anna's archive anna's archive anna's archive

February 2004

1 February 2004

In a news report from St. Louis, we learn of Walter S. Geter, who had been driving large trucks for 30 years when his truck broke down and his employer, USF Holland, asked him to drive a smaller truck rig. Geter, who weighs 412 pounds, couldn't fit in the driver's seat. The dispatcher asked him if he was refusing to work, to which Geter replied that he just needed a truck he could fit into. Geter was fired on the spot and had to hitch a ride back to his home state. In the wake of adverse publicity and threats of lawsuits, the company has agreed to reinstate him.

Another reminder of what adverse publicity can do comes in the form of the return of the $1,000 banknote from Curtis Smith, Sr. (see While officials gave no explanation for the return of the note, the St. Louis County Prosecutor's office had said the city's keeping of the note 'created the appearance of impropriety'. Curtis said: 'I'm glad I got it back.'

Arriving at Houston's airport from Venezuela, David Jose Hernandez, 65, was stopped by Customs agents, who noticed what US Attorney Michael Shelby described in a statement as a 'very strong vinegary odor emanating from his luggage'. Investigation of the contents of the luggage revealed three kilograms of heroin, in which the clothing had been soaked for easier import. Hernandez was sentenced to 10 years in a US federal prison for attempted smuggling of the drug.

Donald Winniewicz, a 36-year-old man from Houston, Pennsylvania, came up with a clever plan to kill his four-year-old son. This involved recording himself repeatedly saying to strangle or smother the child. Winniewicz played the tape to his sleeping 10-year-old stepson in hopes that the suggestions would work. The boy told his mother that he remembered hearing voices. Later, she found the tape in a filing cabinet and contacted the police. Police chief James Horvath said Winniewicz admitted to making and playing the tape.

In Hollywood, Florida, a 16-year-old entered a 7-Eleven. He pointed a long rifle at the clerk and proceeded to load the weapon. Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said: 'He's trying to cram a .40-calibre bullet into a .22-calibre rifle. It's like twice as big as the gun will fit. It won't go.' The teenager then raised the gun again and said: 'Give me the money; don't make me do this.' A customer tackled the youth, and two others helped restrain him while the police arrived.

In Elgin, Texas, a 10-year-old girl was forced to have sex with her stepfather, David Alexander Farris, who broadcast the images live over the Internet. Someone watching the Webcam footage in a chat room asked Farris for a telephone number, then called the police. Farris and common-law wife Carol Barron, who is the girl's mother, were arrested. The couple's three children have been removed from the household.

Robert Zangrando of Stow, Ohio, is seeking a restraining order against his neighbour of two years to prevent her from smoking outdoors within 30 feet of the condominium she shares with Zangrando. Zangrando, 71, suffers from lung problems, including emphysema, and has history of asthma. He said: 'I can see she's smoking visually, and I can get the effects of the smoke when I inhale what should be fresh air in my own back patio' or when opening a window. Regulations prohibit the neighbour, 28-year-old Nicole Kuder, smoking inside the condo unit. Kuder said Zangrando snoops on her, photographing her movements, and that 'there have been times when I've had friends over and he comes out screaming at us; it bothers me'. She added that Zangrando wanted her to walk to a nearby car park to smoke.

On Martin Luther King Junior Day, some students at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska, put up campaign posters advocating that Trevor Richards be given the school's Distinguished African American Student Award. About 150 posters encouraged students to vote for Richards, a white student who moved to Omaha from Johannesburg, South Africa, six years ago. Administrators took down the posters because they were 'inappropriate and insensitive', according to Westside spokeswoman Peggy Rupprecht. Four students have been disciplined in connection with the incident. One of these students was guilty of circulating a petition after the fact that criticised the practice of recognising only black students' achievements with the award.

In 2002, a woman and her boyfriend checked in to a Maryland Heights, Missouri, hotel room. When they returned from dinner, they found a note under their door that asked 'Interested in a three-way?'. Several months later, the boyfriend was sent an envelope containing six explicit photos taken of the couple through a gap in the hotel room curtains. A note inside asked: 'What do you want me to do with these?' Police investigators tracked the post-office box listed as the return address to Timothy L. Chancellor, who admitted to taking the photos and sending them to five people with the boyfriend's name. The handwriting on the first note was matched to Chancellor's application to join the police force. Chancellor explained that it was done to teach the couple a lesson about privacy. He has been charged with a felony.

The Times Record of Fort Smith, Arkansas, reports that a Van Buren man was arrested after he left a photo of his genitalia taped to a vending machine at a motel. Curtis Leo Dechaine, 40, attached the image to the side of a drinks machine. The photo had Dechaine's mobile phone number on it, making it easy for the police to set up an appointment with him. According to Lieutenant Brent Grill, the police learned that he had no criminal intent though 'you wonder what his intentions in meeting somebody he totally doesn't know'.

