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December 2004

1 December 2004

According to Finland's Ilta-Sanomat, a 32-year-old man showed up at a hotel in Turku late on Friday night, threatening the receptionist with a weapon. He took money from the till and demanded bottles of drink. After that, the receptionist was forced to withdraw money from a cash machine and then made to enter a taxi with the thief, who proceeded to drink so much that he passed out. The taxi driver contacted the police, who collected the man.

New York's Craig Musso and Linda Lou White met in a Christian chat room and arranged to meet in person in Tennessee after an eight-month online romance. After a couple days, they were married. When White died a month later, doctors initially assumed it was because of issues associated with her 160-kilo weight. On being informed of her death, White's mother immediately asked: 'Did he kill her?', prompting the ordering of an autopsy. It revealed that the 43-year-old White had been strangled. Musso, 44, was implicated and has been charged with second-degree murder.

Philip Quinn of Kent, Washington, apparently placed a lava lamp on his stovetop, possibly in an attempt to add extra heat because the wax wasn't doing its thing. Police spokesman Paul Petersen said on Monday that a shard of glass from the exploding lava lamp pierced Quinn's heart, killing him. Other shards embedded themselves in the walls. It appears that the 24-year-old Quinn made it to the bedroom of his trailer home, where he was found later in the day by his parents. Police do not suspect that alcohol or drugs were involved.

After breaking into a wealthy couple's home in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, Keith Bryson did not pull off a burglary. Instead, his false leg was pulled off, in a struggle with the homeowners, Heather Greenwood and her husband. Heather grabbed the 56-year-old Bryson, and her husband sat on him while awaiting the arrival of the authorities. Bryson has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail.

In a news item from Australia, Sydney police who were involved in a massive child pornography crackdown ended up e-mailing child porn to hundreds of schools in New South Wales. The intent of the mailing, which occurred after a man's arrest on child porn possession charges, was to send photos of just the children's faces to the schools for identification of those at risk. The undoctored versions were sent instead. State Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Graeme Morgan blamed a computer error.

A man in Lynchwood, Washington, was reported for trying to use a credit union account that wasn't his. The police showed up and arrested the man, who fled while he was being led, handcuffed, to a patrol car. His trousers fell to his ankles as he ran, and he tripped, falling in the middle of the road. He abandoned his shoes and wriggled out of his jeans, then took off on the run again.
Later, 60-year-old Janice Lewis saw the fleeing man, clad in a sock, boxer shorts, a shirt, and a jacket, and remembered seeing police chasing him earlier. She grabbed the man's jacket and held on until Officer Anne Codiga tackled him, suffering a broken finger in the scuffle. The man escaped again but was caught shortly thereafter and booked for theft and assault.

Ryan Christian Parker, 34, is accused of assaulting a clerk at a grocery store in Moorhead, Minnesota, and then attacking two customers who came to the clerk's aid. Parker, who was naked from the waist down, fled on foot and got into a vehicle driven by his mother. He resisted arrest when police removed him from the vehicle.

After robbing a Massachusetts bank with a winter hat pulled down over his face, 66-year-old Joel M. Boyce decided to buy some cigarettes and vodka. An officer responding to reports of the armed robbery stopped him as he left the liquor store next to the bank. Boyce provided the officer with his personal details in view of media cameras. Less than 45 minutes after the robbery, he was arrested at his flat. Boyce's criminal record, which dates back to 1954, includes a plea bargain to reduce a charge of kidnapping a five-year-old boy on Thanksgiving in 1999.

The police in Worcester, Massachusetts, report on Frank Palacious's Thanksgiving dinner table manners. Gonzalo Ocasio, 49, and his 18-year-old son apparently reprimanded Palacious, an uncle, for picking at the turkey with his fingers instead of carving off slices and placing them on his plate. Allegedly, he responded to the criticism by stabbing both men several times with a carving knife. Detective Sergeant Thomas R. Radula said Palacious has been charged with domestic assault and assault with intent to murder.

Sarah Powell, 27, and her 30-year-old boyfriend Jake Faria were unable to find someone to look after Powell's seven-year-old son while they celebrated her birthday in a San Diego bar. Their solution was to place the boy in the boot of her car 'for safekeeping'. They supplied him with a pillow and sleeping bag. Powell was arrested during the party, and Faria a few days later. As part of a plea bargain, the couple pleaded guilty to child abuse and false imprisonment. They are expected to be sentenced to probation. The boy is living with a foster family, and Powell hopes to regain custody of him after attending parenting classes.

In October, I reported on the death of Colorado State University student and former anti-drug-abuse volunteer Samantha Spady, who drank herself to death (see According to AP reports, a company sponsoring a gelatin wrestling tournament in the town decided to donate $100 to a foundation established by Spady's parents in her memory. Excalibur Entertainment president Brian Collins, promoting the event, promised free alcoholic 'Jell-O shots' to the first 100 women who attended. After receiving complaints from the SAM Spady Foundation and others, the company withdrew the donation. Collins said: 'We were just trying to be more a part of the community.'

Hollis Studdard of Memphis, Tennessee, reported that someone struck him from behind several times with a tree branch. Studdard said he turned round and recognised the masked attacker, saying: 'I know it's you, Michael.' According to Studdard, the attacker apologised at this point, pulling off his mask and saying: 'You were supposed to get knocked out and I was going to take your wallet and truck.' Studdard refused to give up the keys to his pickup truck until the robber said: 'You're bleeding. I'm going to drive you to the hospital.' He said the would-be robber returned the keys after dropping him off at Baptist Memorial Hospital. The alleged perpetrator, who has since telephoned threats to Studdard's home, remains at large.

