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January 2009

5 January 2009

A resident of Shizuoka, Japan, called the police to report a suspicious man peering into local mailboxes. Officers soon spotted Masahiko Yamada, 46, grabbing about 20 New Year's cards from an area man's mailbox. They found about 430 more cards, addressed to 34 more households, in Yamada's possession. He explained that he'd felt lonely and had wanted to look at the family photos inside.

Idaho's Robert Aragon became stuck in the snow while taking his two children to their mother's home on Christmas. He let the children out of his truck to walk to that destination, 16 kilometres away, while he would work with another adult to free the vehicle. After the truck was freed, the 55-year-old Aragon drove back to his home. Later, the children's mother, JoLeta Jenks, rang Aragon to ask where he and the children were. He explained, and Jenks rang the police next.
Her 12-year-old son was found at a rest area by the highway, about halfway to Jenks's house. He had apparently discarded most of his clothes amid hypothermia-induced delusions. The boy told Jenks that his sister, 11, had decided to turn back. She didn't make it, and Aragon faces charges of second-degree murder and felony injury to a child.

A search for a missing child was mounted also in Florida, where Meagen McCormick had told police that her six-month-old son and his nanny had vanished. After a search over Christmas, she confessed that neither the boy nor the nanny had ever existed and that she'd made up the tale to bring ex-boyfriend John Buchness back into her life. Buchness, who did indeed return to Miami to plea for the return of his son, was unaware that McCormick had had a miscarriage in March.
Police, about 20 of whom participated in the search for the nonexistent child on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, have asked the state attorney's office to make McCormick pay for the wasted resources.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, told a family at a cinema in Philadelphia to be quiet so that he could watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in peace on Christmas. The family argued with him, so he produced a .380-calibre handgun and shot the father of the family in the arm. Cialella still was unable to watch the rest of the film, as police arrived at the cinema and booked him with charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and a weapons violation.

Dressed as Santa Claus, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo visited his ex-wife's parents' home on Christmas Eve. He shot the eight-year-old who opened the door, commencing a shooting spree that left nine people dead and three injured. Parda then sprayed petrol throughout the home and set it on fire. When the house exploded, his Santa suit melted onto his skin, leaving him with third-degree burns.
His plans changed at this point. Rather than using his aeroplane ticket to Canada as planned, he went to his brother's home and killed himself.

Firefighters on a medical call in Utah heard the air horn on their fire engine and went to investigate. They found a man trying to drive away with the $500,000 emergency vehicle, and almost running into an ambulance on the way. Firefighters managed to remove the 25-year-old man from the fire truck, amid blood and flying fists. The man, who is homeless, explained that he had wanted to drive home to Washington to see his mother for Christmas.

Last year, Vasco Silva successfully used a blowtorch to melt ice on his Bedford, Massachusetts, home. This year he was not so fortunate - when he tried to melt the ice on the porch to provide a more comfortable holiday environment for his mother and other relatives, the vinyl siding on the four-storey home ignited, and the flames quickly spread, damaging the house. Firefighters put out the blaze.

Stacy Ferrance of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, contacted the police on Christmas when cash, a laptop computer, and an iPod disappeared from her home. The next day, she rang them again, upon seeing footprints in her closet. The police then brought a dog into the home and out popped Stanley Carter, who had been staying with Ferrance's neighbours until his disappearance a few days earlier. For several days, the 21-year-old Carter had been hiding in an attic shared by the two homes and eating Ferrance's food. She said: 'When he came down from the attic, he was wearing my daughter's pants and my sweatshirt and sneakers.' Plains Township police officer Michael Smith said that officers found a sheet of paper labelled 'Stanley's Christmas List', listing everything he had 'removed from the residence and donated to himself'.

Shawn Wallace wanted to prevent a friend from driving while intoxicated. This is what he told the police officers who arrived in response to reports that he had been firing paintballs at a car's windscreen. Kennewick, Washington, police sergeant Ken Lattin said that the 41-year-old Wallace's approach was 'very creative', but it still earned him a stay in jail for investigation of unlawful use of a weapon.

Barry Baker, 59, rang the emergency services to report that he was having a heart attack. When a two-man ambulance crew arrived at his Brighton home, he was no longer conscious. However, the telephone call was still connected, and dispatchers reportedly heard the paramedics remarking on the state of Baker's home and saying it wasn't worth saving him. Allegedly, they also discussed what to tell ambulance control and opted to say that Baker was already dead when they arrived.
The dispatchers called in the police, who removed the body. The two paramedics have been suspended from work but not yet charged.