A Kansas City federal jury threw out a lawsuit by two black women who claimed that a Southwest Airlines flight attendant's remark broadcast over the aeroplane intercom was racist and caused them physical and emotional distress. Louise Sawyer and Grace Fuller described how traumatised they were when the air stewardess told passengers: 'Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.' The flight attendant later stated that she had heard the 'Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; catch a tiger by the toe' version of the rhyme but not the 'catch a nigger by the toe' version. One of the sisters has claimed that the memory of the rhyme caused her to have a seizure later in the day, according to the Kansas City Star.

A farmer with a 30-year history of animal cruelty convictions, Roger Baker stood before Taunton Crown Court to face charges of throwing a veterinarian and an animal health inspector into a manure pit while they were filming a dead lamb and emaciated cattle on his land in Cornwall. The vet, 46-year-old Susan Potter, said: 'I went completely underneath the liquid. It was long enough for me to think that I must not breathe and that I should hold my breath or I would drown. I thought he was trying to drown me.' Baker denied making the attack or threatening to kill health inspector Jonathan McCullough. The 61-year-old farmer was found guilty of affray.

The Denver Post reports that a woman made it through baggage screening at New York's LaGuardia Airport with a stun gun and knife in her handbag. Most of the way through her connecting flight, she reached into her bag and, according to Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Laura Bannett, 'immediately went "Oh, my God, I'm not supposed to have these here" and called the flight attendant over' so that she could surrender the weapons. Police met the plane at the gate and took the woman in for questioning. Bennett explained: 'We never considered her a threat.' He termed the lapse in security an 'honest but odd mistake'.

Stephen Bills was going about his duties as a cleaner at a shopping centre in Massapequa, New York, when he noticed bundles of money totalling $12,400 in an out-of-the-way hallway. When the find was reported to police, Detective Alton Williams rang the Brinks armoured-car office and 'asked them if they were missing anything'. Williams said he then told the sheepish staff that he had good news for them. The money had been forgotten by the person who maintains the shopping plaza's cash machine. Drew Nierer, a manager at the Brinks Brooklyn office, stated that 'there is no comment'.

[IMG: Car in pool] In Singapore, a cab driver went to a condominium to pick up two fares. It was raining heavily, and 55-year-old cabbie Ling Hong Lim explained that he mistook the swimming pool for a road to a parking area and was going at 20–30 km/h when the car disappeared bonnet-first into the 1.5-metre-deep pool. He said: 'I knew it was a pool only when the car went in.' The CityCab driver, who can swim 'a little', said that he worried that he was going to drown and wished that the couple waiting for him hadn't just stood there.

Nurses at the Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital mistakenly gave housewife Etsuko Nagai an IV drip containing disinfectant rather than a saline solution. On Friday, a court ordered the Tokyo city government to pay Nagai's family 60 million yen in damages. The hospital director and a doctor have been fined for covering up the death, reporting that 'she had died of illness although her death was not natural', in the ruling from presiding judge Tasuko Daimon. The two nurses were convicted of professional negligence resulting in death. They received suspended sentences.

Mainichi Shimbun published descriptions of two armed robbers who police say rushed into a Daily Yamazaki convenience store in Tokyo and ordered the manager to 'hand over the cash!' from the register. A part-time employee who saw the knife-wielding robbers asked the three customers in the store to help while the manager was being forced to empty the cash register. However, the man with the knife told the customers that the event was 'just a security drill', so the customers returned to reading.

New Jersey police staked out a brothel and caught bigger fish than expected, it seems. Runnemede borough authorities say Police Chief James Martin Leason was caught leaving the brothel building while off-duty. He has been suspended without pay and will face charges of promoting prostitution. Prosecutor Robert Bernardi made it clear that the subject of the investigation was the brothel, which has been in operation since July 2003 or earlier, and not the police chief.

Ananova reports on Ashley Heath, an 18-year-old who stole a carton of orange juice during a string of robberies in east Devon. Exeter Crown Court was told that the carton was found at the scene of another crime and bore Heath's DNA. The teenager stole over UKP 20,000 in total, according to the prosecutor. He pleaded guilty to five burglaries and asked 12 other, similar offences to be taken into consideration in his sentencing.

8 February 2004

The Kansas City Star reports that a 76-year-old woman's handbag was snatched in a grocery store. She soon rang her bank, who said her account would be flagged. Curious as to what this actually meant, she went to a branch office, where a manager told her someone had just cashed a $475 cheque from her account at another branch. While she was filling out paperwork, the manager discovered that someone was trying to cash another of the woman's cheques, this time in the same building. Employees stalled until the police could arrive and arrest miscreant Crystal Channelle Gibson, 20.

A South African minister's wife reported that her husband was missing. Wonderboom Evangelical Reformed Church minister Paul Beyl's car was found with a broken window, and he later showed up at Johannesburg's central police station to report being carjacked and kidnapped. Under questioning, he admitted that he had been at the Gold City casino. He appeared at the Pretoria Magistrate Court to face charges of perjury. Beyl has apparently resigned from his post with immediate effect.

