High-profile convictions and guilty pleas involving Hudson Valley politicos, a deadly fire that killed nearly an entire Putnam County family and the continuing tribulations of the region's most famous family top a heartbreaking year of crime and tragedy in the region. Below, Newsday.com recaps the most captivating criminal cases and investigations of consequence.
Nicholas Spano's steep fall from power broker to felon was the largest public corruption case in Westchester County in more than a decade. The former Republican state senator from Yonkers pleaded guilty in February to federal tax evasion charges and was sentenced to a year and a day in jail.
His guilty plea came on the eve of the public corruption trial of his protege, Zehy Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and former Democratic City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, who were convicted of scheming to sell her vote on development projects in the city. A third defendant and another Spano protege, lawyer Anthony Mangone, pleaded guilty and testified against Annabi and Jereis.
Annabi was sentenced by a federal judge to six years in prison. Jereis got four years behind bars.
Carmel fire investigation
In May, tragedy struck the close-knit community of Carmel when a house fire sparked by a discarded cigarette killed Larchmont Police Capt. Thomas Sullivan; his wife, Donna; and their daughters, Mairead, 18, and Meghan, 13. The only survivor was Thomas Sullivan Jr., 20, who accidentally had dropped a burning cigarette onto a pile of mulch outside the home late that night, igniting the entire house. After an extensive probe by authorities and intense media coverage, no crime was found.
No indictments in police shootings
The year was marked by three controversial decisions by grand juries in Orange, Rockland, and Westchester counties not to indict police officers who had shot and killed three unarmed African-American men during three separate incidents.
The Chamberlain family -- whose patriarch Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, was gunned down in his apartment by a White Plains police officer following a two-hour standoff during which he allegedly charged police with a knife -- has filed a federal lawsuit and called for a federal civil rights investigation.
The family of Herve Gilles, 48, who was shot by a Spring Valley police officer during a violent struggle outside a bar in the village, also has filed a federal lawsuit.
The family of Michael Lembhard, 22, who was shot dead after he ran from Newburgh police after allegedly lunging at them with a knife, also has indicated it intends to file a lawsuit.
Trials, tragedy for America's first family
Douglas Kennedy was found not guilty in November by a Mount Kisco town judge in a case in which he was accused of assaulting two nurses who tried to prevent him from removing his 3-day-old baby from the maternity ward of Northern Westchester Hospital in January.
In July, Kerry Kennedy was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs after a crash on Interstate 684. Kennedy initially said the crash was caused by a previously undiagnosed medical condition. But State Police blood tests revealed she allegedly was driving while having the powerful prescription sleep aid Ambien in her system.
Palmer manhunt ongoing
In September, Eugene Palmer, 73, of Haverstraw, allegedly shot to death Tammy Palmer, the estranged wife of Palmer's son, and then disappeared into the dense woods in northern Rockland County. He has been indicted in her death but has not been captured.
Also in September, four Ramapo boys were found guilty by a Family Court judge of raping a 14-year-old girl and sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl during a series of attacks by the three 13-year-old boys and one 12-year-old boy.
Mom accused of slaying son
In October, a Mamaroneck mother was arrested after allegedly killing her 4-year-old son by suffocating him amid a custody dispute with the boy's father. Manuela Morgado was indicted in December on second-degree murder charges in the death of Jake Reish. Authorities say she first tried to kill the boy by overdosing him on helium and then suffocated him after that failed. She allegedly tried to take her own life by overdosing on prescription pills. Her court case resumes Jan. 10.
A bloody year in Mount Vernon
A year of unusually high violence in Mount Vernon was capped in early December by the arrest of 60-year-old parolee Lucius Crawford, who is suspected in the stabbing deaths of three women -- a New Rochelle woman recently slain and two Yonkers women killed 19 years ago. New York City and Yonkers police went to Crawford's Mount Vernon basement apartment Dec. 4 on Beekman Avenue to serve him with warrants in the cold-case killings and found the lifeless body of 41-year-old Tonya Simmons, who had been stabbed to death that morning, allegedly by Crawford.
In all, Mount Vernon had 10 homicides in 2012, two more than the previous two years combined. The 4-square-mile city of 67,000 also had more than 20 shootings in 2012.