There were many high-profile cases that captured headlines in 2012 –- too many.
Jerry Sandusky, Drew Peterson and Joran van der Sloot all garnered attention around the world in 2012 as each of their trials -– some long overdue –- made their way through the criminal court system.
While each of the above-mentioned cases was horrific in its own right, the topic of discussion for much of 2012 was centered on mass gun violence.
There was certainly no shortage of homicides committed by mass shooters in 2012, with the final month of the year resulting in the highest body count.
At the beginning of December, Jacob Tyler Roberts, a 22-year-old man living in Portland, Ore., entered the Clackamas Town Center and opened fire on unsuspecting Christmas shoppers, killing two before he took his own life.
Three days later, two weeks before Christmas 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and gunned down 27 people, including 20 children.
Less than two weeks later, just before sunrise on Christmas Eve, police say William Spengler, a 62-year-old ex-con turned sniper, ambushed a fire truck in New York and killed two firefighters before taking his own life.
In each of these mass shootings that occurred in the month of December 2012, a motive remains unclear to anyone other than the men responsible -- and they aren’t able to talk.
Also in each of these three shootings, a military-style assault weapon was used. None were legally purchased by the shooters, renewing the already-heated debate over gun control.
All totaled -- whether through gun violence or other methods of homicide -- numerous lives were lost to senseless violence in 2012, something that shows no sign of slowing down as we begin 2013.
There were also many, many missing person cases in 2012. So many that it was difficult, if not impossible, to cover them all.
While we reflect on some of the higher-profile tragic cases of the year, let’s all hope together that we will not see the same level of violence in 2013.
Read on to see The Huffington Post's top 12 cases of 2012:
Evil comes in many shapes, sizes and genders. In the recent murder of a 20-year-old Ohio college student, police in Cochranton, Pa., say evil comes in the form of two lesbian lovers. Ashley Marie Barber, 20, and Nichole "Jade" Olmstead, 18, have been charged in connection with the brutal murder of Brandy Stevens-Rosine. Authorities say the young woman was beaten, tortured and buried alive in a shallow grave. Stevens-Rosine, a popular sociology student at Youngstown State University, left her home in Beaver Township, Ohio, on the morning of May 17, 2012. She was allegedly heading to an impromptu meeting with Olmstead, whom she had once dated. The reason for Stevens-Rosine's get-together with her old flame remains unclear. Stevens-Rosine drove 75 miles northeast, across the state line and into Pennsylvania. Her destination was a home in Wayne Township that was owned by Barber's parents. Barber and Olmstead had been living together at the address, according to reports. As she neared the residence, Stevens-Rosine sent a text message to a friend, saying she had a "funny feeling." Two days later, Stevens-Rosine's family reported her missing to police. On May 23, police found a shallow grave a few hundred yards from the Barber residence. An examination of the makeshift plot revealed the partially decomposed body of Brandy Stevens-Rosine. On May 24, state police sent out a press release that said, "Barber and Olmstead both admitted to their role in killing [Stevens-Rosine] and the burying of her body." Barber and Olmstead were arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy and tampering with physical evidence. State Trooper Eric Mallory told Magisterial District Judge Michael Rossi that Olmstead and Barber had invited Stevens-Rosine to their home on May 17. According to the police, they allegedly lured her into the woods behind the home and savagely attacked her. Mallory said the two women admitted punching and kicking Stevens-Rosine and placed a "Saw" hat in her mouth to quiet her screams. "Saw" is a horror movie series about a fictional diabolical psychotic called "Jigsaw" who psychologically tortures. They knocked Stevens-Rosine to the ground, the trooper said. Barber put a rope around her neck and strangled her while Olmstead hit Stevens-Rosine in the head with a shovel, Mallory alleged. According to the trooper, Olmstead said she hit Stevens-Rosine four or five times in the head and could see Stevens-Rosine's brains protrude from the gaping wounds. Mallory said Barber hurt herself head-butting Stevens-Rosine, then repeatedly pounded the victim's head against a stump. "She was on the victim's back with her knee in her spine, pulling her head back with the rope ... and letting it hit the stump," Mallory said. When the fight was drained from Stevens-Rosine, the two girls rolled her into a shallow grave they had dug prior to the assault, Mallory said. When the women found Stevens-Rosine still breathing, they smashed her face with a large rock and poured water into her nose and mouth to drown her, the trooper alleged. Barber "said that her worst fear was being buried alive," Mallory said. "She was trying to kill her." According to the autopsy report, Stevens-Rosine suffered blunt force trauma, a skull fracture and 15 lacerations to the scalp. Her death, according to Erie County forensic pathologist Eric Vey, was caused by suffocation from dirt in her airway. Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz said Stevens-Rosine had been buried alive. Mallory explained the evidence-tampering charge during the hearing, saying the defendants buried the "Saw" hat, a blood-soaked sweatshirt and the bloody rock used to smash Stevens-Rosine in the face. The hat, Mallory alleged, had been used, "to pick up what [Barber] referred to as meat or brains." Barber initially told police her father had committed the murder because he was not tolerant of homosexuals, Mallory said. The women later admitted to killing Stevens-Rosine, police said. The defense hasn't commented on the case. Prosecutors have declined to comment on a possible motive. The accused killers are being held without bail at the Crawford County Correctional Facility.
