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August 2002


5 August 2002

When Florida's Matthew Cooper was awakened by the sound of his neighbour's car alarm, he went outside and saw a man trying to kick out the vehicle's windows from inside. Cooper called the Gainesville police, who arrived to find would-be thief David Christopher Lander "all scrunched down in the back seat" according to county sheriff's spokesman Sergeant Keith Faulk, who added "I guess he thought deputies couldn't see him". The car's doors lock when the alarm is triggered, but Lander could have unlocked them from the driver's side door.
In his pockets deputies found $3.21 in coins and a piece of costume jewellery stolen from the car, whose owner slept through the incident. Cooper said Lander smelled of alcohol.

Another car alarm sounded, this one in Syracuse, New York. Responding to a complaint about a blaring car alarm, police saw no-one in the offending pickup truck but did spot several identification cards featuring the same man's photo but different names. A laptop computer and paperwork they say listed various Social Security numbers were also inside. Eventually, authorities found and arrested the owner, who was wanted on charges including identity theft. This item comes from ABC News, who provided no names, unfortunately.

A worker at a group home for mentally retarded boys in Durham, North Carolina, Robert Fuller Garrison decided to give four of his charges - one of whom has an IQ of 60-69 and the rest of whose IQs are 40-45 - some exposure to females. One of the boys told his parent about an incident in which Garrison and another worker at the home, Eddie Holden, had prostitute Latrina Shagail Battle perform sexual acts on the two workers while the boys watched. She was invited to the home - which she said was represented as a 'group home for sexually active boys' - on the following day, when she performed sex acts with three of the four boys, whose ages range from 12 to 17. Battle and the adult men are now in jail.

In a story from 22 July, police in Keizer, Oregon, stopped a car tightly packed with two adults and eight children on their way to a barbecue. They asked the pair of adults to open the trunk, as a motorist had alerted officers after seeing what looked like a child in the car's trunk at a supermarket. The trunk's lock was damaged, but the couple eventually got it open, to reveal four more children.

A Waterville, Maine, woman has been charged with a different kind of child endangerment. The unnamed woman's 13-year-old daughter and the daughter's 14-year-old friend had met two men on the Internet, so this helpful mother dropped both girls off at the bus station, where the men were waiting. She knew they were going to a motel, said Detective William Baker. Knowing the 14-year-old was forbidden from seeing the men, the woman lied about the girls' whereabouts when the girl's worried mother called her. The men, Kenya D. Magnum and Anthony A. Adams, both from Durham, North Carolina, are charged with gross sexual assault, and the 13-year-old's mother is charged with a misdemeanour.

Kentucky's Cherie Glover said yesterday that she and her husband, Chris Harmon, had been drinking for several hours when he told her that her seven-year-old son wasn't breathing. It was revealed later that Harmon had fed the boy vodka through a medical feeding tube, shortly after the couple stopped receiving welfare money for a medicine that allows the boy to sleep. When the child was admitted to Kosair Children's Hospital, he had a blood-alcohol level of .59 - a level that, according to standard formulas, a 150-pound adult male could achieve by drinking 25 one-ounce shots of 96-proof liquor in an hour. His condition has not been released. Neighbour Patrick Stokell said the couple wanted to adopt another child.

In Elko County, Nevada, Sheriff's Deputy Sean Murphy pulled a man over for driving while intoxicated. ABC News reports that Murphy was nearly clipped by another car after dealing with the man. The second car was driven by the first driver's wife. She too was drunk. Murphy felt that he needed to add that the pair were booked into separate cells at the county jail.

Joseph Viles, 59, was in Nevada's Story County Courthouse for a hearing on charges that he hit one of his dogs. While he fought animal-neglect charges, his two Alaskan malamutes were chained to each other in his car outside. One dog wriggled through the vehicle's partially open window and crawled into the shade under the car. Viles faces new neglect charges.
Viles is an Iowa State University zoology instructor. Records show that he has been in trouble 16 times since 1995 for animal-related offences, which include provision of inadequate food, shelter, and sanitation for his pets. He was banned from owning dogs in 1999.

