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March 2002

1 March 2002

The Associated Press report on Donna Pringle's defence when facing charges of trying to fake a breathalyser test in late 2000. A police officer approached Pringle when she was sitting behind the wheel of a pickup truck in a hotel car park. The officer, who smelled alcohol on Pringle's breath, told a Vancouver judge that she pretended to blow. Pringle contends that she couldn't blow very hard because of her breast implants. Justice Kathryn Neilson overturned her earlier conviction, arguing that there was no proof that she tried to fake her test results.

Reuters reported on Salifu Ojo, a 23-year-old from Lagos, Nigeria, the murderer of his boss, Christiana Elijah. After an argument about his pay, he chopped off her limbs and used her internal organs as ingredients in a pepper soup. State police commissioner Paul Ochonu said Ojo confessed to his co-workers after the soup made him vomit. 'We recovered the trunk of the woman's body and some uncooked parts on the farm', said Ochonu.

From Florida's St. Petersburg Times, we hear of Clinton H. Williams, the 135-kilogram Largo man who kept a .45 under the cushions of his couch. The gun went off as Williams situated himself on his sofa, the 39-year-old's femoral artery was severed. The bullet did not exit his body. 'He basically bled inside', said police detective Joe Coyle, who called the occurrence 'just a freak accident'. Williams was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center, where he died.

Philadelphia's John April died in Atlantic City just after winning a slot machine's $10,000 jackpot at Harrah's casino. He took half his winnings in cash and half as a cheque. He then went to find his wife, Georgene, but suffered a heart attack before he could tell her of his winnings. He was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he died. At some point during his journey, his winnings vanished. Two days later, Georgene found the receipt for $10,000 in her late husband's wallet. The casino stopped payment on the cheque and will replace it, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

We know how animal lovers can let their enthusiasm go overboard. Jean Hrcsko is an example of this. The Augusta [Georgia] Chronicle reports that a magistrate has ordered Hrcsko and her daughter not to own any more dogs or cats, after animal control officers found 32 dogs and nine cats in their homes. Only one of the animals could be saved. The women were fined $4,100 in total. Shirley Harden, the chief enforcement officer for Aiken County Animal Services, said: 'It is heartbreaking, and it's unbelievable that human beings can live in that kind of filth, much less animals. We literally had to wear two masks, double gloves and throw all our clothes away. It was just horrendous. I will never get over that.'
This comes seven years after a similar court order. After the two were found to have collected 109 dogs (four of which survived) in 1994, they were ordered not to have more than four dogs.

Tallahassee, Florida, man Carl Franklin, 30, appeared to be preparing to urinate when a police officer shouted. The officer, Seth Stoughton, figured Franklin had been drinking rather a lot, but what he didn't expect was to see the man's trousers catch fire. Apparently, Franklin had been smoking a Newport cigarette and put it in his pocket when he stopped to urinate. Stoughton said: 'His pocket was outlined in red, and it was clearly smouldering.' As Franklin tried to run away, Stoughton chased him, finally putting the fire out when Franklin tripped on his own trousers as they fell.

The Associated Press report on Michigan's Scott Manciero, 29, whose truck struck Officer Anthony Bateman, 26, who was retrieving road flares on a state road. Manciero stopped after hitting the officer, and police found 6 kg of marijuana in his truck. Bateman was treated for a chipped vertebra and injuries to his shoulders, knees, and head. A breath test established that Manciero was not intoxicated at the time of the incident. He faces up to seven years in prison.

A Santa Cruz, California, high-school student received her substitute teacher's permission to do a science fair project on the medical uses of marijuana. Mission Hill Junior High School officials confiscated her props after her 'Mary Jane for Pain' presentation; these included a marijuana-laced muffin and a spray bottle of marijuana-steeped rubbing alcohol. Rather than calling in police, they returned the items to the 13-year-old girl's father, Joe Morris. Morris said the props were intended to show that medical marijuana 'isn't about smoking pot'.

A Belleville, Illinois, man has been charged with the theft of 92 ponytails which were intended for Locks of Love, a group who make wigs for children who have lost their hair through medical conditions such as cancer. Melvin G. Hanks, 54, contacted Belleville's Designer's Club hair salon last year and said he could collect hair directly for Locks of Love, saving shipping charges. Salon-owner Gerry Dahm discovered the trickery when he rang Florida-based Locks of Love a month ago to complain that Hanks was rude to an employee. When Hanks returned to the salon for his 13th trip, Dahm rang the police.

The Philadelphia Inquirer tells us of Buffy Guenst, who pocketed a city utility payment cheque for $4,000 within days of becoming Richland Township treasurer. That was in 1996. Since then, she has massaged the books and made a quarter of a million dollars in residents' tax money vanish. It seems township officials had no problem signing blank cheques, and no-one noticed the cheques made out to 'cash', the debit card purchases at Wal-Mart, and so on. It took Guenst's purchase of $85.50 worth of merchandise at Victoria's Secret for officials to discover her crimes. The charge was flagged by Quakerstown National Bank, where the township has its accounts. Also raising red flags were charges from L.A. Weight Loss and a trip to an amusement park.
Richland County Police Chief Stuart Woods said: 'These are not things that the township normally buys.' Police Sergeant Lawrence Cerami stated: 'She wanted to provide [her family and children] with whatever she could, and she felt a need to do that through these means.' Guenst was fired. Her husband, also a city worker, was fired on the same day for undisclosed reasons.

