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December 2002

11 December 2002

In a story from Delaware, Lori Ann Becker, 20, crashed estranged husband Michael's car into a concrete barrier, with Michael, 25, clinging to the roof. Lower Chichester Township Officer Ralph Conte said Michael was 'extremely cold' and wearing only socks and a t-shirt. After the crash, Michael pushed Lori back into the car and stabbed her 17 times in the thigh with a tool hanging from the rearview mirror. He told police that he had grabbed the roof rack after an unsuccessful attempt to stop her stealing the vehicle from his driveway. Both are being charged in connection with the incident.

In news of even fewer clothes, Clifford Harvey, 22, pleaded not guilty to driving offences causing bodily harm. Witness Shane Green told the Kitchener, Ontario, Superior Court that that Harvey was 'waving his arms and dancing around' naked in the street. While Green was calling police on his mobile phone, Harvey tried to enter the van. When Green locked it, Harvey 'tried to have sex with the front of the van. He was rubbing against the front of my van. He then laid down and had sex with the pavement, kind of pushing up against the pavement'. Harvey then became violent, ramming his purple Cavalier into several cars - parked and otherwise - and later kicking out the rear window of a police cruiser with his bare feet, reports The Record.

Mary Balliard had just moved to Valparaiso, Indiana, when she left her house without her keys or coat, hat, or gloves. The 43-year-old woman tried to climb in the basement window and apparently struggled to free herself. Police found her body after her co-workers reported that she had failed to show up at work after the Thanksgiving weekend. 'I don't know if anyone really knew her', said Nick Markoff, who lives down the block.

Georgia's Mearsall Leroy Gerald, 19, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to beating his girlfriend's grandmother with a stick, kicking her in the face, and stealing the $300 she was given for Mother's Day and her birthday. He wanted to buy beer and marijuana, but, Prosecutor Elizabeth Bobbitt said, he told police his main reasons were that he hated her and needed to pay off a drug debt.
Bobbitt said that 'her face was not even recognizable. It looked like raw meat' and it wasn't clear whether she'd been bitten by any of the cupful of fire ants that Gerald had dug up in a neighbour's yard and thrown in her face. Gerald, who fled in the woman's car, was arrested the next day.

North Augusta, South Carolina, police said Richard Quiller, 22, ordered Barbara Mitchell to go into a Belvedere branch of the Bank of America and withdraw cash. Before that, he had knocked on her door, brandishing a pistol, and demanded money; when she told Quiller - her neighbour - that she had no cash, he came up with the idea of going to the bank.
While Quiller was waiting outside, Mitchell asked the bank teller to ring the police. Officers arrested Quiller while he was still waiting in the car park.

Ernesto Valdez, 32, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was a first-time offender who didn't have the necessary $685 when he showed up at the Lackawanna County Courthouse to register for a rehabilitation programme that would clear his criminal record. So he stole a court stenographer's laptop computer and tried to pawn it, police said. When the pawn shop refused the machine on the grounds that the power cord was missing, he went back to retrieve it. A stenographer saw a cord sticking out of his pocket, and Valdez was arrested. Judge Trish Corbett accepted Valdez into the rehabilitation programme and later in the day ordered him to the state prison.

Judith Ann Garland of Baltimore, Maryland, was charged with trying to sell her two-year-old son. The 19-year-old needed the money for bail, police said. Maryland State Police Sergeant James DeWees said authorities were contacted by the woman to whom Garland offered the child. The contract drawn up by Garland was to 'solidify the deal to relinquish [...] parental rights for $250'. As the child's father is in jail too, this woman, a cousin of the father, has been awarded temporary custody of the child. DeWees said: 'If this person didn't want to purchase the child, who would she have gone to next?'
Garland's initial arrest came when she was arguing with her mother in the Carroll County General Hospital emergency room car park in Westminster. A trooper asked if she had a weapon, whereupon she pulled a glass crack pipe from her handbag.

Last month, five Penn State students were arrested for assaulting John Brantl, a Princeton student who was visiting for a debate tournament. The students allegedly poured motor oil over him and threw a lit cigarette at him. Penn State University president Judith Rodin said that the alleged behavior is unacceptable for Penn students. David Hochfelder; Philip Balderston; Thomas Bispham, Jr; Tavraj Banga; and Steven Stolk face a number of charges in connection with the incident.

A former high-school cheerleader in Wethersfield, Connecticut, is suing the town for more than $15,000 in damages because she fell while practising in the school gym. Kristie Sawyer, who hit her head on the floor while trying to perform a stunt, blamed poor training and lack of supervision by town workers for her injuries. In addition to not ensuring adequate spotting, they did not force cheerleaders to perform only stunts that they had practised recently.