Romania's Adevarul newspaper reports on 24-year-old Alin Prica's second car crash in the space of a month. In the first incident, he stole a car and, despite being blind, drove it for almost 1.5 km before crashing into a tree and knocking himself out. In the second incident, Prica stole another car, managing to drive it for 40 kilometres by following directions from a sighted friend in the passenger's seat and a blind friend. Prica, from Izvoare, ended his journey with another intimate encounter with a tree. Prica's two teenaged friends will not be charged, but Prica has been taken in for questioning.

Antoinette Millard of Buffalo, New York, racked up about a million dollars in debt to American Express. The 40-year-old Wall Street worker is suing the credit card company for nearly twice this amount for 'letting' her spend money she didn't have. She claims that the company should have spotted her 'irrational' spending. On her application for the credit card in question, Millard had claimed to be a Saudi princess.

Two years ago, Jean-Claude Godrie, of Douai, France, decided to kill himself because of mounting debts. He used a hunting rifle to shoot his wife, Chantal, in the head first but was prevented from taking his own life by their son. Chantal survived but lost her eyesight. Afterward, Jean-Claude explained that he had wanted to prevent his wife from having to bear the financial burden alone, saying that he wanted to end an unbearable situation rather than kill her. Chantal begged the court to forgive her husband of 37 years. The jury convicted him of attempted murder but waived the sentence.

A scrap yard operator in West Virginia claims that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has sent his company, rather than another bank, several hundred faxes containing confidential customer data. Wade Peer claims that he told CIBC of the mistake but that the faxes continued for over three years, tying up his customer service line. The bank insists that it did take steps to prevent further such faxes, but Peer says the faxes continued and is suing CIBC on account of the failure of his business. A day after praising Peer for the way he had handled the matter and maintained the confidentiality of the faxes, the bank countered by accusing Peer of breaking Canadian privacy laws and divulging secret information by mentioning that he received the faxes and providing the court with those that he had kept in a locked filing cabinet rather than shredding. US judge Andre Davis has ruled that Peer's lawsuit, which he deemed bizarre and curious, may go forward.
One of the customers' files was posted on the court's Web site, but it has since been removed. The bank has issued an apology to customers for the incidents.

Kevin Winston, a 46-year-old father from Newark, New Jersey, wanted to teach his 16-year-old daughter a lesson when she came home drunk and unruly late at night. He rang the police, ratting on her. When the cops arrived, the girl said she feared for her safety because her father kept drugs and weapons in the home. She showed them a crawlspace above the ceiling where four guns and 600 phials of cocaine were stashed. Winston's five daughters were placed in the custody of a relative, and he has been charged with a range of offences.

9 December 2004

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which featured in the last set of Clippings (two stories above this one), is having another public relations nightmare. One of the bank's cash machines in New Brunswick began dispensing brightly coloured fake money. The promotional notes, used as an incentive at Canadian Tire hardware stores, were 'contained within a bulk of regular currency, and [...] apparently loaded into one of our bank machines', said CIBC spokesman Rob MacLeod. The bank has issued refunds and apologies. An investigation into the incident has begun.

Sharon Kay Sexton, a 57-year-old woman from Wichita Falls, Texas, got in trouble with the authorities after one of her grandsons told a police officer outside a shop that his brother was in the boot of the car. When Sexton emerged from the shop, the officer asked her to open the latch. She did so, explaining that the nine-year-old boy had been there, as punishment for soiling himself, for only about 15 minutes. Iowa Park Police Chief Steve Klempa said Sexton explained that she was raising her three grandchildren on her own because their parents are in jail. An investigator wrote in a report that 'she also stated that she would rather be in jail than take care of these children'. The children are staying with another relative for the time being.

A Cleveland, Ohio, radio station's morning show features dares submitted by listeners. Programme regular Dieter was asked to stand in a bucket of water and stick his tongue in a bug zapper. The crew 'lost' the bucket, but Dieter did brave the bug zapper. Moments after his tongue made contact, he hit the ground convulsing. Host Rover said: 'At first we didn't want to touch him. We didn't want to get electrocuted.' He did get taken to the emergency room anyway, and the day's show ended early. Dieter, who is the son of an electrician, is recovering, taking painkillers and antibiotics while his blisters heal.

William Flynn Miller IV was a 21-year-old student at the University of Georgia. A member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, he was participating in a drinking ritual involving 190-proof grain alcohol and an oil lantern when the liquor ignited and his clothes burst into flame. Miller suffered third-degree burns to his torso and hands. There are conflicting claims about the incident, with some describing a drinking-and-lamp ritual involving the playing of Steppenwolf's song 'Magic Carpet Ride' and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the outgoing president of the fraternity denying that such a ritual exists.

The BBC reports that Lee Shelley, 29, decided not to pull over for the police in Leicester, maybe because he didn't want to take a breath test or perhaps because he had no car insurance or driving licence. After a chase through Leicester at 130 km/h, he was eventually stopped. When officers at the police station handed him a cordless telephone for ringing his wife, he removed the cover and swallowed the battery. He was taken to hospital, then fled - to a pub, where he was caught after he boasted to fellow drinkers about the incident. James House, defending him in court, said that Shelley had been motivated by concern about how his wife would react after his arrest. He was sentenced to two years in jail for his various offences.

Illinois's Belleville News-Democrat reports that St. Clair County Deputy Scott Toth found a driverless, wrecked car in a ditch so went to the owner's home. Since no-one was there, he returned to the scene of the accident, where he found the owner's room-mate, 39-year-old Randall C. Jenkins, using a tractor to pull the car from the ditch. Jenkins, whose driving licence had been revoked and whose breath Toth said smelled of alcohol, denied having driven the car, then set off in the tractor, with Toth's police car in hot pursuit. The low-speed chase ended when Jenkins parked the tractor in a neighbour's barn and tried to hide behind a grain bin. He was arrested. In his pocket was a dying kitten that he had been trying to keep warm since its injury in the wreck.
He has been convicted six times before of driving without a licence.

