The space shuttle Endeavour made its last journey through the streets of the South Bay, a World War II battleship sailed its final voyage into a berth in San Pedro, Mexican smugglers tried to slip in boats onto beaches in the dark and a Hawthorne rocket company sent a spaceship into orbit.

The year 2012 also saw a strike at the Port of Los Angeles, a spike in violence in Wilmington and an effort to stop it, a Lomita restaurateur's ghastly murder confession, a horrifying attack on a young family, and a Hollywood movie director's suicide.

Here are the Top 10 stories of 2012 in the South Bay and Harbor Area, in no particular order:

Union clerical workers picketed four port terminals Thursday on the first day of a strike. A lone striker on Front Street waves to a truck driver after he
Union clerical workers picketed four port terminals Thursday on the first day of a strike. A lone striker on Front Street waves to a truck driver after he honked his horn in support. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

Endeavour's historic final journey

The space shuttle Endeavour's final flight into Los Angeles in September drew hordes of people outside, everyone gazing upward to get a look at the retired orbiter riding piggyback atop a Boeing 747.

The shuttle that was built in Palmdale and made 25 space missions buzzed area landmarks on a sunny Friday morning before making its final landing at Los Angeles International Airport - an event that will go down in history books.

And so, too, will its meticulously planned (but not necessarily problem-free) 2-mph journey a few weeks later to the California Science Center. Because never before has a space shuttle traveled along 12 miles of L.A. surface streets.

To prepare for it, crews laid down steel plates to stabilize streets, pulled out traffic signals, chopped down trees and blocked sidewalks - the latter two moves drawing controversy.

The Endeavour ventured into Westchester in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, attracting crowds to a shopping plaza behind Sepulveda Boulevard, where it was parked until the afternoon.

David Viens looks around to the gallery during his murder trial for killing his wife Dawn Viens. Closing statements played out in LA Criminal Court.
David Viens looks around to the gallery during his murder trial for killing his wife Dawn Viens. Closing statements played out in LA Criminal Court. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer)

It eventually headed into Inglewood, where the shuttle received a big welcome the next morning at The Forum, and then South Los Angeles, falling behind schedule along the way. The narrowness of certain streets, obstacles posed by trees lining the course and equipment failure were to blame.

Some 15 hours delayed, the orbiter finally reached its new home in Exposition Park on Sunday, Oct. 14. It will be on display in a temporary science center pavilion until a new addition is completed.

- Kristin S. Agostoni

Strike cripples ports of L.A. and Long Beach

In a blow to the Southern California economy, an eight-day strike by a relatively small bargaining unit of clerical workers shut down most operations at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles at the end of November and beginning of December.

The strike, the first major work stoppage at the nation's largest port complex since a 10-day lockout in 2002, happened at one of the quietest times of the year for cargo movement - after most of the Christmas-season goods had arrived in warehouses. But the action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit still caused plenty of disruption for retailers, shippers and terminal operators.

Some retail groups called on President Barack Obama to intervene in the dispute, but negotiators from both sides - with help from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa - reached an agreement on Dec. 4. By the next morning, operations were once again fully under way at the 10 terminals affected by the strike.

Palos Verdes Estates police took three men into custody who were followed by the Coast Guard from San Diego waters piloting a panga full of bales of
Palos Verdes Estates police took three men into custody who were followed by the Coast Guard from San Diego waters piloting a panga full of bales of marijuana. (Robert Casillas / Staff Photographer)

Both sides claimed victory, with management officials pleased that they will not have to fill every open position and union negotiators glad they had protected the job of most of their members.

- Brian Sumers

For San Pedro, 2012 could go down as a turning point.

The USS Iowa battleship finally arrived in the Port of Los Angeles this year, culminating a long-running campaign to save the ship and turn it into a memorial. Along with continued work to beautify the waterfront and plans for other attractions, the Iowa ignited hopes that San Pedro was finally coming into its own as a tourist destination.