This report comes from Las Ultimas Noticias. María Eugenia Berríos, 30, was a contestant on a game show on Chilean television. She would win a car if she could spend three minutes in a circus cage with two lions and tigers, stroking one of the animals. When she approached one of the tigers to stroke it, the animal attacked her. Various personnel managed to separate her from the tiger but not before Berríos sustained leg and head injuries requiring hospitalisation. The police arrested the circus owner on negligence charges.

A Lake Oswego, Oregon, 16-year-old decided to fake her own kidnapping, leading to a search costing taxpayers $50,000. The teenager, Sarah Katherine Roberts could face criminal charges but won't be asked to pay for the search. Roberts had enlisted the help of as many as four other teenagers in the staged abduction, in which she left her Jeep in a park. Her mother, Debbie, had called police after she found the vehicle, with her family's two dogs locked inside. The girl reappeared the next day.

In Godley, Texas, Johnny Joslin, 20, and Clayton Frank Stoker, 21, a corrections officer, were talking after a night of bar-hopping. Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford said a witness indicated that the two men's discussion turned into a heated argument about religion. When the topic turned to which of the two would go to heaven or hell, Stoker fetched a shotgun to settle the argument and placed the barrel in his mouth. Joslin said "If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me", so he did, killing Joslin.

The BBC report on the death of Joshua Lakirham, age seven. The child, who couldn't swim and days earlier had nearly drowned in a leisure centre swimming pool, either scaled the fence to St. Nicholas School in Merstham, Surrey, or sneaked through a gap in the gates. Once inside, along with a nine-year-old friend, he headed for the pool. Closed-circuit cameras captured the footage of Lakirham drowning while his friend tried in vain to rescue him. His stepfather, David Carpenter, said he hopes this is a warning to other parents to keep children away from water if they can't swim; yet, he said, "Kids just rush away and disappear. There's nothing you can do."

The Longview [Texas] News-Journal reports on a woman who was arrested for punching and scratching her husband. Suzanne Editha Edwards, 34, might have been pleased that her husband posted $1000 in bail, but she still felt the need to punch her husband, who was waiting for her. She hit him before even leaving the courthouse. With her bail increased to $10,000, she was released later in the day without incident. Meanwhile, her husband is scheduled to stand trial for allegedly beating Edwards and then trying to run over a police officer who was trying to arrest him.

Authorities in Calaveras County, California, were summoned by a woman who said she turned away from her outdoor grill for only a moment and then discovered that her steak was missing. "It had been stolen and a trail of meat juice was followed up to the next door apartment", said sheriff's deputy Blain Smith. Lindsey Blackledge was arrested after deputies found the partially cooked meat on her bathroom counter. Blackledge also had an outstanding warrant for theft. Of the steak Smith said "I doubt if it was returned and I don't think they booked it in evidence".

In Tennessee, Illinois, Leroy McClure's estranged wife came home to find a hole in her driveway, nine feet long, three feet wide, and four feet deep. McClure claimed he dug the hole in a search for damaged water pipes, but authorities said they couldn't find any pipes. He was charged with disorderly conduct and violating a protection order after he dug another grave-shaped hole in his soon-to-be-ex-wife's driveway.

In Fowltown, Georgia, Melissa Ferguson, 41, was arrested on charges of concealing a death after her children, Jaban Taylor and Tashiba Hamilton, called emergency services to report that they found a plastic-wrapped corpse when they were looking for something in the chest freezer to cook for lunch. The children called Ferguson at work, whereupon she came home and told them that someone else must have put a newborn girl's body in her freezer. She later told investigators that it was she who did so 18 months ago. The body's DNA and cause of death are being examined.

Bill Ebbert Jr. of Jonesboro, Arkansas was happy when Assistant Chief Rusty Grigsby called him to say he found out who had Ebbert's missing credit card. Grigsby told Ebbert that the card had been mysteriously placed among a collection of city-owned cards, then used by officers to buy $90 worth of petrol. Ebber, who often visits City Hall, said he might have dropped the card; the man in charge of the cards said someone could have placed it on his desk, wherefrom it was returned to the card file. No-one noticed whose card it was until June, as the name was partially worn off.