Four years ago in Greece, a 62-year-old alcoholic man was worried about his 900-euro bar tab. Therefore, he and the bar-owner came to a deal under which his debt would be written off and he would receive free drinks for the rest of his life. In exchange, he sold the bar-owner his flat, worth 33,000 euros, for 6,500 euros and the right to live there rent-free until his death.
Following the alcoholic man's recent death, his brother took the case to court. An appeal court has now declared the deal void, explaining that the terms were exploitative and disproportionate.

Edna Jester, who was featured in the October Clippings for her lawsuit-prompting refusal to return a football that neighbours' children had landed in her garden, now makes a return appearance. With footballs and other playthings continuing to land on her property, the 89-year-old Ohio woman has reported ongoing discomfort and emotional distress. Accordingly, she is suing the neighbours, parents Paul and Kelly Tanis, for unspecified monetary damages. Mrs Tanis says she is worried about the 'silly' lawsuit because she has five children and cannot afford legal aid.

A man who lives near a cemetery in Unicoi County, Tennessee, has explained to visiting police officers that flowers and other items from Evergreen Cemetery had been blown onto his property by the wind. The 50 grave decorations found in his home included lights, sculptures of an angel and a pair of praying hands, and miniature Christmas trees. According to Sheriff Kent Harris, the authorities' visit was prompted by a tip from a man reporting having seen someone take flowers from the cemetery to that address.

Last June, a car was hijacked in Lapua, Finland. Soon thereafter, it was found in nearby Seinäjoki. Inspector Sakari Palomäki recently reported: 'A police patrol carried out an inspection of the car and they noticed a mosquito that had sucked blood. It was sent to the laboratory for testing, which showed the blood belonged to a man who was in the police registers.' The suspect said that he had hitched a ride in the car and did not steal it, which leaves prosecutors to decide whether there is enough evidence for pressing charges.

In August, burglars broke into Cathy Grosse's home in Hamilton, Ohio. On Boxing Day, someone broke in via another door to the home, while she was shopping. Authorities soon found the culprits - Deputy Fire Chief Greg Robbins explained that he had directed firefighters to what he thought was a vacant, city-owned home for training exercises. Because he got the address wrong, the fire department are paying to have the door replaced.

California's Debra Rogoff opened a box of crackers and found an envelope inside containing $10,000 in $100 notes. When the police contacted the grocery store where the crackers had been purchased, staff reported that an elderly woman had visited a few days earlier to report that she had mistakenly returned a box of crackers that contained her life savings - which she had hoped to keep safe from her bank. The crackers she'd returned had been returned to the shelves rather than destroyed.
The woman was reunited with her money, and the store gave the Rogoff family a free box of crackers.

Chris B. Truax, an Oregon car-wash attendant, was at work when a masked man demanded 'Give me your money!' and waved what looked like a handgun. When the gunlike item broke, Truax said, he felt free to lead the man to the till via the car-wash tunnel. Instead of a bag of money, the gunman ended up with a hoseful of soapy water, as the 25-year-old Truax aimed the power washer, rated at 14,000 kPa, at him. The man left without the money, and Truax was jailed on a seven-year-old warrant for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

A detective visited a hotel in Port St. Lucia, Florida, where he had been told a suspect in the theft of jewellery, cash, and a handgun might be staying. While visiting the suspect, the detective had to use the toilet. As he couldn't get the toilet to flush, he removed the tank cover to locate the problem - which he soon located. The tank contained the stolen handgun and three loaded magazines. The suspect has been arrested.

The Florida police were following Charles Armstrong's car to make a traffic stop when they received a call to instead intervene in an armed robbery a few blocks away. Some of the officers, however, continued to follow the 28-year-old Armstrong. He was arrested as a felon unlawfully carrying a firearm. Officers then discovered that the call about the armed robbery had come from Armstrong's mobile phone, and the charges were augmented accordingly.

Someone rang the police in Grand Junction, Colorado, to report that a vacationing neighbour's home was being burgled. When the police arrived, they saw a minivan make a hasty exit. They followed its tracks to the home of Alexis Collins, who told them that she had been asleep. However, her minivan was still warm to the touch, and she was wearing make-up. Also, items from the crime scene were found in the home.
In case that wasn't enough evidence, still inside the burgled house was her husband, a ski-mask-wearing Douglas Scott Collins, picking up just a few more items before leaving, among them a flat-screen television set.
Both Collinses face burglary charges.

