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The Top 10 in 2010

Fire, intrigue and an election cliffhanger dominated the news in 2010, according to Mail Tribune staffers and readers who voted on the top stories of the year at www.mailtribune.com.

Some could be considered stories of the century, such as the Oak Knoll fire, Ashland's worse since at least 1900, and the removal of Gold Ray Dam, which meant 157 miles of the Rogue River flowed freely for the first time since the Ray brothers brought electricity to the Rogue Valley in 1904.

Others, such as the fate of Ashland activist Pete Seda and a woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend, a former Medford police officer, remain open chapters in the 2011 sequel.

1. Oak Knoll fire burns 11 homes Aug. 24, causing more than $3.2 million in damage — the largest residential loss in Ashland in at least a century.

2. Gold Ray Dam is breached on Aug. 11, allowing the Rogue River to flow freely for the first time in 106 years when a sand spit collapses during demolition efforts there.

3. Former Ashland peace activist Pete Seda is convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government and filing a false tax return in a case that involved smuggled money, Chechen rebels, Russian agents and international terrorism organizations. Seda is still in the Lane County Jail awaiting his sentencing. In a separate but related case, a federal judge orders the U.S. government to pay $2.5 million in attorneys' fees and damages for wiretapping the phones of Al-Haramain, Seda's organization, without a warrant.

4. Jackson County sheriff's deputies shoot and kill a Mexican man Aug. 11 while eradicating a marijuana garden in the Salt Creek area in Evans Valley. The garden was among 31 large gardens on public land eradicated over the summer by the Southern Oregon Multi-Agency Marijuana Eradication and Reclamation team, which removed 125,787 plants with an estimated value of more than $283 million.

5. A fire started by a spark from a pickax used to break up a large rock devours one house and 160 acres Sept. 12 in rural Central Point, prompting evacuations, road closures and a multi-agency battle from the air and ground.

6. A Facebook page set up by friends and family of a teenager who was sexually abused leads to the capture of Laramie Torres, 35, who was later sentenced to 11 years in prison for his crimes. The Facebook page called for tips in locating Torres, who had fled to Pennsylvania after being indicted in Jackson County Circuit Court on 10 counts each of first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy in November 2009. A Michigan man's tip directed police to Pennsylvania, where Torres was arrested without incident in February.

7. The race for Oregon Senate District 3 in Southern Oregon remains a cliffhanger for weeks as fewer than 300 votes separated incumbent Alan Bates from his challenger, Dave Dotterrer, in the Nov. 2 election. A hand recount paid for by Senate Republican leaders showed Bates' lead at 282 votes, and Dotterrer conceded on Dec. 14.

8. Former Medford police officer Ray Leach is shot dead in his home during a breakup with his girlfriend, Charlene Leuzetia Meixner, 45, who remains in the Jackson County Jail on a murder charge and three lesser manslaughter charges stemming from the Oct. 20 slaying.

9. Managers' concerns about the volatile behavior of Oregon Department of Transportation planner David J. Pyles resulted in a Medford police SWAT team surrounding his home early on the morning of March 8. Police took him in for a mental-health evaluation and seized five guns he had just bought, sparking controversy among gun-rights and civil-liberty advocates.

10. Best Buy opens in August, ending a three-year retail losing streak in Southern Oregon.

  • James Auchincloss, Ashland resident and half brother of Jackie Onassis, serves 30-day sentence for conviction of child pornography in August, then finds himself back in jail over Christmas break for violating the terms of his probation. Auchincloss failed to comply with the rules of his sex offender treatment program and accepted the sanction of spending another 30 days in jail, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be released Jan. 21.
  • A Medford man, Juan Pineda-Moreno, plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police installed mobile tracking devices on his vehicle prior to arresting him on drug charges in 2007.
  • Rogue River resident Jessica Bridges said her ex-boyfriend, Robert Francis Poole, twice choked her until she was unconscious. But prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge Poole with attempted murder, angering advocates for victims of domestic abuse.
  • U.S. Rep. Greg Walden rises to power as chief operating officer of the GOP's transition team and one of Speaker-elect John Boehner's most trusted lieutenants.
  • Fire in White City destroys Davis Finish Products and damages other businesses July 9. Fire crews from Jackson and Josephine counties spent hours in intense summer heat battling the flames that consumed the 140,000-square-foot cabinet and door business.
  • Longtime Harry and David Chief Executive Officer Bill Williams is ousted in February after the company continues to suffer losses and is replaced by Wasserstein & Co. Chairman Steve Heyer.