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William Mccall Associated Press Writer
Published: 28 December 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- It was a bleak news year in Oregon. The jobless rate was persistently one of the worst in the nation. Bankruptcies and foreclosures rose as a result, and few thought the economy would improve soon or quickly.
The year also saw a number of high-profile murders, including an office park shooting, a pregnant woman whose baby was cut out of her, and two children forced off a Portland bridge.
And near year's end, three young climbers died on Mount Hood, almost exactly three years after another trio of experienced climbers died on the highest peak in Oregon.
But there were also reasons to celebrate in 2009.
The University of Oregon Ducks won the Pac-10 Conference to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995. The Portland Trail Blazers made the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The university was also the host for the 2009 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which will return to Eugene in 2011.
Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco was tapped by President Barack Obama to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, leading to action on commercial fishing, ghost crab pots, climate change and salmon restoration.
The agency also decided to move the Pacific base for NOAA ships from Seattle to Newport on the Oregon coast, although the decision was appealed by a Washington state port that also bid for the base.
And a potential tragedy was averted when a Medford couple on a Christmas tree hunt returned safe and sound after spending a couple of nights in their Subaru stuck in the snow in the mountains near the California border.
But happy endings were rare in many of the other major Oregon news stories, many involving murder and other crime.
The year began with the worst mass shooting in Portland history when a young gunman opened fire on a crowd outside an under-21 nightclub on Jan. 24 and then killed himself. Two teenagers were also killed and seven people were wounded. The shooter, Erik Ayala, had been diagnosed as a potential schizophrenic and blogged about his dislike for ``preppies'' and ``pop tweens.''
In Corvallis, five years after 19-year-old college student Brooke Wilberger disappeared, the man arrested in her abduction pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and pointed police to the spot near the Oregon coast where he dumped her body. With the plea, Joel Courtney avoided facing a death sentence.
The half brother to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made news from Ashland when he was indicted on child pornography charges. James Auchincloss had been a fixture in the theater community in the college town after moving from Washington, D.C., in the 1990s.
In a case involving the highest-ranking CIA official ever convicted of espionage at the time, the son of Jim Nicholson agreed to testify against his imprisoned father to avoid jail time for taking money from Russian agents. Nathaniel Nicholson traveled around the world from 2006 to 2008 to pick up payments for his father, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to selling information to the Russians about the CIA agents he trained.
A decade after the Oregon Legislature changed the law to deal with public concerns about the safety of children treated with faith healing, a couple who are members of the church at the center of the controversy went on trial for manslaughter last summer.
Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington were acquitted of manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava, from pneumonia and a blood infection. Brent was convicted of criminal mistreatment.
Murder, meanwhile, took many different forms in Oregon.
In Tualatin, a woman who had just filed for divorce was killed by her estranged husband when he opened fire at a suburban office park where she worked. Robert Beiser shot and killed himself after killing Teresa Beiser. Two co-workers were injured.
In Hillsboro, Korena Roberts was accused of aggravated murder in the June 5 death of Heather Snively, whose baby was cut from her womb. Prosecutors say Snively had moved to Oregon from Maryland with her fiance and apparently met Roberts through an ad for baby clothes.
In Portland, Amanda Stott-Smith was charged with aggravated murder in the death of her 4-year-old son and attempted aggravated murder for the near drowning of her 7-year-old daughter. The children were forced off the Sellwood Bridge but the girl survived the 75-foot plunge into the Willamette River.
Police were called when Stott-Smith failed to return the children to their father, Jason Smith, who was granted custody in April.
In politics, Democratic former Gov. John Kitzhaber decided to make a bid to return to office while former Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Dudley threw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination.
Bill Sizemore, who lost by a wide margin when he ran against Kitzhaber in 1998, proclaimed his candidacy, but was busier fighting tax evasion charges related to his campaigns against public employee unions.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams kept a low profile after surviving a sex scandal. Adams admitted he lied about having sex with Beau Breedlove, but claimed it happened after Breedlove turned 18. An investigation by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger found no basis for criminal charges, but Adams was pushed to the point of resignation before stepping back and staying in office.
Medical marijuana was also in the news.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that an employer must make a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use for a disability. The court upheld a ruling by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries over a key issue _ the fact the employee never used marijuana in the workplace.
Meanwhile, the Oregon chapter of NORML opened the Cannabis Cafe in Portland to allow medical marijuana patients to gather socially while they use marijuana instead of staying home alone. The chapter director said a decision by the Obama administration to back off federal marijuana law enforcement and no objections from Portland police led to the opening.
Oregon braced for its share of the swine flu pandemic, but after an initial shortage of vaccine, the threat from the H1N1 virus eased toward the end of the year. The virus did claim the lives of two cats in November, leading veterinarians to investigate a rare infection pathway from humans to animals.

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