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August 2003


12 August 2003

Reuters reports on a routine traffic check during which the police in Essen, Germany, asked a 25-year-old man if he had had anything to drink. According to police spokesman Raymund Sandach, the man replied, "Twenty beers at most if you want me to be perfectly honest, officer. But that's it, really." Speculating as to why the motorist volunteered this information, Sandach said "maybe because he was drunk". The driver's licence was revoked.

James Drag, 37, apparently tried to take $369.70 in change from a church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. However, he dropped the money and his wallet when a member of the parish gave chase. The police told a member of Drag's family that the wallet was at the police station. Drag was arrested when he went to the police station to pick up the wallet. He has been charged with burglary, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking, and receiving stolen property.

When a three-year-old boy walked into a Fredericksburg, Virginia, petrol station at about 6:30 am, neither the attendant nor police could find the child's parents around. En route to the police station, the child directed Officer J.L. Wood to an apartment about half a mile from the petrol station. Inside, the boy's mother, 25-year-old April Lynn Frey, was asleep on the sofa, where she said she had been sleeping for hours. Police said the boy, wearing only a t-shirt, had walked from the apartment to the petrol station, across a five-lane highway and a parking lot. Frey faces charges of felony child neglect.

A Houston transvestite sought help at the Spring Branch Medical Center emergency room when he felt sick after his silicone injections went wrong. Two or three days earlier, silicone had been injected directly into his chest area in several places. Emergency room doctor Daria Lee, who found the silicone loose in the man's body and causing his lungs to shut down, said, "It was overwhelming. Clearly he didn't have a chance."

The Washington Post reports on Robin E. Lewis, who allegedly stayed in a Frederick attic to spy on former housemate Aaron Smith via holes in the ceiling, a 'phone tap, and concealed baby monitors. Lewis, who had moved out after an argument concerning his failure to pay the rent, made the attic his home for five weeks, tapping into Smith's telephone line for Internet access and even obtaining a job under Smith's name. When Smith and his friends investigated noises coming from the attic, Lewis fled in Smith's car.
Police, on the lookout for Lewis after he robbed his workplace, saw him at an ice cream shop and asked for his name. He gave the detective that of Smith but then answered to the name 'Robin' and was promptly arrested.

Louisiana's Shreveport Times reports on how Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church is trying to increase the ethnic diversity of its congregation. Bishop Fred Caldwell explained that he will personally pay $5 to each white person attending Sunday services and $10 to each white who attends services on Thursday. He explained, "Our churches are too segregated....It's time for something radical." Church member Criss Williams said, "I don't see it as any different than a lot of the churches that have different social functions to attract visitors. Bishop just kind of cut to the chase and went to the money."

A dog owner contacted animal control officers in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to complain that neighbour Daniel Simerson was French kissing and touching his Rottweiler. Simerson, 30, will not face charges - since the man's dog wasn't injured. However, another matter came to light during the investigation; Simerson is now in detention, charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor, for molesting a neighbour's son.

Remember the story about the pranksters who tied 100 helium balloons to a hen, which then became stuck in power lines? The San Francisco police lieutenant who used an air pistol to pop the balloons is now being investigated in response to an anonymous complaint that he fired a nonregulation weapon in the incident. Lt. Mark Swendsen was hailed as a sharpshooting hero at the time. He now says he feels like the target of a "bizarre inquisition".
Lt. Mike Slade, in charge of the department's internal affairs unit, was unhappy that the 30-year veteran chose a San Francisco Examiner reporter as his legal representative for an interview with Internal Affairs. Swendsen's response was, "They can just deal with that. I'm allowed under the codes to bring anyone I want."

