Gun sales, the presidential election and anything written by columnist Bud Kennedy drew plenty of attention from readers of Star-Telegram.com in 2012.But the most-read stories generally centered on local events, starting with the vagaries of Mother Nature.1. Multiple tornadoes slam North Texas (April 3)The first of 55 severe thunderstorm warnings came from the National Weather Service at 7:32 a.m. At 12:10 p.m., the situation in North Texas began to worsen drastically, and a tornado watch was issued.In all, 17 tornadoes touched down in North and Central Texas, one of them, rated an EF-2, targeting Kennedale and Arlington.The outbreak was born when an upper-level low and a cold front clashed with a very warm and very unstable air mass, the Weather Service said.The Tarrant County tornado touched down at about 1:20 p.m. near Kennedale. It carved a path toward Lake Arlington, traveling more than four miles, with maximum wind speeds of 135 mph. At least 488 homes were damaged in southwest Arlington, and the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was severely damaged. A total of 45 homes and six businesses were damaged in Kennedale.The tornado outbreak, or, more precisely, the photo gallery that chronicled the widespread damage, was the most popular story among readers of Star-Telegram.com in 2012.View our photos from the April 3 storms.2. Big Tex goes up in flames. (Oct. 19)"We got a rather tall cowboy, all his clothes burned off.With those words, a Dallas dispatcher sent firefighters to Fair Park in an attempt to save 60-year-old icon Big Tex, which caught fire in the closing days of the State Fair of Texas.Users of social media had begun to tell the story even before emergency workers arrived. A collection of Twitter images of the burning man, shared by fairgoers, journalists and media outlets, became our No. 2 most-read story of the year. The fire, caused by an electrical short beneath the Big Guys right boot, broke out shortly after the State Fairs 10 a.m. opening at Fair Park in Dallas. Within minutes, witnesses said, Big Tex was ablaze and burning all the way down to his 52-foot-tall skeleton. The tragedy, however, is believed to be short-lived. Big Tex, who made his fair debut in 1952 after serving as the giant Santa Claus for the town of Kerens, is expected to return bigger, stronger and less flammable in time for the 2013 edition of the fair.Read Deanna Boyds obituary for "Mr. Tex."3. Ex-Kennedale teacher gets five years for sex with students (Aug. 17)The Brittni Colleps case had all the ingredients to capture the publics imagination: sex tapes, graphic testimony, and controversy over whether a young teacher should serve prison time for consensual sex with of-age students.The ex-Kennedale High School coach and teacher, and mother of three, went on trial in Tarrant County for having sex with five of her students, four at the same time. All were 18 or older.Texas law makes it a crime for a teacher to enter into a sexual relationship with students. But the students in Colleps trial argued that they had willingly gone to her house and did not want her to serve prison time.The sentencing phase of Colleps trial featured her husband, who was in the military and away from their Arlington home when the encounters occurred in spring 2011, asking the jury to give her probation. Although he had seen the sex tapes and was angry, he said, he believed that what happened was between him and his wife.The jury took less than three hours to sentence Colleps to five years in prison after convicting her on 16 counts of improper relationship between an educator and student. She had faced up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the counts.Read Deanna Boyds live Twitter coverage of the Colleps trial.4. Longtime NBC 5 anchor Jane McGarry arrested for DWI (May 6)For two decades, NBC 5 anchor Jane McGarry was one of the faces of North Texas news. But that ended when a Department of Public Safety trooper pulled her over on the Dallas North Tollway. Her blood alcohol level was 0.11, above the legal limit of 0.08.McGarry, of Fort Worth, never returned to the air. In June, the 56-year-old anchor announced that she was leaving the station.She pleaded no contest to a Class B misdemeanor, paid a $1,200 fine and must serve 18 months probation and participate in at least 40 hours of community service.McGarry joined the stations staff as a reporter in 1982, became an anchor in 1991, and was paired with Mike Snyder in 1992. They remained together until Snyder left in 2010, making them one of the longest-running anchor teams in Texas.Our report by DFW.com's Robert Philpot on McGarrys arrest drew more than 300 comments and became the fourth-most-read story on our website.Watch the 1992 debut of Jane and Mike on NBC 5.5. Current, former TCU students, players caught in drug sting (Feb. 15)The news broke early on a Wednesday morning: Four TCU football players were among those ensnared in a drug sting on and around campus. Chancellor Victor Boschini confirmed the shocking and disappointing news on the universitys website, and then TCU and Fort Worth police revealed details at a news conference on campus.Horned Frogs linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive lineman D.J. Yendrey, offensive tackle Tyler Horn and cornerback Devin Johnson were among 17 people arrested at the end of a six-month investigation. The headlines continued with news that coach Gary Patterson had sprung a surprise drug test on his team two weeks earlier, and that several players had apparently failed.All of those arrested are drug dealers," TCU Police Chief Steven McGee said. The students sold drugs ranging from marijuana to ecstasy to cocaine to undercover officers at a variety of places, including a fraternity house and a grocery store parking lot, according to arrest warrant affidavits.But the majority of the cases involved small amounts of marijuana, sparking a debate about whether the news had been overblown.The four players were removed from the team. Three received probation in July.Among those who failed the Feb. 1 drug test, the student-run TCU360.com reported in August, was starting quarterback Casey Pachall. Pachall remained on the team at the time, but was suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest on Oct. 4.6. Aledo teen calls 911 to report that he shot his sister and mother (Oct. 4)The words on the 911 recording are chilling: Uh, I just killed my mom and my sister.When sheriffs deputies responded to the 12:30 a.m. call from 17-year-old Jake Evans, they did find his mother and 15-year-old sister shot multiple times.I just thought it would be quick, you know? Evans told the 911 operator. I didnt want them to feel any pain. Thats why I used a gun. But its like everything went wrong.Jami Evans, 48, was a former Aledo elementary school teacher. She was home-schooling Jake and his sister Mallory. Evans father was in Washington, D.C., on business at the time of the killings, which occurred at their home in a gated community near Aledo.Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said Evans had planned the killings for at least two weeks, but a motive remained elusive.Just to let you know, I hate the feeling of killing someone, Evans told the operator. I, you know, Im going to be messed up.A Parker County grand jury handed up indictments on Friday.Listen to Jake Evans 911 call.7. Fort Worth widow thanks men who robbed her (Oct. 16)The 80-year-old was dozing in front of the TV about 12:30 a.m. when several men, at least one of them armed, broke into her home intent on robbery.I saw them coming down the hall, and I said to myself a silent prayer: Lord, youve always watched over me. Watch over me through this. Circle me in your arms and loving grace. And he did, the woman told reporter Deanna Boyd.The robbers stole plenty: two televisions, cash, a cellphone and a Tiffany lamp.But after the woman turned over her gold wedding band, the robber handed it back to her. And, to the surprise of the head of the Fort Worth police robbery unit, she even felt appreciation.I thank them for not hurting me and being considerate of me because I thought that was kindness that he gave me back my wedding rings," the woman said. "I just thought that was really sweet.I dont guess anybody would think home invaders were sweet, but they didnt hurt me. They never said a curse word or were foulmouthed or anything.Still, she added, I wish theyd get in another line of work.The womans unusual response drew plenty of attention on our website, and her story became the seventh-most-read for the year.8. Killer of Arlington pastor goes berserk after death sentence (Oct. 16)He was generous of heart, constant of faith and joyful of spirit is inscribed on Clint Dobsons tombstone, his mother told a Tarrant County courtroom in October.In a savage incident that shocked North Texans, the 28-year-old pastor was brutally beaten, bound and suffocated with a plastic bag inside his Arlington church in March 2011. Church secretary Judy Elliott was also beaten and left for dead but survived.Dobsons killer, Steven Lawayne Nelson of Arlington, was described as a violent, cross-dressing psychopath who began to start fires at age 3. In addition to the robbery-murder at the Arlington church, he is a suspect in the jailhouse hanging of a mentally ill man. Assistant District Attorney Bob Gill warned jurors that Nelson would only cause more trouble if he was given a life sentence rather than death:If you think he was hell on wheels in the Tarrant County Jail while awaiting trial, think what hell be like in prison ... with nothing left to lose.Minutes after he was sentenced to death, Nelson, 25, proved the prosecutor right. Nelson was led away quietly, but once in his holding cell, he broke a water sprinkler head, flooding the cell and sending black water infused with fire retardant into the courtroom.He screamed and howled as court personnel scurried to rescue boxes of evidence from the water.In an interview last month from death row, where he spends 23 hours a day in isolation, he told the Associated Press' Michael Graczyk that he had concealed a tiny key for 21 months while in custody in Tarrant County. They wondered why I kept getting out of my handcuffs, he said.9. Golfer stabbed with club in play-through brawl on course (Jan. 27)It was a request likely made daily on golf courses across America: Could we play through?But instead of a simple act of courtesy, the response was a near-deadly fight at the Golf Club at the Resort on Eagle Mountain Lake.Clay Carpenter, 48, of Springtown told our Mitch Mitchell that he was recovering from a punctured femoral artery and massive blood loss after being stabbed with the shaft of a broken golf club in the melee. Tarrant County sheriffs spokesman Terry Grisham said Carpenter was very close to death when emergency personnel arrived.The games tragic turn was captured on a 911 call, in which a man who identified himself as a member of the group playing in front of Carpenters group, told the operator, He fell on a golf club or something.Hes passed out once already, the caller says. Weve got his artery clamped with our hand.Grisham said the fight began after a course marshal asked a foursome to allow smaller groups to play through.A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict the man accused of wielding the club.Listen to the 911 call from the course.10. Longtime Baptist pastor fatally beaten to death inside Forest Hill church (Oct. 29)The call initially came in as a burglary in progress, from a church secretary who had locked herself in a room and summoned help.But it quickly became clear that something much more sinister had occurred at the Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in Forest Hill.A man had crashed his car into the building, broken a church janitors jaw, then had gone inside and fatally beaten the church pastor, Danny Kirk Sr., 53, with an electric guitar. The killer, Derrick Birdow, 33, died while handcuffed in the back of a police car.The news of yet another pastor being killed in a house of worship shocked residents. More than a thousand people attended a memorial service for the beloved pastor, who also served as team chaplain for the Fort Worth Wyatt Chaparrals.At a vigil the day after the killing, Kirks 17-year-old son reassured mourners that his father would not be forgotten.Daddy, I got Mama, he said. You dont have to worry no more. You did what you had to do on this side. But you didnt name me Danny Kirk Jr. for no reason. Im not going to mess up your name.Read 27 pages of tributes left by mourners.Staff writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.