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January 2003


14 January 2003

It seems that a transient in North Platte, Nebraska, had too much to drink. While two companions went to a convenience store to purchase more beer, Kildee Herring, 46, fell into a campfire. The companions returned to find Herring on fire and extinguished the flames before calling emergency services. When he was taken to a Lincoln hospital, Herring had a .44 blood alcohol level; the state's threshold for intoxication is .08.

Cafeteria workers at Alabama's Duran Middle School caught two teenagers using counterfeit money to pay for their food. Pell City's police department said the boys, 13 and 14 years old, apparently used a computer, scanner, and printer to make the suspicious bills. Officer Don Newton said "What really tipped us off to these: they apparently tried to glue the bills together. So that kind of gave a little idea of the texture not being quite right, with Elmer's glue inside the pages." The two seventh-graders have been suspended indefinitely.

Robert H. Morrison pleaded guilty to failing to pay child support. The law caught up with him after nearly 10 years, during which time he moved from Arizona to California and used assumed names. Morrison is the author of Divorce Dirty Tricks, a book describing how to avoid paying child support. Due for sentencing in March, he faces up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to Suffolk County, New York, police detective John Madigan, Long Island 'Bloods' gang member Hotson Neree, 18 called an undercover police officer's mobile 'phone from a gang unit and threatened him, leaving a voice mail message and later telling the officer in person "I know where you live. I've got my people looking for you...but you can't get me". During the second call, the officer recognised the voice from earlier dealings with the teenager and said "This is Neree!". Undaunted, Neree called back two more times, allowing police to trace him to a motel, where he was arrested.

Overland Park, Kansas, police Capt. Dave Moore said "I guess that truck didn't want to be stolen", referring to the case of a 17-year-old who wove a stolen pickkup through the streets of the Kansas City suburb. When police got the driver to stop the vehicle, he tried to make a run for it. However, Moore said, the truck began to roll forward as the teenager ducked in front of it, then "he stumbled and fell and the truck ran over him". He was hospitalised with minor injuries, and charges are pending.

From Florida's St. Lucie County Jail comes the tale of Eric Brown. Brown, 38, was being admitted to the facility when he ended up getting hold of his arrest records. Officers heard "a large amount of toilet flushing noise" emanating from Brown's holding cell, and pieces of paper were found floating in the commode. The police are preparing new materials for his folder so he can properly face his charges of armed robbery of a day care centre.

The Detroit Free Press reports on Officer Anthony Johnson, who claims that Joni Gullas, who smelled of alcohol, refused to produce ID and resisted arrest, starting to back her car up. Gullas claimed that she thought Johnson, in street clothes, had been trying to carjack her. Police reports indicate that Johnson handcuffed her right hand but she withdrew her left. Johnson used a knife to cut off the left sleeve of her large coat in order to handcuff her. He ended up cutting off her left ring finger, which could not be reattached, and cutting her middle finger.

When she attempted to stop a fight between her mother and her mother's boyfriend, Chicago's six-year-old Alma Manjarrez suffered a severe beating. The girl's mother, 26, waited until the end of the day to seek help, whereupon Manjarrez died in hospital. Child welfare workers had previously investigated a November incident wherein Alma required medical treatment after trying to protect her mother from a male family member. At that time, Alma was determined to be in no danger because that family member was no longer around, said Cook County children's welfare deputy director Mary Ellen Eads. A September report of Alma having two black eyes was not addressed because her family couldn't be located.

David Jose Orama was recognised in Florida's St. Petersburg Times as the father of Hernando County's first baby of the new year - who will probably receive the name 'Darie Newyear'. Sheriff's deputy Neil Sullivan saw the story in the newspaper and sought out his home, helpfully bedecked with an 'It's a boy' banner. Told Orama was at the hospital, Sullivan showed up there, where he arrested him for probation violation. Orama knew the police were looking for him in connection with charges of driving while intoxicated.

The United News of India reports that Sri Devi of Etawah wanted her mother-in-law not to butt into Devi's argument with her husband. When his mother intervened, Devi chopped off her nose with a sickle. She also injured her husband before fleeing the house. Both were admitted to a clinic for treatment.

New Jersey's Michael Thiel had just finished his first year as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, teaching approximately 70 students. After his fellow officer Amalio S. Gorcsik was arrested for allegedly trying to buy cocaine from an undercover officer while in a patrol car, the investigation widened. Thiel and a third officer were also arrested. While head D.A.R.E. officer Sgt. Edward Selb said Thiel would be decertified for possessing and using drugs, Harrison Township School Superintendent Dr. Patricia Hoey said no special statement has been prepared to help students deal with the issue of their D.A.R.E. officer being arrested on drug charges.