Chippewa County, Wisconsin, police lieutenant Tim Blizek described a call concerning an unidentifiable sticky substance on the road. It was later revealed that the goo, which spread out over a 25- to 30-mile stretch, was pizza dough. Tuesday's hot weather had caused yeast in the back of a Tombstone Pizza delivery truck to rise, popping open the back of the truck. Louis Revoir of the county's highway department said the truck driver didn't notice the problem until larger pieces of dough started to fall out of the truck.

11 August 2002

Arkansas State University temporary instructor Brian Alan Coats, 23, offered to allow a student to retake her final exam in order to pass intermediate algebra. Signing the form he presented to her, she agreed to take the test at her house later in the day. Coats would mark each question right or wrong before she went on to the next one. When she answered the first item incorrectly, Coats informed her that this was a 'strip exam' wherein she would remove one item of clothing per wrong answer or perform the sex acts outlined on the form she had signed. Failure to comply, he said, would give him permission to rape her.
The student grabbed the form and rang the police, who later heard Coats say that the form was one he used with his wife in sexual role-playing. As for why he had the student sign it, Coats told Police Sgt. Detective Todd Nelson that 'it was basically a case study'.

An identity thief and parole violator from Oakland, California, Byron Lee Brown was visiting a relative in Vancouver when his luck ran out. When a police officer pulled him over in what is described as a routine stop, Brown said he had no form of identification. The officer asked permission to search the car and found Brown's MasterCard. A form of ID - good. But, alas, this counterfeit platinum credit card said 'plotinum', arousing suspicion. Officers found various forged means of identification, a card reader, and encoders in Brown's hotel room.

A Champaign, Illinois, newspaper reports on the World Free Fall Convention in Rantoul. Authorities had feared sky-diving deaths, but they didn't expect a helicopter death. During the first day of competition, Maryland's Timothy Kalendek, 32, was told he could not stand near the helicopter that would take his friend on his first sky-diving trip. But Kalendek really wanted to videotape the proceedings from interesting angles, so, as the helicopter was taking off, he stepped into its path from a nearby cornfield. He was clipped by the rotor blades and died instantly. Kalendek's brother-in-law caught more of the accident on video than Kalendek did.

This is the stuff of urban legend. Reuters reports on Emma Dunn and Raoul Sebastian, both 19, a British couple whose dream trip to Sydney wasn't quite what they were expecting. They booked their air tickets on the Internet, boarded the plane with no problems, and started to suspect that something was wrong only when they were asked to transfer to a small plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Once they landed in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Air Canada employee Andrea Batten was given the task of helping the couple, who she said were 'obviously very surprised' to learn that they were not in Sydney, Australia.

Oceanside, New York, mother Elizabeth McGanny was stopped by security guards before her flight from New York to Florida. She says the guards ordered her to drink the contents of three suspicious bottles she was carrying, to show that there weren't explosives in them. She said she objected "I'm not drinking that. It's breast milk" and offered to feed it to her four-month-old baby there and then, but the guards refused. Prominent New York civil rights attorney Ron Kuby agreed to represent McGanny in court; as for how much money the incident might garner her, Kuby said "If I get a jury of nursing mothers - a lot".

In Martin, Texas, no-one ran for the local position of constable, which meant that write-in votes would determine the winner. Lindell Doty won the election by one vote - the only vote cast. Doty, who said he will see what the job entails before accepting it, doesn't know who the voter was. He said it's "either my worst enemy or my best friend".

Mississauga, Ontario, soccer coach Frank Pesce, 39, rushed onto the field during a break in a pre-teens' soccer game and attacked a 12-year-old girl who had been playing well for the opposing team. Under Ontario Soccer Association rules, a coach is immediately suspended from all soccer-related activity if he assaults an official. But association executive director Brian Avey said there is nothing in the policy about coaches who attack players. Pending further action, Pesce is still coaching.

Clara Harris ran over her husband three times in a parking lot, leaving her Mercedes-Benz atop his body. Harris's 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage was in the car. After the 24 July incident, Harris told reporters it was an accident. But now it has been revealed that Harris had hired a private investigation company earlier in the day to monitor her husband and determine whether he was having an affair. Blue Moon Investigations have turned over to police their tape of David Harris, in which he is seen going to a hotel with employee Gail Bridges - and in which Clara and Bridges were escorted out of the hotel after the former tore off the latter's shirt and began yelling at her.
After getting out of the car and being punched in the face by the 16-year-old, Clara told her husband "I'm so sorry! I love you! Keep breathing!"

