Washington state looks quite different from a year ago. Headlines covered a historic election, violent tragedies and, on the Seattle sports scene, some big moves. Here's a recap of some 2012 stories.

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It was a year of change. We don’t bag our groceries or buy our liquor like before. Same-sex couples can legally marry. Adult marijuana smokers can legally light up.

It was a year of budding growth amid lingering recession. Amazon, the online behemoth, bulged at its South Lake Union seams. Boeing’s latest generation soared off the assembly line. Microsoft jumped into the tablet wars and radically redid its signature operating system.

We said goodbye to the notable, from Nobel Laureate Dr. E. Donnall Thomas to anchorwoman Kathi Goertzen, among others.

Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game. Ichiro left. Russell Wilson arrived. Chris Hansen pushed his arena plan.

And it was a year pocked with violence, the victims often random.

Here’s a look at just a few of the more notable stories of 2012:


Mount Rainier park ranger killed

Benjamin Barnes fatally shot Mount Rainier park ranger Margaret Anderson, then died from exposure while hiding from pursuers.

Anderson, a mother of two, tried to stop Barnes’ car near the park’s entrance. He was being sought in connection with a shooting at a party in Skyway.

Madigan team on PTSD hot seat

The Army began reviewing the work of a Madigan Army Medical Center psychiatric team that reversed the diagnoses of more than a dozen soldiers previously found to have post-traumatic stress disorder. Much of the team’s work was found faulty.

Barefoot Bandit says he’s ‘sorry’

Colton Harris-Moore, known as the Barefoot Bandit, was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison. Despite mocking police earlier, the 20-year-old prolific burglar assured the federal court judge his remorse was “heartfelt.”


Governor signs marriage law

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed landmark legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Opponents promptly filed a legal challenge, putting it up for a November vote.

Powell, sons die in fire

Josh Powell, suspected in the 2009 disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, died along with his two young sons, Charlie and Braden, in a fire he ignited at a Pierce County house. A caseworker brought the boys for a supervised visit but was promptly locked out. Minutes later the house erupted in fire.

4 snow deaths in Cascades

Three expert skiers died near Stevens Pass in the state’s deadliest avalanche in years. Less than an hour earlier, an experienced snowboarder died in a slide that swept him off a cliff near The Summit at Snoqualmie.

Shootings shock Kitsap County

Joshua Jearl Blake killed state Trooper Tony Radulescu during a traffic stop along state Highway 16 in Gorst. Blake later died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

That same week, a 9-year-old boy brought a loaded gun to a Bremerton grade school. The gun accidentally discharged in his backpack, seriously wounding an 8-year-old classmate.


Dicks decides to leave Congress

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks announced his retirement. The Bremerton Democrat served for more than three decades and was the ranking Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Allen gives big to brain science

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced $300 million in funding for the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science. The money helped increase staffing and pay for new study techniques.

Bales accused of massacre

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was charged with 16 counts of murder in connection with a massacre of Afghan villagers. Bales said he cannot remember much of the tragedy.


Work begins on streetcar line

Construction began on the $134 million First Hill Streetcar, which will run mainly on Broadway and South Jackson Street. Service is expected to start in early 2014.

North Bend killer dead

Peter Keller, accused of killing his wife and daughter in their North Bend home and then setting the house on fire, was found dead in an elaborate underground bunker. As authorities closed in on the bunker, he shot himself.


Banda new schools chief

Seattle Public Schools chose José Banda, 55, to become its new superintendent.

He was the superintendent of the Anaheim (Calif.) City School District before being chosen to replace Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

Bullet kills Seattle driver

Justin Ferrari, a Madrona software engineer, was fatally shot as he drove with his children and father through a Central Area intersection. Police say the suspect, now awaiting trial, was firing at someone else.

Tom Douglas wins Beard

Seattle’s Tom Douglas was named “Outstanding Restaurateur” by the James Beard Foundation. The award is considered the Oscar of the food world. The award encompasses Douglas’ body of work.

Gunman goes on rampage

Ian Stawicki opened fire in Seattle’s Café Racer, killing four people: Kimberly Layfield, Drew Keriakedes, Donald Largen and Joseph Albanese. He then killed Gloria Leonidas in a carjacking several miles away, before killing himself.


