Colonie Police said Michael Carr slammed his 2006 BMW into the side of a local tavern, but not before crashing into two parked cars and pinning passenger Niko Dinovo inside the fiery wreckage. (Photo by Sidewinder Photography for Spotlight News)
Our staff of writers scrutinized through 52 weeks worth of news, and with the aid of internet traffic, we were able to determine which stories mattered to you most last year.
Inside, you will find the Top Five stories that had the largest impact upon our readers. These are the stories that captured your attention, and in many cases, you shared with friends and family over social media. In the end, these are the subjects that reached out to more readers than any other.
#5 Fatal Three-car Crash Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016
LATHAM — A devastating car crash on Oct. 11 left a local 18-year-old dead and three others injured.
A police investigation revealed that Jessica A. Bellerose, 41, of Troy, was traveling eastbound on State Route 7 when her car hit another eastbound vehicle operated by Melanie J. Curtis, 38, of Halfmoon. This contact caused Bellerose’s vehicle to cross over the median into the westbound lanes of State Route 7; where she collided with two westbound vehicles, one operated by Jeffrey Gaul, 58, of Rensselaer; the other by Paige Ahearn, 18, of Waterford, State Police said.
After Bellerose was released from Albany Medical Center on Oct. 13, she was taken into custody and charged with the following in connection with the accident: felony vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, and two traffic violations: failure to keep right and moving from lanes unsafely.
Ahearn had just graduated from Waterford-Halfmoon High School in June. She was on both the girls basketball and softball teams. She was also a member of the cheerleading squad, and a member of student council at school. Ahearn’s loved ones described her as an outdoor lover, as well as an animal lover and rescuer. She worked at Beautique Salon in Halfmoon.
#4 Fiery Crash at Tavern Friday, Oct. 28, 2016
COLONIE — A devastating three-car crash and fire which ultimately destroyed a business and gravely injured a 16-year-old swiftly brought Town of Colonie residents together in a powerful way earlier this year.
According to police, 18-year-old Michael Carr, of Colonie, was driving a 2006 BMW on Friday, Oct. 28, at around 11 p.m. when it went off Consaul Road and into the parking lot of Blessings, the tavern located at the “Y” intersection of Consaul and Watervliet Shaker roads.
The BMW hit a 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck and a 2016 BMW, which were parked next to the building. The force of the crash sent the 2006 BMW underneath the pickup, and both vehicles went through the tavern wall.
Sixteen-year-old Colonie Central High School school student Niko Dinovo was severely injured in the crash, with burns covering most of his body. He was taken to the Westchester Burn Unit for treatment.
Carr was later charged with the felonies of vehicular assault and reckless endangerment and the misdemeanor of driving while ability impaired by drugs.
After the crash, Colonie High School students rallied together to show solidarity with their schoolmate and made t-shirts featuring Niko’s face, along with ribbons in pink and blue, his favorite colors.
There have been ongoing benefits, such as blood drives and bowling events, to support Niko, who is in stable but critical condition at the burn center as of November and receiving skin grafts. Carr is facing charges of vehicular assault and driving while impaired by drugs. Blessings Tavern remains closed.
#3 Plans for Tobin’s First Prize Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016
WEST ALBANY — After more than 35 years vacant, local officials recently announced the redevelopment of a notorious Capital District eyesore – the Tobin First Prize building on Exchange Street.
On Thursday, Dec. 15, Richbell Capital — a development company with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Saratoga Springs sent out a press release announcing a project that will “integrate residential housing with shopping, restaurants, hospitality, entertainment and places to work.”
The Tobin plant, visible from I-90 near Exit 5, is a 32-acre property which straddles the boundaries of Albany and Colonie; the majority of the property is located in Colonie.
The former meat-packing plant opened in 1924 and closed its doors in 1981. The property was eventually purchased from the federal government in 1984 for $150,000, and the ground floor of the blighted building was home to a few tenants over the subsequent decades. One of those tenants, Exchange Street Associates, eventually assumed ownership of the property on April 1, 2015.
One of the largest obstacles that has thwarted redevelopment of the First Prize Center is that the property is situated in two municipalities.
The exchange of ownership was meant to facilitate redevelopment of a property that has failed to realize a long string of proposals, including a possible casino, Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, Whole Foods, Lowe’s, county nursing home, mall and warehouse park.
#2 Shaker Voters Say, “No!” Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016
LATHAM — After district residents shocked observers by voting down a $196.4 million capital project that would have provided additions or upgrades to most buildings in the North Colonie Central School District last month, district officials were forced to re-examine the costly proposal.
If it had passed, the school district’s capital plan would have entailed a massive upgrade project to most of the buildings in the district, including new fields, classrooms and auditoriums.
One of the driving forces behind the capital project was an estimated increase of almost 1,000 students into the district over the next decade. Officials been emphasizing the urgency of the project since the summer due to the fact that the district is at risk of losing state financial aid on the project if it does not have a general contract for the project signed by June 30, 2018. If that deadline is not met, the state aid would drop to 52 percent, and the community would have to shoulder 48 percent of the cost, as opposed to the original 31 percent.
North Colonie currently receives state building aid at 69 percent as a result of the Maplewood School merger, which was added into the North Colonie school district in 2008.
#1 Murder Case Closed Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016
ALBANY — A gruesome case that cast a dark shadow over both the Town of Colonie and the Captial District as a whole came to an emotional end in 2016 as Michael Chimielewski and Sean Moreland, the two men charged in connection with the 2015 murder of Colonie barber Jacquelyn Porreca, received their prison sentences.
In Albany County Court on Wednesday, Nov. 9, Chimielewski received a sentence of 22 years to life in prison. Chimielewski, 23, pled guilty to first-degree murder in September. Moreland, 33, who in September pled guilty to one count of hindering the prosecution, was sentenced to two and six years in prison—to be served concurrently with eight years for an unrelated burglary conviction. In October, Moreland, who drove Chimielewski away from the murder scene after he stabbed Porreca, 32, in the neck multiple times while robbing Recycled Salon in Colonie, took a deal that dropped three other felony charges—second-degree murder, second-degree burglary and first-degree robbery.
Before they were led out of the courtroom, both Moreland and Chimielewski addressed Porreca’s family. Moreland read a written apology.
“I’m sorry for having any connection with what happened to Jacquelyn Porreca,” Moreland said. “Her family has suffered a tremendous loss. I apologize for not coming forward.”
Chimielewski said his addiction had torn his life apart, and struggled through his statement. He eventually succumbed to tears as he left the courtroom.
“I’m so sorry,” Chimielewski said. “It’s not enough. I’m so sorry.”