With 2018 coming to a close, the Aiken Standard has compiled a list of the stories that got the most traffic on aikenstandard.com, based solely on the numbers.

The Top 10

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster orders state offices, schools closed in Aiken County beginning Tuesday

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered the closure of state offices and public schools in 26 counties – including Aiken County – ahead of Hurricane Florence's landfall in September. The closings would go into effect the following day, McMaster said during a hurricane update and briefing. 

State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, tweeted that the schools would likely remain closed for several days. The schools were to be used as evacuation centers and shelters, both McMaster and state Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, said.

"While the weather surrounding Hurricane Florence isn’t expected to directly impact Aiken County, residents evacuating from coastal areas throughout the state will be evacuating to our area, utilizing our schools as shelter," a press release from the Aiken County Public School District read. Updates and information were shared with families via BlackBoard Connect, the Aiken school district's automatic calling system, as well as through its mobile app, website and social media outlets. 

Student brings firearm in backpack to elementary school in Aiken, school district says

A student at Chukker Creek Elementary School was discovered to be carrying a gun to school in his backpack on a morning in mid-November, according to the Aiken County Public School District. The Aiken County School District released an email to parents notifying them of the incident with the firearm that morning. 

As students were preparing to exit their bus that morning, a number of students reported to their bus driver that a 6-year-old student had a gun in his backpack, according to an official statement from the School District. 

"The driver alerted administration, and the Assistant Principal, who was present and supervising morning drop off procedures, immediately addressed the student and spoke with other students who’d made the report," according to the statement. "The student was not allowed to join other students in going to his classroom, but brought directly by administration to our front office," according to the district's email. Local law enforcement was contacted and responded right away, according to the statement.

Former Aiken bank officer sentenced to prison for embezzlement, false tax returns

In late May, an Aiken woman was sentenced to 27 months in prison for embezzlement by a bank officer, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina. 

Carrie B. Caldwell, 40, was a branch manager for Regions Bank in Aiken, according to information presented during her guilty plea and sentencing. During her employment, Caldwell embezzled more than $600,000 from the bank and was stealing from dormant bank accounts to evade detection, according to a release. The money was used to pay for "travel, a boat and other luxury items," according to a release.

Caldwell was sentenced for embezzlement by a bank officer and filing false tax returns. Caldwell also failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars as income to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS worked with the Aiken Department of Public Safety and the United States Secret Service to investigate the case; the case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney T. DeWayne Pearson, according to a release.

Aiken woman charged after dead frozen puppy, freezing pit bull found in her backyard

An Aiken woman was charged with cruelty to animals in January after police found a dog chained up in freezing weather and a frozen dead puppy in a cage. 

Robyn Denise Bacon, 39, of Newberry Street, was charged with cruelty to animals, according Aiken Public Safety. Aiken Public Safety officers responded to a Newberry Street residence for a safety check and, upon arriving, saw a dog chained in the backyard, according to a report. Officers reported it was 15 degrees at the time and the dog was "shivering."

They walked up to the dog and noticed a cage nearby, which had a puppy inside that was dead and "frozen solid," a report states. The bottom of the cage was covered in "waste," which, police reported as appearing to be more than one days worth; and there was a plastic food container in the cage that was turned over and crushed. Both animals were "very skinny" and investigators were able to see their ribs.

The two dogs were taken to the SPCA, and Bacon was given a ticket for cruelty to animals, which included a court date, according to the report.

Lt. Karl Odenthal, with Aiken Public Safety, said Bacon was charged, but "other factors" caused officers to decide not to incarcerate her.

Aiken woman charged in child abuse case

An Aiken woman was charged with cruelty to children in late October in connection to a child abuse investigation dating back to March. 

Mary Frances Canty, 43, of the 600 block of Timberlane Road, was charged with cruelty to children, according to jail records.

On March 2, officers with the Aiken Department of Public Safety responded to a middle school in reference to a suspected case of child abuse, according to the report.

The suspect claimed corporal punishment was not her first option for discipline, but when she does use it – she uses a belt, according to the report.