A thief in Skowhegan, Maine, stole 27 Christmas trees from a trailer at the Central Maine Wreath Company. Police found a licence plate embedded in a snow bank at the scene of the crime. They believe the miscreant backed up too far as he tried to make his getaway. Officers have a short list of suspects.

A Greyhound bus in Marlboro, New Jersey, hit heavy traffic, so the driver used some alternative routes. Passenger Sally Weisbrot, 30, said: 'People were angry and mocking the driver, yelling "Do you know what you're doing up there? Do you know where you're going?"', so the driver answered one of the queries with 'I'm taking you to the Taliban'. She said he was joking because he was annoyed, but some people became worried and rang the police on their mobile phones. Soon the bus was surrounded by 18 police cruisers. The driver, whose name has not been released, is being investigated by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

At the end of November, reports the Dayton Daily News, Miamisburg, Ohio, woman Pandora J. Zan, 37, turned to robbery after she lost $900 in rent and didn't want to tell her husband. Using his gun, she held up stores, including Yesterday's Clothes, where she stole $25 but left behind her mobile telephone and keys when trying to escape. She returned to the crime scene to collect the missing articles but, failing to do so, came back later and tried again, after which she was arrested. Zan pleaded guilty before Judge Neal Bronson.

In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, two men are recovering after trying to remove $100,000 worth of marijuana that they had hidden in a car's petrol tank. Upon the ignition of petrol vapours by a spark from the saw they were using to cut into the tank, Octavio Soto, 44, and Jose Cezares, 23, suffered third-degree burns and were taken to hospital. Authorities investigating the fire noticed that the tank had been removed from the car and was suspiciously heavy. Inside wre two sealed metal containers containing about 27 kilos of marijuana.

Ananova reports that an Indian man showed up at the police station with a murder victim's severed head. Gagan Jani, 45, of Badala, in Orissa, allegedly killed the man himself. Police believe he viewed the victim as a practitioner of black magic and responsible for the death of his son, according to Pragativadi.

Luzerne County, Texas, Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr, sentenced Jason Bealla, 30, to a five- to 10-year prison term for committing burglary and, after abandoning his truck, stealing it from the police garage. He received an additional 12 to 14 months for tampering with evidence. Child pornography had been found in the truck. Olszewski, after reviewing Bealla's record and concluding that 'I think you may have the award for the most convictions of any defendant I've sentenced', asked Bealla to cite even one redeeming quality he has. Bealla answered that his girlfriend is pregnant, whereupon Bealla said: 'That's not redeeming.'

Bob Craft, a 44-year-old lineman, legally changed his name to Jack Ass in 1997 and is now suing the makers of the television programme and film 'Jackass' for later infringing on his trademark and copyright. He claims that the pranks and stupid stunts of the MTV series tarnish the good name he earned by promoting responsible drinking - with the slogan 'Be a smart ass, not a dumb ass' - and creating heart-shaped public memorials for accident victims. He said in a press release that 'unable to find one [attorney] that isn't intimidated by these corporate giants I filed suit myself'.

AP Wire reports describe a 34-year-old Singapore woman, whose name was not released, who used a hammer to break the windscreens of the cars at the dealership she and her husband shared. She also destroyed a computer and telephone. She did this because she suspected her husband, Robin Tu, 37, of having an affair since he was coming home later than usual, and recently not until dawn. Channel NewsAsia estimated the damage at $56,500. She said she felt better after releasing her anger and added: 'It is my shop, my cars - I can do what I like to them.'

Police in Winnipeg have arrested a Seven Oaks Hospital patient who allegedly used smoking breaks as a cover to rob nearby restaurants. Four incidents occurred before a restaurant employee - at Gondola Pizza - followed the robber and was led back to the hospital, police said. Stuart Neil Stickney, 46, was arrested there. 'It would seem that his needs were not being met totally by the treatment he was getting in the hospital', said Winnipeg police spokesman Bob Johnson.

When a gun-toting St. Paul, Minnesota, man was subdued upon threatening police officers who were responding to a 911 call, they found his injured aunt, Lorene Nell McIntyre, 50. The blood-covered Richard B. Bruestle told police that she had told him to leave her home during an argument about the flavour of her chilli. She died on the journey to a hospital.
After the argument, he had followed her to a neighbour's house with a butcher knife, he said, and stabbed her about 15 times. He then got a gun, returned to the neighbour's home, and fired several rounds at McIntyre. Bruestle, 38, is being charged with second-degree murder. Police spokesman Michael Jordan said: 'There've been shootings over dice games and Xboxes and video games - what can I say?'

