NEW YORK – As 2005 comes to a close, FOX News Channel is counting down the top 10 stories of the year. Watch FOX News Channel at 10 p.m. ET Saturday, 1 a.m. ET Sunday or 4 a.m. ET Sunday for "Rewind 2005: What a Year!"
Among the stories that captivated the nation — and the world — were the capture of a notorious serial killer who eluded authorities for over 25 years; the mystifying antics and sex-abuse trial of the world-renowned King of Pop; a controversial Supreme Court ruling that said people's homes could be torn down so private builders could construct shopping malls; and the worst natural disaster to hit the United States in nearly eight decades — Hurricane Katrina.
Here are the stories of the year, counting down to the top story of 2005.
10. Stinky Gas Prices
The 10th biggest story of 2005 was the skyrocketing prices at the pump.
Drivers had to dig deeper than ever into their pockets to pay for gas as prices reached a high of $3.07 a gallon in early September after Hurricane Katrina damaged oil refineries along the Gulf Coast, disrupting fuel supplies. Steadily rising crude oil prices and continued strong demand in the United States and China helped contribute to the high costs.
In early December, U.S. retail gasoline prices fell for the ninth week in a row but the price was still 24 cents higher than a year ago. The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline dropped 92 cents since reaching $3.07, in part because crude prices have come down from their $70-a-barrel peak.
President Bush said high gasoline prices amounted to a tax on consumers and businesses, and called on Congress to pass legislation to promote construction of more oil refineries to boost fuel supplies.
"We realize how dependent and how fragile our infrastructure is when it comes to gasoline," Bush said. "In order to take the pressure off your pocketbook, it seems to make sense to me that we need to expand the amount of supply of gasoline."
A new U.S. oil refinery has not been built since the 1970s.
Public or two-legged transportation, anyone?
9. Girls Gone Missing
Natalee Holloway became a household name this year after the Alabama teen vanished while on a class trip to Aruba. Her body still had not been found as of this writing. Holloway's family has accused the Aruban government of mismanaging the search for their daughter and the state of Alabama has encouraged a ban on tourism to the country.
Lunsford was only 9 when she was kidnapped from her own bedroom on Feb. 23, sexually assaulted and killed in Homosassa, Fla. Her body was found March 19 buried behind a mobile home where convicted sex offender John E. Couey was staying. Couey told detectives he fed the girl for three days until he buried her alive in trash bags in the middle of the night — virtually across the street from her home. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.
In the wake of Lunsford's death, her family, community and lawmakers called for toughening the state's laws against sexual offenders.
Jetseta Gage, 10, was kidnapped from her home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 24. Her body was found about a day later at an abandoned mobile home in a rural area about 45 miles south of the girl's home. Roger Paul Bentley, 37, of Brandon, has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. Bentley was a convicted sex offender at the time of Gage's killing; he was convicted in 1994 of lascivious acts with a child and served two years of a five-year sentence.
8. BTK Mystery Solved
The killer who terrorized Witchita, Kan., during a 17-year murder spree from 1974 to 1991 was finally caught in February.
On Aug. 10, Dennis Rader received 10 consecutive life sentences — one for each of his victims — for a minimum of 175 years behind bars without the possibility of parole. Rader dubbed himself BTK — which stands for "bind, torture, kill" — as he taunted media and police with cryptic messages about the crimes. Rader had been a full participant in his community, serving as an animal control officer and helping out in local Cub Scouts and churches.
After more than two decades of silence, the BTK killer resurfaced in March 2004 when he re-established contact with a letter to a newspaper about an unsolved 1986 killing.
Since then, authorities said the killer — called a "monster" and other things by families of his victims during the sentencing hearings — sent at least eight more letters to the media or police, including three that contained jewelry police believed may have been taken from the victims.
"He snuffed out 10 people's lives who had done nothing," said Kevin Bright, who was injured by Rader and whose sister Kathryn Bright was killed.
"I brought the community, victims and families dishonor," Rader said after his sentence. "It's all self-centered. ... I would call myself a sexual predator. Today is the day of judgment for me."
7. Terri Schiavo: Life-or-Death Issues
The case of one severely brain-damaged woman, Terri Schiavo, brought an epic life-or-death battle to the forefront of America's conscience — and to the highest court in the land.
Schiavo was 26 when she collapsed in her apartment in 1990 and was left with irreversible brain damage. Her parents and siblings fought to keep her alive, arguing that she had some level of consciousness and interacted with them when they visited the hospice she was in. Her husband, Michael, fought his in-laws in court for eight years to end her life, arguing that his wife wouldn't have wanted to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. Her feeding tube was removed in 2003 for six days before Gov. Jeb Bush pushed through a law to have it reinserted.
Schiavo's feeding tube was removed again March 18, 2005. Congressional leaders from both parties passed a bill that would allow a federal court to review the case and prolong Schiavo's life; President Bush signed it March 21. But the Supreme Court repeatedly refused to hear her parents' argument that the tube should be reinserted. The Vatican even weighed in, saying the removal of the feeding tube was a violation of the principles of Christianity and civilization.
Schiavo died on March 31. The case sparked a national debate and lengthy legal battle over right-to-die issues and the role of judges and caused about 20 states to introduce or pass bills strengthening and defining terms of consent and guardianship when it comes to life-prolonging medical procedures and decisions.
6. Michael Jackson verdict
The world saw more evidence in 2005 that Jacko is wacko.
Michael Jackson was acquitted on June 14 of all 10 counts in the child molestation case that involved a 13-year-old male cancer survivor and which the alleged victim's family claimed took place at the pop star's Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif., in 2003.
The verdict — reached after about 30 hours of deliberations over seven days — ended a star-studded, four-month trial that offered a look into Jackson's weird world and presented jurors with vastly different portraits of him: a creepy pervert who preyed on little boys, or the victim of a frame-up by a family of shakedown artists.
The charges Jackson faced included four counts that he molested the boy and conspired to hold his family captive. Jackson also was charged with providing the boy with wine — what the pop star called "Jesus juice" — and conspiring with members of his inner circle to hold the accuser and his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary. Actor Macaulay Culkin and comedians Jay Leno and Chris Tucker testified for the defense.
Near the end of the trial, the pop artist known for his electric, moonwalking performances just sat motionless in his courtroom chair, looking like a ghost of his former self. One day he showed up from the hospital in his pajamas just minutes before the judge issued a warrant for his arrest after he didn't show up for court.
Fans were always present to greet Jackson as he arrived at the courthouse, often flanked by parents Katherine and Joe Jackson, sisters LaToya and Rebbie, and brothers Randy and Jackie. But what began as a huge throng of fans who skipped their usual daily routine to show their support for the King of Pop eventually became just a handful of supporters near the end of the legal ordeal.
Jackson never took the stand but the jury heard him on a videotape making such remarks as "I'm not a nut" and "I haven't been betrayed or deceived by children. Adults have let me down."
Click here to read about Stories No. 5 through No. 1, which include highlights of the judicial wrangling over the Supreme Court, the CIA leak investigation, Iraq's rough road to democracy and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — and the devastating Pakistan earthquake that killed 87,000 people.