In this image provided by NASA with clouds and land forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm
In this image provided by NASA with clouds and land forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station Friday May 25, 2012. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers grappled Dragon at 9:56 a.m. (EDT) and used the robotic arm to berth Dragon to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node at 12:02 p.m. May 25, 2012. Dragon became the first commercially developed space vehicle to be launched to the station. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA) (The Associated Press)

On June 9, the historic World War II ship that once carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic was brought up the port's Main Channel. There to greet it was a marching band and thousands of flag-waving fans lining the waterfront amid high hopes that the moment would mark the town's turning point.

The ship opened for public tours on July 7, following an emotional weeklong reunion in which hundreds of former Iowa crewmen gathered from throughout the nation to go on board again for the first time in decades.

In the months since it arrived, the storied Navy ship - nicknamed the Big Stick - already has proven to be a hit with Hollywood, with film crews from shows such as "NCIS Los Angeles" using it for extended location shoots.

The ship remains a work in progress as the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center continues to prepare more areas of the vessel for expanded tours.

And it remains to be seen whether interest in the ship can be sustained after its initial, highly publicized first-year rollout.

- Donna Littlejohn

Film director takes own life

Hollywood director Tony Scott's fatal leap last summer from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro drew international headlines and shook the entertainment industry.

Though authorities were reluctant to release Scott's name shortly after it happened, the Daily Breeze was the first to report that the man who jumped indeed was Scott.

The 68-year-old brother of film director Ridley Scott had climbed a fence on the south side of the bridge's apex and leapt off "without hesitation" around 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 19. Sonar equipment and dive crews searched for Scott's body for four hours beneath the murky waters of Los Angeles Harbor.

Known for his trademark red baseball cap, Scott broke into Hollywood royalty when he directed Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," one of the highest-grossing films of 1986. He also directed the cinematic hits "Days of Thunder," "Beverly Hills Cop II," "Enemy of the State" and "The Taking of Pelham 123," and served as co-producer on the CBS television dramas "NUMB3 RS" and "The Good Wife."

The reason behind Scott's suicide is still a mystery, but an autopsy later revealed that the director had an antidepressant and sleep aid in his system when he died.

- Art Marroquin

Lomita chef's murder trial reveals shocking details

Lomita restaurateur David Viens admitted in 2011 to killing his wife, but investigators who took his confession did not release details of what happened to the woman missing since Oct. 18, 2009.

As Viens' murder trial opened in September, it was clear that Viens' confession would be the most compelling evidence against him in the slaying of his 39-year-old wife, Dawn. But what actually happened to her and where were her remains?

As the trial progressed, Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil slowly built to the alarming revelation, eliciting testimony from Viens' daughter that her father had admitted to her that he covered his wife's mouth with duct tape and tied her up when she was making too much noise as he tried to sleep. Dawn Viens vomited and suffocated, and he tossed her in the garbage.

In the final days of the prosecution, however, Brazil played two confessions that Viens gave detectives shortly after he jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff when the heat was on. The first echoed the story he told his daughter. The second was far more ghastly. Viens said he spent four days cooking his wife's body in a large pot in the kitchen at Thyme Contemporary Cafe, disposing of her remains in his grease trap and placing her skull in his mother's attic. It was never found.

Jurors convicted Viens of second-degree murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on Feb. 1.

- Larry Altman

Battle against ocean border crossings intensifies, turns deadly

U.S. Coast Guard and other federal border control authorities stepped up their efforts in 2012 to prevent Mexican fishing boats loaded with marijuana or people from sneaking onto South Bay beaches in the early morning hours. Arrests increased, but the efforts proved costly, with one U.S. Coast Guardsman from Redondo Beach killed in the battle.

In March, 15 men, four women and a boy were detained when they tried to enter California on a panga in El Segundo. The boat hit the shore at 6:45 a.m. south of the Chevron refinery near the NRG power plant on Vista del Mar, federal officials said. Police on shore were waiting and nabbed them all.

