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Bee Gee Maurice Gibb dies unexpectedly in January, leaving a heartbroken family behind.

Music was a family affair for the Bee Gees. From the time they were young, twins Maurice and Robin and brother Barry Gibb were “three kids who wanted to be like the Beatles,” Maurice told PEOPLE in 2001. As teenagers, after the native Brits moved with their family to Australia, they got their wish, signing their first record contract in 1963.

It was the disco era that would bring the most fame for the sibling trio known for their pitch-perfect harmonies on multiplatinum-selling albums such as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Yet after their enormous success in the 1970s, the Bee Gees bore the brunt of the anti-disco backlash of the 1980s. Still, Maurice (pronounced Morris), known as the funny Bee Gee, didn’t let it bother him. “It only infringes on our fun if we start to believe everything people say,” he told PEOPLE in 2001.

In fact, Maurice was leading a contented life when he died on Jan. 12 after having emergency intestinal surgery at Miami’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. Reportedly, before undergoing surgery, Maurice had first suffered a heart attack. His brothers, who thought of Mo (as they called him) as the glue that kept them together, questioned the fact that an operation took place after he suffered from “the shock of a cardiac arrest. We believe negligence occurred,” Barry told a British newspaper, PEOPLE noted in January. In August, the brothers brought a lawsuit against the hospital, charging that his death was preventable and caused by error or incompetence, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that month.

Maurice, who was married to his second wife, Yvonne, and had two grown children, Adam, 27, and Samantha, 22, had recently opened Mo’s Paintball Shop in Miami. He had overcome his struggle with drinking (which had been exacerbated by younger brother Andy’s death in 1988) and been sober since 1991. Maurice was also busy making music with the Bee Gees.

Though his brothers vowed to continue to work as a duo, it was clear that things would never be the same for the Bee Gees without Maurice. “Barry and Robin had the voices, but the point was the blend of the three,” producer Karl Richardson told Entertainment Weekly in January. “And that sound is now history.”

The demise of the Columbia space shuttle shocks and saddens the world.

Though they hailed from all over the world – including Texas, India and Israel – the seven-member NASA team that piloted the Columbia space shuttle flight was more like a family than a random selection of astronauts.

“I never got the impression that they would go up in space, do their thing and then not see each other,” Andrew Cline, an instructor who led the septet on a grueling but bonding 11-day training mission in the wilds of Wyoming in August 2001, told PEOPLE in February.

Sadly, the team never got the chance to test the bonds of their fast-growing friendship. What should have been a relatively routine voyage home for the Columbia turned into an international tragedy when, on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. EST, it disintegrated 200,000 ft. above Texas.

A videotape recovered from the ship showed the team – mission commander Rick Husband, 45; pilot William McCool, 41; payload specialist Ilan Ramon, 48; mission specialist Kalpana Chawla, 41; mission specialist David Brown, 46; payload commander Michael Anderson, 43; and mission specialist Laurel Clark, 41 – settling into their return to Cape Canaveral, Fla., minutes before the shuttle’s demise.

Though it had safely traveled 6 million miles through outer space on its scientific mission, upon its descent the shuttle began to lose insulating tiles, which were designed to protect it from the intense heat an aircraft experiences upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere (up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit), Time reported in March. Other factors were at work as well (“multiple failures on top of one another,” former astronaut Tom Henricks told Time), but the ultimate outcome was that just minutes before it was supposed to land, the ship broke apart. The tragedy occurred 17 years after the loss of the shuttle Challenger in January 1986, and echoed the loss of the Apollo 1 in 1967.

“To me, there’s a lot of different things that we do during life that could potentially harm us, and I choose not to stop doing those things,” Clark had said, according to Time in February. Though the mission ended in disaster, the astronauts aboard the Columbia had been given a chance to live their dreams of traveling in space.

U.S.-led coalition forces enter Iraq and embark on a still-unfinished mission.

Since childhood, Shane Childers knew exactly what he wanted to be. “He said he was going to join the Marines and be an officer,” classmate Gary Crawford, 31, told PEOPLE in April. “He said it with such confidence, we knew it would happen.” And it did.

But on March 31, following a record of military service that included a stint in Desert Storm, 2nd Lt. Childers, 30, became the first soldier killed in action during the war in Iraq, a military action whose motives (the search for weapons of mass destruction) and consequences are still being debated. Following much discussion within the United States and the international community – and despite opposition from allies such as France and Germany – U.S.-led coalition forces began war in Iraq, starting with targeted bombings on March 19. By April 11, Saddam Hussein and his regime were removed from power.

President Bush declared the “mission accomplished” in May, but soldiers are now embarked on an altogether tougher mission – to bring peace, stability and services to Iraq amid more violence and guerrilla warfare. American support for the war has wavered throughout 2003, as more than 425 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq.

