MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida courthouses took center stage in 2013, especially with the eyes of the nation glued to the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford.
Accused of killing Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin, a jury acquitted Zimmerman this summer, prompting a national debate about Florida’s Stand Your Ground Gun Law.
Zimmerman’s trouble with the law continued all year, including stops for speeding and a domestic violence arrest.
And it only took 12-years to get some justice for missing foster child Rilya Wilson. 2013 was the year Geralyn Graham was sentenced to 55-years in prison for kidnapping and child abuse.
Jurors were unable to agree on her guilt or innocence on the charge of first degree murder.
Also from court, the finger seen ’round the world. Penelope Soto becoming a YouTube sensation for flipping off a Miami-Dade judge in February. Only to put her finger back in her pocket and beg the court’s forgiveness.
There was no forgiveness from the U.S. Justice Department. It found the Miami police department engaged in patterns and practices of excessive use of force… violating the civil rights of everyday citizens when it came to the way police shootings were handled in Liberty City and Overtown.
Miami Beach police also were under fire this year. A judge chastised Beach PD for not being forthcoming with evidence and materials in connection with a Memorial Day weekend shooting two years ago. It is now the subject of a civil law suit.
And the family of Israel Hernandez, a young Miami Beach graffiti artist from Colombia, is suing the PD over the teen’s death by Taser in August… claiming excessive use of force.
Two murders in our area grabbed national headlines.
The Facebook murder in South Miami was one. Derek Medina is accused of killing his wife, in self-defense he claims, then posting a picture of her dead body on Facebook. The couple had a stormy history.
And was a history of mental problems overlooked, leading to the deadliest shooting spree in Dade county in three decades?
Pedro Alberto Vargas set his Hialeah apartment ablaze, opened fire from his balcony killing six people. He then held two neighbors hostage before he was killed by the SWAT team at the end of July.
There were no survivors when a Lear jet crashed just off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in November. The wreckage of an air ambulance heading to Mexico had to be fished from the ocean floor.
A fiery plane that crashed into a repo lot near executive airport claimed the lives of all aboard, as did this chopper crash not too far from Kendall Tamiami airport in April.
This was the year of strange animal news in Miami-Dade. A giant African Rock Python slithered out of the woods in west Kendall and killed a 60 pound husky in someone’s back yard.
And then there was this bizarre sea creature caught off Key Biscayne just before Thanksgiving.
As the heat went for their third NBA title in June, the deck at Shuckers gave way sending dozens into the water.
There were only minor injuries but they resulted in major lawsuits that have left this North Bay Village icon shut down indefinitely.
And then.. there was Bella. The 6-year-old who inspired so many but lost her fight against cancer in May. But she gained a place in the hearts of millions as South Florida was reminded, even on our worst days, that it’s best to live like Bella.
It’s never just one year when South Florida stands out as having some of the most creepy, bizarre and tragic news stories. No doubt 2014 will have its share and CBS4 will be there to cover them all.