Aiken named South's best small town by Southern Living magazine

Southern Living, a nationally acclaimed lifestyle and tourism magazine, named the City of Aiken its No. 1 small town for 2018 in late March.

"This town is a picture postcard waiting to happen, from the iconic archway of live oaks along South Boundary Avenue and serene Hopelands Gardens to the strong thoroughbreds you might see warming up in the early-morning light," the magazine's look at the city reads.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon unveiled the magazine cover, which solely features South Boundary Avenue and its lolling oaks, at a Tuesday morning conference.

Southern Living's written exploration of the city stresses the community's equestrian roots, its sprinklings of wilderness – think Hitchcock Woods – and its "variety of eclectic eateries, galleries, and shops, often tucked behind storefronts" near and along Laurens Street.

Aiken was also voted the South's friendliest town for 2018, according to Southern Living.

Aiken woman charged with DUI in fatal collision on Augusta Road

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety charged an Aiken woman with driving under the influence where death results, driving under suspension, uninsured motor vehicle fee violation and possession of suspended, cancelled or revoked cards mid-September in connection to a fatal collision on Augusta Road in Warrenville.

Kala McKubbin Gantt, 30, is charged with driving under the influence where death results, driving under suspension, uninsured motor vehicle fee violation and possession of suspended, cancelled or revoked cards, according to jail records.

South Carolina Highway Patrol responded to an accident involving a motorcycle and car on the 1400 block of Augusta Road in Warrenville around 5:40 a.m. on Sept. 11, where 26-year-old Tron D. Lampkin, of Augusta, was pronounced dead at the scene, said Lance Cpl. Judd Jones, with Highway Patrol.

Domestic-related shooting along Richland Avenue ends in arrest in Aiken

Police responded to a shooting at the Kalmia Plaza shopping center in Aiken on an afternoon in mid-July. No one was injured, according to an Aiken Department of Public Safety spokesperson, but a bullet did hit a car on the other side of Richland Avenue.

Aiken man arrested in connection to 6-year-old bringing gun to elementary school

The Aiken Department of Public Safety charged an Aiken man in connection to the previously listed incident in which a 6-year-old was discovered to be carrying a gun in his backpack to Chukker Creek Elementary School on a morning in mid-November.

Marquise Ervin, 24, was charged with two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and simple possession of marijuana, according to jail records.

Aiken Mall building closed to public, three stores keep doors open

The Aiken Mall developer remains confident demolition of the mall will begin near the end of 2018 or the start of 2019. "We're right on target," Southeastern Development Associates CEO Vic Mills said, later adding that tear down won't happen until a final site plan is finalized and submitted. 

Mills announced the 2018-2019 demolition window during a press conference at the Aiken County Government Center in April.

Mills said a bowling alley, a movie theater, department stores, restaurants and "other retailers" are still options on the mall redevelopment table.

Honorable Mention

Do any sex offenders live near you? Online registries provide searchable resource

A free online sex offender registry is offered by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. The registry allows users to see any registered sex offenders who lives near or around a specific address.

Aiken Regional Medical Centers hit with $13.75 million judgment

Aiken Regional Medical Centers must pay a triple amputee nearly $14 million in damages, in a medical malpractice case, according to a verdict reached by an Aiken County jury in late February.

Aiken couple appear on Showtime's 'Who Is America?'

Republican supporter Jane Page Thompson and her husband, Mark, appeared in one of the segments on the first episode of “Who Is America?,” English actor Sacha Baron Cohen's new show on Showtime in mid-July.

Wild Wing Cafe scheduled to open on Aiken's Southside later this year

A Wild Wing Cafe franchise was scheduled to open in the building on Aiken’s Southside where a Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar used to be located. As of December, the plans have been put on hold.

Body of missing Williston woman discovered in single-vehicle collision in Wagener

The Aiken County Coroner's Office announced in late-September the identity of a driver involved in a fatal single-vehicle wreck discovered in Wagener as a local woman who was reported missing more than a month prior.