As 2012 winds down, the Lake Sun looks back at some of the stories that made the biggest impact in Camden, Miller and Morgan Counties.

They were crimes that shocked the lake area. Within two weeks in the first half of February 2012, crimes committed against defenseless children brought a national spotlight on child abuse at the Lake of the Ozarks. It began on Feb. 3 with a bizarre emergency call that led authorities to the grim discovery of an infant with its throat slit. The baby needed "emergency life-saving treatment," but the child survived. It's mother, Bradie Simpson, had claimed previously that she feared she would hurt the child. Simpson now sits in jail and awaits trial for first-degree assault in a change of venue to Morgan County.

Not two weeks after Simpson assaulted her baby, another child, three-year-old Blake Litton died after being severely beaten by his mother's boyfriend, T.J. Presley. Presley then staged a crime scene to get off the hook. Morgan County authorities didn't buy it and charged Presley with second-degree murder. Blake's mother, Jamie Litton, failed to act when details emerged that she knew about the beating and the Morgan County prosecutor charged her with murder as well.

The fallout? Television show host Nancy Grace picked up Blake's story, demanding first-degree murder charges for Litton and Presley. The Lake Sun featured a 25-part series on child abuse. Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty and state representative Rodney Schad vowed that this type of crime would never happen again.

Litton and Presley have since been upgraded to first-degree murder and the pair, along with Simpson, will face trial in 2013.