Mainichi Shimbun reports that a 53-year-old teacher at Kobe Municipal Wadamisaki Elementary School in Japan made a mistake while helping her class prepare rice balls. 'I was convinced that the powder in a plastic container was salt', the teacher is reported to have explained to school officials after 11 pupils immediately spat out the rice balls. It was powdered soap. The children were examined at a hospital and released. School officials visited the 11 students' homes to apologise.

A Pittsburgh seven-year-old was suspended in school for a day for using profanity in class. A classmate had apparently emphasised the truth of a statement by saying 'I swear to God', to which she replied that he would be damned to hell for swearing to God. The classmate told on Brandy McKenith for using the word 'hell'.
Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Pat Crawford said the profanity is forbidden by the code of conduct for students but that the school system doesn't define profanity. The girl's father, Wayne, said: 'She's never been suspended. I never heard of [a] seven-year-old being suspended, anyway.' 'They've got dope, and we're worried about "hell"?', he added.

New Jersey's Donna Keaveney and husband Kenneth cared for her elderly father, Nicola Lombardi, who lived with them. They gave one of their foster daughters some of this responsibility. The 13-year-old girl was in charge of feeding the 82-year-old, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Donna and Kenneth didn't tell anyone when Lombardi died. Donna says the girl didn't mention that he had died. She continued to bring plates of food to him daily. Sometimes she brought the food back downstairs, and at other times it had been moved about on the plate and brought back, according to Clark County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow. Two to four weeks after Lombardi died, Kenneth checked on him and found that he had started to mummify. The smell staggered the officers he called to the scene. The couple were charged with child cruelty and elder neglect.

Jim Jones, pastor of the Assembly of God church in Galena, Kansas, said a [IMG: Birdie Jo Hoaks] 13-year-old boy showed up at his church claiming to be a victim of child abuse and wanting help enrolling at a middle school. Jones said that, after he and his family shared several meals with the boy and bought food and clothes for him, a series of inconsistencies led him to confront the child, who admitted to being a 33-year-old mother of three. Cherokee County prosecutor JoAnna Derfelt called for an investigation.
The name Jones said he knew for the woman, 'Birdie Jo Hoaks', was used in 1995 by a woman posing as a 13-year-old boy who had been left at a Salt Lake City bus stop by his father and step-mother. That time, two trust accounts were set up for the 'child' and the money refunded after the story was revealed as a hoax. There are reports of similar incidents in several other states over the last few years.

Science teacher Kazumasa Yoshida, 49, was quoted by police in Japan as saying: 'I couldn't stand the non-stop calls from the debt collectors. I was heading to their office to intimidate them.' He was carrying a shotgun and some shells in a rubbish bag. Becoming lost, he stopped at a police box to ask for directions. An officer noticed him trying to hide the rubbish bag and checked it out. Yoshida is being charged with possession of a firearm 'for reasons not intended as its original use'.

In another story from Japan, a senior firefighter in Kyoto is in trouble. The 57-year-old fireman, a deputy commander, refused to respond to a call upon learning where it was. He reportedly told his boss that 'I've been feuding with the resident there for several years' and that his going to the scene would make it worse. However, he also refused to help his team from the fire station. The home actually belonged to a neighbour of the fireman's enemy. Personnel affairs director Jun Hasegawa said disciplinary action would be taken since 'it's a serious breach of duty and no firefighter is allowed to act like this'.

Remember Thomas D. McKinley, the man who shipped himself from New York to Dallas to avoid paying for an aeroplane ticket? If not, visit The 25-year-old shipping clerk has now been fined $1,500 for stowing away on a cargo jet. US Magistrate Charles Bleil called McKinley's action 'wrong and stupid' but failed to see it as an attempt to breach security. First-class airfare would have been less than McKinley's fine.
Richard G. Phillips, CEO of Pilot Air Freight, said the $550 air freight fee - which McKinley charged to his employer - didn't require that the crate be placed in a pressurised hold.

A camel caused a bit of confusion in Sweden recently. Skoevde police spokesman Sten-Ove Fransson said that 'we were somewhat doubtful at first' when people reported seeing a camel on the road during a snowstorm, 'but then more people called, so we were finally convinced'. When officers arrived, there was no camel to be found, as friends of the animal's owner had collected it in the meantime. Owner Anneli Arvidsson said the 22-year-old animal might have wandered off because he was lonely after his normal companion, a horse, was put inside a stable.

Ivette Santa Maria, Miss Peru, was offered a trip to Gabon to promote the new Miss Humanity beauty pageant in Libreville. Invited to President Omar Bongo's palace, 'I felt silly because I couldn't communicate with him, not speaking French', she said. She described feeling rather more uncomfortable when Bongo 'pressed a button and some sliding doors opened, revealing a large bed'. She reportedly said: 'I told him I was not a prostitute, that I was a Miss Peru. I started to cry and panicked.' She said that Bongo didn't try to stop her running away and that she was running around the palace grounds when guards offered to drive her back to her hotel.
The panicky Santa Maria jumped out when the car took an unfamiliar route. She feared being abducted. She later reported that pageant organisers and government officials have apologised for 'any misunderstanding' although she was left to settle the hotel bill herself.