Rosemary Pool Engle and Elizabeth Kovach had been best friends for 35 years when Kovach's neighbours begged Engle to convince the 83-year-old Kovach to quite driving. When Kovach was given only the written exam and had her licence renewed, Engle decided to report her as an unsafe driver. At the Department of Motor Vehicles, she wrote on the form 'I would like you to re-evaluate Elizabeth's ability to drive'. Engle was repeatedly assured that her legal right to confidentiality would be honoured. Also, she wrote on the form, 'ANONYMOUS -- ANONYMOUS. Please I want this to be ANONYMOUS' and tried to make her signature less legible.
The DMV sent Kovach a copy of the form. She withdrew from Engle and four or five days later was taken to hospital with heart failure, where she entered a coma and died. Engle decided to sue the DMV. In deposition, Engle's attorney asked DMV office manager Reuben Beauchamp, "The DMV does not have any written policies or procedures as to who is supposed to ensure that [confidential material] does not get sent to the licensee; is that correct?" Beauchamp replied, "That's my understanding". Engle said, "If I had to do it over again, I guess I'd let her drive".

Charles Lee of Des Moines, Iowa, caught burglar Michael Castiglione in his mother's home. Castiglione offered to give Lee a $100 banknote if he would let him escape into the night. Lee noticed that the face on the note was that of President George W. Bush, and he declined the offer. Castiglione, a 37-year-old Massachusetts man, has been charged with second-degree burglary.

An 11-month investigation into a fire that destroyed four homes in California and consumed over 5,000 acres of land has revealed that the blaze was set intentionally by a freelance videographer who then sold footage of the fire to major television news stations. Palmdale's Joshua Harville, 23, made comments in media interviews that "were inconsistent about his actions on the day of the fire", said sheriff's spokesman Deputy Harry Drucker. It is estimated that Harville was paid about $150 per clip for the footage. The rest of his videos are being examined to see if he started other fires.

Wisconsin's Armando Cortez was angry at his estranged wife, so he decided to repeatedly ram his van into the side of her Ford Escort. Witnesses say the 34-year-old Fond du Lac man hit the car 20-30 times, stopping only when the Escort had been pushed 47 feet and was up against a tree. Cortez told officers he had bought the car for his wife so he knew it was hers; however, the car he rammed belonged to her neighbour. Police said alcohol likely played a part in Cortez's actions. He has been charged with two counts of criminal damage to property.

Hospital cleaner Sophie Matlala found it difficult to eat the goulash the canteen served for lunch one day in May 1999. South Africa's Pretoria High Court heard recently how, after she couldn't bite through the meat in the stew, her colleagues at Medforum Hospital inspected the offending morsel and concluded that it was a piece of cooked penis. After vomiting several times over the course of the afternoon, she became a vegetarian.
Hospital authorities confirmed Matlala's suspicions about the meat, although it could not be established whether the penis had belonged to a human or an animal. Judge Phineas Mojapelo rejected Matlala's lawsuit due to a three-year statute of limitations, but he added that he hoped her legal advisors would advise her to sue them.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Tammy Denise Swittenburg-Edwards, who tried to visit an inmate - believed to be her husband - with her three-year-old daughter. Officials at the prison near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, denied them admittance because the child wasn't on the inmate's visiting list. The 32-year-old Swittenburg-Edwards was admitted when she showed up on her own 90 minutes later. Over 40 minutes later, the prison psychologist pulled into a parking space adjacent to that of Swittenburg-Edwards and heard the girl crying for her mother, who had locked her in the trunk. After the mother let rescuers use her keys to open the trunk, she said "I think we'll just go now". She was taken back into the prison.

Emanuel Coindre was rowing from France to Massachusetts when his boat capsised. So he used his mobile 'phone to call for help. Stranded about 160 km off Cape Cod, he rang his mother in France. She in turn called the French coast guard, who rang their US counterparts, according to Kenneth Crutchblow, executive director of the London-based Ocean Rowing Society. Coindre has made the journey before but failed to break the speed record each time. He will have to wait before trying again, as the boat is lost at sea.

A Hopewell, Pennsylvania, couple showed a lack of judgement when choosing which relative they wanted to watch their 10-year-old daughter. The father's uncle, Ronald E. Dodson, had been convicted two years earlier of molesting the girl. The 53-year-old Dodson molested the girl again. The parents have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. The father's attorney said, "He made an error in judgment about a person who was supposed to be rehabilitated and on probation".