California writer Steve Young has joined the many attemping to earn a quick buck via eBay. Inspired by the recent sale of a town on the auction site, he consulted with his family and then placed them on sale, with a minimum bid of $5 million. The auction was pulled since it is against company policy to sell human beings.
Young's offer indicated that he and his wife would change their surname for the winning bidder and that the family would provide a lifetime of platonic companionship, including invitations to family gatherings and cooking tips. "You have patrons of the arts, museums and charities. I wanted a patron for my family", he said.

24 January 2003

An AFP report from the Philippines describes the unexpected bloodshed that took place in a cockfighting arena when a rooster attacked its handler, Elmer Mariano, shortly before a planned bout. The rooster, with sharp steel spikes strapped to its legs, attacked the man's thigh and groin in front of shocked spectators, said police investigator Johnny Muhajil. Other reports say that the blade came loose accidentally. The man died on the way to a hospital in Zamboanga.

Philadelphia police answered a call warning that a man was "armed with a sword on the 25th floor" of an apartment building in Center City, Sgt. Roland Lee said. After a domestic dispute during which his girlfriend left the building, the man - identified as 24-year-old Louis Rogers - started a fire and began throwing furniture out the window of her apartment, then jumped to a 24th floor ledge, where he started another fire. Attempting to jump to the 23rd floor, he ended up dangling from the balcony and talking to someone on a mobile 'phone. Presumably, he was no longer clutching the samurai sword. When he threw the 'phone at Officer Nick Campolongo, he fell to his death, hitting several balconies and ended up on an overhang above the ground-floor entrance.

[IMG: Whittaker's dad's tanned hide] Carl Whittaker, from Mackay, Australia, has unconventional mementos of his father hanging on his dining room wall. Whittaker, 31, explains that it was his father's wish that his tattoos, including the eagle that covered his back, be preserved. The tattoos were done when the older Whittaker was being treated for cancer, and the request for their removal, preservation, and framing was included in his will. Carl said "I thought it was a bit on the wild side myself". He hopes to pass the memorial on to his daughter.

The New York Post reports on the kidnapping of multimillionaire Edward Lampert, whose three kidnappers held him for a $5 million ransom. The case was cracked when the kidnappers used Lampert's credit card to order a pizza for delivery to their hotel room. The suspects - Shemone Gordon, Devon Harris, and a youth - freed Lampert in the end, although their demands had not been met. Later in the day, police showed up at the hotel room and arrested the three.

Since Australia's Raymond George Morgan, 24, disobeyed court orders not to drive while disqualified - at least 30 times and at least once at the wheel of a car without brakes or a windscreen. The unemployed Morgan has even spent 18 months in jail for insisting on driving. Seeing him in court yet again, Magistrate Paul Falzon issued a six-month jail sentence and added two years to his disqualification period, which ran until December 2999. Falzon said "the guy just doesn't want to get it through his head that he can't drive". 'Can't' might not be the best word...
Lawyer Darren Anderson argued that, while Morgan's record is "horrendous", jail time wouldn't "allow him to be a father to his child". Of his latest offence, Morgan repeatedly said "I only drove up the road".

California's David Huffman, 29, allegedly posed in chat rooms as a 17-year-old boy dying of cancer and persuaded sympathetic girls aged 13 to 17 to send him nude photos of themselves. He has been arrested on federal child pornography charges. Authorities say they also found thousands of child porn images in envelopes and on compact discs that Huffman kept in a plastic bag in his car.

Steve Gough, 43, had to face charges of walking down a busy street near his home without wearing clothes, so he cycled the five miles to Southampton Magistrates Court - with only sandals on. District Judge Lorraine Morgan refused to let him into the courtroom, whereupon he was arrested for breach of the peace. Morgan said it was a matter of the dignity of the court and "not even shorts would be allowed". Gough, who admitted that it was a little cold out, said "I'm just exercising my right to dress how I like in this green and pleasant land". Gough must now appear in court again...

The Seattle Times reports that a 54-year-old Maple Valley man rammed a parked SUV with his Lexus coupe and killed the driver with a machete. When police arrived, the suspect was taken to the jail in Kent and from there to Auburn Regional Medical Center upon telling police that he drank poison shortly before he was arrested. An empty 16-ounce bottle of weed killer was found near the smashed vehicles. Speaking for the Kent Police Department, Officer Paul Petersen said the victim was a real-estate agent who had sold some property to the alleged perpetrator.