Frieda Morrison and Jim McColl host Beechgrove Potting Shed, a gardening programme on BBC Radio Scotland. When a caller asked how to grow Northern Lights cabbages, she said, it wasn't clear 'why anyone would want to grow cabbages in a propagator and take cuttings', but they answered the questions about watering, compost types, and propagator usage anyway. It was only after the call that the hosts realised that 'we were talking about cabbages' and the caller had asked about cannabis. 'Northern Lights' is a type of strong cannabis as well as a variety of cabbage. Morrison said that theirs 'is a very busy programme and we made a [sic] honest mistake'.

9 February 2004

It's a few days early, but love is in the air in the weird news world. This is a special Valentine's edition of the Clippings, featuring timely, heartwarming stories.

The AFP report on a 40-year-old British woman who set off a metal detector at the airport in Athens after a short visit to Greece. Airport police official Dimitris Tzouvaras confirmed a report in the daily To Vima that 'after a further check, we found out she was wearing a chastity belt'. To Vima said the woman told police officers that her husband had forced her to wear the device so that she wouldn't have sex with anyone while she was in Greece. 'The woman was allowed to fly on to London on the pilot's responsibility', said Tzouvaras.

It's enough to warm the cockles of your heart. Dallas James King, an inmate at Ohio's Belmont Correctional Institution, apparently sought a marriage licence and married the mother of his child, Tefawn Myers. When Myers sent King a marriage certificate, King contacted Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift and said: 'I don't want to be married to this woman.' Swift voided the union since someone else had assumed King's identity for marriage purposes.

Carroll and Alice Ferdinandsen were married last May. She is 30, and he is 53, but what is perhaps more noteworthy is that the Mobile, Alabama, couple are father and daughter. Their marriage was not illegal. It was incest that landed them in jail for six months. Ordered to dissolve the marriage and live apart during their three years of probation, they said they would comply. Shortly after their release, their pickup was seen at a motel. There were silk long-stemmed red roses on the dashboard and a large Bible on the front seat. The couple were caught in a room together and arrested.
In his defence, Carroll explains that he broke up with Alice's mother when the girl was four months old and 'that's just a blood test, not in feelings. I am crazy in love with her'. The relationship started when Alice was 13. It landed Carroll in jail then too.
Carroll's lawyer, Claude Patton, said: 'They need to leave that poor old man alone. He needs mental health treatment. He cannot read. He cannot write. He cannot drive.'

As he is 15, he cannot be identified. His crime, however, is a matter of public record. The teenager has been charged with raping his 36-year-old mother when he visited her in Swansea for the weekend. Prosecutor James Jenkins said that the woman 'is not interested in punishment. She is most anxious her son receives the best possible assistance'. Judge Jonathan Durham Hall told the jury that the mother 'no doubt finds this as stressful and bizarre as anyone else'. The teen is due to be sentenced in about a month's time.

In a story from Japan, Hiromi Mikado, 36, arranged a blind date with part-time worker Yoshinori Sato, 36, via a telephone dating service. They checked in at a hotel in Omiya, where Mikado allegedly offered to give Sato a shoulder massage. Mikado sat astride Sato on the bed, then choked him with a plastic rope. When she called the police to report the murder, she explained that 'I wanted to kill a man', later adding that 'I don't know why he died'.

According to Terra, Brazilian football referee Carlos Jose Figueira Ferro wanted to send Paulo Coise off during an amateur match in Anama. Instead of producing a red card, he pulled a pair of knickers from his top pocket. The colour was correct at least. He ended the match early. Although he explained that he didn't know how the knickers arrived in his pocket and according to some reports later says he had bought the lacy underthings for his daughter, his wife apparently has another explanation and initiated divorce proceedings.

Chris Pitchford said his wedding vows through a feeding tube, and the wedding ring wouldn't fit over his swollen knuckle. He and bride Laura Moody originally had other plans for their wedding. That was before the 23-year-old Pitchford was beaten up during an encounter with strangers during his bachelor party. Outside a Las Vegas casino, tempers had flared, apparently on account of a bachelor party guest becoming quite friendly with someone's girlfriend. The honeymoon will be held in the hospital rather than in Las Vegas.

It's not too late to find someone with whom to make your own News Clipping come true before Valentine's Day. Bill Cordingly says his research can help - his book, In Your Face, explains that you should look for someone with a large chin if you want a casual fling or dimples at the corners of the mouth for something more serious. Meanwhile, matchmaking service has done its own research, asking single adults what the sexiest profession is. Teacher tops the list, followed closely by artist, with lawyer at the bottom. So change your profession soon if necessary. Or just move your bed. A survey by IKEA suggests that those with beds near a window have the most sex. One final suggestion for finding romance in the next few days comes from the Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton, New York. For $10, you can adopt a hissing cockroach for your sweetheart, who will receive a free pass to visit the cockroach.

19 February 2004

A four- and five-year old girl were raped by two men, aged 61 and 29, in Galveston, Texas. Assistant District Attorney Bill Reed said the pair's abuse of the girls occurred over an extended period of time. The men's names have not been released, owing to their relationship to the victims - one is their father, and the other is their grandfather.

