By Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Say what you will about Detroit, no one would claim it’s boring.

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And 2014 was no exception.

Wild, mysterious, and sometimes terrifying — here are the top local news stories of 2014.

Mummified Body In Foreclosed Home

At first it was a story with more questions than answers; then some of the questions were answered.

But there were — and are still — plenty remaining. A woman’s mummified body was found inside the backseat of her Jeep, which was parked in her garage this spring in Pontiac. It was suspected she had been there since 2008 because that’s the last time her Jeep was registered.

Her keys were in the car and the ignition was in the off position.

The woman was later identified as Pia Farrenkopf, 49.

How did she lay dead for six years in the midst of suburbia? Police say Farrenkopf lived in the home by herself and had all of her bills — including her mortgage and utilities — automatically withdrawn from her checking account. Once her account was depleted and the mortgage payments stopped, the home went into foreclosure. She also reportedly picked up her mail at the post office, which is why it never piled up at her house.

Farrenkopf was never reported as a missing person.

She had no family living nearby, and traveled frequently for work.

What exactly happened to Farrenkopf? Investigators say the puzzle may never be fully completed. Her cause and manner of death were ruled undeterminable.

Get the complete story HERE.

Water Shutoffs In Detroit

When Detroit suddenly announced this summer it was shutting off water service to thousands and thousands of people with delinquent bills, it set off a firestorm.

Some protested that it was a human rights violation t leave poor people with a necessity of life, others said they had gone long enough with a free ride; lawsuits were threatened, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo marched in a protest, and the NAACP and United Nations got involved.

It was a complex issue, and it’s ongoing. So far, 31,300 Detroit water customers had their service cut this year.

Catch up on the stories HERE.

White Man Beaten By Detroit Mob

Steven Utash, a white man, accidentally struck a black child with his pick-up truck when the boy ran into his path on a Detroit street. Then a mob of angry residents pulled him out of the truck and savagely beat him.

The future was uncertain for Utash, 54, a tree trimmer, and his family rejoiced when he recovered enough to leave the hospital.

Witnesses reported dozens of people had stood around and watched as Utash was punched, kicked, and stomped on repeatedly. A retired nurse is being hailed as a hero for stepping in to stop the attack.

Four young men and a teenager were arrested in the case, and each was charged separately with a variety of charges including ethnic intimidation, assault and battery.

Catch up on the story HERE.

Missing Boy Actually Hidden In Basement

It started out as a missing person case and quickly became more bizarre after a 12-year-old boy reported missing was found 11 days later hidden in his father’s basement behind a wall of boxes.

Charlie Bothuell V, 12, was missing for nearly two weeks — with national coverage of his “disappearance” — before he was found June 25 by Detroit police in the bowels of the multiple-unit condo building where he lived with stepmother Monique Dillard-Bothuell and his father, Charlie Bothuell IV.

The boy reportedly told police he had been forced to work long hours in the house, sentenced to extreme daily workouts twice a day and little food, and repeatedly beaten with a PVC pipe. Why his father and/or stepmother suddenly hid him, reported him missing and talked to the police, FBI and the press about his disappearance is still a mystery, officials say.

He was returned to his biological mother, and his father and stepmother face trial in early 2015 to determine if they will lose their parental rights.

Get complete details on the story HERE.

Bob Bashara Convicted Of Murdering Wife

Nearly 500 pieces of evidence were presented, more than 70 witnesses took the stand, and sometimes salacious testimony about dungeons, whippings and sex parties peppered the 10-week trial that led to a guilty verdict for Bob Bashara.

He was convicted in December of killing his wife.

Prosecutors worked to prove Bashara, a Grosse Pointe businessman, wanted his wife out of the way so he could pursue a new life with other women, who referred to him as “Master Bob” as part of an alternative sexual lifestyle known as BDSM.

“The thing the prosecutor did very, very effectively in this case was to make Bob Bashara out to be a monster, for lack of a better word,” said WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton. “I mean, taking girlfriends to the Bashara house, giving Jane’s jewelry to some girlfriend, having sex with multiple people in the dungeon, smoking dope on the golf course — I could go on, and on and on.”

