Former Red Army sergeant Mikhail Kalashnikov, 94, creator of the AK-47, died on Dec. 23 in Russia. Kalashnikov grew up in a peasant family but became famous for designing weapons. The AK-47, which stands for “Automatic by Kalashnikov, model of 1947,” became the weapon of choice from soldiers to terrorists (and even bank robbers) for its simplicity, durability, and reliability.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, on Dec. 20. Khodorkovsky, 50, spent a decade behind bars for fraud and tax evasion charges his supporters said were politically motivated. Forbes ranked Khodorkovsky the world’s 16th richest person in 2004. But his wealth is largely depleted after authorities dismantled his company, and much of what he has left is tied up in Dutch foundations.
Long-time Associated Press photographer Dave Martin, 59, died on the field at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, moments after the Chick-fil-A Bowl ended on New Year’s Eve. Martin ran onto the field to get photos of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrating a 52-48 win over the Duke Blue Devils. He suddenly collapsed from an apparent heart attack. Martin spent 30 years with AP, covering everything from Super Bowls to the Iraq War to the BP oil spill.
An Associated Press photographer documenting frigid temperatures in the Northeast accidentally solved a missing person case. Jacquelyn Martin took a picture of 20-year-old Nicholas Simmons in Washington, D.C., four days after he disappeared from his parents’ home in Greece, N.Y., on New Year’s Day. His family and local authorities couldn’t locate the man until his photo showed up with a USA Today story. The man was reunited with his family, but authorities aren’t sure why he left home with only the clothes on his back.
Alicia Rhett, the oldest living, notable cast member from the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind, died on Jan. 3 at age 98. Rhett’s acting career lasted four years, but it was long enough to land a key role in an iconic film. At age 24 she played India Wilkes, the sister of Ashley Wilkes, the romantic obsession of leading character Scarlett O’Hara. After retiring in 1941, Rhett became a voice coach, radio personality, and artist—sometimes painting portraits of actors while on set.
A U.S. District judge on Jan. 6 sentenced a Pennsylvania woman known as “Jihad Jane” to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill a Swedish artist. Colleen LaRose, 50, told Judge Petrese Tucker she was consumed with thoughts of Muslim holy war, and wanted to kill an enemy of Islam. The woman faced a life sentence, but the judge gave her credit for helping convict two co-conspirators. Prosecutors said LaRose was a prime candidate for exploitation: She was raped as a child, became a prostitute as a teen, and later developed a crystal meth addiction.