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Stories that grabbed us in 2011: Rogues, thieves, porn and more

December 30, 2011 |  7:00 am

Arnold_and_Maria
A philandering governor. An inmate, an ex-girlfriend and an accusation of rape. A sprawling hodgepodge of buildings that has neighbors up in arms. And an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands.

Stories on these topics were the most-read of the year at latimes.com.

But before we get to the headlines that made us cheer, jeer and tear up, take a moment to slap yourself on the back, dear readers. It seems that media pundits are constantly wringing their hands and lamenting the state of long-form journalism, or complaining about the public's seemingly insatiable desire for all things Kardashian. You've proved them wrong.

The stories that were most widely read were largely hard-hitting investigative pieces or breaking news. There wasn't a Kim, Khloe or Kourtney in the bunch.

PHOTOS: The most-viewed stories of 2011

In fact, the single most popular story on latimes.com in 2011 was the disturbing two-part tale of Louis Gonzalez III, a Las Vegas father who found himself facing life behind bars for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child by tying her up in her Simi Valley home, burning her with matches and sexually assaulting her with a wooden hanger.

"One of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen," is the way one Simi Valley law enforcement officer described the crime scene. A dogged Simi Valley detective set out to collect the evidence to support the woman's claim -- that her ex-boyfriend attacked her -- but the evidence would end up pointing to a more surprising conclusion.

Then there was the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, had separated because she discovered that he had fathered a child with a longtime member of their household.

Readers were also drawn to our extensive coverage of Japan's worst earthquake in recorded history. The temblor occurred March 11, rocking the northeast coast of Japan and triggering a deadly tsunami, the effects of which were felt as far as the Pacific Northwest. In all, more than 15,000 people perished.

Other stories that struck a chord with readers included the tale of Alan Kimble Fahey's homemade, ramshackle labyrinth of buildings that he calls Phonehenge West. Located in Acton, the structure is Fahey's 30-year labor of love. But authorities say it violates practically every building and fire code in the book. And officials are trying to force him to tear it down.

An estimated 15 million poker-playing Americans were affected by this next story: The founders of the three largest online poker sites were indicted on charges including bank fraud and money laundering. Many poker players fretted about the fate of their bettings, and the fate of on-line poker playing. But one of the sites, Full Tilt Poker, defended its business practices and the rights of Americans everywhere to gamble away their hard-earned money. 

Rounding out the rest of our list: the colossal failure of Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, an experimental aircraft capable of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound; a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering California to improve inhumane conditions for state prison inmates; an in-depth look at Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel; and the Los Angeles-based porn industry's shutdown after an adult film performer tested positive for HIV.

But we all know that readers cannot live on news alone. Here's a look at our most-viewed photo galleries of the year.

ALSO:

Photos: The most bizarre travel destinations

Top quirky stories of 2011: The L.A. Now edition

Steve Jobs, Liz Taylor and more: Notable deaths of 2011

--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: In happier days, newly-elected California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver celebrate at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times

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