Top 11 stories of 2011 on ajc.com

What a year! When a January snowstorm shut down metro Atlanta for a week, the newsy year was just beginning.

Tornadoes ripped through the area in April, killing 15 people and nearly devastating the north Georgia town of Ringgold. The Atlanta Braves ended a promising run during the homestretch with an epic collapse when it mattered most. And an investigation into Atlanta Public Schools revealed widespread cheating among educators when reporting student achievement.

Those were just some of the thousands of stories that pulled in readers to ajc.com during 2011. Readers also had photo galleries, blog posts and editorial cartoons right at their fingertips.

We've compiled a list of our Top 11 stories of 2011, based solely on the number of page views.

11. Midtown shooting spree: A University of Georgia graduate was killed and two others wounded when a former security guard, Nkosi Thandiwe, allegedly opened fire around lunchtime July 16 in a parking deck. Brittney Watts, 26, lived in Decatur at the time of her death, but grew up in Roswell and worked as a digital media planner. Lauren Garcia, then a 23-year-old intern for Midtown public relations firm the MSL Atlanta, and her co-worker, Tiffany Ferenczy, were also injured. Thandiwe pleaded not guilty at his November indictment.

10. Auburn tree-killing: When the 130-year old oak trees at Toomer's Corner near Auburn University were poisoned with a herbicide, a University of Alabama fan who admitted to it on a radio show. Harvey Almorn Updyke, a lifelong fan of the Crimson Tide, was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal mischief for the heist. Updyke, however, didn't attend either school. He pleaded not guilty to the crime and has a Jan. 5 court date.

9. Girl, 4, dies of alcohol poisoning: The father and aunt of a 4-year-old Alpharetta girl were charged with her murder after investigators determined the girl died from "extreme alcohol poisoning." Police declined to say how or why the girl consumed the alcohol and were searching for her mother, a Haitian national.

8. CDC executive accused of child molestation, bestiality: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official charged with two counts of child molestation and bestiality for sexual acts involving a 6-year-old boy spent two nights in jail in October before posting bond. The boyfriend of Kimberly Quinlan Lindsey, Thomas Westerman, was also arrested. Lindsey returned to work at the end of November, according to her attorney.

7. Bishop Eddie Long's wife wants divorce: In the span of a few hours, Vanessa Long announced she was filing for divorce, then announced she had changed her mind, then changed it back again and filed for divorce from the embattled New Birth Missionary Baptist pastor. In the divorce filing, Vanessa Long said her marriage was "irretrievably broken" and there was "no hope of reconciliation." The couple has been in a "state of separation," according to the petition. Long later told his congregation he was temporarily stepping down as head of the church.

6. Lawsuit seeks to dissolve north Fulton cities:  The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit in March asking the state of Georgia to dissolve the cities of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, and Chattahoochee Hills, calling them "super-majority white neighborhoods."

5. APS cheating scandal: A report released by Gov. Nathan Deal in July revealed unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior at nearly every level of Atlanta Public Schools in a scandal that centered on changing student test scores.

4. Woman falls from W Hotel: The boyfriend of the woman who fell to her death through a hotel window said he grabbed onto the back of her hair. But it wasn't enough to stop 30-year-old LaShawna Threatt from falling from the 10th floor of the W Atlanta-Midtown hotel during Memorial Day weekend. Threat's friend, Cierra Williams, 25, was critically injured in the fall.

3. High school coach beaten: Warren County football Coach David Daniel was seriously injured following a post-game brawl. More than 30 Hancock County players allegedly attacked the Warren County players after losing 21-2, a fight that may have started when Warren County players were locked out of the locker room. Daniel was injured when he tried to intervene. A Warren County grand jury is now reviewing the case.

2. Troy Davis execution: Troy Anthony Davis, the man convicted of killing an off-duty Savannah police officer in 1989, proclaimed his innocence right up until his execution by lethal injection in September.

1. Buckhead IHOP scuffle: In a scuffle captured on a cell phone camera, IHOP patron Ashley Leavell was arrested and charged with felony obstruction, public drunkeness and simple battery after she punched an Atlanta police officer in the face. The officer, who was trying to get the woman to leave the restaurant, punched back, the video showed. Two of Leavell's friends were also arrested.