James Cotton visited a Magnolia, Arkansas, Wal-Mart at 4:30 in the morning to buy bolt cutters. After the cashier completed the sale, Cotton headed to the toilets and cut off his handcuffs. Meanwhile, the clerk contacted the police, who arrested Cotton minutes later. Cotton had been arrested by the Haynesville, Louisiana, police for battery and possession of a narcotic, but he kicked out a window in the cruiser and escaped.

The Los Angeles Times reports on three 12-year-old girls who were worried that their parents would be angry at them for returning late from school. The girls concocted a story about being delayed by a homeless man who attacked them in the park. Drifter Eric Nordmark loosely matched the description the girls gave of their attacker, and they picked him out in a lineup. In tearful courtroom testimony, one of the girls stated that Nordmark 'started choking me [...] and I felt like I was going to black out'. When the girl confessed to her mother that the story had been made up, Nordmark had spent eight months in jail while awaiting trial. The girls were taken to Juvenile Hall to await a decision on their case.

Maine's Richard Albert, 52, lives 30 metres to the south of the Canadian border, which he crosses to attend church services. He has done so for nearly 40 years, some of that time under a programme run by the US and Canadian governments allowing pre-approved people to cross the border where there are no border crossing facilities or when they are closed, such as on Sundays. However, US Customs has withdrawn from participation in the programme, citing terrorism fears, so Albert could face a fine for each Sunday when he came back into the US since the change took effect. US Customs spokesperson Janet Rapaport said that entry without inspection carries a $5,000 penalty and subsequent offences could carry fines of up to $10,000. Albert expects a decision on the amount of his fines soon.

This winter has also brought with it the usual crop of burglars being traced through the aid of footprints left in the snow. In a variation on the theme, Nevada's Reno Gazette-Journal reports that police in Elko have linked Roger Gray, 25, to a local burglary. His DNA was obtained from yellow snow on the roof of a restaurant that had been burgled. Gray then admitted to police that yes, he was guilty of burglary - of a jewellery store. He is a suspect in other burglaries, for which the evidence is still being weighed.

A 37-year-old Norwegian man was sentenced to 75 days in jail in Kristiansand county court after he went to a photo store to order printouts of some images he had downloaded from the Internet. The images were child pornography. The man, described by Norway's NRK television as being on the border between mentally sound and unsound, had been convicted once before on several counts of possession of child pornography.

Former German porn star Sibylle Rauch said it was 'the worst moment of my life' when performance artist Marko Koenig recently rehearsed a stunt with her for a stage show. Rauch was lying down, and Koenig approached her to cut open her bra with a chainsaw. Bild quotes Koenig as saying Rauch suddenly bent forward and 'I couldn't pull back the chainsaw quickly enough and cut her breast and stomach. It was terrible'. Her current condition is unknown; a spokesman for the Karlsruhe hospital where Rauch was treated said, "We are not authorised to comment on our patients.'

Luke Tresoglavic is a 22-year-old who was snorkeling near Sydney, Australia, when a small carpet shark attacked his leg. He swam 300 metres to shore with the shark attached to his leg and thrashing about, and 'a couple of people tried to help me, but I could not remove it'. He drove to the beach post's clubhouse for help. Senior lifeguard Michael Jones said that 'there's nothing in our procedure manual for that type of thing'. He and his co-workers flushed the 60-cm-long shark's gills with fresh water, and the fish let go. Tresoglavic's leg had 70 punctures and was treated in hospital. The shark later died.

According to a BBC report, East Cleveland's Michelle Skidmore planned to treat her seven-year-old daughter's conjunctivitis with eye drops. 'Unfortunately', she said, 'I had some nail glue in the cupboard at the time and I picked up that instead'. She realised her mistake after applying the nail glue to only one of the girl's eyes. Her daughter couldn't open her eye for three days and might have a scratched cornea, but doctors have indicated that she won't lose her sight. Skidmore said: 'She can see through her eye now, but it is only half open.'
While acknowledging that her mistake was a "stupid" one, she said that 'Trading Standards have had a look; I'm seeing solicitors about it as well' since the bottles were 'both lilac and pink - and they have even got a similar logo on them'.

Alabama's Mobile Register describes another mix-up. A hundred cartons of fat-free milk served with lunch at western Mobile's E.R. Dickson Elementary School were too sanitary. They contained no milk, just a disinfectant used in machines at the milk plant. Three students and a teacher were served the milk before the teacher alerted cafeteria workers that the drink had a strong vinegary taste. The sanitiser is usually drained from the machines into milk cartons that are thrown away immediately. Principal Barbara Freeman said: 'I'm glad it wasn't chocolate milk. We don't usually get a lot of takers on the fat-free milk.'