23 January 2009

Dr Danielle Smith started South Jersey Small Animal Rescue, where she ran a veterinary clinic. After she had been in business for a while and also solicited donations for her not-for-profit agency, authorities determined that it was not a charitable organisation and that Smith's veterinary qualifications were forged. Also, Smith was operating under an assumed name. She was actually Daniel C. Tyce. Among other things, Tyce is being charged with practising medicine without a licence. He is being held on $10,000 bond.

A man brandished a gun at the Jessamine South Elkhorn Water District office in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He demanded money. An employee said the office doesn't really have any money, and the man replied: 'I know you have money. It's a bank.' When told that the building had been used by Farmers Bank but is no longer a bank, the would-be robber left empty-handed.

Alerted to suspicious smells, the Thames Valley Police Specialist Search and Recovery team were called in to navigate a complex series of tunnels and locate 74-year-old Gordon Stewart. Wearing their breathing apparatus and wielding gas detectors and remote cameras, they were able to find Stewart's body in the labyrinth of rubbish and odds and ends he had piled throughout his Broughton, Buckinghamshire, home. The police believe Stewart died of dehydration after becoming lost and wandering in circles in the maze of tunnels he'd created over the course of a decade.

Late at night, police officers in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, noticed the light still on at the funeral parlour across the street from the sheriff's office. Officers visited the funeral parlour and found a door open. Inside were the components of a meth lab. Police officers waited at the scene and arrested former funeral home employee Robert Lee Lewis upon his return to continue his semi-clandestine work. The 43-year-old Lewis faces a range of charges.

A six-year-old boy in Washington missed the school bus, so he took matters into his own hands. He stole his sleeping mother's car keys. According to Northumberland County sheriff Chuck Wilkins, he boy set off on the 16-kilometre drive to school, possibly standing up, 'during our busiest time of the day, when all the school buses are going, passing two or three cars at a time, and went over a bridge and almost made it' before losing a battle with a utility pole. Even after the crash, the boy still wanted to make sure he didn't miss school. He got his wish, after being treated for minor injuries. Both parents have been charged with child endangerment, and the boy and his brother are in foster care.

Older and not necessarily wiser, a 15-year-old and 16-year-old boy realised that they would be late to school in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, if they didn't hurry. To avoid getting in trouble for being tardy, they stole a car and drove it to the school, where police officer John Raymond found it in the car park. The car keys were recovered from the boys, who face charges of motor vehicle theft.

In northern Germany, two other young people decided that they had somewhere to go in a hurry. According to Holger Jureczko of the Hanover police, six-year-old Mika and five-year-old Anna-Bell 'are very much in love and decided to get married in Africa where it is warm'. Mika's seven-year-old sister would be a witness.
On New Year's Day, the three children packed summer clothes, sunglasses, and provisions for the journey and left their apparently sleeping parents behind. The children caught the attention of a guard while waiting for a train to the airport. He struck up a conversation with them and convinced them that getting to Africa would be difficult without much money or an aeroplane ticket. They were treated to a mini-holiday in the form of a tour of the police station, where their parents collected them.

Beijing Zoo panda Gu Gu has tasted human flesh for the third time now. A man identified only as Zhang was playing catch with his son, using a plush panda toy, when the boy threw it into the panda's enclosure. Initially, Zhang tried to find a zoo employee to help him. However, in the end he was undeterred by reports that Gu Gu had torn away part of a drunken man's leg to repay that man's desire for a hug and by more recent news stories of the panda attacking a 15-year-old boy who had jumped into his enclosure. Zhang found the slope on the inside harder to climb, and Gu Gu then took an interest in him. The zoo reported that Zhang suffered bite wounds to both legs. He was hospitalised.

Child-minder Nathan Beavers accidentally stepped on the foot of his four-year-old charge in Ohio recently. He paid for it. The young boy reached into a closet, grabbed a gun, and shot Beavers. Both he and another teenager at the residence were treated for their injuries. No charges have yet been reported in connection with the incident.

Someone noticed a Montana school bus parked at a liquor store. The driver had merely picked up a few bottles before picking up the children. When police officers caught up with the bus, the driver apparently asked a student to hide her bag of purchases near the back of the bus. Billings Public Schools Superintendent Jack Copps said that the driver's breach of school district policy was somewhat embarrassing. The driver has quit her job.

According to AP reports, a Minnesota man found paint all over the inside of his home, where he also discovered a teddy bear with a pole through its body and a knife through its head. He believed that his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend was responsible, but she told him that he had no proof of this. Later he found enough proof to file a criminal complaint with the Ramsey County court: police report that she had posted a photograph of the damage on social networking site MySpace. She has now disappeared.