Innis Palmer was trying to fix a lift at the Zion Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. 'When we got there, it appeared that he had been working on the elevator when the hydraulic system gave way', said Columbus Battalion Fire Chief Doug Smith. Palmer had been trapped under the one-ton lift for almost an hour. Smith said Palmer, an amateur, did have some knowledge of hydraulic systems and was trying to repair a leak at the time of the accident.

18 December 2002

An 80-year-old woman from Garfield, New Jersey, was found with wounds covering more than 80 per cent of her body. She had been mauled to death by two pit bulls. Witnesses told authorities that Julia Mazziotto had been alone with the animals, which she had raised since they were puppies and served her family as guard dogs.

Anthony Smith of Warren, Michigan, recently pleaded no contest to charges that he arranged for his wife to be raped. Police said Smith was lying awake next to his wife when another man entered the couple's trailer and told him to lie with his head in his pillow. After three unspecified sexual acts, the attacker said the equivalent of 'I owe you $5,000' and left, said Detective David Andrews. An apparently remorseful Smith told police that he had lost money playing pool and wanted to pay off some of his gambling debts, of which his wife was unaware.

Adam Joseph Fontenot, 18, of Eunice, Louisiana, allegedly placed razor blades in three apple pies at the local McDonald's, where he worked. He hadn't been taking his psychiatric medicine. Fontenot stated that he had planned to use a razor blade to kill himself but changed his mind and instead put the blade into an apple pie. FBI agent Doug Carr said that, after a woman cut her mouth on the offending pie, Fontenot 'didn't want people to think he was crazy, so then he put two more blades in pies' so it would appear they were placed there at the factory. Fontenot, who has had several clashes with managers at the McDonald's, has been fired.

The New York Post reports that Louis Tirella of Ronkonkoma had been drinking when he lost control of his 1987 Corvette, struck a mailbox, crossed four lanes of traffic, went up an embankment, and flew into the upstairs bedroom of Robert and Kathleen Ilardi, landing two feet from the bed. Tirella, 56, and the car fell to the ground after that, taking a corner of the house with them. Robert said he walked outside and saw Tirella 'lying there against my house with a Jack Daniel's bottle, mumbling some baloney about how he had been carjacked'.

A Framingham, Massachusetts, man called the fire department to report that he had set his house on fire with a propane torch. According to Deputy Fire Chief John McGaingan of Framingham, Massachusetts, the man, whose name has not been released, had been trying to melt the ice on his front steps. McGaingan said of the Thanksgiving incident that 'crazy things happen on these holidays'. It is unknown how much of the firemen's water refroze on the man's front steps.

Reuters reports on a San Ysidro 16-year-old who claimed he had been conducting amateur astronomy on a stranger's roof when he fell into the chimney. Firefighters broke apart the chimney to release the boy, who was unhurt after spending most of the night trapped inside. The police, not buying his story, arrested him and two of his friends.

After hearing the urban legend that dialling an extra '1' after '911' will cause a taped message to indicate whether the caller's line has been tapped, a 60-year-old woman had to see for herself. When she realised she had reached the Surrey, Vancouver, police, she hung up. However, officers followed up by arriving at her home to ascertain if there was an emergency. Inside was what Constable Tim Shields called a reasonably sized marijuana growing operation. Four people were taken into custody.

Wrestling coach Andrew Fonseca, 23, of California's Moorpark High School was sentenced to a year in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old student. Of Fonseca's relationship with the girl, now 15, her mother said: 'It's been the best thing that ever happened to her.' Fonseca lives with the parents of the girl, whom he has married, so misdemeanour charges might be brought against them, said prosecutors. Judge Kevin J. McGee termed the case 'one of the most unusual that one can imagine'.

In a report from Canada, a Regina woman had persistent pain following abdominal surgery in June, but doctors couldn't determine the cause. Airport security guards did - when she set off their metal detectors. An x-ray a few days later showed a 13″ x 2″ retractor inside her body. She underwent surgery to remove the instrument a day later but says she is still in pain. The Regina health authority said it couldn't discuss the case, citing patient confidentiality.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Olney police officer Anna Farr stopped a car that lacked registration and placed an 'assist officer, man with a gun' call when a gun fell out of the passenger's pocket. Two police cars responded to the call - and collided with each other, sending three officers to hospital. None of the injuries were life-threatening. After the impact, one of the squad cars crashed into a vacuum cleaner store. The suspect who had been carrying the gun was taken into custody.

