, Salem, MA

December 31, 2012

Remembering the North Shore's top stories of the year

The Salem News

---- — Personalities dominated 2012 on the North Shore, some for good, some for ill and some for the last time.

Leading was March’s tragic shooting sparked by one man’s alleged relationship with another’s wife. A Beverly patrolman was shot and seriously injured, while his attacker, a Hamilton sergeant, later fatally shot himself.

A woman accused of setting her Salem Heights apartment building on fire after dousing her two young children with lighter fluid and slashing their throats in March left rescue personnel stunned and speechless. Fortunately, the youngsters survived.

The unexpected death in November of Peabody state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis, after two decades of elected public service, brought a different kind of shock and sadness.

A little of the magic in downtown Beverly disappeared following the decision in September to end Le Grand David at the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre after 36 years. The death of founder Cesareo Pelaez in March had much to do with that.

But it wasn’t all bad news. Yes, Majority Leader Fred Berry has retired from the state Senate after 30 years. But he’ll still be available for a quip. (It was Berry, after all, who once described former Gov. Mitt Romney as getting so angry his hair moved.)

Newly elected in Berry’s place is former Salem City Councilor Joan Lovely.

Reports of his political demise having been grossly exaggerated, Congressman John Tierney shook off the taint surrounding his wife’s felony conviction by beating Republican challenger Richard Tisei.

Have a look at the big picture, and trends seem even better, with Footprint purchasing the Salem power plant, Beverly Hospital affiliating with the Lahey Clinic and the archdiocese offering a plan to deal with the shortage of priests.

Anyway, hope is what new years are for.

Officer shoots cop, self

In the early evening of Feb. 24, Hamilton police Sgt. Kenneth Nagy shot and seriously injured Beverly police officer Jason Lantych outside Starbucks in North Beverly, then returned to the scene five hours later and killed himself with a single gunshot to the head.

The shootings involving two off-duty police officers stunned the North Shore and led to months of speculation about motives and consequences.

An investigation by Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office concluded that Nagy was upset over a perceived relationship between Lantych and Nagy’s wife, Kate, who worked in the Beverly Police Department’s domestic violence unit.

A separate outside investigation commissioned by the Beverly Police Department said that Lantych did not violate any department policies. After months of rehabilitation, he returned to his job as a Beverly police officer in August. Kate Nagy no longer works for the domestic violence unit.

Tierney holds onto seat

After months of contentious debates and TV attack ads, Congressman John Tierney beat back a strong challenge from Republican Richard Tisei to win re-election in the 6th Congressional District by less than 1 percent.

It was a brutal campaign in which Tierney was outspent; dogged by a gambling scandal involving his wife and brothers-in-law; and hit with a late tidal wave of momentum for his challenger, a Realtor and former state legislator from Wakefield. The race drew national attention, as the GOP viewed this as an election they could win.

In the end, Tierney’s quiet, grass-roots support in the district, and the personal connections he made during his 16 years in Congress, trumped millions of dollars in negative advertising by the Republican opposition.

Tisei said the race was too close to call on election night and conceded by email the next day.

Power plant sold

It was stunning news in June when Footprint Power, a fledgling company from New Jersey, announced plans to buy the aging Salem Harbor Station power plant, which was slated to shut down in 2014.

Two months later, Footprint closed the deal with Dominion, the Virginia energy giant, and pledged to raze the buildings and smokestacks, clean up the site, build a natural gas plant, and develop the rest of the 62-acre waterfront property.

“Salem gets one chance to get this done and do it right,” Footprint President Scott Silverstein said. “And we get that ... and we’re going to do it right.”

The coal- and oil-fired plant will continue to operate until May 2014. Footprint’s plans for a gas plant are under regulatory review.

Parish changes ahead

Late in the fall, Cardinal Sean O’Malley accepted a sweeping reorganization plan that will change the face of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, including here on the North Shore.

Instead of closing churches, the archdiocese will group its 288 parishes into 135 collaboratives, or parish clusters, as a way of rebuilding the church by making the most of fewer priests and limited resources.

The first group of 12 to 15 collaboratives will be announced in January. They will have one pastor, one staff and one parish council. The whole process will take several years.

Once the collaboratives are established and working, the archdiocese will focus on evangelization, or growing the church by bringing inactive Catholics back and recruiting new members.

Berry retires;

Spiliotis dies

State Sen. Fred Berry’s retirement after 30 years is only the start of political changes on the North Shore this year.

Handily defeating Republican Richard Jolitz, Salem City Council President Joan Lovely was elected to Berry’s 2nd Essex Senate District seat in November. Now Salem is searching for Lovely’s replacement on the council. She will resign from the council tomorrow to take her new seat on Beacon Hill.