Robert Edwin Nitz, 39, has cost Michigan taxpayers over $1 million. He has stabbed and cut his belly at least 40 times to "feel better", whether in solitary confinement - most recently on the way to the prison loo on 27 July when he grabbed a guard's pen - in sanitoria, in ambulances, or in full view of his neighbours. A surgeon who has operated on Nitz's abdomen four times said "People feel used. He needs to be somewhere, but I don't know of an institution that can take him". Nitz, who has used the side of a zip to dig out of a prison cell, broken his handcuffs to cut himself with the sharp ends, torn open his belly with his fingers, stopped taking his psychotropic medicine so he could drink, and stolen a friend's car for a cross-country trip, said "People like me need more understanding".
Nitz now has only four feet of remaining functioning bowel, whereas most people have 26.
Nitz's career of malefaction started early; at age 12 he started setting fires for attention. Since then, most of his prison time has been for arson, and Oakland County Sheriff's Department arson investigator David Row said "I don't think Robert ever stopped. He just got better at it". Without this hobby, in prison, he turned to suing people; seven of the eight lawsuits he filed were thrown out immediately.

Following up on an unresolved complaint about Charles and Myra Foreman's dog running wild, a Hargis, Louisiana, deputy asked to speak with Charles after Myra, 51, said to keep the dog. Myra explained that her husband was "in the house, but he wasn't there", said Chief Deputy Preston Mosley. Myra showed him to the bedroom, where Charles Foreman's body had been for about a month. After his death, which police believe to have been of natural causes, Charles Foreman received baths from his wife, who also continued sleeping next to him in the non-air-conditioned home. She said she was protecting him from the aliens in the house.
While Myra had gone to a local funeral home to make arrangements for the body, it was after working hours, and she didn't return the next day. She explains that she didn't bury him because "the face of the devil" came over him when she tried.

No names in this one, I'm afraid. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a man tried to steal from a Mexican restaurant but became stuck in an exhaust vent. Rather than remaining there to be discovered decades later - as sometimes happens - he simply used his mobile 'phone to ring emergency services. As the man was covered in grease, it took fireman some time to rescue him.

Reuters reports that Josh Chapman was drinking at a summer party in Squamish, British Columbia, when he thought it would be a good idea to drive his snowmobile through a fireball. Witnesses said the 23-year-old man rode in a 'wheelie' down a public street and tried to drive through a petrol fire at the end of the run. Local media reported that the stunt was being taped for a video on extreme sports events. Chapman died in hospital.

On Wednesday, Florida's Aquarium of the Americas had a special treat in store for supporters of the aquarium. According to spokeswoman Melissa Lee, ten visitors who were part of a behind-the-scenes tour fell into the Gulf of Mexico exhibit when a catwalk - normally reserved for staff - collapsed. The tank contained about two dozen sharks as well as some sting rays and various smaller fish. No-one was seriously injured. Witness Mark Kruse, whose daughter had asked "Daddy, are the sharks going to bite them?", said "the fish were, honestly, afraid".
With their promotional brochures left in the water, those who fell into the water went home with plush toys or T-shirts.

Village of Cascade, Wisconsin, police were making a routine traffic stop at night when they heard loud noises from the fire department nearby, then saw a fire truck emerge, striking the side of the building and hitting two other fire trucks as it left. When the officers caught up with the truck and questioned its driver, Andrew D. Wilterdink, he kept saying "I am just on my way to the fire", according to the criminal complaint. Wilterdink, 25, admitted that he was not a Cascade firefighter when officer Cory Roeseler questioned him at the scene, but he did lie that he was a fireman in his home town of Oostburg. Among other charges is driving with a revoked licence.

Pennsylvania Superior Court has overturned the harassment conviction of a Bellefonte man who did his gardening in the nude. Charles Stitzer, 62, had begun to wear only shoes and a watch in his back yard in an attempt to get neighbour Pam Watkins to dim what he deemed excessively bright floodlights directed at his property. Stitzer had previously testified that he had often sat outside naked before the advent of the floodlights; it's just that his neighbour couldn't see him so didn't complain. The court decided that Stitzer's back yard is private and that Watkins was too far away to see anything offensive. A harassment conviction for letters he sent Watkins was also thrown out.

