SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 1/5/2013, page A2)
A column incorrectly described Will Lynch's acquittal on felony charges of beating a Jesuit priest. The acquittal came at the hands of a regular criminal jury, not a grand jury.

In the Bay Area, the 12 months of 2012 were marked by contradiction -- joy and pain, hope and grief, wisdom and lunacy.

The economy hummed in parts of our turf -- particularly in Palo Alto and San Francisco -- and sputtered in pockets elsewhere.

Our worst moments, like the disappearance and presumed slaying of a 15-year-old girl in Morgan Hill, brought forth our best efforts as a community.

And though the events dealt with the here and now, they often reflected grievances that had been building for years.

It was, in sum, a superior year for news. Here are the top 10 news stories of 2012 in the Bay Area:

1. RICHMOND REFINERY EXPLOSION: If a single event in 2012 resonated with almost everyone in the Bay Area, it was the explosion and fire in early August at the No. 4 crude unit at Richmond's Chevron refinery. Although there were no fatalities, thousands of residents were forced to stay in their homes. A jump in gas prices statewide followed the destruction. The noxious cloud from the explosion reminded the public that the refineries are the largest polluters in the Bay Area and underscored the need for stronger state and local scrutiny.


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(2) GIANTS WIN THE SERIES: It wasn't just that the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. After all, they won the title two years ago. The story was how they got there -- and who they were. Led by pitcher Matt Cain and catcher Buster Posey, the Giants rallied from the brink of playoff elimination against the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. Though we are accustomed to thinking of major leaguers as spoiled and pampered, these Giants challenged one another to greatness.

(3) SIERRA LAMAR: In mid-March, a dark-haired 15-year-old named Sierra LaMar left her home in unincorporated Morgan Hill to catch a bus to school. Her ensuing disappearance prompted an outpouring of communal grief. Sierra was everyone's child. For weeks, teams of searchers combed nearby lakes and farmland looking for clues. Detectives quickly found Sierra's cellphone and a Juicy-brand bag that held her T-shirt and pants. Then, on May 21, they announced that DNA traces had led them to arrest Antolin Garcia Torres, 21, of Morgan Hill. The body of the girl, who had just moved from Fremont, has not been found.

(4) FACEBOOK IPO: No market event had as much immediate impact on Silicon Valley as the initial public offering for Facebook in May. In part, it was the story of hubris: With Morgan Stanley investment bankers, Facebook officials set the IPO price at an aggressive $38. Over the summer, the stock price dropped below $20 before climbing back to the high-20 range at year's end. The flop unleashed a round of finger-pointing and cooled enthusiasm for fresh IPOs. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, however, agreed in December to donate $500 million in stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

(5) OIKOS UNIVERSITY SHOOTINGS: In a horrific year for violence at schools, shopping malls and theaters, the Bay Area had no immunity. On April 2, a 43-year-old former student at Oikos University in East Oakland, One L. Goh, opened fire in a nursing classroom with a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun. Seven people were killed, and three were injured. Goh, reportedly angered at being asked to leave the Korean Christian college several months earlier, surrendered to authorities at a Safeway nearby.

(6) APPLE v. SAMSUNG: For three weeks in August, the federal courthouse in downtown San Jose was the ring for a prize fight between two tech heavyweights: Apple and Samsung sued each other over alleged patent violations on smartphones. The details of the fight were less commanding than the subtext. Samsung was widely regarded as a proxy for Google, Apple's archrival. Before a hometown jury, Apple won a $1 billion verdict. But the long fight continues. Google won a round a month later when Apple's maps application for the iPhone was released to widespread scorn.

(7) CHP OFFICER SLAIN: California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was trying to clear a deer carcass from the side of Interstate 680 near Alamo in September when another officer asked for his help in stopping a Jeep Wrangler with an obscured license plate. Then, inexplicably, the driver, a bipolar ex-computer programmer named Christopher Lacy, 36, opened fire on Youngstrom, fatally wounding him before being shot himself by Youngstrom's partner. Though Lacy had graduated with honors from Occidental College, he had withdrawn from the Bay Area to live in a mobile home near Corning. Youngstrom, a 37-year-old father of four, was mourned in a procession attended by thousands of law enforcement officers.

(8) MEASURE B: In June, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed won a resounding victory when voters overwhelmingly approved his Measure B pension reform, which would limit the city's contribution to the generous pensions of its workers, particularly cops and firefighters. Within days, the matter was thrown into the courts. Meanwhile, morale plummeted, departures increased, and a cadre of officers crowed over a questionable traffic ticket given to the mayor. Despite a tough campaign by the unions, Reed maintained a 7-4 council majority in the November election.

(9) SHERIFF MIRKARIMI: A domestic violence case rarely merits headlines, but after a Dec. 31, 2011, argument between San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, former beauty queen Eliana Lopez, we were treated to a yearlong soap opera that revealed much about San Francisco politics. Convicted of misdemeanor false imprisonment, Mirkarimi was sentenced to probation and counseling. Although he was suspended from office temporarily, he clung to his job. His survival marked a defeat for Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of domestic abuse victims.

(10) WILL LYNCH: After three weeks of trial, a Santa Clara County grand jury in early July acquitted Lynch, 44, on felony charges of beating a 65-year-old priest, Father Jerold Lindner, at a Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos two years before. Lynch testified that he had been brutally raped by the priest as a child. Despite receiving a settlement in 1998 from the Jesuits, Lynch sought to focus public attention on the priest's acts. The case became a crucible for the outrage against sexual abuse in the church. The jury disbelieved Lindner's denial and deadlocked 8-4 on a misdemeanor charge of assault. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office declined to retry the case.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or sherhold@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/scottherhold.