For Childers, it was the ultimate sacrifice to his country. Said his mother, Judy, “He died doing what he loved best, and that was being a Marine.”

Laci Peterson’s body is found and now husband Scott’s fate rests in the hands of a jury.

A happy marriage, a nice house, a baby on the way – Scott and Laci Peterson appeared the ideal couple.

But when Laci’s remains and those of her unborn son, Conner, were found separately washed ashore near the San Francisco Bay on April 13 and 14, that picture was forever changed. Four days after the bodies were found, Scott was arrested near the Mexican border in San Diego, with his brown hair dyed reddish-blond and carrying $10,000 in cash. He has since pleaded not guilty to double murder charges (the cause of death has not been determined) and awaits trial in a Modesto, Calif., jail.

“They were a happy couple,” Laci’s mom, Sharon Rocha, told PEOPLE in February of the college sweethearts. “There wasn’t any reason to suspect problems.”

At first Laci’s family stood by her husband, who reported the 27-year-old missing from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002. His story was that he had returned from a fishing trip at the Berkeley Marina to find Laci’s purse in their house and her car in the driveway, but no sign of his wife. “There’s too much love there,” her stepfather, Ron Grantski, told PEOPLE in January. Early on in the ordeal, Rocha had said she talked with Scott daily, to “tell him we love him.”

But by April, when the bodies surfaced near where Scott, 31, said he had gone fishing, things had changed significantly. He had sold Laci’s Range Rover and briefly had put their house on the market, angering her family. Even more disturbing was the revelation that Scott was having an affair with a Fresno masseuse at the time of Laci’s death. According to police, before Laci’s disappearance, Scott had told Amber Frey, 28, that he had “lost his wife” and that “this would be his first holiday without” her, PEOPLE reported in November.

Scott and Frey apparently had met a month before Laci went missing. Unaware that he was married, Frey, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, introduced him to friends and family. “They looked really happy together, like any other couple in love,” a friend told PEOPLE in May. They also kept in contact after news of the disappearance broke, likely making Frey, who is cooperating with authorities, a key witness in the upcoming trial.

Meanwhile, Peterson’s lawyers – led by high-profile attorney Mark Geragos – are investigating tips about a strange van observed near the Petersons’ house, a burglary across the street and a witness who saw Laci outside accompanied by two other people. Scott’s family also has publicly pledged loyalty to him.

“We’re not giving up until the killers are caught and Scott is free,” his father, Lee Peterson, said in June.

Of the killer, Laci’s mother said in May: “I can only hope that the sound of Laci’s voice begging for life, begging for the life of her unborn child, is heard over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life.”

A former White House intern admits to having an affair with President John F. Kennedy when she was 19.

She was just another summer intern in 1962, one of many in John F. Kennedy’s White House. But 41 years later, Marion Fahnestock became known as the college student who had had an affair with the President.

Now a New York City-based church administrator and grandmother of four, Fahnestock was 19 years old when, after her first year at Wheaton College, she began her internship. According to a June 2003 issue of PEOPLE, Marion “Mimi” Beardsley (her maiden name) had been hired after JFK spotted the Red Bank, N.J., native while on a visit to the White House during her senior year of high school to interview First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

Though Mimi could neither type nor take shorthand, she traveled on business trips with the President, which had left some wondering about her relationship with him, PEOPLE noted in May. Barbara Gamerekian, then an assistant to Kennedy’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, revealed during a 1964 oral-history interview that she suspected an affair took place between the President and Mimi.

The transcript had been sealed after the interview. But Gamarekian, now a retired reporter, confided her suspicions to writer Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (released in May), after he read her interview while researching at the John F. Kennedy Library. On April 24, the library released 17 pages of the original Gamarekian transcript.

Soon after, Fahnestock admitted her dalliance with Kennedy. “From June 1962 to November 1963, I was involved in a sexual relationship with President Kennedy,” Fahnestock said in a statement in May.

“Having a tryst with a 19-year-old doesn’t speak all that well of (JFK’s) judgment,” Dallek told PEOPLE, “but it does speak to the difference of the media in his day. The media of the 1960s was not going to reveal these personal triangles of his sex life. The media today is very different.”

Army private Jessica Lynch returns to her West Virginia hometown a military hero.

Though she arrived in Iraq as just one of many members of the U.S. military, Jessica Lynch left as a symbol of heroism and the recipient of the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the POW medal.

But on July 22, when Lynch, 20, made a happy return to her tiny hometown of Palestine, W. Va., she seemed confused by all the hoopla. “I had no idea so many people knew I was missing,” she said, according to an August issue of PEOPLE.

Lynch’s story began on March 23, when her Army unit, part of a supply convoy in the 507th Maintenance Company, took a wrong turn to the Iraqi town of Nasiriya, where they were ambushed by members of Saddam Hussein’s fedayeen fighters. “We were outnumbered 10 to 1,” specialist James Grubb, a member of the unit, told PEOPLE in August. “They started to rush at us like kids to an ice cream cone.”