After West Palm Beach, Florida, teacher Barry Grunow was shot to death by one of his students, widow Pam Grunow decided someone must pay. A jury found no liability for the murderer, Nathaniel Brazill, 16, who had stolen the unloaded gun and bullets from a cookie tin in a dresser drawer of family friend Elmore McCray. The jury awarded Pam $1.2 million from the coffers of gun distributor Valor, who, it was argued, didn't include features that would have prevented a minor from using the weapon. Valor attorney John Renzulli had argued that it was 'a good self-defence gun'. The jury found that the school board and McCray held most of the liability and would be required to pay Grunow $10.8 and $12 million, respectively, making the total payout to Grunow $24 million.

22 December 2002

When an inspector at Los Angeles International Airport opened Robert John Cusack's luggage, a bird flew out, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Ho Truong. After finding three other endangered birds of paradise and 50 protected orchids from Cusack's trip to Thailand, an inspector asked: 'Do you have anything else you should tell us about?' Truong said that Cusack, 45, replied: 'Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants.' Said pygmy monkeys are now at the Los Angeles zoo, and Cusack has been ordered to donate over $11,000 to a facility for primates.

An elderly woman became upset when security guards at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport objected to her choice of carry-on luggage. The CBC News site reports that she had intended to take a fully fuelled chainsaw on board her flight as hand luggage. The guards noticed the chainsaw during the screening process when the woman entered the boarding area. Airport officials, not named in the article, said she was surprised to learn that such items are considered 'restricted pieces of luggage'.

A half-naked man who hijacked a car at a shopping centre in Edmonton, Alberta, left police a clue to his identity. According to RCMP Const. Mireille Moore, the criminal's shirt was torn off during a struggle with security staff before the hijacking. It also appears that his colostomy bag fell off in the fight. The police have not yet found the hijacker, who forced an 18-year-old to act as his getaway driver.

A Minneapolis car thief hopped into a car that was warming up, drove it in reverse, and hit another vehicle, causing minor injuries. Cops surrounded him and quickly realised he had been caught 11 days earlier after stealing another vehicle. There will be no charges filed, nor will the culprit's name be released, as he is seven years old and thus protected by Minnesota law. Debra Torres, the owner of the car he stole on 6 December, said: 'Something needs to be done.' Authorities are considering filing a report to determine whether the boy should be removed from his home.
After fighting with police, the boy said that 'I just had to get to school and I don't know where it is', police reports state.

A court in Manchester ruled on Tuesday that convicted car thief Danil Wilson must not ride a bicycle anywhere in Manchester for the next three years. Magistrate Peter Ward said Wilson had pedalled around to get a good view of cars before stealing them. Local councillor Basil Curley said the ruling, employing anti-social behaviour orders, would mean that Wilson would be 'playing with his liberty if he so much as mounts a bike and turns a wheel'.

In an AP report from Mishawaka, Indiana, police were chasing a van after a burglary when the driver got out of the van near a church. The officer chased the man on foot, but the suspect circled round the church and took off in the squad car, which had the keys in the ignition, said North Liberty police Chief Steve Michael. Investigators believe the man then broke into another house and rang a taxi company. The dispatcher called police, who surrounded the home and found the squad car in the garage. The man, however, had apparently left on a bicycle. In the end, the man - Timothy Hurley, 35, was arrested in a trailer park after a woman notified police of the presence of a suspicious vehicle.

After driver Mary Botelho, 72, of Mansfield, Massachusetts, became lost, she was found by a man who then contacted that State Highway Patrol. She had been stuck in a ditch for eight hours, during which time she rang the emergency services 17 times and, after her mobile telephone's battery died, waited for authorities to locate her. Driving back from Las Vegas, she thought she was in Massachusetts but was actually several states away, in Ohio. Part of the delay in finding her was due to the local sheriff's office contacting Massachusetts authorities in an attempt to locate Botelho.

Lemuel Ware and Corey Andrews, two inmates in Charlotte County, Florida , were arrested for stealing fellow prisoner James Borland's pet spider, Pinky. The three men had begun fighting after Borland accused Ware of stealing Pinky. Ware told investigators the arachnid told him to hit Borland, who, after the fight, was found unconscious in the recreation yard. He required brain surgery.

A homeowner in a prosperous Royal Oak, Michigan, neighbourhood allowed his pets to lay waste to his home. Authorities called in a demolition crew, as they determined that the building could not be salvaged. The homeowner's more than 440 guinea pigs were found crawling in the walls and duct work. They also left toxic urine everywhere, according to city building department spokesman Robert Hudson. A social worker gave almost all of the animals to pet stores and the humane society. The Daily Tribune believes the man now lives in an assisted care facility.

