funds needed earlier in the year for the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, one of her favorite places to visit. 

"I never met Maddie but I knew she was having some challenges ... and when they asked me to paint the mural, I knew I had to be here," said Wyland, 54, a Detroit native.  "This is a great tribute to celebrate her life."

About 700 students who took part in the event at school gymnasium had an opportunity to add a stroke of artistic genius to the life-size blue canvas

7. Deadly Fight: In the 20 years since Mary and Richard B. have lived in the Village Niguel Vistas housing tract they have rarely seen a police officer, let alone a swarm of them. That was until early December. The neighborhood of two-story homes that share one wall, located between Aliso Creek and La Paz roads, looked like a scene out of a movie, Mary says. There were policemen, investigators, the curious, many neighbors and, eventually, a coroner's van. According to Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman, , 34, got into a fistfight with Kenneth Raney Lamb, 46, about 1 p.m. on Dec. 7, in the 27000 block of Avenida Armijo, where Lamb was renting living space in Altamirano's garage. Shortly after the fight, Altamirano climbed into his white pickup truck, where he was found dead that afternoon. Officials said they didn't know who started the fight or why. Lamb was picked up by sheriff's deputies that afternoon seated on a bench in front of a store near La Paz Road and Pacific Park Drive in Laguna Niguel, questioned, then arrested on a drug-related warrant. He was also treated at a hospital for a cut over his eye and jailed in lieu of $1,500 bail, records showed. The autopsy on Altamirano was "inconclusive," and "there was no visible trauma to the body," officials said. The incident is currently under investigation.

Tell us in comments which story you think was the most important or newsworthy.

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