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Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s guilty plea tops list of local news stories for 2017 as chosen by Sentinel-Review newsroom

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock in this January file photo. (The Canadian Press files)

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock in this January file photo. (The Canadian Press files)

Number One: A serial killer who got away with murdering vulnerable people in her care for years tops the list of news stories in 2017 as chosen by Sentinel-Review newsroom.

On June 1 ex-nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to 14 charges against her including eight of first-degree murder, four of attempted murder and two of aggravated assault.

The 50-year-old former nurse from Woodstock was given a life sentence in June after confessing to killing eight elderly patients by injecting them with lethal doses of insulin.

The assaults happened between 2007 and 2014.

Raised in Woodstock, Wettlaufer was a nurse at Caressant Care long-term care facility when she killed her first victim 84-year-old James Silcox, a veteran of the Second World War.

A provincial inquiry is currently examining how she managed to get away with the murders for so long without being detected.

Number Two: A disgraced local pharmacist who used the names of the dead and dying to fill bogus fentanyl prescriptions was sentenced to 11 years behind bars last September.

Yogesh Patel, a 47-year-old Kitchener resident who had no criminal record, pleaded guilty to stealing opioid drugs -- including 3,000 fentanyl patches and 1,500 hydromorphone tablets with a street value of almost $1 million -- from a Rexall pharmacy in Woodstock.

Last April, Patel admitted that between 2013 and 2016, he forged documents, defrauded and stole prescription narcotics from Rexall and the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, and possessed hydromorphone, morphine and the potentially deadly painkiller fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

Number Three: It was the end of an era as tire cordmaker Firestone pulled the plug on its Woodstock plant after 80 years, a move that will throw 170 employees out of work beginning at the end of December and continuing into the New Year.

The textile plant, which mainly produces cord material for automobile tires, announced in early October it would scale back production gradually and close by the end of 2018.

“It’s a sad day for industry in Woodstock,” said Rob Nicholas, a regional director of Local 175 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the workers.

Nicholas said the closing had been rumoured for some time because demand had eased for nylon cord.

The plant will close in stages starting Dec. 31.

Number Four: Siemens Canada announced in July it was closing its Tillsonburg plant, one of four Ontario green energy factories set up under a multi-billion dollar deal with Korean industrial giant Samsung.

The closing of one of the town’s largest employers came after weeks of speculation.

While 200 of 340 employees were pink slipped immediately, the plant is expected to be completely shuttered by January 2018.

Siemens pulled the plug on its factory amid dwindling orders and growing demand for longer blades than the plant can produce.

At the time Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar said he was “surprised at the timing” of the closing.

“It was more disappointing, ultimately,” he said. “This is not good news, obviously.”

But he said the town would focus on helping workers get new jobs and attracting new opportunities.

Number Five: General Motors was within days of shutting down its Cami Assembly plant in Ingersoll for good when it settled with its striking workers.

Workers at Cami ratified a new four-year collective agreement after a 30-day strike that provides job security language in the form of payouts to workers if GM shuts the plant now.

hrivers@postmedia.com