In October, Coast Guard officers followed a 28-foot panga full of marijuana bales from San Diego to Palos Verdes Estates, where police arrested three suspected smugglers when they came ashore.

In December, Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, died as he and his U.S. Coast Guard unit tried to intercept a panga used in drug smuggling near Santa Cruz Island. Authorities said the panga purposely slammed into a Coast Guard vessel, killing Horne. Two men were charged with killing an officer of the United States who was engaged in his official duties.

- Larry Altman

Spike in homicides plagues Wilmington

Dozens of Los Angeles police officers were shifted to patrols in Wilmington in January when a troubling rise in violence hit the Harbor Area community.

In just the first two months of the year, seven people were killed in Wilmington. Even police came under fire when homicide suspects tried to shoot police officers.

Besides the police response, residents also took to the streets, holding regular peace marches and prayer vigils to encourage bringing order to their community. Many became more active on social media sites connected to Wilmington, keeping track of crime and demanding action.

The violence was linked to gangs, drugs, personal issues and a power vacuum of young gang leaders trying to fill the void of older gang members in prison.

In March, police announced the arrests of two 19-year-old gang members suspected of killing a rival Wilmington gang member. Police believed the suspects also were heavily involved in the spate of violence.

Although a shooting or killing occurred occasionally throughout the rest of the year, the daily violence that plagued Wilmington in early 2012 subsided significantly.

- Larry Altman

Hawthorne company blasts rocket into space

Hawthorne rocket developer SpaceX achieved a historic milestone in May when its Dragon space capsule became the first privately made craft to berth with the International Space Station.

The achievement represented a transformational event for NASA, which wants commercial businesses like SpaceX to take over supplying and transporting astronauts to the space station.

That would save money and allow NASA to concentrate on deeper-space programs, including sending crews to Mars.

SpaceX, whose official name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., followed its May berthing with a second successful mission to the orbiting laboratory in October.

- Muhammed El-Hasan

Stunning charges against teacher sparks outrage

The news was as shocking as it was disgusting. A Torrance man who taught at a Florence-area school for 30 years was under arrest in February, suspected of photographing his young students with their eyes blindfolded, allowing cockroaches to crawl over their faces, and feeding them his semen in "tasting" games.

Detectives believed Berndt, 61, used his Miramonte Elementary School students to act out scenes similar to an adult bondage video found in his apartment.

"What kind of scum would do something like this?" Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said at the time.

Authorities began investigating Berndt months earlier when a film lab turned his photographs over to police. Berndt resigned from his job, the Board of Education fired him, and he is awaiting prosecution.

His arrest sparked a series of police and media investigations into the misconduct of other teachers working in the Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts. The outcry prompted L.A. Unified officials to implement new policies in how parents would be notified if an employee at their child's school was accused of misconduct.

- Larry Altman

Father, son slain in neighbor's attack on Inglewood family

A heroic Inglewood father was buried with his 4-year-old son cradled in his left arm in a single coffin in October, a week after a gunman burst into their house and opened fire on their family.

About 1,000 people attended the heartbreaking funeral services In Hawthorne for Filimon Lamas, 33, and his son, Giovani, who were laid to rest at a Redondo Beach cemetery.

On Oct. 20, Desmond John Moses, a 55-year-old hoarder living in a back house on the Lamas' rented property, entered the family's house and started shooting. Lamas and his wife, Gloria Jimenez,tried to shield their three boys and daughter.

Lamas, who owned Chip's restaurant in Hawthorne, was found draped over his children. Jimenez, both knees shot with bullets, ran into the street with Giovani, who had been mortally wounded in the head. Their eldest, an 8-year-old boy, was unhurt. But bullets struck their 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, who are recovering.

Moses set fire to his backhouse and killed himself. His remains were found in the debris.

The stunning gun-related attack moved residents from across the South Bay and Southern California to send donations to assist them. Hawthorne and Inglewood police opened funds and conducted online auctions to raise money.

- Larry Altman