Before the start of a new year, a look back at the top news stories of 2017

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Tim Verrill of Dover stands charged in the deaths of Christine Sullivan, left and Jenna Pelligrini

One thing 2017 had plenty of, and that's for sure, was news. Here are just a few of the stories the former Lebanon Voice and now Rochester Voice kept tabs on.

Jan. 26 - A Kittery man leads police on a dangerous chase after trying to run a Kittery police officer off the road. Jeremy Hovey Leclair ended up being chased by several law enforcement agencies all the way to Milton where he took a right on Townhouse Road off Route 125. When he got to the end of the road by the barricades by Milton Three Ponds, Leclair, who had his 4-year-old son in the backseat, jumped out by himself and ran out on the ice. As police with a K-9 unit chased him out on the ice to put him under arrest they all fell through. Luckily no one was injured and the child was found safe in the car.

Jan. 29 - Two women are found slain in Farmington at a Meaderboro Road home. Christine Sullivan, 48, who lived at the house; and Jenna Pellegrini, 32, of Barrington are identified as the victims found with multiple stab wounds. The owner of the house, Dean Smoronk, considered a known drug dealer by the state, was later arrested in Virginia on several more drug charges. Meanwhile, a reported friend of his, Tim Verrill of Dover, is currently awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges in the two women's deaths.

Feb. 1 - Tragedy struck again just two days later when a Rochester teenager, Noah Ratliff, was struck and killed by a car while walking on Route 125 in Gonic.

Feb. 22 - The Lebanon Voice learns that longtime Milton selectman Tom Gray will not run for another term after a bumpy stretch in December 2016 when he was widely criticized by many after orchestrating a selectmen's vote seen as allowing him to use the downstairs room of the Emma Ramsey Center for a private function, something that had never been done before due to town records being stored there. Gray repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but the policy change that he asked for was rescinded soon after his function occurred, leaving many scratching their heads.

Feb. 24 - A longtime Rochester barber is attacked with a block of ice and snow and robbed of an undisclosed amount of cash. No suspect was ever identified. Dennis Hebert received only minor injuries in the attack and returned to work almost immediately. Sadly, the well-liked barber died last month.

John Turcotte is led away by jail personnel after his sentencing. (Rochester Voice file photo)

March 7 - A former Rochester man who once worked as a janitor at Lebanon Elementary School pleads guilty to raping a then-13-year-old girl in Milton back in 2001. John Turcotte, 33, formerly of 12 Pine St., Rochester but more recently of Middle Road in Dover, walked into the plea and sentencing hearing in street clothes but left in handcuffs after signing papers that registered him as a sex offender. Turcotte, who was 18 at the time of the attack, pleaded guilty to a single count of felonious sexual assault stemming from his 2001 forcible rape on a path in the woods outside a residence in Milton. He was sentenced to 12 months in county jail.

March 2 - The economically challenged Rochester Times ends a long and tortuous death spiral with its announcement it has ceased publication. Since its onset shortly after the former Rochester Courier went under in 1993, the Times has had a hard time - first under the direction of the Foster's Daily Democrat and then under Seacoast Online, which bought Foster's in 2014 - attracting readers to its dwindling base. Seacoast Media Group publisher John Tabor noted in the final edition of the newspaper that only about 2,000 readers remained.

March 18 - Ryan Thibeault wins the selectman's slot vacated by former selectmen chair Tom Gray in a landslide win on Thursday with more than 60 percent of the town vote, splitting the rest between budget committee member Thomas McDougall (16 percent) and Larry Brown (23 percent), who serves on several town boards.

Bryant Shipman (Strafford County Jail photo)

March 22 - A Rochester man who worked as a corrections officer at Strafford County Jail is arrested for allegedly trying to bring heroin into the facility as he arrives for work. Bryant Shipman, 25, was detained as he arrived to work his shift.

April 17 - In what may have been a first for this area, Milton Fire and Rescue crews use a drone to help locate a brush fire deep in West Milton woods on Monday. Due to the extensive burn area and rolling hills, the first units on scene were unable to determine an accurate size and origin of the fire, fire officials said. The drone, which belongs to a department member who volunteered its use, enabled firefighters to locate the blaze in woods behind Auclair Road in Middleton.

April 19 - The Lebanon Voice publishes a story that reveals it is common practice for employees at the Milton Department of Public Works to routinely work on relatives' cars at the department's garage. According to sources close to an informal investigation that the town carried out, it was determined no wrong had been committed, however, and that the practice had been in place since the early 2000s. Some saw the practice as a lapse in ethics as taxpayer money pays for the facility. Others felt it was no big deal.

April 20 - A softball field built entirely on private and donated money and material opens behind the Milton Elementary School. It took a year of fund-raising and an army of volunteers as well as local organizations and businesses to get it done, but Fred Cameron of Cameron's Home and Garden - who donated time, labor and materials - said there was no better cause for the community to involve itself in.

May 4 - Under crushing debt amid years of running in the red, the Rochester Fair's board of directors decide to pull the plug on this September's fair, ending a tradition in the city that has lasted more than 140 years. Norm Vetter, board chairman of the Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which oversees the fair, painted a dire picture of the fair's finances, pointing to almost $800,000 that they were in debt, with the fair in recent years hemorrhaging between $60,000 and $75,000 annually.

Just-elected Lebanon Selectperson Laura Bragg reacts after learning she'd won. (Rochester Voice file photo)

May 9 - Laura Bragg and Chip Harlow cruise to easy wins to become Lebanon's newest selectmen.