Danny Ginn of Bedford, Kentucky, was apparently tired of a sanitation worker turning a truck around in his driveway. His solution was to pull out a .9-mm gun and take the truck hostage. According to police, he then rang 911 to say he was holding the garbage truck at gunpoint. Ginn now faces a first-degree robbery charge.

In other sanitation news, a garbage collector found some videotapes in Kelly Marie Lumadue's rubbish, so he took them home to watch. When he saw what was on them, he contacted authorities. The tapes featured the 26-year-old Deltona, Florida, woman performing sex acts on a five-year-old child. Lumadue confessed to the crime, adding that her now-deceased husband had videotaped the assaults.

Australia's Herald Sun reports on Tony Kyriacou's attempt to fly from Sydney to Melbourne. Kyriacou, a solicitor with incomplete quadriplegia, said airline staff thought he was drunk or a fanatic of some kind and refused to let him onto the plane. After arguing with a Virgin Blue employee about his medical condition, he was allowed to board. When he took his seat, he was removed from the plane by four Australian Protective Services guards. After paramedics confirmed his explanation of his gait and expression, he was still not allowed aboard. He said he was instead interrogated, threatened, and left lying on the tarmac. The airline has settled with him.

William Dolge of North Platte, Nebraska, had alcohol on his breath when he returned from his job to jail, where he was serving time for driving with a suspended licence. In court, he explained that the alcohol came not from drinking booze, which is forbidden by work-release programme rules, but from four of the burritos brought to his workplace by a fellow employee. The meat had been marinated in red Irish beer, tequila, and dark ale. Lincoln County District Judge John Murphy ruled in favour of Dolge and said no rational person would make up a 'burrito defence'.

Mohammed Talha Shekhani, a 23-year-old medical student in South Carolina, reportedly kissed and groped four females - aged 12, 14, 20, and 23 - one day after a friend told him that the best way to meet woman is to walk up to them and touch them. According to a police report, Shekhani said the women 'did not respond to his touching the way he had hoped'. The two oldest said Shekhani apologised and walked away when they spurned his advances. Shakhani's lawyer, William Runyon, told a judge that his client was probably suffering from stress associated with pursuing two advanced degrees simultaneously. He also said the kissing spree was "bizarre".

25 August 2003

Doug McKay was an amusement-park operator working at a fair on Whidbey Island, Washington. The 40-year-old was spraying lubricant on the tracks of a roller coaster when his long hair became caught on a car full of fairgoers. According to sheriff's official Jan Smith, he was pulled up as high as 40 feet before falling to his death. She said, "It basically scalped him, and he fell and landed [back-first] on the fence".

Transient Gary Leon Lowden and accomplices dug a 40-foot tunnel from an apartment complex to a Florida sporting goods store. They broke through the shop's concrete floor and made off with several thousand dollars' worth of Nike shoes and Buccaneer jerseys, according to Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. Motion sensors triggered alarms, and sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene, but they left when they saw that the doors were locked and the security gates were intact.
Carter said a cleaning crew that arrived half an hour later "saw an individual disappear into the floor" and summoned the police. Meanwhile, someone rang 911 to report suspicious activity at the apartment complex. A dirt-covered Lowden, 43, was found there and arrested. Police are still looking for the others involved in the burglary.

The Boston Herald reports that Boston police found air fresheners, cans of Lysol, and bottles of Windex throughout Sean Senior's apartment. They also found 100 one-pound bags of marijuana. Lt. Kevin Foley explained that the "attempt to conceal the aroma...was unsuccessful". Officers had noticed the premises' smell when working on another case nearby.
The alleged dope dealer could have chosen a less conspicuous location for his stash. Foley said the 30-year-old Senior "was making a lame attempt to conceal it by covering it with a rug" in his bedroom.

