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Monday, Sep. 15, 2014

Readers pick multi-fatality fire as top story

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

(Photo)
The home of Leon and Mollie McClaran, Kingdom Road, burns in late September. The McClarans' remains were found in the home's rubble but their grandchildren, Chloie Pope and Gage Daniel, haven't been seen since.
(T-G File Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
Participants in a non-scientific poll at the Times-Gazette web site chose the unresolved house fire involving two children whose fate is unknown as the top local story of 2012.

Between Christmas and New Year's, the Times-Gazette counted down the year's top 10 stories as chosen by a poll of T-G staff members. After the full list was announced, a poll containing the top 12 entries from the staff poll, plus a choice for "other," was posted to the t-g.com web site. A total of 141 readers participated in the poll.

The staff poll was finalized just as the school security issue was breaking, with a shooting in Connecticut and two threats locally. That issue was not included on the staff poll ballot, and therefore was not included on the reader poll either.

Reverse order

Readers chose the same top two stories as the T-G staff, but in reverse order, choosing the house fire that killed Mollie and Leon "Bubba" McClaran, and which may or may not have killed their grandchildren Chloe Pope, 9, and Gage Daniel, 7, as the top story, and allegations of abuse in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry as number two.

Initial reports about a September house fire were that all four of the home's occupants -- an elderly couple and their two grandchildren -- had been killed.

But when the children's bodies were not found, a state Amber Alert was issued, treating them as missing children. It's still not clear whether Chloe Pope and Gage Daniel died with their grandparents, as many still suspect, or whether they ran or were taken away and escaped the fire.

The cause of death for the McClarans remains unknown, as does the cause of the fire.

According to autopsy reports obtained by The Associated Press, the McClarans' remains were severely charred and soot was found in their airways.

Here is how participants in the web site poll voted:

The top local story of 2012

House fire still unresolved: 37.6% (53 votes) -- #2 in T-G staff poll

Accusations of abuse in TWH industry: 17.0% (24 votes) -- #1 in staff poll

Presidential election: 8.5% (12 votes) -- #9 in staff poll

Ray Butrum leaves as superintendent: 7.8% (11 votes) -- #3 in staff poll

Alex stops cancer treatments: 7.1% (10 votes) -- #4 in staff poll

Skull found in river is Smelcer's: 6.4% (9 votes) -- tied for #6 in staff poll

Cascade band wins state championship: 5.0% (7 votes) -- #10 in staff poll

Jail overcrowding: 3.5% (5 votes) -- #5 in staff poll

Other: 2.8% (4 votes)

Larry Walls murder: 2.1% (3 votes) -- #12 in staff poll

Principal shuffle: 1.4% (2 votes) -- tied for #6 in staff poll

E-911 director resigns: 0.7% (1 vote) -- #11 in staff poll

Inappropriate contact: 0.0% (0 votes)-- tied for #6 in staff poll

141 votes cast

Although four participants chose "other," only two left their specific suggestions in the comment box, and one of those appeared to be tongue-in-cheek. The other participant who left a comment voted for Cascade Elementary's designation as one of only six "Blue Ribbon Schools" in Tennessee as the year's top story. (That was on the original staff ballot, in combination with Mary Pitner's teacher-of-the-year honors, and narrowly missed the top 12.)

Voluntary, self-selected web site polls are not considered scientific because there's no way to confirm that those who choose to participate represent a true cross-section of the target population.