More than 160 children, aged 11-14, at a scout camp in Denmark took part in a game of tag in which they wore yellow Stars of David and were chased by adults pretending to be Nazis. The local branch of the Danish Christian FDF scout organisation organised the game at the Kongeaadal schook, where the windows had been adorned with swastikas and an 'Arbeit macht frei' sign erected in the yard. The FDF chapter's Jes Imer said "I don't know whether I should apologize. I didn't want the game to hurt anyone."

John Mullen Jr. placed a late-night 'phone call and began talking dirty to the person at the other end. According to Captain Guy Turner of the Westlake, Ohio, police, this went on for 15 to 20 minutes while the recipient of the call listened patiently. Turner should know; Mullen had called him - apparently by accident - and in the end fell asleep on the line, snoring while police traced the call. Mullen's roommate said Mullen had intended to call a female friend.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that 32-year-old Keiji Sanada's apartment in Kawasaki caught fire shortly after 2am. He returned to find that his neighbours had extinguished the fire. Firemen were inspecting the damage. Sanada apparently began to shout that the room had been ruined with fire-extinguishing chemicals and that the firemen still had their shoes on. He apparently then started kicking a fireman and punched a police officer who tried to restrain him. He was arrested.

A 16-year-old waiter working at an assisted living facility in Glen Cove, New York, was annoyed at cook Vincent Basile, two years his senior, for accusing him of setting forks the wrong way. So the waiter, Tondrae Bell, slashed his tyres. When Basile confronted him, Bell took a steak knife from the kitchen and stabbed him. Basile is recovering, after blood transfusions and removal of his spleen. Bell's mother escorted him to the police station.

The BBC reports that raiders stole two miles of railway line. Three people were arrested after a member of the public saw six men removing the track at the disused Leamside line in Wearside, slated for potential reopening, and became suspicious. Most of the stolen track, weighing in at 313 tonnes, was recovered, but was chopped up for scrap and thus useless. The gang used specialist equipment, including JCB diggers, to remove the sections of track, which each weighed about 1,000 kilos.

The BBC reports that Huntingdon's Barbara Byrne, 60, was pursued by police when they saw her driving at 40 mph and veering across a dual carriageway in heavy rain last year. After a 15-mile chase, she pulled over, and it became obvious that she had 27 dogs in her car, some in a cage in back. With a dog in her lap, she also had a can of drink between her thighs and was smoking. She told the police she was driving over 100 miles to take her pets to the beach at Skegness. Byrne has been found guilty of careless driving, failing to stop, and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence. Her sentence included a one-year driving ban.

Brazil's Jurandir Xavier da Cruz was unfortunate enough to have the same name as a suspect wanted by police. Despite his fingerprints not matching the criminal's, he was in jail for 18 days before a new chief took charge of the police station and agreed to let him go. Police photos of the wanted man show a tall, white man with green eyes. The man arrested by Sao Paulo police has brown eyes and is short. He is also black. He said "I thought I was never going to leave prison".

The Denver Post reports on Amanda Briles, who got into an unattended Loveland police cruiser and drove off. Briles, who was under the influence of unspecified drugs, pulled over at least two motorists and gave them verbal warnings. Having lost her shirt at some point during the two hours before police tracked down the cruiser and arrested her, she was wearing a blue police coat that had been left in the vehicle. Briles, 22, has a lengthy police record.

In Olathe, Kansas, a 15-year-old took his turn at impersonating a police officer. His car was equipped with a loudspeaker, which he used to shout instructions at other cars at intersections. Officers received numerous complaints about the vehicle but had been unable to find the car, said Sgt. Darren Chambers. That changed when the teenager pulled up behind a uniformed officer's vehicle and shouted "This is the police! Get out of your car and put your hands in the air!" The officer got out and arrested him.

Edward Butler Blaine, 61, should know better after 40 years of bank robbery experience, but his latest armed robbery escapade, at the Union Bank and Trust branch in Port Royal, Virginia, didn't go as planned. As he left, $100 bills flew from his pockets. When he got to his car, he realised his keys were inside. Failing to break the window, he took out his aggression on a pickup parked nearby. The truck's owner, Emmett Lowe, joined the crowd of onlookers. When bank tellers told him that Blaine had robbed the bank, Lowe got his gun and took off in pursuit of Blaine, still on foot and trailing banknotes. Blaine tried to shoot Lowe and Larry Aguilar, but the hammer of his gun was caught in his pocket, said police captain Scott Moser. When he did fire, "instead of shooting them, he shot himself", Moser said. Police escorted Blaine to hospital. The charges against him will be reduced as part of a plea bargain agreement.