At the time, Lynch was in a Humvee with other members of her unit, which collided with another vehicle. Lynch survived the accident (which injured her friend Pfc. Lori Piestewa, who later died) but was captured. She also suffered a host of injuries, including a lacerated scalp and fractured bones in her back, right arm, both legs and right foot.

Iraqi lawyer Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief was visiting the Nasiriya General Hospital, where his wife was a nurse, when he spotted Lynch, who was being held as a prisoner of war. In his book Because Each Life Is Precious, which PEOPLE excerpted in October, he claims he risked his life to alert the Marines about the soldier’s whereabouts.

Reports are conflicting as to whether Lynch was in grave danger or, as Dr. Anmar Uday, a physician at the hospital, told PEOPLE in June, she was treated as “our special guest.”

What is clear is that after being rescued during a dramatic Marine commando raid on the hospital on April 1, Lynch began her slow but steady road to recovery. The former Miss Congeniality (she earned the title at a beauty pageant at the 2000 Wirt County Fair) is now engaged to Army Sgt. Ruben Contreras, 24. And she is telling her side of the story in a book, I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, released in November.

Sexual assault charges against Kobe Bryant create a media frenzy.

The dog days of August were anything but relaxing for Kobe Bryant. Instead of basking in basketball’s off-season, the NBA star headed to court to face rape charges.

He wasn’t alone. When Bryant, 25, made his first court appearance in Eagle, Colo., on Aug. 6, he was met by more than 500 reporters. The following day, Court TV petitioned Judge Frederick Gannett to allow the network to remain in the courtroom during Bryant’s October hearing. Though the request was denied, the media circus continued, even after Bryant refused to talk to press either before or following his 10-minute court appearance.

The basketball player’s seemingly charmed life – a beautiful young wife, a baby daughter, fame and renown as an NBA star, lucrative sponsorship deals – was first turned upside down when Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old concierge at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo., on June 30.

After first denying that an encounter took place, Bryant appeared before reporters on July 18 with wife Vanessa and acknowledged that he had had sexual contact with his accuser. “I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery,” he said. “And I love my wife with all my heart.” Regarding the accusations, he insisted, “I am innocent of the charges filed today.”

But Eagle County prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said he had a solid case against Bryant. “The decision (to pursue charges) came only after reviewing all the evidence – testimonial evidence and physical evidence – and conferring with prosecutors from around the state. Then and only then did I make my decision,” Hurlbert said.

On Oct. 20, Judge Frederick Gannett ruled that Bryant will have to stand trial; he was arraigned on Nov. 10. He faces a charge of one count of sexual assault – a felony that can carry a prison term of four years to life and a probation period of 20 years to life.

Though some members of the basketball community thought Bryant should sit out the season until his case is resolved, the Lakers guard told the press in October: “I have a job to do, and I love playing basketball. So I came out here to give my best effort.”

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck postpone their wedding plans and set tongues a wagging.

For naysayers, it was a moment to gloat. On Sept. 10, just four days before their planned wedding date, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck announced the postponement of their $2 million wedding.

The couple known as Bennifer blamed their decision on the press, who days before had descended on Santa Barbara, Calif., where the nuptials were scheduled to take place. While Lopez and Affleck dined at L.A.’s trendy restaurant the Ivy the night of their announcement, a photographer asked the singer-actress why they split. “Because of you,” she snapped, PEOPLE noted.

But others disagreed. “As the (wedding) date got closer, reality set in that this may not be the person Ben wants to spend the rest of his life with,” a friend of Affleck’s told PEOPLE in September.

Speculation abounded that the couple were splitting for good. And although they retreated to different locations – Affleck, 31, headed to his 83-acre, $7.1 million estate on Hampton Island on the Georgia coast; Lopez, 34, remained at her Miami Beach house – it soon became clear that things were far from over.

The couple made news again when Lopez flew to Georgia on Sept. 19 to be with Affleck. On Sept. 23, the duo ventured to the Liberty County courthouse, where Affleck secured a hunting – not a marriage – license.

It wasn’t long before rumors surfaced that the two planned to elope. On the weekend of Oct. 18, Lopez and Affleck visited Las Vegas, where the actor participated in the Celebrity Poker Showdown, an event in which he, David Schwimmer and others played the game for charity (the event will be televised Dec. 2 on Bravo). As Affleck played cards, Lopez sat in the stands and cheered him on, PEOPLE reported.

Despite such displays of togetherness, it’s unclear what the future holds for the paparazzi-magnet couple. And neither camp is giving out answers. When Affleck’s publicist, Ken Sunshine, was asked by PEOPLE in October whether the pair will tie the knot privately, he answered, “I won’t dignify that with a response.”