Tracy Lynn Bagley and Jeffrey Wayne Pembert of Eureka, California, visited a mobile telephone shop. While a check was being run on their credit, they walked out with a telephone. Store manager John Meyer said that the results of the credit check showed that the couple qualified for an offer including a free mobile of the same model. He contacted them to tell them this, offering them a chance to return the unit, before involving the police. They declined. Pembert was then arrested on drug-related warrants, and arrangements were made for the return of the telephone.

In Denver, an unmarked police cruiser was stolen from outside an officer's house, shortly after the officer it was assigned to started the engine and went back into the house. Police said there were no weapons in the vehicle, just a couple laptop computers, some handcuffs, and a traffic vest. Speaking for the police department, John White said that the city forbids leaving an unattended vehicle running, so 'we will act accordingly'.

In a story of romance and forgiveness, Carrie Lynn Wheeler of Portland, Oregon, admitted to mixing rat poison into her husband's tacos and putting ground-up prescription pills in a drink she served him. Her husband, 57-year-old Steve, told Judge Jean Kerr Maurer that 'I think this is overdone', explaining: 'Knowing Carrie, my wife, this doesn't quite fit; I feel the sentence is too heavy.' Partially in consideration of his statement that he still loved his wife and wished for leniency to be shown to her, the case was settled with a plea bargain in which Carrie admitted to attempted assault rather than attempted murder. She must receive domestic violence counselling, and the judge said she must not be in contact with her husband without written approval from her probation officer.

Robert Amato and Valerie Lawler went to the police station in Milford, Connecticut, to post bail for a friend. According to police reports, Lawler opened her car door at the station and a crack pipe fell to the ground in front of a police officer. Investigating further, the officer found a small bag of cocaine in the car. Amato and Lawler, who have been charged with various drug-related crimes and conspiracy, hadn't even gone to the correct police station, as their friend had been arrested on an outstanding warrant in New Haven.

A financially beleaguered food bank in Auburn, Maine, decided not to sell a special donation to make extra money. A Good Shepherd Food-Bank volunteer unloading a truckload of donated watermelons into the warehouse found a neatly-wrapped nine-kilo bale of marijuana. The truck driver had left by this point. A Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agent questioned the volunteer and quickly determined that he had nothing to do with the illegal shipment. Nor do the authorities believe the truck driver to have been involved with the marijuana. They believe a drug trafficker in Mexico either forgot about the bale or had to abandon its shipment.

Christopher Chianese, a 26-year-old man from Seneca Falls, New York, was convicted of driving while intoxicated and was fined $500, but he didn't want to appear in court. A few hours after he was placed on the schedule for a court appointment, someone set the municipal office building, which contains the court, on fire. While his court hearing for drink-driving was indeed delayed, Chianese was arrested for arson and could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Paul Elrod, 39, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, apparently arrived late for a film and was shushed by Jamin Eisenbach, who was sitting in front of him, for explaining to his wife that he'd had trouble finding a place to park. Eisenbach, 51, later said the back of his seat was kicked throughout the film and that someone kept blowing in his hair. After the film ended, Elrod kicked Eisenbach in the chest, knocking him down some steps and causing him to hit a railing. He was in hospital for nine days with a punctured lung and broken ribs. Elrod said in court that he had been upset over being told 'Shhh' but that he acted in self-defence. He has been sentenced to six months in jail.

In a story from Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, Eldon Duvall said he was guilty only of wearing tight jeans. Duvall said that he was approached by a cop when he got out of his car to play chess at a friend's house. Perhaps Southwest Regional Police Detective Sergeant James Rega had seen Duvall squirming around in his seat. He asked Duvall if he needed help. Rega later said in court that Duvall had a .38-calibre revolver hidden in some papers and that the weapon had ended up pointed in his direction when he spoke with Duvall. Duvall, whose permit to carry a weapon specifies that it must be concealed, explained that hiding the gun among magazines wasn't ideal. He had tried to get it under his jeans while sitting in his car but found them too tight.
Duvall, 36, has been charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

In Sanford, Florida, traffic court judge John R. Sloop issued arrest warrants for 11 people who failed to appear before him in courtroom 1A. Meanwhile, all 11 were waiting in courtroom 1B, next door, to which court personnel had directed them. At least some of them had traffic tickets specifying appearances in room 1B. After they had waited for two hours and the mistake was discovered, the 11 asked to be allowed to explain to Sloop what had happened. Refusing to see them, he ordered their arrest. After they had spent more than eight hours in a jail cell, Sloop agreed to their release on their own recognizance. He has since been moved from criminal to civil court duties.

Paulo Dingo, a top-division Swiss footballer, celebrated a goal by jumping up on the perimeter fence. The newly married player didn't notice that his wedding ring had become caught in the metal barrier, and the top two joints of the finger were severed as he jumped back to the ground. He was then shown a yellow card for overly exuberant celebration. Doctors were unable to reattach the joints of the finger and recommended amputation of the digit.

Asker, Norway, police spokesman Tore Hagen told Verdans Gang of a man who was taken to hospital on Monday night after being bitten by a rattlesnake. When the police learned that the man, in his 30s, had been treated at the hospital earlier in the day for a bite from a Malaysian palm viper, his illegal collection of exotic pets came under scrutiny. The animals, including four snakes, were confiscated.