Tricia Swanson of Meadville, Pennsylvania, used her mobile telephone to send her friends text messages such as 'Mark has kidnapped me. Help!'. After police pulled over 19-year-old Mark McKay, Swanson - in the passenger's seat - admitted that she had been joking. Corporal Aaron Wassell of the Erie Police said: 'When people joke like this, it wastes our time and prevents us from helping someone else who really needs it.' The joke backfired somewhat, as the car had been stolen from a friend of Swanson's in Erie. Also, McKay was driving without a licence.

In Riviera Beach, Florida, a 13-year-old David Walker and his friends were holding a condom flipping contest when things got out of control. Walker kept correctly guessing which side up the condoms would land. This annoyed a 14-year-old friend, who said he had had enough. Another participant in the contest, Cassius Worthy, said his back was turned when the 14-year-old pointed a gun at Walker. The gun went off, and Walker died. The 14-year-old's mother, Clister Winston, said: 'He's awful sorry.'

Sofia Aguilar took her daughter's car to an automotive repair shop near Kirby, Texas, for transmission work. After two weeks of being told that the 1992 Mitsubishi 3000 GT wasn't ready yet, she went to the shop and found the car covered in dirt. Mechanic Rocky Castilleja said he had been doing some diagnostic testing on the car and that it had been performing much better. Aguilar said he also 'told me that he hooked it to some equipment that added miles to the odometer'. About a month later, Aguilar was told that her car would be ready the next morning. At River City Raceway that evening, the Aguilars saw a familiar car on the racetrack and alerted an off-duty police officer. The officer says Castilleja stated that Aguilar 'knew I was going to test drive it". "At the racetrack? I don't think so', Aguilar's husband replied. Castilleja was arrested.

Connecticut's Edward Valentin told reporters that military authorities contacted him to report that his wife had died in an explosion in Iraq. He made up the story. A reporter discovered this after sending e-mail to Valentin's wife. She replied a few hours later. According to Waterbury Police Chief Neil O'Leary, he 'claimed he did it because he has been struggling with three children and if everyone felt sorry for him, including the military, they'd send Betsy home'. However, some doubt was cast on this: at about the time Edward reported the nonexistent telephone call, he also called a woman who had earlier refused to date him because he was married, to tell her that his wife was now dead.

Snohomish County, Washington, sheriff's deputies saw a new widescreen television, home entertainment centre, and computers when they went to Robert Eugene Doel's home to serve a warrant on him. The officers then heard cries for help and found Doel and Raemie Lee Higlen-Doel's three children, ages 6, 4, and 2. They were in a filthy, faeces-covered bedroom with the door tied shut with ropes and bungee cords. When officers pointed out the lack of food in the apartment, Higlen-Doel explained there wasn't enough money. The children reported that Higlen-Doel had told them not to tell anyone that they were routinely locked in the room.
This isn't the first time Child Protective Services encountered the family. For instance, workers visiting the home in 1999 asked if there was any food for the child. Higlen-Doel 'pointed to a pile of food on the floor. Among cigarette butts and rotting food, police saw a pile of French fries', prosecutor Lisa Paul said.

New York state police approached Kevin D'Amour, 28, of Owls Head to serve him with an arrest warrant for violating the terms of his probation for a misdemeanour larceny charge. D'Amour took off into the woods, with officers giving chase. He ran to his mother's house, but he was hiding in the woods again when officers arrived at her home. They called off the search because it was too cold, as temperatures plunged to -32 degrees. Officers found D'Amour's corpse in the woods about four hours later. There were signs that he had tried to build a fire. His family say he wouldn't be dead if the police hadn't followed him into the woods, while the police say it was D'Amour who made the fatal decisions.

Just in case you haven't seen this one already:
The CBC reports that a 17-year-old was browsing the Internet at a California school when he found his picture on a site devoted to missing children. The boy had apparently been abducted 14 years ago from his home in Red Deer, Alberta, where he was living with his father, who had been awarded full custody. His 45-year-old mother was 'distraught - she was upset and crying [...]. She was concerned for her kid' when she was arrested, according to Jimell Griffin, a deputy US Marshal in Los Angeles. The boy too was 'awfully emotional', Griffin said.

25 February 2004

The CBC reports that Amir Jinah was celebrating his birthday with friends in his Ottawa apartment when someone had the idea for a contest. He and his friends tried to see who could spit from the balcony the farthest. Getting a running start, Jinah couldn't stop in time to avoid going over the edge, his friends reported. The 20-year-old Carleton University student's death was ruled accidental.

A Norwegian man didn't want to drive his girlfriend around anymore, so he arranged to lose his licence on purpose. Seeing a police car in front of him, the 30-year-old man increased to 55 km/h above the speed limit and was ticketed, according to Trønderbladet. In court, he admitted that he was guilty of speeding and explained what he had planned. The Soer-Trondelag District Court said it didn't understand his reasoning but did suspend the man's licence for a year and sentenced him to 14 days in jail as well.

Freddy Horta Espitia, a 31-year-old Colombian man, was a member of a 'ketchup gang' in Hong Kong. His group didn't limit itself to smearing ketchup on people to distract them while stealing their valuables - Espitia chewed up chocolate, spat it into his hands, and smeared that on victims. DNA tests were carried out on the chocolate-stained clothing of an Indian businessman who had been mugged, and Espitia was sentenced to 32 months in jail as a result.

