Top news stories of 2012: Palm Beach County

An election upset, a political gaffe and voting snafus. The continuing courtroom saga of a wealthy polo magnate. An encouraging housing market and hurricane-borne rains.

These stories and more were part of the 2012 tapestry of news in Palm Beach County.

The public was gripped by a story of wealth and tragedy unfolding in court during the prosecution of John Goodman, heir to a Texas fortune and founder of the International Polo Club of Palm Beach.

In March, Goodman, 49, was convicted of DUI manslaughter for the death of Scott Wilson, 23, in February 2010. Jurors ruled a drunken Goodman crashed his Bentley into Wilson's Hyundai, sending it into a canal, where Wilson drowned. Goodman was sentenced in May to 16 years in prison.

He's appealing the sentence, and paying $2,000 a day for two deputies to guard him under house arrest. He also paid Wilson's parents a $46 million settlement, which the divorced couple split. William and Lili Wilson are now in a bitter fight over another proposed split — their son's ashes — which are still held by Palms West Funeral Home nearly three years after he was killed.

May was also the month when GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney met with about 100 supporters who paid $50,000 apiece for dinner with the candidate at the Boca Raton home of millionaire financier Marc Leder.

Romney's comments dismissing 47 percent of Americans as being dependent on government and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives were surreptitiously videotaped. The recording, released in September, cost Romney votes — and perhaps the election.

There were 19 named storms this past hurricane season, and western Palm Beach County bore the brunt of the weather: more than 15 inches of rain in some areas from the passage of Hurricane Isaac in August. The storm went on to wreak worse havoc in Louisiana.

Later in the year, nature showed its weird side by depositing a blue, softball-sized eyeball on the shore in Pompano Beach in October. The mystery eye was later determined to belong to a swordfish.

Throughout the year, housing indicators in Palm Beach County marched steadily upward. The county's median price for existing homes in November was $219,500, a 20 percent increase from the previous November.

Also last month, 1,104 homes were sold in Palm Beach County, up 15 percent from the previous November. By the end of 2012, homes sold in an average of 103 days, fewer than the 112 days it took to sell a house in 2011.

The eyes of the world were on Palm Beach County when Lynn University hosted the final presidential debate. The event featured concerts, hundreds of volunteers and 70 miles of TV cable. The debate swelled Boca Raton's population by about 9,000, with an economic impact of $5 million to $6 million.

Palm Beach County further rocked the political world when newcomer Patrick Murphy defeated GOP freshman Congressman Allen West by fewer than 2,000 votes. For weeks West, the outspoken darling of the tea party, contested the results before bowing to reality.

The election once again cast South Florida elections offices — and Palm Beach County's in particular — as inefficient. Waits were frustratingly long, results delayed for days. Palm Beach County, which sent out 27,000 flawed absentee ballots, was the last to tally those absentees.


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