Viola Trevino of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was ordered to appear in court with her five-year-old daughter. The child didn't exist, so, as the deadline drew near, Trevino tried to borrow distant relative Rachel Luna's five-year-old daughter, inventing a story about needing to collect a $20,000 beauty contest prize. After this attempt failed, Trevino saw a two-year-old girl and her grandmother, Georgia Chavez, fetching the mail, so she offered to take them to see Santa Claus and receive free candy. Chavez said she agreed and got into Trevino's car, which headed to the courthouse. Chavez said she couldn't keep up when Trevino walked off with the girl. Trevino showed up with the girl several hours after the court deadline. Her insistence that the child was hers was met with scepticism.
Trevino's ex-husband, who has paid $20,000 in child support for the nonexistent child, plans to sue her and others. Also, she might face criminal charges, including perjury and fraud. Officials say kidnapping charges are not applicable in this case.

A teacher in Terrytown, Louisiana, noticed an eight-year-old girl's bookbag leaking. Inside were what appeared to be about 30 'Jell-O shots'. The girl explained that her mother, who works at a bar, makes alcoholic shots at home to sell at work. She said her mother had told her to sell the shots at school at three for $1 to make some money for Christmas. School spokesman Jeff Nowakowski said the girl has been suspended from school for nine days for violating school rules against possessing or trying to distribute 'lookalikes', items that appear to contain drugs or alcohol.

Garrett Dewayne Done of Klamath Falls, Oregon, said he was spreading gravel in his city-owned snow plough when he decided to visit a friend in the wee hours. He took a shortcut, going off-road, which involved driving through some fences and eventually into a utility shed. Done, 36, admitted that he had been drinking prior to his shift, and a Diet Pepsi bottle smelling of alcohol was found in the snow plough. Done is being charged with drink-driving, reckless driving, hit-and-run driving, and first-degree criminal mischief. He is being suspended with pay while investigation continues.

In Dover, New Hampshire, Steven W. Coleman threw two Molotov cocktails at the front and back of his ex-girlfriend's residence. They never ignited, but two neighbours had to be taken to the hospital for respiratory problems associated with the fumes. When he was spotted, Coleman left the scene on his lawnmower, with the police in pursuit. According to the police, the ensuing low-speed chase ended only when a second cruiser blocked the lawnmower's path. Coleman, who had a book of matches in his pocket and another bottle when caught, denied having been at the scene of the crime, an area from which he had been banned after a previous incident.

Georgia's Holly Harvey allegedly enlisted the help of her 16-year-old lesbian lover, Sally Ketchum, in the murder of her custodial grandparents. The plot was hatched after Harvey's grandparents ordered her to stop taking drugs and forbade her seeing Ketchum. Police describe Harvey as persuading Ketchum to hide under a bed in the elderly couple's home until they were lured into the bedroom. Both Carl and Sarah Collier were stabbed over 15 times. The girls then drove off in the couple's truck.
When the girls were arrested, they laughed at the more than 25 officers present. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Jordan said of the 'heartless' Harvey: 'it almost made her giddy to know we had brought that many people to arrest her.' By contrast, 'was in it for the love'.
The evidence against the girls includes three bloody knives, the truck, and the testimony of friends from whom the girls allegedly tried to obtain guns. Also, on Harvey's arm was written a 'to do' list: 'kill, keys, money, jewelry'. In court, Harvey's lawyer described her as 'acting like a scared 15-year-old'.

Several members of the far-right British National Party walked out of their own Christmas party after the deejay showed up. Bob Garner, BNP organiser, said: 'Everyone was a bit alarmed when he turned up with his lights and console [...] there was a bit of a cock-up. The chap who booked him didn't realise. The DJ sounded white on the phone.' Garner said that members of the party, whose membership requirements include being of 'British or closely kindred native European stock', had to be careful what they said in speeches and comments during the party. He added that 'it was very, very embarrassing'.

Tim Trostle, a delivery worker for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, left the engine of his truck running while he made a delivery near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Someone promptly stole the truck; however, police were able to follow a trail of doughnuts that had fallen from the open back doors of the truck. Past the end of the doughnut trail was a doughnut cart. The truck was found near a bar downtown. Police surmised that the thief simply wanted a way to get to the bar. There was no lack of doughnuts in the police station following the closing of this case. I love endings where everyone is happy.

15 December 2004

In Newtown, Wales, more than 4,000 Father Christmases participated in a charity race, with a related goal of attaining a world record as the largest such gathering. After the race, about 30 of the men got into a drunken brawl after pub kicking-out time. Officers responded with batons and CS spray. Four officers were slightly injured, and five local men were arrested. 'Many of those involved were still wearing their Santa outfits,' said PC Gareth Slaymaker.

A 39-year-old man from Chillicothe, Ohio, apparently tried to kill himself by inhaling natural gas. Mark Morris became concerned that someone else might be injured as well if his house were to explode. As he headed into the basement to turn off the circuit breaker, the house blew up. It was levelled, and neighbours' homes were severely damaged. Morris, alive but badly burned, was partially buried under the rubble. He told the police of his failed suicide attempt. A man matching Morris's description was admitted to an area intensive care burn unit.
About a month earlier, Morris had been admitted to the hospital for treatment of depression. This followed a suicide attempt in which he allegedly taped one end of a garden hose to his car's tailpipe and placed the other end through the vehicle's window. When the car ran out of fuel a few hours later, he decided to use a small propane tank, which suffered the same fate.

The principal of Lake Dow Christian Academy in McDonough, Georgia, said that a 14-year-old boy who wanted money for Christmas presents decided to sell a pipe bomb at school. His classmates thought the $35 price the boy had set was too high. Several of the school's roughly 150 students told their parents about the bomb. After the school was alerted, police searched the boy's home, where they found two unfinished pipe bombs. West said of the incident: 'He just did a stupid thing. Boys are all the time doing stupid things.'