North Carolina's Asheville Citizen-Times reports on a college sociology instructor who wanted to illustrate a point about cultural differences. He chose the example of public nudity, which is generally not acceptable in US society. The Mars Hill College teacher promised an 'A' to anyone who would disrobe in his class. One student decided to take him up on the offer. Speaking after the tenured professor's resignation, Mars Hill College President Dan Lunsford said that 'he did not expect it to happen' but stressed that the student will not be punished, as the nudity would not have occurred without the teacher's promise. Lunsford said: 'In my view, in American society and in an academic environment, public nudity is not acceptable to illustrate a point.'

Reuters reports that police in Schenectady, New York, pulled over Andre Gainey, 35, when they saw a film playing in his Mercedes Benz. Gainey was watching the pornographic film Chocolate Foam via a screen in the passenger's-side visor. He was charged with a public display of offensive material, driving with a suspended licence, and driving while watching a television. A charge of forgery was added because he gave a different name when being fingerprinted. Joe Pichi, speaking for the New York Department of Motor Vehicles said of the incident: 'Drivers should be driving.'

Matthew Richardson, an engineering student at Oxford University, was asked to deliver global economics lectures in Beijing. He said he knew 'next to nothing' about the subject but thought he could handle giving the same lecture to several groups of sixth-formers. Dr Raoul Cerratti, who arranged for Richardson to give the lectures, said: 'We only found out it was to PhD students when he got there.' Relying on his notes - in reality chapters ripped from the A-level textbook An Introduction to Global Markets, Richardson bluffed his way through the first day - 'I ad-libbed a bit and really got into the subject.' The same group of PhD students awaited him on the second day. Running out of chapters just before lunch, he switched hotels and returned to the UK on his scheduled flight.
New York University professor Matthew Richardson is a leading expert on international financial markets. The latter Richardson said that 'it seems as if this young man will go far'.

Reuters reports on a memorable meal a woman and her boyfriend had in a Greek restaurant in Berlin. According to police spokesman Volker Schuette, the chef 'is also the owner of the restaurant and he was having an argument with his wife; he wanted to show her that he was the boss'. The obvious way to do this was to throw a piece of meat at her. The slab of beef missed and hit the female diner in the side of the head. After being treated for minor injuries to her ear, the 38-year-old woman contacted the police to press charges of bodily harm.

Marius Langa and Simon Chicongwe were on trial in South Africa for carjacking a businessman with the help of two other suspects, who got away. A 28-year-old friend of the two accused men showed up to support them in court. Witnesses pointed him out as one of the carjackers. He was detained in the court building and has been charged with robbery. The Star reports that the three friends will see each other in court again in April.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the first custody dispute where two women could both legally claim to be the children's biological mother. One of the women supplied eggs, which her infertile partner carried until giving birth to twins girls. The two women split up about six years after the girls were born, leaving a state appellate court to decide the matter. The decision might seem cut and dried because the egg donor signed a written waiver of maternal rights prior to the birth, but the three-judge panel still must weigh that waiver against the girls' affection for both women, the egg donor's claims that she did not knowingly relinquish those rights, and arguments that some parental rights and obligations cannot be relinquished.

A farmer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, put down two cows and left the carcasses at the back of his house, by the side of the road for the rubbish collectors. However, the waste disposal company didn't pick them up, as roadside collection of deceased livestock isn't in their contract. Police in Rutherford County who happened across the animals deemed them 'unattended vehicles' and issued them with tickets. The local sheriff's department said they thought the animals were asleep.
An image accompanying this story can be found at

An auxiliary police constable in Kampar, Malaysia, pleaded guilty to three incestuous attacks on two of his nine children - daughters aged 12 and 21 following the death of their mother. Other incidents of incest were inadmissible in court because the victim didn't remember the exact dates. Another of the man's daughters, age 15, was an incest victim too, at the hands of her paternal uncle, who works as a security guard. The girls' father asked for a lenient sentence, explaining that he has young children to raise. While he is too old, at 53, for a caning, Judge Rasidah Chik gave him the maximum alternative sentence, 60 years in jail. His brother, will receive a six-stroke caning and 16 years in jail.

A 36-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, man didn't have sex with his children, but he's still in trouble. Judge Danny Rodgers placed a $5 million bond on the man, who is accused of sexual assault of his children over a nine-year period - and of forcing them to have sex with each other. The affidavit from questioning of the children states that their crying made the defendant laugh. The 10-year-old girl said her father repeatedly touched her inappropriately and forced her brother to get atop her while she lay on the floor with clothes on. The boy, 12, said his father fondled him several times. Both he and his 14-year-old sister emphasised that they had been physically forced to have sex with each other.
The man's fiancee's mother said the allegations were the handiwork of the children's mother and that 'this man would never hurt a flea or fly - sexually or any way'.