California’s historic recall election yields a new title for Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Governator.

It was a scene right out of a movie. Not one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoot-’em-up Terminator epics; perhaps it more closely resembled something out of his touchy-feely 1990 comedy Kindergarten Cop.

On Oct. 7, as Schwarzenegger approached the podium to thank those who had voted him governor of California in the state’s historic recall election, he gushed, “Everything I have is because of California. And today, California has given me the greatest gift of all – you have given me your trust by voting for me.”

It was a shining moment for the Terminator star and former seven-time Mr. Olympia, who pulled in almost 3 million votes to win the state’s top political seat, successfully ousting recalled Gov. Gray Davis and beating Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante by almost a million votes.

When Schwarzenegger first began stumping for governor, he encountered plenty of doubters along the way. “He just says, ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’ and ‘I’m gonna pump you up!'” Democratic political consultant Paul Begala told PEOPLE in August. “Politicians have to at least fake the notion they are running because they have a set of ideas. He doesn’t even pretend.”

The road to victory was indeed bumpy for the bodybuilder turned actor turned politician. He faced accusations from six women who claimed that he had touched them sexually without their consent on movie sets and other places in the past three decades, the Los Angeles Times reported in early October. “Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes, yes, it is true that I was rowdy on movie sets,” Schwarzenegger admitted, according to Reuters, “and I have done things I thought were playful that now I recognize that I have offended people.”

Equally damaging was the report just days before the election that the Terminator star had said in a 1975 interview (part of a transcript from a book proposal obtained by various news outlets including The New York Times) that he admired Hitler. In his defense, Schwarzenegger told members of the press that he didn’t recall making those comments and pointed to his longstanding support for the Jewish human-rights organization The Simon Wiesenthal Center.

And on Oct. 7, just like a hero in one of his action films, Schwarzenegger weathered the storm. For the moment, movies will have to wait. Paul Wachter, Schwarzenegger’s chief financial and investment adviser, told PEOPLE in October, “His No. 1 priority, way above any other priority, is to fix and run the state of California.”

The King of Pop surrenders to police on child molestation charges.

The cameras were rolling and there was plenty of drama, but this was no music video shoot: On Nov. 20, a handcuffed Michael Jackson walked into the Santa Barbara County jail to be booked on multiple charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14.

The alleged victim is a 13-year-old cancer patient who was an overnight guest at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch on several occasions last winter, and reportedly appeared in the British documentary Living with Michael Jackson, which first aired in the states during summer 2003, CNN reported Nov. 24.

After posting a $3 million bond and turning in his passport, Jackson, 45, who is being represented by high-profile attorney Mark Geragos, emerged from the Santa Barbara building less than an hour after entering, flashing a peace sign. The singer is scheduled to be charged after Thanksgiving and arraigned on Jan. 9 in Santa Barbara Superior Court.

The arrest came on the heels of two whirlwind days of media reports speculating whether Jackson would willingly return from Las Vegas, where he was filming the video for his single “One More Chance,” to turn himself in.

The furor first began on Nov. 18, when Santa Barbara County sheriff’s and district attorney’s investigators arrived with a search warrant at Jackson’s ranch. Though Jackson wasn’t there, more than 60 investigators spent the day combing the estate for evidence, and the next day Santa Barbara County sheriff Jim Anderson issued a warrant for the singer’s arrest.

Not surprisingly, Jackson’s family and friends rallied to his defense. Brother Jermaine appeared on CNN on Nov. 20 to defend his younger sibling, telling anchor Kyra Phillips: “This is nothing but a modern-day lynching.” Jackson’s longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor later issued a statement saying she believed Jackson is “absolutely innocent” and would be “vindicated.” And on Nov. 24, Jackson himself launched a Web site,, as a forum to rebut the charges.

Not everyone stood by Jackson, however. CBS pulled the singer’s music special, set to air Nov. 26, stating, “Given the gravity of the charges against Mr. Jackson, we believe it would be inappropriate at this time to broadcast an entertainment special.”

The charges – each of which carries a penalty of three to eight years in prison – are familiar territory for Jackson. In 1993, he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy who also had stayed at Neverland. Ultimately, the case was settled in civil court for an undisclosed amount in 1994. But Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon (whom Jackson blasted as a “cold man” in his 1995 song “D.S.”) told reporters on Nov. 20 that in the current case, no civil suit had been filed.

Jackson – who returned to Las Vegas – said in a Nov. 19 statement that a “rogue’s gallery of hucksters” was behind the allegations, which he claimed were suspiciously timed with the release of his greatest-hits album, Number Ones. Added spokesperson Stuart Backerman: “When the evidence is presented and the allegations proven to be malicious and wholly unfounded, Michael will be able to put this nightmare behind him.”