In February 2012, Josh Powell, the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell, murdered his two children and took his own life in Washington state, according to police. Susan Powell was reported missing by her family on Dec. 7, 2009, when she failed to show up for her job as a stockbroker at Wells Fargo Financial. Josh Powell told police he had been camping with their two young children and had last seen his wife around midnight. Suspicious of his story, investigators named Powell a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance. Not long after, Powell and his two children moved back to his hometown of Puyallup, Wash. While the change in scenery may have been welcomed, Josh Powell was unable to avoid the media and unfettered speculation by the public that he was responsible for his wife's disappearance. It was perhaps these inescapable problems that drove Powell on Feb. 5, 2012 to attack his two boys, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, with a hatchet and then ignite his home, killing the three of them in a gas-fueled explosion. Since that time, a mountain of evidence has emerged, which supports law enforcement's decision to name Josh Powell the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance. Authorities are also being more vocal in their suspicion that he may have had an accomplice. If Susan Powell's husband is ultimately found responsible for her disappearance, it is too little too late for him to be brought to justice, but any accomplices he may have had could still see their day in court.
On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked into a Sanford, Fla., convenience store and purchased a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. Afterward, he set off for his father's fiancée's home -- but he never made it there. During his walk, Martin encountered 28-year-old George Zimmerman. A neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman called police and reported "a real suspicious guy" he planned to follow. What happened next remains a subject of dispute. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in self-defense, killing the teenager. Prosecutors disagreed, and police arrested Zimmerman more than 40 days after the killing, charging him with second-degree murder. Zimmerman remains free on bail. A trial schedule has yet to be announced.
Prosecutors in Montreal, Canada, have alleged that Luka Rocco Magnotta, a 29-year-old, low-budget porn actor, carried out a brutal murder in May 2012, which he allegedly recorded and uploaded to the Internet. The victim, 33-year-old Lin Jun, a Chinese student at Montreal's Concordia University, had been reported missing on May 24. The investigation into Magnotta began when police found Jun's torso in a suitcase near Magnotta's apartment on May 27. Later that morning, authorities were called to the headquarters of the Conservative Party of Canada to investigate a suspicious package. Inside, they found Jun's severed foot and a note, indicating the sender planned to kill again, police said. A second body part -- Jun's severed hand -- was found that night inside a package at the Ottawa Postal Terminal. The package had been addressed to the Liberal Party of Canada. Other body parts belonging to Jun were found at the apartment building. As the investigation continued, Magnotta was charged with filming Jun's murder and posting it online. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts, so the killer's identity remains in question. The film of the murder, titled, "1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick," is more than 10 minutes long. It shows a naked male being attacked with an icepick and a knife. The victim is brutally stabbed multiple times, decapitated and dismembered. During the film, the killer masturbates with a severed arm, appears to devour a piece of flesh he sawed from the victim's buttocks and has sex with the headless torso. The video was posted to bestgore.com on May 25. The website described the video as the "most horrific shock video to have been released to date." Magnotta was captured in Berlin, Germany, on June 4, 2012, after authorities in Canada issued a countrywide arrest warrant for Magnotta and he was added to Interpol's list of wanted persons. On July 1, Jun's head was found at the edge of a lake in Montreal's Angrignon Park, after police received an anonymous tip. Magnotta faces several criminal counts, including first-degree murder in Jun's killing. A trial date has not been set. If convicted of the crimes he faces, Magnotta will likely be sentenced to a term of life in prison. Canada banned the death penalty in 1976. A motive in the Jun killing remains unclear, but one thing is certain -- Magnotta quickly went from being a relatively-unknown porn actor to an internationally known accused killer.