The Portuguese media report that Orico Silva lost a legal battle and, in his words, 'freaked out when the judge refused my offer to pay the debt and ordered the sale of part of my land'. In the courtroom, Silva opened his briefcase to remove the relevant bank papers and instead removed a butcher's knife he had recently purchased. He cut off his index finger on a court desk and cut it in three pieces. Silva explained that he had planned 'to tear up all the case papers and splatter them with blood so I could prevent the expropriation order for my land'.

According to Reuters reports, Peru's highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, has ordered the restoration of Pablo Cayo's job as a custodian for the municipality of Chorrillos. He had been dismissed from the position for being drunk at work. Justice Fernando Calle explained that the firing was excessive because Cayo did not offend or hurt anyone. Calle said that the court would not reconsider the decision in view of a government complaint that it has set a dangerous precedent.

A shoplifter in Cape Coral, Florida, remains at large after stealing $1200 worth of designer handbags from a local shop. A T.J. Maxx security guard said she was confronting this shoplifter when the getaway car drove up. The purse-snatcher got into the vehicle but then fell out and therefore was run over by the car. She got up again and jumped onto the bonnet. She fell off and was run over a second time. She finally did make it into the vehicle, after dropping a cheque and giving witnesses time to take down the licence plate number.

Suffolk County, New York, police said that an officer noticed a car stopped by the side of the road, where the driver and passenger proceeded to switch places. When it rejoined the flow of traffic, the car began following another vehicle closely, forcing it onto the hard shoulder. Both the driver and the passenger of the offending car face charges of driving while intoxicated. Both have previous convictions.

Four teenagers have complained that police in Guadalupe, Mexico, were over-zealous in apprehending them for spray-painting things that were not theirs. The 14-to-16-year-olds say that the officers, in addition to slapping and kicking them, spray-painted them from head to toe. The teens presented painted shoes and photographs of their painted heads to back up their story. Several officers have been suspended while the case is under investigation.

Elsewhere in Mexico, the Attorney General's Office reports that an Acapulco man has been charged with posing as a police recruiter in order to find 25 people who are police material to work for him. The man is associated with the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. He faces trial on drug, organised crime, and impersonation charges.

A little over a year ago, a 54-year-old Japanese man who runs a medicine distribution company earned his licence to handle drugs. Wanting his 20-year-old son to join him in his work, he arranged for his son to take the exam as well. However, it was the father who showed up at the licensing exam this year - without his glasses and boasting permed hair. He played the role of his son well enough to not get caught, though an examiner did decide to take a closer look at this rather old-looking 20-year-old man. Masaaki Nakamori, a Nara Prefecture officer, said: 'When the test monitor approached him, he admitted it and apologised. He said [...] he did it all himself without telling his son.'

A Centerville, Utah, man with a permit to carry a concealed weapon used the loo at a restaurant, whereupon things went wrong. The .40-calibre Kahr P40 handgun fell from the holster in his trousers. Police lieutenant Paul Child said: 'When the gun hit the floor, it went off, and the bullet struck the toilet, shattering it and sending sharp pieces of porcelain flying.' Paramedics responding to reports of shots being fired at the restaurant treated the man's arm, which had been lacerated by some of the shards, and a restaurant employee who had panicked and begun experiencing chest pains.

Missouri's David Ward was upset that his daughter wasn't letting him visit her daughter. He decided to hire a hit man to beat her up. The man to whom he provided photos of his daughter and a map of her house was an undercover officer, and Ward has been arrested. Ward had assaulted his daughter four years ago, which is why she did not allow him access to his grand-daughter.

A 19-year-old man walked into a Milwaukee police station and asked about the arrest of his 18-year-old girlfriend for robbery. Sergeant Willie Lee recognised him, having watched surveillance footage earlier in the day of a purse-snatching from the day before. Before saying anything, Lee reviewed the footage to make sure it was the same person. Police believe the man, who is already on probation in connection with a robbery, may have carried out several other robberies in the area.

Dr Richard Batista says he is tired of custody negotiations with his ex-wife and that he is demanding that she return the kidney he gave her. Batista, 49, said he would settle for $1.5 million, alternatively. He says that he had no regrets about the kidney donation, which he described as 'as if I could put my arm around Jesus Christ', and adds that 'to this day I would still do it again'.

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© 2009 Anna Shefl