A man from Ichihara in Japan's Chiba Prefecture entered a convenience store at around midnight on Saturday and demanded money from a clerk at knifepoint. After the employee gave him the money, 60-year-old Noboru Momose said: 'My house is on fire. Call the police.' He then fled. Alerted to the robbery, the police found Momose about 350 metres from the scene of the crime. They also found that his home was indeed on fire. The blaze, which Momose had started himself, destroyed the unemployed man's house and the house next door. His motives are still unclear.

In Green Forest, Arkansas, a 13-year-old boy allegedly threatened to cut off his mother's head with a butcher knife because he 'had just discovered that she had not purchased him the [Christmas] present he had requested', according to police officer Tommy Hayden. The mother tried to disarm her son, at which point he kicked and punched her. After being read his rights, the juvenile admitted to threatening his mother and 'said that all would have been well if she had just bought him the correct present', Hayden said. The teenager was taken to the Carroll County Jail.

In October, I reported on Iowa psychiatrist Ronald McPike, who paid his parking fine in faecally festooned $1 notes. McPike, who pleaded not guilty to harassment of a public official, has been ordered to pay a $250 fine, fifty times the value of the parking ticket. McPike's lawyer said that his client's psychiatric practice has suffered on account of what he termed a 'serious error in judgement'.

A woman in a shower stall at the Mary Perry Ragsdale YMCA in Jamestown, North Carolina, noticed that below the bottom of the partition with the next stall was a pair of hairy feet. She called for help. David Herbert Witham, 43, was found to be the owner of the feet. The police collected Witham and his small mirror. He has been charged with six counts of 'secretly peeping in the room of females'.

Missouri's Sheila Himmerick and her 17-year-old son arranged to ship their new DVD player back to Samsung when they couldn't get it to work. When it arrived at the company's repair shop in New Jersey, Himmerick received a telephone call: someone at the shop asked whether that was her snake in the foam peanuts and whether she was trying to indicate that she was a dissatisfied customer. Himmerick was thrilled to find out that Paco, her son's bull python, was alive and accounted for. Animal warden Kevin Kessler, who had been called in to handle the listless reptile, said 'things like this do happen'.

A 49-year-old truck driver went to the Throggs Neck Urgent Medical Care facility about a year ago because of a rash on his neck and chest. Physician Brian Shaw had a look at the rash, examined the man's testicles, and then began performing oral sex on him against his will. Shaw, 42, has now pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct. He has surrendered his medical licence and has been sentenced to six years of probation as part of a plea agreement. He had been acquitted of a similar crime in 2002.

Viney Richards, a 36-year-old employee at a Florida Burger King fast food outlet, said a manager gave her a three-metre-tall promotional SpongeBob Squarepants balloon that had been on the establishment's roof. She put the balloon up for auction on eBay, where dozens of stolen SpongeBobs from other Burger Kings are available. When she later asked her boss's permission to be photographed for a Tampa Tribune story on the subject, she was told 'no' and ordered to return the balloon. Richards, who said 'I really like my job at Burger King, but I just couldn't give back the SpongeBob', was fired from the $6.15 an hour job. She made $1,025 from the auction.

Police in Minneapolis report that a naked man was being arrested for entering homes without permission when he started hitting an officer. The policeman's canine partner, who was still leashed, entered protection mode. The police dog bit the man in the genitals. He kept resisting until a stun gun was used. The naked man was taken to hospital for treatment of his injuries. Speaking for the department, Officer Ron Reier said that police dogs are not trained to bite the groin area.

LaBetty Schusterman is serving a 51-month federal prison sentence in Connecticut for embezzling more than $1.3 million over nine years from the synagogue where she was employed as a book-keeper. A year after her arrest, her son has now been arrested for embezzlement. Denis Schusterman was charged on Thursday with stealing $10 million for the company where he was chief financial officer. The money, which he had deposited in his own bank account, was used to produce three films, start a financial services company, and purchase a home in California, according to prosecutors.

The BBC reports that a concerned citizen rang the Hampshire Police after seeing a turban-wearing figure with a bulging combat jacket walking along a road near barracks at the Aldershot army base. About 15 squad cars, members of the Royal Military Police, and three dog handlers were called in. It was quickly discovered that the man, who was sporting a false beard and pretend explosives made of candles wrapped in wire and orange paper, was a member of the Coldstream Guards. He was on his way from a costume party for his regiment. The drunken soldier was arrested and spent the night in jail. He was fined around 80 pounds for an offence against public order. The base spokesman said the choice of costume was 'perfectly fair' but that the man shouldn't have been walking by a public road.

Mark Taylor Davis and his wife Mercedes were flying home in a light aircraft when it developed engine trouble, according to Texas state troopers. The engine died, and the plane landed atop a lorry. It then crashed onto the highway. Both Mark and Mercedes were unharmed. 'Nothing happened to the truck, except for a couple of skid marks up top,' said Lucila Torres, speaking for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Raymond Bennett White, Jr, the driver of the 18-wheeler, was unaware of the incident. He told state troopers that he didn't hear anything unusual.

Sheriff Ken Roland of Miami County, Indiana, said a masked man pointed a gun at an automotive repair shop clerk 'and told her he would kill her; then he pulled the trigger, but nothing was in it'. Over $200 was taken. The 16-year-old clerk thought she recognised the man's voice. While she was giving a statement to the police, her 18-year-old brother rang the shop to speak with her. The voice was the same. She kept him on the line, and the police arrested him and two friends at a public telephone. The brother, Bryce A. Swihart, was charged with armed robbery.