As the old adage goes, "What goes around comes around." Some refer to it as karma. Joran van der Sloot likely calls it bad luck. Whatever the case may be, justice was served, in part, against the Dutchman on Jan. 13, 2012. On that day, a haggard and beaten-looking van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the 2010 slaying of Peruvian business student Stephany Flores. The then 23-year-old, who is equally infamous for his longtime association with the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, hung his head low as the Peruvian court clerk went over the case. Credited with time served, van der Sloot's release date was set as June 10, 2038. Following his release, he will be expelled from the country, the court ordered. Van der Sloot avoided trial by pleading guilty to killing Flores. "I am truly regretful for what I have done. I feel very bad," he said. That confession apparently had little impact on the three-judge panel, who sentenced him to only two years less than the 30-year max they could have imposed. Van der Sloot was charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the May 30, 2010, slaying of Flores -- exactly five years after Holloway vanished. Flores was found dead in van der Sloot's hotel room in Lima on June 2, 2010. Holloway's body has never been found, and van der Sloot has never been charged in her disappearance. Van der Sloot will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence and could be paroled in nine years.
Like Joran van der Sloot, justice -- if you can call it that -- was a long time coming for former Illinois police officer and tabloid headline-grabber Drew Peterson. Peterson, 58, was arrested in May 2009 after a special grand jury found sufficient evidence to charge him in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose body was found in a dry bathtub. Police have also named Peterson an "official suspect" in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson. The former cop pleaded not guilty to murdering Savio, and his attorneys insisted Savio's death was "a household accident." Peterson's murder trial began in July, after he had already spent three years in jail while a decision to bar hearsay evidence was appealed. By September, the jury was well-versed on the stance of both sides and ultimately sided with prosecutors, finding Peterson guilty in the death of Kathleen Savio. Peterson now faces up to 60 years behind bars when he is sentenced in early 2013. Prosecutors have made it clear that they suspect Peterson killed his fourth wife, Stacy, because she could finger him for Savio's death. Nevertheless, her body has never been found and no charges have been filed.
Prior to November 2011, Jerry Sandusky was one of the most celebrated figures in the history of Penn State sports. Roughly seven months later, he was stripped of his glory and convicted a sadistic child molester. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky, 68, was convicted of 45 of 48 criminal counts related to the alleged assault of 10 boys over a 15-year period. The allegations led to the ouster of the late Penn State University president and longtime coach Joe Paterno, who died in January. Prosecutors said Sandusky was a "predatory pedophile" and a "sick, disturbed man," who targeted "the most vulnerable kids, kids in need." Defense lawyer Joe Amendola said Sandusky was the victim of a grand conspiracy and that prosecutors provided no physical evidence to prove he had molested anyone. Because of the allegations, "everything [Jerry Sandusky] ever loved, everything he's ever built, and everything he's ever stood for -- it's gone," Amendola said. Sandusky did not testify on his own behalf, but his wife, Dottie Sandusky, did take the stand during trial. She said she never witnessed any inappropriate contact between her husband and the young boys. The case attracted widespread media coverage, as Sandusky was one of the most notable assistant football coaches in the country and the founder of The Second Mile, a nonprofit charity for underprivileged and at-risk youth. People reacted with unrestrained joy when word of the verdict reached the crowd outside the courthouse. Some were chanting "justice," while others sat on the sidewalk in lawn chairs to enjoy the spectacle. In October, the once celebrated figure in college sports was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. Sandusky is appealing his guilty verdict, a process that could take several years.