German judge Beatrix Homann summarised a recent case for Reuters. Her court in Hanover sentenced a 26-year-old man to 18 months in jail for biting off his 50-year-old girlfriend's nose. Homann quoted the woman as telling the court, "I still love this man". The woman, who has had six operations to build a synthetic nose, said she has forgiven her partner for the attack. Homann said, "He was just drunk...".

David Wackett, a 25-year-old from Bridgend, south Wales, employed a seldom-used suicide method, decapitating himself from the driver's seat of his car. He tied one end of a rope to a lamp post near his workplace. The other end he fed through the car window and tied in a slip knot around his neck. His body was found by co-worker Gareth West, who said, "I went up to the car and looked directly in through the driver's window. ...There was no head attached to the body at all. The body had a seatbelt on." Officer Michael Heaton said the head was found under the car's back seat.
Co-worker Nadine Jones described Wacket as a "nice guy" she "had a good laugh with". Another colleague, Craig Rees, said Wacket "did seem a little down over a girl we worked with, Nadine. I think he had more feelings for her than she had for him and this caused him problems."

Israel Cervantes and Andrea Coleman were cited for shooting a deer from their car. Eager to prove that they were not in fact keeping deer meat, the De Leon Springs, Florida, couple gave wildlife officials permission to search their freezer. The officials found no venison. They did find about a pound of marijuana.

Atlanta, Georgia, police officer David Alan Freeman had been on the force 12 years when he was named his zone's Officer of the Year. Two weeks later, he was arrested for allegedly being a leader of the Diablos drug gang. He is charged with, among other things, attempting to recruit people for the gang, helping to arrange robberies, confiscating cocaine from members of other gangs for distribution by his own gang, and working closely with gang leader 'Billy Diablo' to control drug pipelines in Atlanta. He has been suspended with pay.
Freeman's lawyer, Ricardo S. Mosby, said, "The Diablos, to my knowledge, are a musical group, and he was a security guard for this group".

Three Pittsburgh teenagers decided to drive around town and shoot people with paintball guns. Wearing paintball vests and helmets, 19-year-old Tracey Smedley, a 17-year-old, and an 18-year-old shot children in a playground, then another group on the street. When the trio turned around to tell the group on the street that it was just paint, someone returned fire, hitting the driver's side of the car with more than a dozen bullets, according to police Lt. Philip Dacey. The three drove to the hospital, where Smedley was treated and released. No condition was available for the 17-year-old, who was hit in the buttocks.

Six-year-old Arika Hamilton and her brother were with their mother's boyfriend at his heating and cooling business in Leoni Township, Michigan. Hamilton's 10-year-old brother was driving a forklift truck when he hit her and ran over her, according to police. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she later died of her injuries. An investigation is underway.

Australia's Sef Gonzales allegedly wanted to inherit $1.2 million and was annoyed that his parents didn't approve of his girlfriend. They had also threatened to take away his car and had found out about his poor marks at university. So he rush-ordered lethal plant seeds online and made a poison. His mother recovered after being taken to hospital with a fever and abdominal pain. After his family were stabbed to death two weeks later, the poison was found in Gonzales's room. Gonzales was charged with killing his mother, father, and sister in turn as each arrived home.
Two years later, the case has gone to trial. Things have not gone Gonzales's way. His legal team walked out of the courtroom on him. Then the court refused to let him use his parents' money for his legal bills.
Gonzales claimed he was having sex at the La Petite Aroma brothel at the time of the killings. He said he came home to see someone run away from the bodies, which Gonzales then hugged. Dogs found no trail to follow, nor was blood from any such hugs found on Gonzales. However, police did find a trace of paint on his jumper - the same paint used by the supposed attackers to write 'Fuck off Asians' on the wall of the home. The prostitute he claimed to have been with had taken that week off. Also, Gonzales had paid a taxi driver $50 to claim he drove him to the brothel that night, but that taxi wasn't in service at the time.
Gonzales further complicated his situation by giving a detective falsified copies of his family's death certificate, with exact times of death added.

