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April 2003

6 April 2003

Harland Titus of Charleston, South Carolina, was taking care of his friend's dogs when the animals were picked up and apparently taken to an animal shelter. Titus, 42, therefore went to the local animal shelter, where he cut a hole in the fence, leaving behind a blue backpack and bottle of malt liquor that he bought earlier in the day. He opened all the outdoor dog runs in his search for the two missing animals. Up to 70 dogs escaped. One was struck by a car and killed; two others remain missing. After the incident, a witness told police of Titus's plan to rescue his friend's dogs.

In Macon, Georgia, Larry Darnell Hodges was shot twice and died - all because of French fries. Police spokesman Melanie Hofmann said that Hodges, 42, had borrwed $2 from Plenty Sandifer's 12-year-old daughter to buy French fries. When Hodges returned from the fast-food establishment, the 51-year-old Sandifer asked for the $2. Hodges hefted a stick. Sandifer fetched a gun from his truck. Both Hodges and Sandifer fled. Sandifer made it further and turned himself in a few hours later.

My attention was drawn to this AP report from January. Two men checked in at the Overland Park Hotel in Kansas, paying for their stay with a $500 Traveler's Express money order and receiving over $300 in change. They did the same thing two nights later. Yes, the money orders were stolen - eight years ago. Police say one of the men was arrested when he returned to the hotel to claim back his $20 room deposit.

A group of teenagers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, stole a car and decided to play a game involving a shovel. Each time the vehicle came around the block, other members of the group would throw the shovel through the car's open windows. In the last round of the game, 14-year-old Rodger Ledger was hit in the head. The group left him for dead. Regarding the charges the teenagers might face, Duty Insp. Jack Tinsley said that 'there is a question of intent'.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, a 60-year-old man has been charged with bestiality for his actions at the Canada Agriculture Museum. Staff had contacted authorities to report that the man received oral sex from one cow and one calf in a public petting barn area. Museum spokesman David Sutin said that 'his, I would characterize it as nervous, behaviour during previous visits had us keep an eye on him and then with what happened yesterday we thought it was prudent to call the police'.

Former retirement center nurse Rowena Ledbetter of Waco, Texas, has been married seven times. Her most recent marriage occurred while she was also courting former policeman Herman Wilson, who died in April of last year. Wilson, an 85-year-old widower who had a day earlier included Ledbetter as a beneficiary of his will, was poisoned. In the murder trial that followed, Ledbetter's defence attorney, John Donahue, contended that Wilson, a fingerprint expert, killed himself but planted a bottle of pesticide in Ledbetter's handbag for the sake of his reputation, then placed poison in both his coffee cup and hers, prompting a trip to hospital. The case continues.

It seems that Steve Wilson of Great Barr, Birmingham, was upset when his wife, Dee, walked out on him, so he showed the children a videotape he had made after forcing her into prostitution. When she still refused to return to him, he beat her and used a homemade knife and screwdriver to kill the two young boys, Brett and Brad. He then called the police. When they found him, the knife was in his own chest. Wilson, an ex-soldier, reported that he and the children had been attacked by Albanian gangsters.
After a 12-day trial, a jury took 55 minutes to find him guilty of the two murders and assault of Dee, sentencing him to life in prison. This is despite Wilson's claim to be a born-again Christian who'd changed his ways.
A family friend reported that Wilson had also forced his children from his first marriage - a boy and a girl - to eat his first wife's ashes. Wilson, 44, allegedly told them that 'the big black lumps are the cancer which killed her'. His own parents obtained a restraining order against him 17 years ago. Wilson's mother said that 'all I want now is for me to die before he gets out of prison so he cannot do me any more harm'.

In Camden, New Jersey, elementary school teacher Eileen Blau has sued a student who ran into her in a hallway at E.T. Hamilton School. She alleges that Daniel Allen, then a 90-pound 11-year-old, collided with her at an 'excessive rate of speed' when he was running to catch a bus home, causing her multiple permanent injuries. Allen's mother, Stacy, said: 'Maybe he should not have been running in the hall, but I think it was an accident. He didn't understand why someone would want to do this to him.'

Meanwhile, a 12-year-old is in trouble for a different type of assault. Sal Santana II, a student at Magoffin Middle School in El Paso, Texas, stuck his tongue out at a girl who refused to be his girlfriend. Santana was suspended for three days for sexual harassment as a result of the incident. In a meeting with Santana's parents, 'the teacher said he stuck his tongue out and moved it back and forth and waved at her like you were patting someone on the back [leaving the girl scared] and that that constitutes sexual harassment', according to Salvador Santana, the student's father. He said he will probably sue the school district whether or not the school board overturns the decision.