Unfortunately, there was no shortage of bloodshed caused by mass shooters in 2012 -- especially during the month of December. On Dec. 11, 2012, Oregon police say 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts fatally shot two people at a crowded Portland-area mall before killing himself. The shooter was wearing a white hockey mask and a load-bearing vest when he entered the Clackamas Town Center at about 3:39 p.m. that fateful day. He was also carrying a semi-automatic AR-15 weapon and several fully loaded magazines. The rifle was stolen from a person known to the suspect, police said. Witnesses told police that after entering the mall, the gunman announced, "I am the shooter," and then opened fire on unsuspecting Christmas shoppers before his rifle jammed and he ran into a nearby Macy's store. According to Lt. James Rhodes of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, three people were killed, including the shooter. The shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot, Rhodes said. A 15-year-old girl suffered a traumatic injury and was admitted in serious condition at a Portland hospital. The shooting victims were identified as Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, and Steven Forsyth, 45. The sheriff said he does not believe the gunman was targeting a specific individual and called it a random shooting. The shooting came almost two months after a deadly massacre near Brookfield Square Mall in Brookfield, Wisc. Three people died in the shooting and several others were wounded. The suspect, identified as 45-year-old Radcliffe Haughton, was found dead in the spa where the shooting took place of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities have yet to identify a motive in the Oregon shoting and are still piecing together the suspect's actions leading up to it.
William Spengler, an ex-con turned sniper, rained bullets down on a fire truck in New York just before sunrise on Christmas Eve, killing two firefighters in a military-style ambush, according to police. The 62-year-old set the Webster home where he lived with his sister ablaze on Dec. 24, authorities said, and then waited for first responders to arrive. When they did, Spengler ambushed the fire truck as it rushed to the scene and sprayed the cab of the vehicle with a torrent of bullets. Five men were inside the truck at the time of the shooting. Two men were wounded and two others -- volunteer firefighter and police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, and firefighter Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, were killed during the unprovoked assault, police said. A fifth off-duty police officer who responded to the scene was also shot and wounded. The three men who were injured were hospitalized in stable condition and, as of this writing, are expected to survive. Authorities said after the shooting, while more than half-a-dozen nearby homes burned, Spengler took his own life. On Dec. 25, Christmas day, investigators found a body inside the Spengler home. The remains have not yet been positively identified, but authorities suspect they belong to Spengler's sister, Cheryl Spengler, 67. The Christmas Eve shooting is not the first time Spengler has attracted the attention of the law. According to the Associated Press, he had served 17 years in prison for manslaughter in the 1980s. In that case, he was found guilty in the slaying of his grandmother. Spengler's motive remains unclear, but police said he did leave behind a rambling, hand-written note. Investigators have not yet released the entire contents of the note, but did say one line read, "I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people."
Approximately four months before the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a tragedy some 1,800 miles to the west captured headlines around the world. On July 20, 2012, James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Denver, allegedly went on a shooting spree during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in Aurora, Colo. The shooter, dressed in ballistic gear and armed with an assault rifle and three other guns, set off gas canisters before opening fire in the sold-out theater, police said. Holmes is the lone suspect in the case. He is charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the fatal shooting of 12 moviegoers. For each of the 12 fatally shot victims, Holmes faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder with "extreme indifference." The maximum penalty is death. Holmes is being detained without bond pending his trial, which is expected to begin sometime in 2013.
One of the worst mass shootings in US history occurred two weeks before Christmas 2012. On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and gunned down 27 people, including 20 children. The gunman was wearing dark clothing, a mask, a bulletproof vest, and was carrying three guns. A fourth was later found inside his vehicle. Investigators said Lanza fired his weapon at least 100 times. Several others were injured during the mass shooting, and Lanza took his own life before police could confront him. In the aftermath, police discovered Lanza had shot and killed his own mother before storming the elementary school. A motive for the shooting is still under investigation, and 28 people's lives have been lost in a tragedy that no one will likely ever completely understand.
The biggest ongoing news story of 2012 is the more than 100,000 missing persons in the US -- a growing epidemic that shows no sign of slowing down. Adding to the problem is the fact that only a very small percentage of missing persons receive publicity, making searches more difficult. While it is impossible to name all of the missing, the following 10 names are printed in recognition of not only these missing people, but the countless others out there who still need to find their way home. Dashad 'Sage' Smith Kelly Armstrong Phoenix Coldon Holly Bobo Jason Jolkowski Nieko Lisi Crystal Morrison Kara Nichols John Spira Jesse 'Opie' Ross