Toronto's Tabitha Bracken, 27, went to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to pick up some packages at the Delta Airlines counter. She was mistakenly given two boxes labelled 'Please rush - human tissue for transplant'. Trying to track down the wayward pulmonary valve and vein, investigators discovered that the woman who picked up the organs had provided fake identification. Opening the packages that Bracken had meant to pick up, authorities found 54 kilos of marijuana wrapped in newspapers and smeared with mustard. About 12 hours after her first visit to the airport, Bracken returned with Dalvan Robinson, 43, to exchange the organ transplant boxes for the boxes of dope. The pair were taken into custody and the organs delivered to the waiting hospitals.

Pat Conroy, assistant principal at Michigan's South Haven High School, suspected that a student was a drug dealer and wanted him to be expelled from school. So he asked the police to search the school for drugs. The police drug dog didn't find the marijuana that was in the boy's locker. It is unclear why Conroy later admitted to planting the drug there. When the police searched Conroy's office, they found various types of drugs in a drawer. While Conroy admits that he 'lost his perspective' in planting drugs in the student's locker, he insists that the stash in his office consisted of confiscated drugs that he was keeping to use as evidence in expulsion hearings. He is on administrative leave.

Teresa Jones Smith, 24, decided to visit boyfriend Roger Wayne Johnson, Jr, who was in the Davidson County, North Carolina, jail. While waiting for him, she produced a miniature blowtorch and began melting the Plexiglas window separating inmates from the visiting area. Another visitor noticed the smoke and summoned jail authorities. Smith's blowtorch was confiscated on her arrest, as were her Plexiglas-cutting tool and cordless drill. Smith explained to officers that all she wanted to do after getting through both panes was pass cigarettes to Johnson. Speaking for the sheriff's department, Major Danny Owens said: 'She wanted to be close to him, so she is now.' Security at the jail is under review.

Scott Pardee, 30, of Hingham, Wisconsin, looked on while Ray Seward and Michael Koch, who were drinking, fired a handgun at a bowling ball set atop a junk car. Pardee was hit in the right eye when a bullet ricocheted off the ball. He is suing Seward and Roch, among others, accusing them of negligence. The lawsuit filing says that shooting at the ball 'was not a reasonably safe thing to do'.

Marlene Hall, director of public safety in Syracuse, New York, said there had been reports of a man wandering around Syracuse University's Watson Residence Hall in blackface after midnight. The student, a new member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, told officers that the paint wasn't blackface but camouflage. He explained that he was on his way to rob a house. Earlier in the day, an anonymous tip had been called in to report plans for a burglary, but the call came after business hours so wasn't received until after the student was apprehended. Officers emphasised that neither the burglary nor the blackface scenario was being ruled out for investigation.

In Florida, a plan to incorporate video games into physical education classes at Fort Walton Beach High School has been axed. Under the plan, students would have had one day a week of classroom instruction in common sports, two days of traditional gym or outdoor physical activity, and two days of PlayStation tournaments. County superintendent of schools Don Gaetz called the class 'an idea whose time will never come' and halted registration for it. The high-school's principal explained that the idea had been intended to motivate more students to take physical education classes. Those who signed up for the class will have to choose from the other physical education classes offered.

Jeremy Niederbrach, a 25-year-old man from Salem, Arkansas, was charged with driving through several yards, fences, a tree, and a sign. With the processing of cases at the courthouse a little behind schedule, Niederbrach decided to have a smoke to calm his nerves and pass the time. 'He stood out there, and he lit up the joint', said Salem Police Chief Al Roork. Watching from a second-storey window was 16th Judicial Drug Task Force agent and former classmate of Niederbrach Brian Sanderson, who remembers saying to agent Scott Russell: 'This is stupid - I can't believe we're watching this.' The pair watched Niederbrach take a few puffs, burn his fingers, and put the roach away. 'We just waited for him to come back upstairs to arrest him', said Sanderson.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports that a woman carrying a small child collided with a 68-year-old man from Yokkaichi near a cash machine in a supermarket. She screamed 'Thief!', and three shoppers held onto the man until police officers in the store could question him. The woman left the store meanwhile. When he was arrested, the man suffered a heart attack. He died the next day in hospital. After checking security camera footage, an officer at the Yokkaichi-Minami police station concluded that the man had not been trying to steal anything. Seijiro Maekawa, deputy head of the police station, said: 'We didn't perform our duties recklessly.'

Bordering on the 'not weird anymore' category is the story of Colorado's Austin Gene Mayo, a volunteer firefighter who faces up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree arson. He admitted to pouring petrol in the vestibule of the 123-year-old Virginia Dale Community Church and setting light to the building. It burned down. As part of the plea agreement, charges that he set three other fires in the area, which burned 150 tons of hay, a pasture, and the front doors of a community centre, were dropped. His defence attorney, Linda Miller, said Mayo was depressed when lighting the fires and 'it certainly is a way to say "I need help"'.

Gentle reader...

Want to see earlier clippings?
Want later clippings? Take a look at the March bunch.

Go to the Clippings index page

Go to Anna's main index page

© 2004 Anna Shefl