Tricia DeHart, 32, became involved with a 14-year-old boy from Connecticut when she was leading a church youth group. The mother of three is now five months pregnant and claims the boy is the father. After returning home from court, she said: 'I did not assault him [...]. He told me he wants to marry me next year.' DeHart insists that the boy was her assistant and colleague rather than her student. The relationship came to police attention after DeHart took the teenager to Florida with her, leaving his parents and teachers worried about his whereabouts.
DeHart said she was 'in a naive stage' when they had sex and 'since I learned of the law, we have not been doing that'. She is in the process of divorcing her estranged husband.

In a slightly similar story, this one from Prairieville, Louisiana, 41-year-old Daina Sancho, a mother of two, fell for Irwin Vincent O'Rourke III, who was 13. A few months later, O'Rourke, his parents, and Sancho sought a marriage licence. Judge Ralph Tureau's initital reaction was 'No, I'm not signing that'. When O'Rourke reached age 14, he was of legal age to marry in Alabama so did. His father asked 'if you've met the man of your dreams, why wait?' But the couple did try to keep the union a secret, including from her children, to safeguard Sancho's job as a dental hygienist and the custody of her children.

Corrine Galford of Marlow, New Hampshire is moving back in with her husband to give the relationship another chance. She pleaded innocent of trying to poison him last year but moved back in with him while awaiting trial, set for summer. Then, two months ago, Galford accused her husband of raping and beating her. He retaliated by filing for divorce and claimed Galford was trying to steal the house for herself. A judge has said they can move in together again. Galford's lawyer said the two 'are not denying there have been some substantial problems' with the marriage.

The Arizona Republic reports on a Mesa family who all slept safely in the same bed. Shawn H. Solecki, wife Cortney, and their two sons were lying in bed together when the handgun they kept in the bed went off, injuring Shawn, 22, and Cory, 2. The parents' stories of events differed, but both featured Cory firing the gun. Child Protective Services is seeking permanent removal of the two boys - who are staying with grandparents - from the home. The family had shown up on the agency's radar a year earlier, when the boys were found wandering in the streets in nappies.

Responding to an anonymous tip, Italian police found Pasquale Tavoletti, 90, living in a filthy attic that smelled of rotting food. Spinetoli Police spokesman Francesco de Palo said this of the dark, windowless room: 'I have seen better kept dog kennels.' Tavoletti's brothers Mario and Luigi had apparently kept him locked up since 1963, cashing his veteran's pension cheque each month. 'The family lived in a fantastic house worth £250,000 and tucked away in this attic in disgusting conditions was the elder brother who had seen action in the war', said de Palo. Due to their age, Mario and Luigi have been released on bail. They will face charges of fraud, assault, and false imprisonment.

In Trenton, New Jersey, Corey Clayborn stabbed Renato Corrales, 20, perhaps as an extension of an argument that had begun when they testified as adversaries in municipal court, down the hall. In the lobby of police headquarters, Clayborn, 24, stabbed Corrales three times with a small knife, inflicting minor injuries and quickly attracting the attention of patrolmen Ronald Stinson and Ken Hunter, among others.
While the court has metal detectors, items such as small penknives are returned to their owners when they exit the courtroom.

San Antonio, Texas, police received a tip from someone who had seen Jerry Thomason's wife on a 25-foot lead. The witness apparently asked Thomason why his wife had a chain padlocked around her neck. Giving the chain a tug, Thomason had explained that it was to keep her from running off. When officers showed up at the Thomason residence, the woman was found in the driveway, bruised and still chained up. Her husband was asleep in the car.

Westchester, New York, woman Sheila Davalloo was playing a game with her husband, Paul Christos, 36 - and with blindfolds and handcuffs. Police don't know if Davalloo puncturing her 33-year-old husband's chest with a paring knife was part of the game. They do know that he eventually persuaded her to take him to hospital. In the parking lot, she stabbed him again. The two were yelling at each other as well, prompting a passerby to ring emergency services. William Rehm, deputy commissioner of the county police, said that Davalloo attempted to flee. Christos required surgery.

Sitra Walker, a 22-year-old new hire at a clothing store in Columbus, Ohio, called her manager, Summer Hunt, at home to report that an armed robbery was in progress at the store. Walker called again after a few minutes, to shout 'April fool's!' - but Hunt had already called the police, who sent four cruisers to the store. Walker was fired. She was also arrested for inducing panic.

21 April 2003

According to the Deccan Chronicle, India's Kuchamardhana Swamy, aka Gottimukkala Babu Rao, was arrested at an Andhra Pradesh temple in connection with the massage treatments he offered. Rao claimed he had Shiva's blessings to 'treat' childless women by massaging their breasts, and hundreds of such women visited him in hopes that it would help them become pregnant. The swami's wife had left him because the couple couldn't have a child.