In Brookhaven, New York, 31-year-old Abel C. Flores was driving along at about 30 km/h on his bare tyre rims, sending up sparks and weaving gently from side to side, when Officer Paul Mercready pulled up alongside him. The 31-year-old Flores continued driving, on the shoulder of the road, at about a quarter of his original speed. When Flores's car finally stopped, the sparks caused it to catch fire. As the car was engulfed in flames, Mercready broke the window and pulled Flores from the vehicle. Flores, whom Mercready described as 'catatonic', was unable to stand or speak at the time, according to the Suffolk County Police's Lieutenant Michael Murphy. Flores was uninjured, while Mercready had to be treated at a nearby hospital for cuts to his hand.

John Tams, 50, is a convicted cocaine dealer in Yorkshire. He is on a day release programme in which he works as Father Christmas in a grotto he and another inmate built. He said the community 'know who I am and that I've done wrong but they have welcomed me with open arms'. A spokesman for the Home Office said Tams was carefully risk-assessed and poses no threat to the public.
The same could not be said of 73-year-old Zay Jones of Forest City, North Carolina. On the way to an appointment as jolly St. Nick, he allegedly touched his passenger, an 11-year-old girl who volunteers as an elf, inappropriately. She asked to use the loo, then alerted a woman at a highway rest stop. The woman rang the police. Jones, who has been Father Christmas in Forest City for three years, had been accused in 1981 of taking indecent liberties with a child and charged with attempted rape in 1991. He pleaded guilty to assault on both occasions. An official said there will now be background checks for Santa Clauses.

According to AFP reports, Singapore's tolerance for games of chance as a social activity during wakes is being exploited by criminal syndicates who pay grieving families to gamble near the deceased. A report prepared in response to a proposal for a large casino in Singapore says that mobile casinos are set up in the tents traditionally erected around the coffin. Newspaper reports said 'runners', who scour the obituaries for likely families, get the equivalent of about US$ 60 for a successful deal with a family. The family receive about US$ 180 for allowing the use of a tent for the night. Regular gamblers are told at the last minute where to show up. The police have responded that they will not tolerate such activity.

Just in case you haven't yet seen this one:
Sandy Wilson of Santa Fe, Texas, was looking after her three grandsons when a group of men entered the home to burgle it. The children were playing the Grand Theft Auto video game, known for its violence, when one of the men pointed a gun at them. Galveston County Asst. District Attorney Michael Elliot said: 'The police in the game were saying "Stop! We have you surrounded. This is the police." The burglar, unknowingly, thought this was the actual police and panicked [...] being apprehended by Playstation.' One of the boys, Chaze Fisher, said it was pretty funny that the four men ran off, and into the hands of police, because of one of the game's random 'police scanner' messages.

Kurt Garland, 48, worked as a deliveryman for oil. While refilling a high-speed ferry in Hyannis, Massachusetts, he apparently suffered a heart attack and died. He was the only person aboard the ferry at the time. The diesel oil flowed into the harbour until at least 5am, when a member of the ship's crew arrived at work. About 7,500 litres of oil had flowed into the water. Thanks in part to mild weather, the harbour was closed for only a day for cleanup efforts.

Barrie Segal, the founder of , announced that Nadhim Zahawi has won the group's award for the silliest parking ticket of the year. Earlier this year, a car ran into Zahawi's moped, throwing him into the middle of the road. While he was being wheeled into an ambulance with a broken leg, a bystander ran up to tell him that a Lambeth parking enforcement officer had just ticketed the mangled moped. Zahawi was later told that the officer hadn't realised she was at the scene of an accident. Zahawi said 'I mean, there was debris everywhere. [...] I don't know how she could have missed a great big ambulance and a police van.' He appealed against his 100-pound fine and won.
Other contenders for the award included Tom Tennant and Sheron Green, who were both ticketed after yellow lines were painted under their vehicles, and Scott Kay, who took a friend to Edinburgh Dental Hospital for emergency treatment and was ticketed despite the earlier theft of the cones marking the area where he parked as out of limits.

In Miami, Florida, 80-year-old lawyer Ignacio Siberio tied his boat near a favourite fishing spot at about 11:00am. He realised a little over three hours later that the boat was no longer anchored. The wetsuited Siberio swam after the boat for a little under five kilometres before giving up and grabbing a lobster trap buoy. The Coast Guard stopped its search for him at about 2am. His grand-nephew, with a friend, continued their search but ended up needing to be towed to shore. Meanwhile, Siberio faced a north wind with gratitude that he goes diving every weekend. After daybreak, he decided to try swimming to shore, 16 kilometres away. Meanwhile, his grand-nephew's two-person search party became more worried when Siberio's boat was found empty. However, they kept looking and finally spotted him at about 10:30am. He was a little over six kilometres from shore. He said after his ordeal: 'You can't start thinking for one second what's happening to you, because it will take over.'

A woman wearing green scrubs recently offered flu shots for $20 on the Augsburg College campus in Minnesota. In total, at least three dozen people received injections from her. On 2 December, a staff member approached her at lunchtime and asked her for the name of her supervisor. The woman promised to fetch the name of a supervisor, but she didn't return. The police were then called in.
As it turned out, the shots were real flu shots, and the woman providing them was a real nurse, 33-year-old freelance licensed practical nurse Michelle Torgerson. Torgerson claims she was selling leftover vaccine to raise money for her daughter's school. She said she believes she did get permission to provide the shots. She has not yet been charged with anything.

