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The rest of the Top 10

The rest of the Top 10 stories of 2012 were not so lighthearted as Marilyn Hagerty's Internet fame.

They ranged from stories about the shocking deaths of young people, to stories about surprising changes in the community, such as Grand Forks' only hospital buying its would-be rival in town.

A long-standing controversy over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname appeared to end, while long-standing problems with the Spirit Lake tribe's child protection system appear to continue into the new year.

Here are top stories 2 to 10:

2. Synthetic drug kills two teens in Grand Forks: The death of Christian Bjerk, 18, and Elijah Stai, 17, and the hospitalization of several others in June spurred investigation into a suspected synthetic-drug ring.

Prosecutors allege ring members imported chemicals from Asia and Europe through Texas to be "cooked" into hallucinogens in Grand Forks.

So far, federal prosecutors have charged 15 in the ongoing case; 11 have struck plea deals, including the man who made the drugs in Grand Forks. Four of the 11 have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 27 months to 12.5 years.

3. The (apparent) end of UND's Fighting Sioux nickname: The year began with UND complying with state directives to drop the name and logo, which the NCAA considers abusive.

Nickname supporters vowed to fight on, circulating petitions for a statewide vote. UND leaders, including hockey coach Dave Hakstol, and alumni leaders warned of dire consequences. Voters agreed, deciding in June that the nickname should stay retired.

Initially undeterred, nickname supporters continued to circulate petitions for a vote to place the nickname in the state Constitution. No such petitions were filed by a December deadline. Supporters also appealed a failed lawsuit against the NCAA, though no hearing date has been set.

4. Failures of Spirit Lake tribe's child protection system exposed: Beginning in April, "whistle-blowers" issued a series of scathing reports citing numerous cases of abuse and neglect, including rapes and murders of children, which should have been prevented or which drew inadequate responses from tribal offices.

Tribal leaders insisted the problems go back years and were being dealt with. But pressure mounted, including from the state's U.S. senators. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., called the reservation "a rudderless ship" in late August.

In September, tribal leaders, claiming their reform efforts had been hampered by "baseless and offensive accounts of tribal corruption," asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take over the system, which it did Oct. 1.

In November, the BIA said it had handled more than 100 cases of abuse and instituted many reforms. But criticism of the bureau and tribal officials continues.

5. Young victims in New Town, N.D., shootings: Benjamin, 13, Julia, 10, and Luke Schuster, 6, and their grandmother Martha Johnson, 64, were killed in their New Town home by a gunman in November.

The children grew up in the Minto, N.D., area until moving in with their grandparents this fall. They were buried in nearby Warsaw, N.D.

One Schuster sibling survived hiding under his brother's body. A fifth sibling and Johnson's husband, Harley, were away from the house.

The FBI identified a neighbor, Kalcie Eagle, 21, as a person of interest, but he killed himself hours after the slayings.

6 (tie). Altru Health System's surprise purchase of would-be rival: Doctors Hospital was preparing to open a 65-bed, for-profit hospital in Grand Forks when Altru bought the facility in February.

Critics accused the nonprofit provider of blocking a competitor that would've given area patients more options.

Altru said it needed space to expand and improve care, and it bought from a willing seller -- a Fargo developer, not Doctors Hospital. Altru also argued that the millions in higher federal payments it receives as the region's sole hospital were invested in better care.

6 (tie). A housing crunch in Grand Forks: A city commission confirmed in November that the local housing market is "moderately unaffordable," both to would-be homebuyers and renters.

Last week, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing prepared a draft list of 12 steps the city could take to tackle the problem and sought public comment.

Mayor Mike Brown proposed the commission in February, but was criticized during the mayoral race by challenger Tyrone Grandstrand for not addressing the problem.

8. A murder near Thief River Falls: The partially unclothed body of Tanya Kazmierczak, 40, of Thief River Falls was found in August near a rural bridge. She was last seen talking with Jedidiah Troxel, 32, of Crookston as they left a party.

Investigators say they found found inconsistencies in his alibi, including his denial -- without prompting -- that he had been near the bridge.

Troxel faces three counts of first-degree murder involving sexual conduct.

9. Bill Clinton visits as Grand Forks marks 15th anniversary of flood: The former president came to town in March to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic-NPL state convention, and received another round of thanks from the community for his help after the flood.

Clinton last visited in 1997, bringing optimism and a promise of aid. The area has since received about $1 billion in federal funds for recovery.

Fifteen years later, Clinton told a convention crowd of 6,000 that, in contrast to the GOP's position, "government is not always the problem. If anybody doubts it, they should come to Grand Forks and hear the story and see what was done."

Earlier in the day, Clinton spoke to about 2,000 residents, saying the community had been "built back better."

10. Sweeping reform of North Dakota education proposed: Hamid Shirvani, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, announced his reform plan in August.

One major change proposed was tighter admission standards at state universities to ensure students don't get in over their heads and take too long to graduate.

The plan also called for better student readiness for college, expanding financial aid and shifting remedial and developmental courses to community colleges.