Wichita Falls, Texas, native Lee Wayne Lawrence was afraid that his daugher had a job as a stripper at Maximus Gentleman's Club. Police say Lawrence, 41, entered the club in camouflage fatigues, started slashing furniture with a 20 cm hunting knife, and asked for a drink. Serving him, manager Vic Robinson saw a homemade bomb around Lawrence's neck. Seconds later, police entered. A few days later, after security camera footage was reviewed, Lawrence said: 'I would do that for my daughter if I could get her out of there.'
While his daughter, Kera, had applied and auditioned for a job at the club, Robinson said he had turned her down because her identification looked fake. Lawrence, who was released from prison in February after serving time for assaulting a police officer, has returned to jail.

In a story from slightly earlier in the month - I forgot to run it then - The Kansas City Star reports on Jefferson Uta, 26, who was shopping at a Wal-Mart store with a woman with a crying baby. According to police reports and court records, David Holbrook, 41, said 'Waaaa, waaaa!' in imitation of the child and then continued on to the electronics department with his girlfriend. Uta reportedly grabbed a baseball bat from a shelf and found Holbrook, who then asked 'are you going to hit me with the bat?' and promptly received a physical answer. Security camera footage showed Uta hitting him in the head and then on the back. He required 14 stitches and also suffered a broken rib and bruised kidney.

Teresa Milbrandt, 35, was raising money for her seven-year-old daughter's chemotherapy when officials at the girl's school in Urbana, Ohio, decided to get involved and contact the authorities. They had noticed that her hair had been cut or shaved rather than falling out. Teresa's husband, Robert, said neither he nor the girl, Hannah, knew the cancer was faked. He said he has taken his wife to a mental hospital. Hannah has been placed in the care of other relatives. Sergeant David Reese said: 'I've delivered death messages that people have taken easier than some of the people are taking this.'
Teresa had given Hannah sleeping pills and placed her in classes for preparation to die. She also used a bandage to cover a nonexistent chemotherapy port on her daughter's back.

China's Huang Ho, who operates a nursery school, has been sentenced to death after his conviction for poisoning 70 children and two teachers by lacing salt for corn porridge with rat poison. The 30-year-old Huang, a former physician, operated a kindergarten near the village of Huangpo near Wuchuan. The children and staff members, who were taken to hospital with severe vomiting and fits, were from a rival nursery school, the more successful Anle kindergarten.

In a report from Jamestown, New York, Danielle Monroe, 23, will serve up to a year of jail time for attaching jumper cables to her three-year-old son's genitalia. She then spent two to three hours taking her son to hospital, where he underwent surgery for his injuries. In court, Monroe explained that she had tortured her son as punishment. He and his two siblings have been placed in foster care, and the Department of Social Services will decide if Monroe will regain custody.

During a Christmas party for the elderly, a 13-year-old girl called her mother into the loo at Washington's Bremerton Senior Center. She had seen what she thought was a hidden camera in a vent. One of the officers present summoned a maintenance man, who explained that the device was a motion sensor for turning on the ventilation system when someone enters. Officers then found a VCR hidden in the false ceiling; it was connected to a camera in the vent. One of the videotapes found in the area showed the face of a man adjusting the camera, said a police department press release. Part-time maintenance employee Gary Sheflo, 50, was arrested, said police spokeswoman Wendy Davis said.

Kaye Campbell, a transsexual living in Caithness, Scotland, told police she feared that her wife would kill her. She claimed that Joanne Campbell saw her cleaning hoofprints from her Shetland pony off the bathroom floor and that then 'there was a thunk and a kitchen knife appeared through the side of the fibreglass bath'. Kaye, 49, claims that Joanne also grabbed her hair and hit her head repeatedly against a stone hearth. The court heard a recording of the 999 call Kaye placed at the time, in which she screamed: 'I'm being murdered!' After the call, Kaye left on foot and was later found on the motorway. Joanne denies the charges.

Unemployed mechanic Leon Humphreys, 60, was taken to court in Bury St Edmunds after he refused to pay a 25-pound fine for not reporting that his motorcycle was off the road. He told the court that, as his right to trial by combat was still valid under European human rights laws, he wished to fight - to the death - a champion nominated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Magistrates decided not to accept the offer, which Humphreys asked include 'samurai swords, Ghurka knives, or heavy hammers'. They fined him 200 pounds plus court costs.

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