Hengelo Council in Holland might have broken environmental regulations by dumping dung in two council-owned houses. After police were alerted of the faeces by two teenagers who met in one of the empty houses, the city administration admitted to dumping the dung in an attempt to keep homeless people from squatting in them. Alderman Geert Ter Ellen said a city worker made the decision without consulting the councillors.

18 August 2002

Washington's Seattle Times reports on Theresa Olson, a public defender who apparently was seen having sex with a client in a King County Jail interview room. Olson, who has been a public defender for 15 years, had met with Sebastian Burns, 26, to discuss his upcoming trial for triple murder. Sources said a sergeant noticed odd movement in the interview room. The jail's director, Steve Thompson, said "we have a situation that's an internal investigation at this point".
The murder case has dragged on for eight years now. This will add to that time.

In Milford, Connecticut, business owner Kenneth Costello, 49, has been charged with first-degree criminal trespass for mowing the lawn of a neighbouring business. The complainant states that someone - probably Costello - trimmed his trees and cut his grass without getting permission. Costello had been told to stay off the property, police said, but said he cut the grass becuase he "thought it was an eyesore".

In Genoa, three people drilled a hole in a bank wall in order to break in without being seen by the security cameras pointed at the front door. But Giovanni Sollami, 54, was too large to fit through the opening and wanted to see what the other two were doing. So he walked around to the front door, where the cameras captured him on film, Reuters reports.

Elsewhere in Italy, a man went to the Boscotrecase records office to register his son as 'Varenne Giampaolo'. When the man's wife got out of hospital, she tried to change the child's name to 'Christian'. Since that wasn't allowed, she went to court, according to Roma newspaper. An official at the office told Reuters "He said his wife agreed" to the names, those of an acclaimed racehorse and his jockey, respectively. The child is now a month old.

The story of Tanya Meyers and John Stackokus was all over the news. After this couple split up, she wanted an abortion. He went to court to prevent it but had his petition denied. Meyers had an apparently spontaneous miscarriage before Stackokus's appeal could be heard. At the height of their battle, Meyers sought a protection from abuse order because Stackokus supposedly threatened her.
Well, now that that issue is behind them, the two are a couple again, according to family members such as Betty Lambert, Meyers's grandmother. Their decision to spend some time on holiday together did not sit well with the family.

25 August 2002

Our first story is of Le Hung Cuong, 22, a newly hired chef at a Haiphong, Vietnam, restaurant specialising in porridge with snake's blood and other snake dishes. Restaurant owner Nguyen Lien said Cuong was "careless and did not put on the plastic gloves as required" when retrieving a venomous sea snake from its glass aquarium. The snake bit his left hand, Lien said. Cuong died en route to hospital; meanwhile, another chef prepared and served the snake.

Berlin's Rolf Eden, 72, has promised an inheritance of 250,000 euros to the last women he sleeps with. Bild newspaper quotes the famous playboy as saying "...and it will all end with a heart attack and then I'm gone". Eden, whose offer is part of his last will and testament, warned potential applicants - preferably under 30 years of age - of his advanced age and exhorted them to hurry since "It could end very soon. Maybe even tomorrow".

The Free Lance-Star reports that Stafford County, Virginia, deputy D.M. Stout Jr. saw an out-of-state car parked at a shopping centre at night. He ran a computer check on it and discovered that it had been stolen in Maryland. The thief was Maryland's Homas William Cauffman, 52, who explained to the deputy that he had decided to visit his girlfriend, who was in Virginia's Rappahannock Regional Jail. In order to get there, he needed a car.

Missouri's Kansas City Star reports on a robber who had a bad weekend. Dirk Aaron Stumpner's crime spree would have started with a hotel in Meriam, but a clerk saw Stumpner, who had pantyhose over his head as a disguise, through the window and locked the doors. He did successfully complete a robbery the next day but goofed the next time: while looking over his shoulder for pursuers, he ran into the shop's rubbish bin and left a trail of loot behind. A witness took down the licence number of the getaway car, driven by a woman. Police later found Stumpner grilling dinner for his wife in a park. The pair were arrested after their stories of where they had been earlier didn't match.

