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National tragedies to national championships — A look back at the biggest local stories of the decade

From national tragedies, racial strife and hard-fought local issues to national championships, the 2010s ran the gamut of catastrophic lows and euphoric highs for the Charlottesville area. Here is a look at the local stories that defined a mercurial decade.

2017 — The year that came to define the whole decade. The events before, during and after the deadly August 12 Unite the Right rally threw issues of race and identity into the local and national spotlight. At the dawn of 2020, we’re far from fully healed.

2014 — University of Virginia student Hannah Graham disappeared in September 2014. Her body was found five weeks later on a rural property in Albemarle County. The circumstances of her death were soon tied to the 2009 slaying of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared and found under similar circumstances. Local taxi driver Jesse Matthew would later be found guilty of both murders. In 2019, he was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer and is being treated for it at Sussex I State Prison.

2015 — University of Virginia student Martese Johnson suffered a gash on his head that required 10 stitches while being detained outside a bar on The Corner by Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents. Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman dropped public swearing or intoxication and obstruction of justices charges against Johnson.

2012 — In June, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors removed President Teresa Sullivan from her post, citing philosophical differences. In the face of an overwhelming outcry from students, faculty, alumni and the national academic community, the board reinstated her weeks later.

2011 — Late in the evening of Wednesday, June 8, 2011, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors revived the controversial Western Bypass of U.S. 29 with a vote to stop blocking funding for the 6.1-mile road. The vote was the first salvo in an effort to build the road. The project finally died in 2014, when the state canceled all approvals for the project.

2013 — UVa student Elizabeth Daly, 20, was arrested by undercover Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority officers who mistook her late-night purchase of a case of LaCroix sparking water for beer. Daly, who spent a night in jail and faced felony charges, sued the agency for $40 million, settling in 2014 for $212,500.

2014 — A scathing, 9,000-word Rolling Stone story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely claimed UVa’s party culture and prestige-focused administration allowed sexual assault claims to get swept under the rug. The story followed a third-year known as "Jackie," who said that she was violently gang raped at a fraternity party as a first-year. The story was eventually debunked as other news outlets investigated, forcing Rolling Stone to issue a retraction. The publication was later sued by members of the fraternity and UVa dean Nicole Eramo, who settled with the magazine in 2017 for an undisclosed sum. The story also resulted in campus sexual assault policies being overhauled at UVa and at schools across the country.

2019 — The University of Virginia Men’s Basketball bounced back from 2018’s first-round NCAA Tournament heartbreak to become national champions for the first time. The football team also saw success in 2019, clinching the ACC Coastal Division before going to the Orange Bowl. The team wrapped the final season of the decade with a 9-5 record.

2010 — George Huguely, a fourth-year student and lacrosse player at UVa was charged with murdering fellow fourth year Yeardley Love, his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Huguely in 2012 was convicted of second-degree murder in the slaying and sentenced to 23 years behind bars.

2012 — 19-year-old transgender woman Sage Smith vanished on Nov. 20. Smith was supposed to meet Erik McFadden at the Amtrak station, but never showed, according to McFadden. McFadden also disappeared before police could question him about the disappearance. Smith’s fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.


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