The unexpected death of Peabody state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis has left another hole in local politics. A special election will likely be held to fill her spot.

Spiliotis, who represented her hometown in the House since 2003, died of cancer at the age of 65. She was remembered for her fierce commitment to her constituents and work on local issues, such as Peabody’s notorious flooding problems.

Berry rose from the Peabody City Council to the Senate in 1983 and was never seriously challenged after that.

Cerebral palsy makes Berry’s speech difficult to follow and has led to painful, chronic medical problems, yet it didn’t stop him from rising to the rank of Senate majority leader. “Nobody believed that someone with my speech impediment could make it in politics,” Berry said during his farewell speech to his colleagues.

There was also change in the corner office in Peabody with Ted Bettencourt being inaugurated as mayor. He is the city’s third mayor in the past 32 years; outgoing Mayor Michael Bonfanti served for 10 years, and Peter Torigian held the post for more than two decades before that.

Fire chief arrested

Danvers fire Chief Kevin Farrell was arrested in June following a domestic incident at the home of his estranged wife in Groveland. No one was injured in the incident, and the charges against him were later dismissed after his wife declined to testify.

Farrell was initially placed on paid administrative leave and then took sick leave to seek mental health treatment and counseling. He was cleared to return to his post as chief in October.

Startling abuse case

Something was very, very wrong in apartment B714 in the Salem Heights complex in March.

A single mother, a troubled young woman named Tanicia Goodwin with a history of psychiatric problems, lived there with her two young children, Jamaal, 8, and Erica, 3.

Goodwin, 25 at the time, had only recently regained custody of the older child, but on the night of March 18, it became clear she probably shouldn’t have.

Police say she doused the children with lighter fluid and slashed their throats, and then her own, though not as deeply. Then she allegedly left the boy in an apartment with the inside door handle removed, set the room on fire and carried the younger child out.

In the chaos that followed, Goodwin slipped away, leaving the younger child in an adjacent apartment, police said. Then, covered in blood and lighter fluid, she walked a mile to the Salem police station.

She told police she had to “protect” her babies. “I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be alive,” she told them.

Thanks in part to the actions of Salem firefighters, Jamaal was rescued from the death trap. Both children were hospitalized for their wounds but have recovered. Jamaal, on Dec. 17, arrived in Atlanta, where he will live with a cousin, Wayne Cox, who had raised him for six years.

“He’s doing wonderfully,” said Courtney Linnehan, an attorney who helped Cox re-establish custody. “He was home in time for Christmas.”

Tanicia Goodwin is due to be brought to Salem Superior Court next week for a status hearing in her case. She was recently moved from the Solomon Carter Fuller Center in Boston, a mental health facility, to MCI-Framingham, where she’s being held without bail on attempted-murder and arson charges.

The end of an era

After 36 years, Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company, the unique magic show that graced Cabot Cinema’s vaudeville stage in downtown Beverly, came to an end in 2012. The shutdown occurred shortly after the death of the show’s founder, Cesareo Pelaez, on March 23 at the age of 79.

Inspired by the performers he had witnessed in his native Cuba, Pelaez was the creative and inspirational force behind what became the world’s longest-running stage magic show. The troupe performed seven times at the White House and garnered fame throughout the close-knit world of magic.

In November, the company sold many of its handmade costumes. David Bull, the performer who has played Le Grand David, said the show could be reprised on occasion at Cabot Cinema.

Little Neck sold

Residents of Little Neck in Ipswich bought themselves a peninsula in August when trustees agreed to sell the 35-acre slice of land for $31.4 million.

Little Neck had been owned by a land trust, the oldest in the country, that was created in 1660 to generate money for the Ipswich schools. Controversy surrounding the management of the trust led to the sale of the land to its 166 residents.

The sale netted $25 million for a trust that will continue to benefit the schools. A group of residents who opposed the sale dropped its legal battle in November.

Hospitals join forces

The trend of hospital mergers hit the North Shore on May 1 when Lahey Clinic and Northeast Health System affiliated. The partnership created a $1.3 billion organization that provides medical care throughout Essex and Middlesex counties and into southern New Hampshire.

The new Lahey Health System includes Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Beverly Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Lahey Clinic North in Peabody and BayRidge psychiatric hospital in Lynn.

Dr. Howard Grant, Lahey’s CEO, said the move will strengthen both organizations and hopefully allow them to expand services. Northeast Health System CEO Kenneth Hanover resigned six months after the affiliation, saying Grant should have free rein to run the organization.

Staff writers Alan Burke, Tom Dalton, Ethan Forman, Paul Leighton, Julie Manganis and Jonathan Phelps contributed to this report.