Liquor selling changes

Hundreds of supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchants in Washington began selling liquor, ending the state’s long-held control over the sale of spirits. The change came after voters approved Initiative 1183.

Elite rescuer Hall dies

Mount Rainier climbing ranger Nick Hall slid 3,000 feet to his death while helping injured climbers. Gov. Chris Gregoire praised his selflessness. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called him heroic.

Boeing gets new leader

Jim Albaugh stepped down unexpectedly as CEO of Boeing’s commercial-airplanes division. Ray Conner, a local fellow who has climbed through the ranks, took over.

Big wheel starts turning

The Seattle Great Wheel opened on Pier 57. The 280,300-pound wheel holds 42 climate-controlled gondolas, allowing for 252 passengers at full capacity. It extends 40 feet above Puget Sound during the 12-minute ride.


Ichiro traded to Yankees

Ichiro accepted a trade to the New York Yankees. He sought a shot at winning the World Series, while the M’s needed to invest in younger players. His first game as a Yankee was at Safeco Field, where he received a warm ovation.

J.P. Patches player dies

Chris Wedes, known as TV clown J.P. Patches, died at age 84 after a long battle with multiple myeloma. On television from 1958 to 1981, and in many personal appearances since, he delighted generations of children and adults with his zany antics.

Plastic bags phased out

A citywide ban on carryout plastic bags took effect. The law, approved by the Seattle City Council, required retailers to charge 5 cents for each paper bag they give shoppers.


Wildfire inflicts damage

The Taylor Bridge wildfire scorched more than 23,000 acres between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, destroying more than 60 homes.

Mercer Mess reconfigured

The busy eastbound corridor long known as the “Mercer Mess” became a six-lane, two-way boulevard. And … severe congestion continues to plague the area.

Adrian wins Olympic gold

Bremerton native Nathan Adrian won two gold medals and one silver medal in swimming at the 2012 London Olympics.

Felix throws perfect game

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game — no batters reaching base — against the Tampa Bay Rays on a sunny afternoon at Safeco Field.


City law requires sick pay

Seattle became the third city in the nation to mandate paid leave for employees to care for themselves or a sick family member.

Metro: No more free rides

King County Metro Transit ended its downtown Seattle free-ride zone. The move came during the agency’s biggest-ever service overhaul.


Arena plan gets approval

The Metropolitan King County Council voted unanimously to proceed with a memorandum of understanding with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million sports and entertainment venue with $200 million in public money. The Seattle City Council approved the deal on a 7-2 vote.

Amazon buys its campus

Amazon.com announced that it would buy its 11-building South Lake Union headquarters complex from developer Vulcan Real Estate. The price tag: $1.16 billion.

Microsoft shows wares

Microsoft launched Windows 8, a radical overhaul of the company’s flagship operating system. It also entered the tablet wars with the Surface.

Fugitive Mastro caught

Seattle real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro and his wife, Linda, were arrested in France after 16 months on the lam. They fled after the judge in Mastro’s massive bankruptcy case ordered them to turn over two diamond rings valued at $1.4 million.


Mariners score a huge screen

The Mariners announced the franchise will install the biggest video display in Major League Baseball and one of the largest in professional sports, at Safeco Field.

Windows president leaves

Steven Sinofsky, the Microsoft president of Windows and Windows Live, left the company just weeks after delivering the revamp of its flagship software product, Windows 8.

State has historic election

State voters made history by legalizing gay marriage and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Both laws went into effect Dec. 6. Voters also approved charter schools, made Jay Inslee governor and overwhelmingly backed President Obama.


Paine Field gets FAA nod

The Federal Aviation Administration approved commercial passenger flights from Paine Field near Everett, potentially transforming the general-aviation airport into a small Sea-Tac competitor.

Marijuana law takes effect

The state’s historic legalization of marijuana went into effect. Adults 21 and older can possess as much as an ounce of pot for recreational use. About a week later, President Obama said federal authorities would not go after users protected by the state law.

Seahawks earn playoffs

The Seahawks smashed the San Francisco 49ers 42-13 at CenturyLink Field to clinch a spot in the playoffs. The Hawks ended the regular season as the hottest team in the NFL with the offense, defense and special teams clicking on all cylinders.