In Colorado, it is illegal for police to establish checkpoints to search motorists for illegal drugs. During the Telluride bluegrass festival, officers merely erected signs saying 'Narcotics checkpoint, one mile ahead' and 'Narcotics canine ahead'. One officer hid, waiting to pull vehicles over for littering near the signs, while another officer looked for the drugs and other items that had been discarded. Dolores County Sheriff Jerry Martin said, "I'm telling you, they tossed stuff out of there that you couldn't believe".
Stephen Corbit Roth, 60 ditched a marijuana pipe, but another was found in his car, as were hallucinogenic mushrooms. He filed suit against the police, and the court ruled that pretending to set up roadblocks is fine.

According to the Chicago Tribune, officers pulled over a car for having a cracked windscreen and no licence plates, then asked the three teens inside about the videotape in the car. They said they were making a documentary. Police spokesman Patrick Camden said the teenagers explained that four homeless men pretended to be beaten and robbed for the video. After officers watched the tape with the teens' permission, they located three of the homeless men, who had cuts and bruises. All three said the teenagers - Tony Hackett, Kenneth Cole, a 16-year-old, and another youth - had attacked them and that no documentary was involved.
In a similar case earlier this month, four teenagers in Youngstown, Ohio, were charged with using stun guns on sleeping homeless people. They too videotaped their criminal activity.

A group of friends were standing on the shoulder of a Montreal road, waiting for a taxi after an evening in a popular bar. A 59-year-old driver hit the group, injuring at least two people, and kept going. Witness Janice Mackie said a woman then noticed a shoe on the road and said, "These are my boyfriend's shoes. He was here a second ago and he's no longer here". Mackie said the woman "was running back and forth across the 117 and we were scared for her life because she was just panicking". Bar patrons chased the hit-and-run driver but lost him. Then, about an hour later, they saw the car driving past a restaurant - with the 18-year-old boyfriend embedded in the windscreen, dead. Sûreté du Québec Constable Jason Gauthier said the group took his keys and waited for police.

[IMG: AP photo of Samen] Adrienne T. Samen of North Haven, Connecticut, was enjoying her wedding reception but became annoyed when reception hall workers closed the bar. So the 18-year-old bride allegedly began hurling things at them, including vases and wedding cake. Police found her walking in the street, still wearing her wedding gown. They say she tried to bite an officer who tried to arrest her on criminal mischief and breach of peace charges. Samen spent part of her wedding night in jail, and a court date has been set.

An Alabama woman claimed that her 18-month-old daughter fell from her arms while she was cooking. Melissa Wright said the baby hit the oven door and rolled in, with the door closing behind her. The girl's father heard the child's screams and entered the kitchen. The child survived with third-degree burns to 70 per cent of her body. Prosecutors planned to argue that Wright tried to broil the infant out of jealousy of the attention the girl's father gave her. But Wright, 27, decided to admit to attempted murder. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison. District Attorney Randall Houston said Wright isn't mentally ill, "just mean".

A Minnesota couple received a surprise when they bought a new home - honey dripping down the walls. Todd Foege and Paige Cannon, who purchased the house from a beekeeper, soon discovered that there are hundreds of thousands of bees inside the walls. There are beehives inside the structure of the house as well. Foege wants the bees removed without the use of chemicals; Cannon just wants them gone.

Hallandale, Florida, town father Alan Wasser is concerned about the declining birth rate in the US and, more specifically, that Hallandale will get less federal money if it has fewer people. Wasser has declared 3 September as 'Hallandale Unified for More People', or 'H.U.M.P.', day. Some restaurants will offer specials on romantic dinners, while various shops will offer discounts on lingerie. Wasser hopes the idea will spread to other US town and cities.

A burglar called police after breaking into the home of British conceptual artist Richard Morrison. The burglar had become concerned by a work of art that looked like a human head in a jar of formaldehyde. Morrison had constructed this piece of art by wrapping bacon around a wire frame. The police broke down Morrison's door in their haste to respond to the burglar's call. The artist said, "I gather the police were bracing themselves for a Silence of the Lambs moment when they broke into my flat" near Liverpool.


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