May 24 - Maine State Police say they've reached a dead end in the investigation and search for a West Lebanon man suspected in a violent domestic assault last month. Dale Godfrey, 52, of 167 Sam Wentworth Road in West Lebanon, was last seen on April 26 around 4 a.m. after police say he allegedly got into a confrontation with his wife. After an alleged attack, he fled the scene, according to police. His truck was found a couple of miles away near T.M. Wentworth Road. Police say he could have escaped and he could be dead as a large amount of blood was found in the truck. The case remains open.

May 31 - The Rochester man who pleaded guilty to being a midlevel leader at the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada is sentenced to seven years and three months in federal prison. Federal prosecutors had asked for Jerry DeLemus to receive a six-year prison term. But federal judge Gloria Navarro tacked on an additional 15 months, calling DeLemus a "vigilante bully" during her pronouncing of the sentence. DeLemus is serving out his sentence at an Army jail in Massachusetts.

June 1 - Rochester Fire Chief Norm Sanborn retires after 40 years as a firefighters, 12 as chief of the department.

June 11 - The boyfriend of one of the two women stabbed to death at a Farmington residence in January is arrested on drug charges in Virginia, less than two weeks after being arrested on a criminal mischief charge here. Dean Smoronk, 55, of Meaderboro Road, Farmington, was taken into custody by Virginia State Police on Sunday after drugs were found in his vehicle during a traffic stop on Interstate 95. He pleaded guilty to the charges and got a year in a Hanover County jail.

Surveillance video shows a suspect heading toward their victim just prior to the infamous attack at Planet Fitness.

June 12 - A Rochester woman is attacked as she leaves her job at Planet Fitness. Portions of the notorious pummeling are caught on surveillance cameras and released as police hunt for a suspect.

July 3 - Lebanon celebrates its 250th anniversary with a huge festival, barn dance, fiddle concert at Gully Oven and trolley rides.

July 10 - The Lebanon Voice is rebranded and reborn as The Rochester Voice, more closely aligning its news gathering with its customer and advertiser base, however pledging to continue to cover Milton and Lebanon as it always has.

July 14 - The Massachusetts woman who told a Rochester man to give a Spalding High senior distraught over being stood up by her boyfriend what turned out to be a fatal dose of fentanyl to "shut her up" takes a plea deal in federal court that will keep her in prison for five years. Leslie Aberle, 33, of Salisbury, Mass., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

July 24 - Joanne E. Shaw, 25, of 7 Piper Lane, Rochester is charged with felony kidnapping; and two counts of simple assault, criminal mischief and resisting arrest, all misdemeanors after she allegedly tried to kidnap a child from a man who had offered her a ride.

Jordan C. Lamonde

July 25 - Six weeks after a woman was brutally attacked in the parking lot of the Rochester Planet Fitness and more than a month after Rochester Police launched an exhaustive investigation into the beating, a 22-year-old Portsmouth man was arrested Monday at Portsmouth Regional Hospital and charged in the attack. Jordan C. Lamonde, no street address given, was taken into custody around 1:30 p.m. after Rochester Police Detectives responded to the hospital.

Sept. 3 - After deliberating about four hours over two days, jurors in the Eric Langlais manslaughter trial found him not guilty of both manslaughter and riot charges, but found him guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide in the death of Jim Unfonak, a popular drummer with local band Bang N Jane.

Sept. 20 - Lebanon's Code Enforcement Officer Mike Beaulieu unexpectedly resigns, Selectmen Chair Chip Harlow announces. Beaulieu tells The Rochester Voice he resigned because he got a better job offer in the public sector.

The Rochester Voice is officially welcomed into the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. (Rochester Chamber of Commerce photo)

Sept 20 - The Rochester Voice celebrates its recent opening with a ribbon cutting at Rochester's Chamber of Commerce. Those attending included members of the Chamber, Rochester city officials, members of the Fire and Police departments and other business organizations.

Oct. 1 - State and Saco Police report the shooting death of a Rochester, N.H., man inside a Saco duplex. The victim, Michael Burns, 53, was shot on the front porch of 26 Nye St shortly before 1:30 a.m., according to Maine State Police detectives. State Police to date still have released no new information on the circumstances of Burns' death. No one was ever charged. Detectives said the man who shot Burns called police, and there were two other persons inside the house at the time.

Oct. 1 - The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce holds another ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the Rochester Performance & Arts Center, located at 32 North Main Street in downtown Rochester.

Oct. 21 - It's announced on its official Facebook that the Rochester Fair will be back for 2018, scheduled for just four days instead of the former 10. It is expected the new, revamped Rochester Fair will rely heavily on agricultural and exhibitors' events with a smaller carnival presence.

Eric Langlais looks upward after he is sentenced for causing the death of popular Bang N Jane drummer Jim Unfonak with a single punch to the head outside of Gary's Sports Bar back in January of 2016. (Rochester Voice file photo)

Nov. 2 - Eric Langlais of Barnstead receives the maximum sentence of three and a half to seven years after being found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Bang N Jane drummer Jim Unfonak.

Nov. 8 - Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley sweeps to an impressive second mayoral victory on Tuesday, winning every city ward and grabbing almost 46 percent of the general vote along the way.

Nov. 16 - The Rochester Voice learns that Lebanon Fire and EMS Chief Dan Meehan, who often stirred controversy since his hiring with out of town use of the department vehicle, moonlighting and huge increases in the department budget, resigns abruptly. Meehan was replaced by Assistant Fire Chief Daniel Mathews, who was appointed as interim chief during an executive session Wednesday afternoon.

Nov. 18 - Under pressure to resign following his remarks regarding an employees' job performance in open meeting, Milton Selectman Mike Beaulieu elects to save the town the expense and money to remove him by legal means, tendering his resignation.

Nov. 20 - Milton's heart is torn open after 16-year-old Chandler Peterson, a popular student at Nute, dies in a horrific crash on Hare Road.

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