The year began with a violent bang. An explosion rocked Alon USAs Big Spring refinery in February. The impact of the blast could be felt miles away. The fire and explosion injured five people. The company blamed a rupture in one of the pumps for the accident.
School officials were largely shocked when the Abilene Independent School Districts bond package failed in May. The effort wouldve created a career and technology high school along with millions of dollars in renovations for existing schools. Voters also rejected a half-sent sales tax to fund a youth sports complex.
May brought tragedy for a Breckenridge family. Four pit bulls attacked and killed 7-year-old Tanner Monk. Later in the year, a jury sentenced the animals owners to seven years in prison under a new state law.
In September, the ACU student president discovered a noose sitting on his office chair. ACU police launched an investigation but werent able to find the person responsible. Though the case remains open, there have been no new leads.
Educators accused of sexual relationships with their students dominated headlines. In May, Early teacher Joy Blackstock was accused of a relationship with an 18-year-old. In October, similar allegations surfaced against Caleb Tierce. The ex-Jim Ned teacher and coach allegedly sought sexual favors from students.
October also brought closure for the victim of a sexual assault case involving House of Yahweh member Yedidiyah Hawkins. A jury convicted Hawkins of sexual assault of a child and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. He still faces several other charges. A bigamy trial is pending for House of Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins.
Big Country teens were told in October they wouldnt be allowed to roam the halls of the Mall of Abilene alone on Friday and Saturday nights. Mall officials launched a "family friendly" hours campaign. Despite initial opposition, reaction has largely been positive since the change.
The presidential race didnt bring happy news in November for what was dubbed one of the countrys reddest cities. Barack Obama won the election, but not Big Country voters. They overwhelmingly backed Republican John McCain. Still, local GOP candidates flourished, and Les Bruce became Taylor Countys new sheriff.
November brought a record performance for the ACU Wildcats. The team shattered previous marks in a mammoth 93-68 victory. Big Country high school teams failed to win the big prize. However, the Cisco Loboes again made it to the championship game.
Frontiering managed to stir up emotion in November. The new word became Abilenes new brand at a price tag of $107,000 (split between various groups). To date, no groups have adopted the slogan. Only time will tell whether it will ever be used.