The Indiana Department of Revenue sent tax refund cheques to four taxpayers, but the computer 'kept wanting to give it to them over and over', according to department taxpayer advocate Cathy Henninger, who said that the four taxpayers were sent 494 extra cheques, for a total of $73,229.76. This included 128 cheques for $1.40 each. None of the extra cheques was cashed. The state had recovered about half of the cheques at press time; several were still in the post.

Poughkeepsie, New York, second-grade teacher Milton McFarlane was sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse of several of his pupils, aged seven to nine. At the time of McFarlane's arrest, it was discovered that such acts had been carried out over a three-year period. In breach of regulations, some of the earlier allegations had not been reported to the police. McFarlane, 39, is HIV-positive.

Car salesman Marc Wolfgang Liebig's girlfriend, Jennifer Robinson, was found dead at the home he shares with his parents in Port Royal, Florida. Less than a year later, another body - that of 24-year-old Sara Gambaccini - was found in the same location. Both women's corpses were found in Liebig's bed. In the more recent case, Corynne Gamaccini walked into the bedroom and found Liebig with her twin sister's naked, dead body. She reported that the corpse had white powder under its nose. Liebig and Gambaccini had been going out for two years.
No charges have been filed, but Liebig, 24, was arrested later on drugs charges, a raid of the home revealing cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone, methadone, needles, and syringes in the bedroom and in his car. When Robinson died - of a drug overdose - Liebig told authorities that he had purchased many of the prescription medicines in the bedroom over the Internet and produced documentation to this effect.

Reuters reports that a German man identified as Norbert K. went to jail in place of his brother Rudolf, who had been convicted of pimping and promoting prostitution. The 37-year-old Norbert said: 'I thought I could use the time inside for some [alcohol] rehab.' Rudolf was arrested after an anonymous tip alerted the authorities to the switch. Norbert, who is unemployed, was placed on probation and fined 2,000 euros to pay for his bed and board at the jail.

A St. Louis jury awarded $6,000 to Geremie Hoff, a Creve Coeur woman who sued a hair salon on account of a hair straightening treatment that left her with clumps of her hair falling out. Hoff claimed that a hair treatment at the Elizabeth Arden Salon made her depressed. She sought compensation for emotional distress, counseling, and lost income. Her lawyer, Paul Devine, explained that Hoff's brittle and patchy hair led to her retirement from teaching at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and from her work as a tour guide for trips to Italy.

Cambodia's Kampuchea Thmey newspaper reports on Roeun Bo, a fisherman who used automobile batteries and electrodes to catch fish at a stream near his home. Sneaking out late at night to employ this illegal technique, the 36-year-old stepped on one of many electric rat traps near area rice fields. The trap, consisting of bare wires hooked up to a large truck battery, killed him.

Khalidan Tunkara, 28, and Olin Washington, 32, 'were having a domestic dispute' when Washington called the police, said Gwinnett, Georgia, police Corporal Dan Huggins. Not able to decide who should care for their nine-month-old daughter, they left the baby in the parking lot. Washington thoughtfully rang the police again to say the problem had been solved. Officers were en route to the scene anyway and came upon the child, in a car seat straddling a painted line between two parking spaces. Jed Nitzberg, a spokesman for the state's Department of Human Resources, said: 'Our ultimate goal is reunification with the parents, but it is in the judge's hands.'

Pennsylvania's Shaun Yawkey, 23, showed up for a bank robbery in a frilly blouse and dress, carrying a handbag, and wearing a wig. He had a yellow glove on one hand and a blue glove on the other. In the end, he didn't steal anything, though he brought a 13-inch kitchen knife and 20 feet of rope with him, along with a getaway vehicle in the form of a bicycle he was pushing. His questions for the teller - in the form of notes - dealt with such matters as certificates of deposit. Yawkey, who held up a bank three months ago with a candy cane in his glove, might well be the same person who nervously entered a bank the day before, wearing a remarkably similar outfit, scarf over the face, and pair of gloves. State College Police Lieutenant Diane Conrad added 'It was a very feminine outfit, but he's not effeminate-looking'.

New Jersey's Cazzie Williams was asked to pose for two mug shots, one with cheeks inflated. This followed his arrest in connection with a string of 27 bank robberies. Williams apparently disguised himself by puffing out his cheeks. Assistant US Attorney Deborah Gannett said that 'we assumed he was stuffing his mouth' because he wouldn't speak to tellers. Williams, a former postal worker, sometimes 'had trouble showing up for work' during the time the robberies were carried out. He admitted to seven of the robberies. While his motives remain unclear, his defence attorney mentioned unspecified 'emotional difficulties' related to postal work.

A security camera at the Mayfield Village Library in Ohio captured 23-year-old John Titter masturbating while using the compouter in the children's section. He was found to have downloaded child pornography there, and the security tape is being reviewed. He has been placed on probation, the conditions of which include staying away from public libraries.