A Cedar Falls, Iowa, man who worked for Hardee's allegedly took off with the day's takings, over $2,000, after offering to help a co-worker by taking the money to the bank for her. He borrowed her car. He never came back - well, not until authorities found him living in Maryland. Bradley Steven Bailey pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree theft. He has written a letter of apology to Hardee's and asked that his final pay cheque be sent to a friend's house, according to Assistant County Attorney Sue Swan. Swan said employees circulated the letter and then binned it.

Oxfordshire publican Robert Tyrell, 46, was unhappy that his staff, saying they were closing for the night, refused to serve him another drink after a New Year's Eve party. So he drove an earth mover into the 16th-century North Star inn three or four times, collapsing walls and part of the roof. Tyrell had bought the pub, in Steventon, about a month earlier, from the family that had owned it for 177 years. Pub regular Mike Davies said "I left the pub before midnight and I'm glad I didn't stay longer. It was a very historic and old fashioned pub and I am really quite cross."

When a wheelchair-bound woman in Sandnes, western Norway, drove past the cash registers in the local Co-op store without paying, a security guard told her to stop. Instead, she increased her motorised wheelchair's speed to maximum and tried crashing through one of the two glass exit doors. When that didn't work, she tried the other of the doors and succeeded. One of her pursuers, employee Geir Inge Nes, said "I managed to catch up with her and grabbed onto the chair's handles but could only hang on for 100 metres or so". Three other employees followed her to a busy street, where "several cars had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting her", said Co-op employee Asle Hellvik. He eventually grabbed the key from the wheelchair's ignition at a bus terminal a kilometre away but dropped it when she bit his thumb and hit him. She escaped, but police had a description of her and tracked her to her apartment, where they found a still and 41 litres of home-distilled booze. A police spokesman said "she admitted crashing through a glass door at the store but said she didn't mean to do it".

30 January 2003

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that police pulled over Jose Galvan, 43, and Juan Luna, 21, on suspicion of transporting a large marijuana stash because their pickup truck matched the description provided in an erroneous tip. Police spokesman Pat Camden said the two small bags that fell out of the cab in front of officers tested positive for marijuana. There were about 220 pounds of plants beneath the truck's liner - Galvan and Luna were hauling away the hay used in the St. Wenceslaus nativy scene when they were arrested. Prosecutors dropped felony drug charges against the men after crime labs confirmed that a mistake had been made.

Anthony M. Herman, 46, and Sally Ann Gombocz, 45, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, took their seven-year-old son door-to-door to collect donations for his Cub Scout troop. But Michael Stempo and his wife noticed that the boy's neckerchief was knotted and knew that Boy Scouts don't go door-to-door asking for money. Herman and Gombocz, who had told the boy he was a Cub Scout when dressing him in the uniform, collected $667 before police intervened. Herman said in court that they needed and spent the money because the family landscaping business was in financial trouble.

A 27-year-old man decided to rob a branch of the Cornhusker Bank in Lincoln, Nebraska. But he had a change of heart when the teller asked him if he really wanted to rob the bank. Saying "no", he added "call the cops". He crawled under a swinging door leading to the teller areas, and bank employees kept him restrained until the police arrived to arrest him.

Darren Gallagher, a 34-year-old Fortuna, California, man, received a citation for driving his car while his licence was suspended. Later in the evening, the officer who gave him the ticket saw him on the road astride his petrol-driven lawnmower. After screaming abuse at the officer, Gallagher "kept on going until one of the sergeants basically got in front of him", said Sgt. Steve Rogers. He dismounted the mower only when an officer pointed a taser at him.

Eddy County, New Mexico, sheriff's deputy Kelly Calicoat was called to assist Leticia Guadian, 24; Vanessa Chavez, 22; and five children, aged 18 months to five years, whose van ran out of petrol near the Texas state line. When he arrived, they had already been given fuel, so he merely followed them to see that they could reach their destination. When the van exceeded the speed limit, Calicoat had it pull over and, after becoming suspicious, called in a drugs unit, which found 72 pounds of marijuana in a secrete compartment in the petrol tank.