Bashara was emotionless at the verdict.

Catch up on the story HERE.

Detroit Exits Bankruptcy

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Detroit garnered an inauspicious distinction when it filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in history.

And Dec. 10, 2014, it was officially over.

Gov. Rick Snyder and Emergency Financial Manager filed the bankruptcy case July 18, 2013, as a last-ditch effort to overcome decades of population loss, a chronic loss of tax revenue and piles of debt that couldn’t be managed.

It took months of negotiations with banks, bond insurers, unions and groups representing thousands of retirees. And it was bolstered by the so-called “Grand Bargain” — a promise of $800 million from foundations, major corporations and the state that softened pension cuts and prevented the sale of city-owned art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

In the end, retirees who didn’t work for the police or fire departments will see a 4.5 percent pension cut by March and the elimination of annual cost-of-living payments.

And Detroit has a budget that eliminated $7 billion in debt.

Catch up on the story HERE.

Theodore Wafer Convicted Of Porch Shooting

It made national headlines when a Dearborn Heights man, Theodore Wafer, shot an unarmed teenage girl who was banging on his front door in the middle of the night.

Renisha McBride, 19, was drunk and high and confused after a car accident, attorneys said; Wafer, 55, maintained that he felt threatened so he opened the door and shot her in the face.

The jury didn’t buy the self-defense argument.

“The family of (victim) Renisha McBride — her mother holding her hands in front of her face with her hands folded as if in prayer, and rocking back and forth,” reporter Marie Osborne said, describing the scene at the verdict. “Theodore Wafer remained completely expressionless during this entire time, during his trial, as well as during the reading of the verdict.”

Catch up on the story HERE.

Evan Reed Not Guilty

People across metro Detroit were glued to their computer for the livestream when a judge had to decide whether Evan Reed, the tall Detroit Tigers prospect with a big smile and flashing blue eyes, raped a 45-year old women in a Detroit hotel room.

Surveillance video showed him carrying her prone form into a casino hotel in a fireman’s hold over his shoulder. She said she woke the next morning dizzy and in pain. The room was destroyed, with feces on the walls and bed.

The woman had met Reed for the first time the night before at a Royal Oak bar; she had two drinks, then a third, with him, and said the final one tasted strange.

“The last thing I remember is just my body feeling funny. I completely blacked out from that point on and I don’t remember a single thing,” she testified.

Reed admits the two had sex, but he said it all was consensual. The defense has called the woman’s claims ” bogus allegations.”

36th District Court Judge Kenneth King said there’s no doubt the alleged victim was incapacitated when she entered the hotel with Reed; “The problem is what happened in that hotel room … no one knows,” he said when he dismissed the charges.

Catch up on the story HERE.

Pregnant Woman Killed On The Lodge

Social media was unanimous after details of this story started to emerge — It was one of the saddest tales to strike metro Detroit in 2014.

Kayla White, 23, of Ferndale,  joyously pregnant with her first child, died on the Lodge Freeway when her Jeep Liberty was rear ended by a driver who police said “was not paying attention.” Her Jeep caught fire, and she was trapped inside the burning wreckage.

Some are questioning the safety of her 2003 vehicle.

Clarence Ditlow with the watchdog group Center for Auto Safety explained the issue that he said exists with Jeep Libertys of this era.

“They probably are safe in other types of crashes, but if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time — as this woman was — you’re very likely to burn to death,” Ditlow said. “The fuel tank is located behind the rear axle just like the old Ford Pinto and it even extends below the bumper. It’s vulnerable to failure in a rear impact.”

Chrysler had issued a recall — but denies a defect.

Meanwhile, the woman’s family is going through the holidays without her and the baby joy they envisioned. White was due in December with a baby she had named Braedin. The nursery was decorated, the baby shower already held.

Police say the investigation will take months; one of the questions being investigated is whether the other driver was texting at the time of the crash.

 

 

 

 

 

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