29 December 2004

Let's begin with a few Christmas stories:

Ivan Massow, former director of Britain's Institute of Contemporary Arts, was among those who grew tired of waiting for their food at a 1,200-pound-a-plate Christmas party. After drinking a lot of champagne and waiting an hour and a half for food cooked by star chef Gordon Ramsey, he went to the Rajasthan Restaurant across the road and spent 70 pounds on seven curries plus rice and naan bread for his table. He told the Daily Telegraph: 'It was just a practical measure' and that the only embarrassment involved people at nearby tables begging for food. A spokeswoman for the company that organised the party called Massow's action 'really childish'.

According to Finnish news agency STI, firefighters in Lappi accidentally set their sauna on fire just before Christmas. The volunteer firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze but were unsuccessful. The sauna was destroyed. There were no injuries.

In Columbus, Mississippi, someone broke into the Adams family's home. When Stanley Adams discovered the break-in and that the family's Christmas presents had been taken, he contacted the police. Officers simply followed a trail of wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift tags to the nearby home of a juvenile. Two boys, aged 14 and 12, were arrested and charged with burglary.

Christopher Shawn Gower, 27, too decided to tear open the gifts under someone else's Christmas tree. Returning home, the homeowner rang the police to report that he saw someone inside. Craighead County sheriff's investigator Gary Etter said: 'What's so odd about this thing is that he was apparently cooking dope in the residence he broke into. You don't really see that happen much.' Gower, who had set up a makeshift meth lab, was apparently in the final stage of producing the drug. A drug dog found him hiding under a pile of clothes and bit him numerous times as he tried running away.

And some non-holiday-related Clippings:

Bernard Gardner, 87, said the city of Los Banos, California, took some of his land in a street-widening project while he was fighting in World War II. He decided to do something about it only recently, after repaving workers tore up cacti that he had planted by the street. He decided to put up a fence, at the old property line. Gardner asked one of his neighbours to use his jackhammer to dig post holes in the middle of the street. He was stopped by city crews after three holes were dug. Public Works Director Ray DeSa said: 'There is no property in the street. He, unfortunately, may be misinformed.'

Armed-robbery suspects Robert Bell and Patrick Ellswood stole a Ford Bronco and led police on a chase into Athens, Georgia. The chase ended when the Bronco ran into a fence and hit a parked car. A police officer began chasing Bell and Ellswood on foot. While the officer was using a stun gun to subdue Ellswood, Bell drove off in the shiny new police cruiser, making a clean getaway into the ditch. He fled on foot again, then broke into a woman's house. The woman rang the police a while later to report that a man who reeked of alcohol had passed out in her home. He was arrested.

In yet another home invasion story, 29-year-old Glenn Eugene Kimmel III walked into a home in Somerset, Pennsylvania, then went upstairs, turned on the bath water, took a bath, and promptly passed out. When the residents of the home returned, they found that the living-room ceiling had collapsed after the upstairs portion of the home had become saturated with water from the overflowing tub. Kimmel, wearing a bath towel, was found asleep on the floor. Police said he appeared to have been drinking.

Room-mates in Central Point, Oregon, decided to see how a friend - who was high on methamphetamine - would react if they faked a murder scene. The friend, Daniel Adam Maerz, arrived at the men's home to find Adam Dwain Vickers, 31, apparently dead from a gunshot wound. Maerz fled to a neighbouring home and rang the police to report that Vickers was dead, apparently at the hands of room-mate Kyle Albert Wisdom, 20. Sergeant Jeff Britton said officers assumed there was an armed suspect. They ordered the nearby primary school to lock down, and they surrounded the home of the pranksters, who soon surrendered. Britton said: 'They immediately said [...] they wanted to scare [Maerz] into thinking something happened. It obviously scared him. He was a mess.' The pair had consumed 'quite a bit' of alcohol before staging the bloody murder scene, and Maerz was 'really high', Britton said. All three men were arrested.

Sabanah Gravesande, 13, was watching television at her home in Georgetown, Guyana, when two men entered the house, then tried to duct tape her mouth shut and subdue her grandmother. Hearing the girl's screams, neighbours came to the rescue and caught one of the men. As a crowd of hundreds gathered, they used the duct tape to tie his legs and hands, and to fasten him by the neck to a nearby utility pole, where he remained until the police arrived. The man, whose identity was not released, has been described by police as a cocaine abuser who was seeking money to feed his habit.

Louisiana's Mary Smith said she doesn't know why she has passed out twice behind the wheel in as many months. The authorities' review of her driving privileges could take several months because medical issues appear to be involved. In the meantime, Smith may legally drive her car - which she was doing recently on the way to a doctor's appointment when she blacked out and ran into the back of a van. The van burst into flames. She may also continue driving a school bus, which she was doing the first time she passed out. The 58-year-old Smith's bus was empty when she drove it into pumps at a petrol station across the highway onto which she had planned to turn. Smith, who is unlikely to face charges in connection with either incident, did not answer questions about whether she is still driving.

Nathan Robertson, the music director of a Baptist church, went to a music store in La Mesa, California, to buy a replacement for the electric piano and soundboard that had been stolen from his church. While he was in the shop, a young man entered with the church's keyboard. Store staff, appearing interested in buying it, stalled for time while they waited for the police to arrive. The police report that the suspect ran away but left behind the keyboard and a driver's licence.