The Associated Press report on Pennsylvania's Thomas G. Warner, who contacted the police to report that his bum bag (or 'fanny pack') and wallet had been stolen from his car while he was in a liquor store. Meanwhile, a customer at another shop found the bum bag and turned it over to store officials. A police officer picked up the bum bag for Warner to identify at the station. While $175 in cash had been stolen from the wallet, the bum bag still contained Warner's marijuana and pipe.

A Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, man, Randy Johnston, was spinning a loaded gun on his finger when a bullet from it hit his girlfriend, Brandy Sager, in the abdomen. While she was being tended to, he began to explain to Detective Scott Chichy how the gun had gone off. Although Chichy had told him not to touch it, the 20-year-old ejected the bullet clip from the weapon, said it was safe, pointed it at the bedroom mattress, and fired. The round remaining in the chamber put a hole in the mattress, surprising Johnston. Police said the gun had been reported stolen.

Illinois's Lynn Stuckey, 34, was in court on Tuesday to argue that she should be allowed to continue breastfeeding her son. Judge Ann Einhorn was not persuaded, and further court dates were set. The boy, age 8, had already been placed in foster care for a time after it came to light that he was still nursing. Although the single mother is unsure whether she still produces milk, she lets her son nurse once every 10 days or so, she said. Last month, Stuckey appeared on television, where footage of the boy suckling was shown.

The Devil's Lake, North Dakota, high school sports teams must find a new mascot now that the town has voted that 'the Satans' is inappropriate and creates a negative image. School Board Chairman Kevin Regan said of the nickname, which has been in use for 80 years, "[it] was a natural fit that the mascot for Devil's Lake would be Satans", but parent Kellie Karlstad opined that "It's hard to stand up and cheer for the Satans".

The Arizona Republic reports on Anndreah Robertson, a baby whose mother admitted to having used cocaine on the morning of the delivery. The child, weighing 5.75 pounds, was released into her mother's care after the cocaine had cleared the baby's system and her condition had improved. Despite warnings, both her mother, Demitres Lashoun Robertson, 23, and grandmother, Lillian Ann Butler, 44, smoked crack each day in their small Phoenix apartment. Anndreah weighed a little over four pounds when she died, 10 days old.
Nine months after the child's death, Robertson and Butler have now been arrested. Robertson, nine months pregnant, was easy to find, as she was already in custody on a prostitution charge. Her two other children, ages one and two - one of them born with cocaine in his system - were turned over to Child Protective Services.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on three men who broke into the L and G Restaurant and stole an ATM, which they then couldn't fit in the back seat of their - stolen - car. With the ATM sticking out the door, they were easily spotted by a passing police officer, who caught up to one of them, Cory Pickett, 32, on foot. It turns out that the burglars' efforts were futile anyway; as waitress Tammy Katsenis said, "The thing's been dead for [two years]" and was unplugged, with an 'out of order' sign on it and no money inside. The restaurant's owner had been trying to get rid of the machine ever since the company that installed it went out of business.

In Australia, Justice Robert Nicholson ruled that Francesco Domenico La Rosa earned his taxable income by dealing drugs and that $220,000 stolen from him during a drug deal is tax-deductible. Nicholson said the deal was directly connected with his business and thus a business expense. The Crown argued unsuccessfully that tax deductions are supposed to provide an incentive to act lawfully and should not be applied to crimes.
Rosa was jailed for 12 years in 1996 for his role in the importation of heroin and other drug-related offenses. While he was in jail, the Australian Taxation Office calculated assessments for him on seven years of missing returns.

Colorado's Michael Nunez, 30, didn't want anyone to find out that he wore women's underwear, so when security guard Corina Martinez, 59, saw him removing ladies' lingerie at work, he stabbed her 40 times, placed her in a dumpster, and went back to work making sandwiches. Judge Kenneth Barnhill said of the case "It's pitiful in a lot of ways". Nunez, who was sentenced on Monday to 40 years in prison, expressed emotion in court only when his fetish was being discussed, as described in the Rocky Mountain News.


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