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Top five stories of 2012 in Stow

By Heather Beyer
Ohio.com correspondent

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Brogan Rafferty gives a statement in Judge Lynne Callahan's Summit County Courtroom during sentencing for the Craigslist murder case on Friday in Akron. Rafferty was given life in prison without parole. Defense attorney Edward Smith (left) look on. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)
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Here are the top five stories of 2012 in Stow as selected by Stow.Ohio.com correspondent Heather Beyer:

Marhofer’s redevelopment plan creates mixed reaction in Stow

Auto dealer Ron Marhofer wants to redevelop the area around his business on Darrow Road and the proposal has caused a mixed reaction with residents.

A proposal is currently being discussed by city council to rezone the area to allow Marhofer the ability to expand. Among the key components of the proposal would require eliminating Yukon Road, which bisects the dealership property, and improving the intersection at Thorndale Avenue and Darrow Road so it would be a normal 90 degrees.

The project also would involve demolishing existing homes — planners heard at the May 22 meeting that Marhofer has closed on the purchase of a property at 1955 Thorndale Ave. and is currently under option of homes located at 1941 and 1947 Thorndale Ave. — and the rezoning of those parcels.

The redevelopment plan also involves demolishing the existing Marhofer showroom and constructing a new building set farther back from Darrow Road.

“You will see the addition of significant green space facing Darrow Road, improving the appearance of the property,” said attorney James Simon, who is representing Marhofer.

He said plans include fencing and green space that would provide an appropriate buffer between existing residential homes and Marhofer’s property.

Not all of the neighbors are convinced.

One resident, Mark Ryland and his wife purchased a home on Thorndale Avenue about 20 years ago. It is adjacent to the easternmost property Marhofer is requesting to rezone.

The Ryland’s worry that the value of their property would decrease if Marhofer’s development plan is approved and have hired an attorney to represent them.

“I’m holding out hope,” Ryland said. “I don’t think we are going to win this.”

Stow school board member sues peers, district treasurer

Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education member Rod Armstrong alleges the board broke state laws concerning open meetings and open records.

Named in the complaint, filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court by attorney Warner Mendenhall in August on behalf of Armstrong, are the rest of the board members — Richard Spangler, Karen Wright, Karen Powers and Fred Bonacci — along with Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Catherine Bulgrin.

The suit states that during an executive session of the board on June 11, Superintendent Russell Jones told members that an investigation had confirmed allegations that former high school principal Susan Schur, had changed the final grades of students — including one related to her.

According to the suit, board members were “improperly instructed to not disclose any of this information.”

On June 12, Schur announced her retirement.

Armstrong became “concerned that the activities of Principal Schur were not going to be brought to the proper investigative bodies,” according to the lawsuit.

He then wrote a letter to state Superintendent Stan W. Heffner outlining the June 11 meeting.

Unbeknown to Armstrong, the district had reported the activities days before his own report to the Ohio Department of Education, the suit says.

Then, on Aug. 13, according to the suit, “the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education, held an illegal executive session falsely stating the reason for the executive session.”

The suit states that as soon as “Armstrong became aware of the illegal nature of the executive session, he promptly announced that it was being held against the Ohio Revised Code and left the session.”

The district filed a countersuit in September and both are still under litigation.

Redmon Funeral Home revisits cremation equipment legislation

After initially pulling a request made on July 2, Redmon Funeral Home decided to revisit the legislation to allow their business to add equipment for cremations.

Owner Keith Redmon said he and his family would like to offer customers the service of cremation, but must get the permission of council to use cremation equipment before doing so.

The item stirred some controversy among Stow residents who live near the funeral home.

Since then members of the Redmon family, including Keith Redmon and wife Lou Ann Redmon have addressed concerns of council and residents.

“This issue is a very emotional one and I want you to know that it is an emotional one for us as well,” Lou-Ann Redmon said. “Cremation is a personal family decision, but it is also a normal function of a funeral home. The decisions that we make should not be made emotionally, but only by fact.”

However concerns about pollution and health hazards have been in the forefront of the conversation from opposed residents.

Council tabled the request by Redmon Funeral Home until the week of Jan. 7.

Stow teen sentenced to life in prison for Craigslist killings

Stow teen, Brogan Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury convicted him for his role in the Craigslist killings.

A deal to allow Rafferty to seek parole after 30 years was retracted with no comment from the court as to why.

After 20 hours of deliberation, jurors said they didn’t believe Rafferty’s tale that he was forced to help his spiritual mentor kill three men who responded to a bogus Craigslist help-wanted ad.

The victims all responded to a Craigslist help-wanted ad in 2011. The listing, billed in the ad as a “job of a lifetime,” promised the use of an expansive property in Noble County and a trailer, plus a $300 weekly salary to oversee the land.

The Craigslist ad required applicants to submit their background information, including their marital status. All of the victims were down-on-their-luck bachelors.

Rafferty testified that his mentor Richard Beas­ley,53, of Akron, at first killed for a new identity. Later, his motive changed to robbing the men who took the job and intended to move their property to Noble County.

Three men died and a fourth was shot during a three-month span between August and November 2011. Rafferty testified that he helped Beasley, a family friend, out of fear of the self-proclaimed religious man.

The former Stow-Munroe Falls High School student is appealing his convictions and sentence.

Rafferty’s notice of appeal in Akron’s 9th District Court of Appeals was filed Dec. 12.

A Summit County capital case against Craigslist murder suspect Richard James Beasley has been moved to a February trial date.

Stow dedicates high school gymnasium to former coach

Prior to the Bulldogs home game against rival Cuyahoga Falls, the communities of Stow and Munroe Falls gathered together in the high school gymnasium for an event that was very near and dear to their hearts: dedicating the gymnasium to Coach Tyree.

“It is an honor to name the gymnasium of Stow-Munroe Falls High School after a legend, Coach Tyree,” said Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones.

James “Coach” Tyree died on Feb. 12, 2011. Tyree was a Stow resident since 1960, and he taught and coached for the school district for more than 33 years. Jones said that he attended the memorial service held for Tyree at the Chapel in Akron.

Jones said that he was absolutely inundated with phone calls and emails from students, athletes and the community asking that the high school gym be named after Coach Tyree.

Jones said that one of the things that impressed him the most was being approached by the former students of the beloved coach.

“The kids who were never athletes but experienced Coach Tyree as a teacher,” Jones said. “From teaching somebody how to tie their tie right or how to ask someone for a prom date, he was there for everybody.”

Honorable mention: Stow teacher turned jewelry designer to make debut at New York Fashion Week

The Stow Jewelry designer Michelle Pajak-Reynolds featured her fall line at New York’s Fashion Week in September.

It took a furious finish for a fundraising initiative to fund the trip, but she was able to do so and had 15 models sashay down the runway showcasing her designs from her Opulence line.

Reynolds said it has been a childhood dream to have her work appear on the runway in New York.

“I was overjoyed and cried when I learned that I was going to be a feature designer at NY Fashion Week this fall,” Reynolds said. “This is a career-making opportunity and the biggest break a designer could ever ask for. It's also a huge validation for years of hard work.”

Since appearing at fashion week in September, Pajak-Reynolds has been invited back to the Big Apple for another show in February.

Which story do you think is the biggest story of 2012 for Stow? Let us know in the comment section below and we'll announce the winner on Monday.