Antonio Hernandez, 29, thought his wife was having an affair. The Lexington, Nebraska, man reacted by hijacking a Greyhound bus in Utah, holding a knife to the driver's throat. He planned to run over his wife's trailer home. However, the bus hadn't made it far into Colorado before Hernandez, who had apparently been drinking tequila, went to the loo in the back of the bus. The driver slowed the vehicle and jumped out, and the Utah Highway Patrol took Hernandez into custody shortly thereafter. He pleaded guilty to hijacking the bus and could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

According to Dutch officials, construction workers who were renovating the upper house of parliament drilled a hole through a wall. Leaning against the other side of the wall was a 17th-century painting with an estimated worth of 250,000 euros. It was on loan from the Hague Museum. Yes, the workers drilled through the painting. Legislative spokesman Janwillem Lohwman said: 'I'm sure the contractor isn't pleased, but accidents happen.' The legislature has returned the painting for repairs.

During his aeroplane's refueling stop, Antonio Casale, 35, sent a text message to his wife in which he claimed that terrorists had hijacked the plane, which was heading from Sydney to Vienna. His worried wife contacted the Italian police, who contacted the Italian embassy in Canberra, who contacted the Australian Federal Police. It apparently became obvious that the message was a hoax after negotiators contacted the pilot. A spokesman for Transport Minister John Anderson's office said 'it was quite a big operation'. According to Australian newspaper reports, Casale was detained when the plane landed in Vienna, after which he was released without charge.

A San Jose, Illinois, woman pleaded guilty to murdering her 11-month-old son. Robin Graham, 19, told the police she killed the boy because she was 'upset with him for messing his pants'. She said she hadn't intended for him to burn to death but had expected him to kick his way out of the baby seat and drown in the bathtub. After the child's eyes glazed over, Graham left the room. A while later, she sent her two-year-old son in to check on his younger brother because she didn't want to see what she had done to him. State's Attorney Tim Huyett said that Graham's mother-in-law indicated that Graham had told her just after the boy was removed from the bathtub: 'I finally did it. I killed him.' Huyett dropped two other first-degree murder charges against Graham as part of a plea agreement.

According to Darlington, Maryland, sheriff's spokesman Ed Hopkins, a known heroin addict split a dose of her prescription liquid methadone and left a Mickey Mouse cup containing the partial dose in a kitchen cabinet of the home where she and her 15-month-old son were staying. Later, the child asked the homeowner for a drink. She found the cup of what she thought was juice and gave it to the boy. Authorities said that the homeowner indicated that she realised an hour later that the child had been given methadone but delayed in ringing emergency services because the child appeared to be fine. Later in the evening, the child stopped breathing and was given CPR while someone rang 911. The child died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In New Mexico, Judge Linda Vanzi denied a name change petition without a hearing, on grounds that the name 'Variable' is 'offensive to even the broadest accepted notions of common decency and good sense, and is otherwise contrary to the public good'. The petitioner filed a handwritten appeal in which he insisted that his right 'to a name of my choosing' had been violated. The state Court of Appeals pointed out that the state doesn't require petitioners to provide good reasons for name changes. The three-judge panel ruled that Vanzi didn't provide sufficient reasons for her decision. Albuquerque's Snaphappy Fishsuit Mokinigon will now be Variable.

According to UPI reports, Tammie Josette Peter, a 31-year-old woman from Monroe, Louisiana, came home to find her 15-year-old brother cooking two pork chops for only himself. Deputies say she became enraged and, in the ensuing argument, threw one of the pork chops at her brother. She picked up a knife but was soon disarmed by her boyfriend and 12-year-old son. However, a few minutes later, she returned to the kitchen and fetched another knife, with which she stabbed her son in the shoulder and her brother in the chest. Both were hospitalised. Peter has been arrested and charged with various types of battery.

Phil Steen had just sat down on the porch of his new home in Nezperce, Idaho, when he saw what looked like a drug deal occurring in the street. Those involved saw him watching and told him to 'look away'. Instead, Steen, the county's sheriff-elect, noted their licence plate numbers and ran a check on them. This led to the arrest of James MacArthur, 46, on charges related to drug dealing.

An 18-year-old man serving time in Sweden's Kronoberg Jail for assault and robbery walked out of the facility after a visit by his twin brother. The two men had managed to swap clothes during the visit without anyone noticing, with the visiting twin using an ink pen to replicate a birthmark on his brother's face. Not keen on spending the night in jail, the replacement twin told prison guards of the ruse. Jail warden Lars-Aake Pettersson later said: 'We knew there was a certain risk of a mix up, so we took some measures, but this was apparently not enough.' The escaped convict is still on the run, and his brother could face charges of aiding in a prison escape.

Viewers of Peruvian journalist Heidi Grossmann's programme decided which gag gift she would give to President Alejandro Toledo. They chose a toy bomb, a big plastic ball with a fake fuse. She tried to deliver this to the country's president at a public works ceremony. One of his assistants took it and called in security personnel. Grossmann was detained, and she has been charged with a security infraction. The producer of the programme, Gilberto Hume, has now claimed the entire idea was his.

A man walked into a chemist's in Bollebyyd, Sweden, with a gun-like object. According to employees, he announced 'This is a robbery!' and then said he needed Treo comp headache and pain relief pills. He was given a small package of these and was on his way, making a clean getaway. A spokesman for the state-run Apoteket pharmacy group said: 'According to the pharmacists it's possible that many customers didn't even notice that it was a robbery, but we sent a crisis group to the scene anyway.'

Police in Lake Station, Indiana, say that Dan Griggs walked out of a convenience store with three cartons of cigarettes for which he hadn't paid. He then returned to the store and broke into the lottery machine, stealing 50 dollars. He again went outside. As police dispatchers watched from the police station across the street, the 26-year-old Griggs went back into the store and emerged with a broom, which he used to break a window in his vehicle, in which he had locked his car keys. A short car chase ended after Griggs ran head-on into a police car. He fled on foot and was arrested after he became stuck in a ditch.

There's more...

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© 2004 Anna Shefl