The Associated Press report that Angela Bazley, 17, of New Orleans is charged with killing her newborn daughter because she didn't want her parents to know that she had been pregnant. Bazley's grandmother - the 38-year-old Helen Jordan - dressed the baby and placed the body in a gym bag, where it was found by two homeless people who were looking through the contents of rubbish bins. Jordan is being charged as an accessory to murder.

In Winchester, Virginia, Raymond Poore, Jr., 43, called his wife's workplace to tell her the dog had bitten him and he was going to kill it. When the wife came home, he was unconscious; he was pronounced dead at hospital. Police captain David Sobonya said the evidence showed that Poore must have bean beating the dog with the stock of the gun when the weapon discharged accidentally. The animal, a 30-pound shar-pei, survived.

Troy W. Harter was arguing with a client about money in the drug court in Marion County, Indiana, when he reached into his pocket for some money. Police say he also pulled out a lighter, steel wool pad, and a rock of cocaine. Witnesses say the client shouted "Did you guys see that?", at which point Bailiff Benjamin Bryant saw Harter crumble the cocaine and drop it on the floor. Bryant said Harter then asked "See what?" before leaving the courtroom for parts unknown. Lt. Paul Ciesielski, speaking for the Indianapolis Police Department, said he has not yet been located. The substance tested positive for cocaine.

A Welsh security guard decided to counter what he described as a voodoo curse after a fight with his wife of less than two months, Joanne Mugford. So he set fire to his house in Splott in Cardiff. He then sent a text message to Mugford which read "I'll pay for the damage. From your husband. PS I think voodoo is in the house." Adeyemi Dosumu, 43, pleaded guilty to reckless arson and has now been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail. Defending him, Lee Ingham argued that "Dosumu has received love letters from his wife while still in prison".

A Florence, South Carolina, man had just filled a customer's order for firearms and noticed a suspicious device attached to the underside of his car. The area was evacuated by authorities. The object was thought to be several sticks of dynamite with a remote detonation transmitter attached. Authorities said it was attached to the car with duct tape and was very professional-looking. Sumter Police Chief Patty Patterson said it was hours later - and after the 'detonator' had been blown up by a remote-controlled robot - when the man's wife admitted to placing the device there herself. It was a GPS tracking system that she had planned to use to track her husband's movements.

Hearing a disturbance at a Fairfield, Ohio, motel, Officer Brad Wolfe began to talk to Christina L. Willis, who was in a car outside. Wolfe placed his hands on the steering wheel when she started to drive backwards with the door ajar, so she allegedly grabbed his arms and dragged him about 10 yards. Other officers became involved and chased her for 30 minutes. When officers used spiked sticks to disable her car and end the chase, which had involved four police departments and exceeded 100 mph at times, Willis asked police to wait while she finished over a litre of beer. She was then pulled from the car.

Australia's Herald Sun reports that a mother left her three children in a car in 40-degree (Celsius) weather while she went shopping for milk and cigarettes. She later explained that she didn't want to wake them up. The 32-year-old woman also admitted to stealing a package of nappies. A Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman said the children, aged one month to seven years, were severely dehydrated when found. The mother disputed this, saying, "They said my children were dehydrated. They were a bit warm but nowhere near dehydrated", and she added, "I felt quite confident with [the seven-year-old] watching them for this short time of their life".

Kansas City's KMBC reported on a Missouri 18-year-old whose Jeep was hit by another car and rolled five times. The youth, Joe Ray Thompson, was not wearing his seat belt and, witnesses say, was thrown 20 feet into the air. He was fortunate enough to land not on the ground but on the power lines. "They say...that I bounced off the other two power lines and landed on the neutral, and I was just hanging there", Thompson said. He was rescued after workers shut off the electricity to reach him.

Jack Bowen, a 54-year-old former Oklahoma City television anchorman and radio personality, has been charged with stalking a woman who turned down his New Year's Eve marriage proposal. Melody Wilson, a bridal shop employee, filed for a restraining order after her employer allegedly saw Bowen trying to place a "partially nude" photo of Wilson on the storefront. Bowen was apparently dressed in a women's fur coat and wore a fake beard.

Reuters reports that LaMara Lane, of North Pole, Alaska, is suing DNA-testing company Identigene Inc. for sending her an unwelcome package. Receiving an insulated container in the post, she assumed it was a 'LobsterGram', a popular gift in the area. But the package contained part of her dead father's leg. Company president Caroline Caskey said the company was merely following court orders. When Lane's father, George Semmens, willed his estate to her, a sister of his had unsuccessfully questioned her paternity.


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