Dec 31, 2007

Top 10 Crime Stories of 2007

Top 10 Crime Stories from
Category: News and Politics

1. Massacre at Virginia Tech

On Apr. 16, Cho Seung-Hui, a troubled Virginia Tech senior, killed 32 people before taking his own life in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The episode brought many unsettling issues to the fore, including loopholes that let the mentally ill buy guns, privacy laws that restrict school counselors' ability to tell others about a distressed student and the difficulty universities have in alerting entire campuses to imminent danger. The role of the media was also scrutinized after NBC aired photos and video that Cho had mailed to the network in between killing two people in a dorm and shooting many more in classrooms.

2. The Jena 6

The incident, which drew attention to what many Americans consider a double-tiered justice system, started after nooses hung from a tree at a high school in Jena, La., sparked a rash of interracial fights. In December 2006, six black students were charged with beating a white one, and thousands of civil rights activists would eventually march in Jena to protest the incarceration of one of the so-called Jena 6, Mychal Bell. In June an all-white jury convicted him of second-degree battery by concluding that his tennis shoes had been used as a dangerous weapon. His conviction as an adult was overturned, but he eventually pleaded guilty to the same charge as a juvenile.

3. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann

On the night of May 3, British tourists Kate and Gerry McCann left their three young children asleep in a Portuguese resort while they dined nearby. When they returned, 3-year-old Madeleine was gone. So began a mystery that continues to befuddle investigators. David Beckham and other celebrities were enlisted to help find the girl amid theories that she might have been kidnapped by international pedophile gangs. The McCanns were eventually named as suspects after tiny amounts of the girl's bodily fluids were found in a car her parents had rented several weeks after she went missing. The McCanns claim the evidence is inconclusive.

4. Fiery Attack at Glasgow Airport

In June, two men drove a Jeep into the arrivals terminal of the Glasgow airport and set the car ablaze in an attempted suicide attack. The driver died from third-degree burns. He and his passenger, a British-born Muslim doctor who owned the Jeep, are believed to have planted car bombs that were found in London shortly before the Glasgow incident. The attack highlighted the extent to which Islamist anger with the Western world could radicalize even educated professionals.

5. Bribery in Iraq

In the largest bribery case to come out of the Iraq war, Army Maj. John Cockerham was indicted in August for taking $9.6 million in bribes while he was a contracting officer in Kuwait. He allegedly accepted the payments in return for promising to award contracts for such things as bottled water through a rigged bidding process. He and his wife and sister were also charged with money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. All three have pleaded not guilty.

6. Slave Labor in China

Hundreds of laborers forced to work as slaves at illegal brick kilns in northern China were freed in June. The slaves, some of whom were minors, had been kidnapped or lured to the factories, where they were physically abused and, in a few cases, murdered. Dozens of people were convicted for their role in the slavery scandal, including the son of a local Communist Party official, and one kiln employee — who confessed to killing a mentally handicapped man for not working hard enough — was sentenced to death.

7. Execution-Style Slayings in Newark

Everyone who knew them said they were good kids. Three were enrolled at Delaware State University, and the fourth planned to join his friends there shortly. So when they were lined up against a schoolyard wall in Newark, N.J., and shot execution-style (one survived) in early August, it rattled the city and its idealistic young mayor, Cory Booker, who had been elected a year earlier on promises to reduce crime. The murders also stoked a national debate about immigration after it was revealed that one of the six suspects was an illegal immigrant free on bail on child-rape charges at the time of the killings.

8. A Wrestler's Rage

In June, World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit apparently dosed his wife and 7-year-old son with a sedative before strangling them in their Georgia home and then hanging himself using the cord from a weight machine. The popular wrestler left no suicide note. Amid media speculation that the double murder-suicide was brought on by steroid use and so-called "roid rage," a toxicologist concluded that despite finding elevated levels of testosterone — possibly as a result of treatment for past steroid abuse — in Benoit's body, there was nothing in his system that contributed to the violent behavior.

9. O.J. Gets Busted

Really, O.J.? Really? Your alleged plan to run a civilian "sting operation" against the guy you claim was illegally selling your memorabilia consisted of you and a few gun-toting friends breaking into his Las Vegas hotel room and taking your stuff back by force? We're sure you would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for that pal of yours who tape-recorded the whole incident. O.J. pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him, including robbery, kidnapping and use of a deadly weapon, and his trial is scheduled to begin in April

10. Fleecing a High-Society Mom

Brooke Astor, the glamorous New York City philanthropist and socialite who succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in her later years, died in August at the age of 105. Soon afterward, amid stunning allegations of elder abuse, neglect, and flat-out greed, her only son, Anthony Marshall, was charged with stealing, forgery and conspiracy to plunder his mother's estate. Marshall pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were brought against him more than a year after Astor's grandson sued to have Marshall removed as her guardian for allegedly allowing the once grand dame to live in squalor.

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