In Bonita Springs, Florida, a man stole a DVD player and was detained by store security personnel. He fled during questioning, leaving behind his baby daughter. Using information on a doctor's bill in the baby bag, deputies returned the child to her mother. The police are still searching for the father. 'I've never heard of a man leaving his baby behind like that', said sheriff's Sergeant Stephen Edlin.

Reuters reports on a Norwegian prisoner who was found with 2,500 euros' worth of cash concealed in his dreadlocks. Aana prison's deputy director, Staale Olsen, said the money was found during a routine check but it wasn't clear how long the 20-year-old inmate had kept the cash braided into his hair. He was three months into a sentence of three years for smuggling 31 pounds of marijuana into the country. He explained that he hid the money because he had worried that authorities wouldn't believe he had earned it legally.

Wilibald Schmidt, a German man who was about to be honoured by the motoring club in Essen for 25 years of accident-free driving, was pulled over by police at a routine roadside check en route to the awards ceremony. The 77-year-old Schmidt was forced to admit that he did not have a driver's licence. He had handed over his licence 25 years earlier for driving offences.

New York's Benjamin Harris filed a tax return in which he claimed to be owed a refund worth over $1.5 million. The 47-year-old Harris forged forms showing that he had made nearly $9 million in the year 2000. He allegedly requested direct deposit of the funds. The bank became suspicious of the refund when it arrived in an account that had an average balance of $2,000. The funds were frozen and the IRS alerted. While Harris hadn't lied about the agency for whom he worked in 2000, his reported income for the year was $1,061.

The Japan Times reports that plastic surgery clinic director Suguru Miyamoto, 44, approached police with a complaint that he was being blackmailed in connection with videos he had shot. In the course of their investigation, the police found a tape that Miyamoto had recorded while allegedly performing indecent acts on a female patient during an operation. The police determined that the woman should not have been undressed for the procedure and did not require general anaesthesia. It is alleged that Miyamoto didn't allow assistants to work with him when he performed operations on women.

Artist Douglas Ferrin decided to cook pork chops near the five-pound keg of gunpowder that he used for making bullets and fireworks. The Lake Worth, Florida, man was responsible for a grease fire and the explosion that predictably followed, destroying a workshop behind the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art. Five large explosions and 20 smaller ones startled witnesses. Police said no arrests were likely.

Referring to a recent incident in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Assistant US Attorney John Green said 'If you rob the bank in the same building as the FBI, it won't take long' to be arrested and charged. The bank in question was also across the street from the city's police department. Jonathan Waldon was arrested inside the bank after he claimed he had a bomb and demanded $50,000.

Florida's St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office received an unusual burglary report. Someone entered a home, took a shower, and left behind his dirty jeans. He also left $51.65. The intruder removed a container of strawberries from by the door and placed it on the kitchen table. Sheriff's Office spokesman James Hartman said 'the intruder is among the strangest and cleanest burglars to visit Mandeville'.

One of my readers passed along this item reported in the Salt Lake Tribune. In January, Utah's Salt Lake Astronomical Society announced to reporters that they planned to drop bowling balls onto the salt flats from high altitudes, in an attempt to simulate meteorite impacts and determine why no meteorites have been found in the area. The US Bureau of Land Management replied to the idea two days later with the suggestion that dropping bowling balls around the people conducting work projects on the salt flats might not be such a good idea.

Aspiring rap artist Antron Singleton, or 'the Big Lurch', stands accused of murdering and eating some of a young woman, whose mother claims his record label encouraged the act. The mother, Carolyn Stinson, charges that Death Row Records gave Singleton an apartment and various drugs, including PCP, in an attempt to make him more marketable as a true gangsta rapper.
Singleton got the police's attention by wandering the streets naked, high on PCP, and spattered in blood. A search of his apartment revealed the body of his room-mate, Tynisha Ysais. She had been stabbed and had bite marks on her face and lung. Human flesh was found in Singleton's stomach.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports on a Chinese chemist who allegedly vented his frustration with his colleagues at the Mainichi Yakkyoku pharmacy by poisoning children's anti-allergy medicine. Three of the children affected started having convulsions and were hospitalised. Ise police investigators confirmed that 13 more children fell ill after taking drugs prescribed at the pharmacy. The chemist, whose name has not been released, is being investigated in connection with a similar incident at another branch of the pharmacy chain.

Someone lost a tyre in Luverne, Minnesota. Sheriff Mike Winkels explained that a local resident found a tyre and rim, which he took to a repair shop in hopes of cashing them in. When the rim was popped, ten cans of marijuana were revealed, containing ten pounds of marijuana in total. Investigators are dusting the cans for fingerprints.

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