By JOY BROWN

By JOY BROWN

STAFF WRITER

The region's top news stories in 2013 included two double murders, a corporate takeover battle, plans for a $10 million performing arts center, and a story about a dead man who wasn't.

These are the region's top 10 stories of the year, Courier reporters and editors decided:

1. Teen kills two Ottawa brothers.

After an argument about living arrangements in May, Michael Fay, 17, shot two teenage brothers in the head. Fay stashed the body of 17-year-old Blake Romes under the Ottawa house trailer where they all had lived, and threw the body of 14-year-old Blaine Romes in a ditch along Putnam County 7. He then fled to Columbus and initially lied about his involvement in the murders when apprehended.

In November, Fay was sentenced to 60 years to life for the killings. His attorney argued for a more lenient sentence, citing the teen's troubled childhood, but Putnam County Common Pleas Judge Randall Basinger labeled him a "ruthless killer" who deserved the punishment.

2. Dead man walking.

Donald Eugene Miller Jr. is very much alive, but not as far as the law is concerned. His situation drew worldwide attention in September.

In 1986, Miller vanished from his Arcadia home, mystifying relatives and leaving thousands of dollars in unpaid child support. Eight years later, finding no trace of Miller, his ex-wife persuaded a judge to declare Miller legally dead so their children could receive Social Security benefits.

This year, the same judge, Hancock County Probate Judge Allan Davis, refused to bring Miller legally back to life, even as the 61-year-old stood before him in a courtroom begging for the return of his Social Security number and driver's license. Davis said Miller had far exceeded the time limit when a death ruling can be reversed in Ohio.

"It kind of went further than I ever expected it to," Miller, who now lives in Fostoria, told Davis. "I just kind of took off, ended up in different places."

An admitted alcoholic who said he fled south after losing his job, Miller did not appeal Davis' ruling.

3. Tire company sale collapses.

After its CEO dismissed buyout rumors in the fall of 2012, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. announced in June that India's Apollo Tyres was going to acquire Cooper in a $2.5 billion deal.

Management from both companies assured union workers and the community that the Findlay plant would remain after the deal closed. Stockholders were offered $35 per share, or 40 percent more than the stock's value at the time.

The honeymoon was short-lived. The value of Apollo shares tumbled by 25 percent the day after the purchase was announced. It was revealed that Apollo, half the size of Cooper, was intending to borrow every dime needed to close the deal. In July, workers at a Cooper plant in China went on strike to protest the acquisition.

In October, Cooper accused Apollo of using stalling tactics to back out of the agreement, and unsuccessfully took Apollo to court in an attempt to force completion of the sale. On Dec. 21, Cooper announced it would instead seek damages from Apollo. Cooper shares have dropped to $22.20 per share.

4. Six killed in Tiffin fire.

In September, Anna Angel lost all five of her children and her boyfriend in a mobile home fire in Tiffin.

Tiara Angel, 6; Stormie Huey, 5; Trinitie Huey, 4; Sunshine Huey, 3; and Domonic Fresch, 1, died in the blaze, as did 25-year-old Tim Fresch of Tiffin. Angel was working at a fast-food restaurant when the fire began. She reportedly lost everything but the work uniform she was wearing.

The cause of the blaze was not officially pinpointed, but Tiffin Fire Chief William Ennis Jr. said either a candle or a cigarette was to blame. The mobile home had working smoke detectors, but the fire spread rapidly.

Money has been raised to help Angel. Contributions can still be made to the Anna Angel Donation Fund at US Bank, 730 W. Market St., Tiffin 44883.

5. Findlay man allegedly kills infant son.

Jerrod Hartman, 24, has been charged with murder for allegedly killing his 44-day-old son, James Hartman, at a Third Street residence in October.

The death of the baby caused shock in the community. Police, summarizing an autopsy report, said the infant's death was the result of multiple blunt force trauma, and was "not an accident."

What also sets the case apart is Jerrod Hartman's financial situation. He is free on a $250,000 cash bond that was initially set at $1 million, allowing him to spend the holidays with friends and family, and to travel for matters related to his legal defense. He has retained Lorin Zaner, a Toledo defense attorney who specializes in child abuse and domestic relations cases.

6. Performing arts center to be built.

The auditorium of the former Central Middle School in downtown Findlay will become part of the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, a $10 million project.

The center is being made possible by a donation from Marathon Petroleum Corp. and contributions by others in the community.

The center is expected to open in fall 2015 on West Main Cross Street. It will include a renovated Central Auditorium, an art gallery, education center and black box theater for receptions and events.