According to the Associated Press, Brown County, Texas, Sheriff's Deputy Tony Aaron was visiting a flat in Brownwood when a man knocked on the door and asked if any of the people inside might want to buy some valium. Aaron, who was in uniform and wearing his service revolver, agreed to buy 30 pills for $50. When the man asked for the money, Aaron asked him if he understood his Miranda rights. Ronnie Lee Proctor, 42, was charged with with delivery of a controlled substance.

China's Liu Haiyang may have answered his hypothesis as to 'whether or not [bears] really are stupid', but he has also landed himself in trouble. The 21-year-old electromechanical major at Tsinghua University poured sulphuric acid on five bears in Beijing zoo, according to the Xinhua news agency. He explained that he had read about bears' acute sense of smell and wanted to verify if they could use it in self-preservation. Results must have been inconclusive because he returned a second time, pretending to feed the animals. He was taken into custody. The deputy head of the zoo, Wang Baogiang, said the bears, all on the international list of animals to be given priority protection, have been having problems seeing, eating, and walking since the attacks.

Utah Judge Gerald Jensen told Brent Beaudry of Green River, Wyoming, not to drive himself home after his hearing for driving with a suspended driver's licence. Beaudry said he had a ride home. The judge said a bailiff would make sure Beaudry, 44, didn't drive off, but that didn't deter him. He drove his pickup truck for a few blocks before Bailiff Jeff Corbin stopped him. In that time, he failed to signal twice and didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign, Corbin testified.
In previous encounters with the police, Beaudry has been quite helpful. For instance, he apparently told the police who stopped him in late January that he had a weapon in his glove box and meths and heroin pipes in the boot of the car. 'He even pointed out which pipe was his favorite one', said Corbin.

The AP report that convicted sex offender Harvey Taylor ran away from a police detective and hid for at least three days and nights in the woods to escape police. The 48-year-old suffered frostbite and lost a few toes, and he blames police. He told the Bangor [Maine] Daily News: 'If the detective had done his job, I wouldn't be in here [hospital] now. I would have been in jail that very same day.' Taylor is wanted for violating the terms of his probation for sexual offences involving a child.

Finally, California's Jennifer Portnick was rejected when she applied to teach Jazzercise exercise classes. She believes that weighing 110 kg has something to do with it, so she has filed a complaint with San Francisco's Human Rights Commission. Weight discrimination is illegal in the city. Jazzercise's Maureen Brown wrote to Portnick that 'Jazzercise sells fitness [...] a Jazzercise applicant must have a higher muscle–fat ratio and look leaner than the public. People must believe Jazzercise will help them improve, not just maintain their level of fitness'. The case has gone to mediation. After her rejection, Portnick becamse certified to teach aerobics classes and now teaches fitness classes for her church.

7 March 2002

Washington's Yakima Herald-Republic tells us of Garland E. Benintendi's funeral. At the end of the service, at the Central Assembly of God Church, Benintendi's six sons carried the casket outside and discovered that the hearse was nowhere to be found. The hearse had been left with the keys in the ignition. 'Nothing's sacred', said police Sergeant Mike Costello. The hearse was later found 185 km away, in the car park of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, in Olympia.

Reuters reports on the ordeal of Tillie Tooter, an 85-year-old woman who was run off Interstate Highway 595 in Florida. After knocking Tooter's car over a concrete embankment and into a thick mangrove swamp, Scott Campbell, 22, stopped about 1.5 km from the crash scene and told a highway patrolman that he fell asleep and hit road debris or the highway barrier.
While picking up rubbish along the highway three days later, a teenager spotted Tooter's car dangling from the trees in the swamp. She survived on water she saved in a steering wheel cover, but she now has to use a walker. Campbell told Tooter 'I feel very remorseful' as part of a plea agreement which will keep him out of jail.

Ross County, Ohio, Sheriff Ron Nichols said that 'we tried to advertise the D.A.R.E programme and "Say no"', but it didn't work. Pearl Blazer, 54, won a motorbike festooned with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education messages in a sheriff's office raffle. But Blazer allegedly rode the Harley to a drug deal. He was later charged with selling marijuana to an undercover deputy. Nichols said he will try to have the bike confiscated.

Mike Scott's beachfront home in Newport Beach, California, is eqipped with a 55-inch Sony television which barely functions. This may have something to do with the high-salinity air, which has also affected the legs on Scott's bar stools, his window blinds, etc. But that didn't stop Scott from getting Sony to replace two 'defective' big-screen television sets in a row, under a five-year warranty. The electronics giant tried to void the warranty for the third set, but that is not enforceable, so Sony have given Scott $4,500, after a settlement conference in which he agreed 'that he will not purchase or otherwise obtain or receive a Sony product of any type in the future'.
Scott, whose solicitor even asked at one point whether he had been pouring salty water into the television, said: 'I don't consider air an act of God.'

Jefferson County, Oklahoma, officers took Cherse Smith into custody, foiling her plan to spring her son Joshua Bagwell and fellow inmate Curtis Gambill from a Texas jail. Sheriff Harvey Burkhart reported that a hacksaw blade Smith brought the men was found in the jail. Smith also obtained two rifles, camping equipment, and aerial maps. Gambill's brother, Rick, went to police after Smith asked him to clean the rifles. Police arrested Smith when she tried to carry out her plan.
Bagwell and Curtis, who were in jail for the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old cheerleader in 1996, had overpowered a jailer a month earlier, leading to a 10-day manhunt near the Texas/Oklahoma border.

Roseville, Minnesota, police officer Joe Spark went to Taco John's in Little Canada. In a criminal complaint, he alleges that his taco contained a substance 'which looked and smelled like marijuana'. The taco tested positive for marijuana. Employee Jacob William Furey has been charged after confessing that he was handed the marijuana by another employee and decided to sprinkle it on Spark's taco.

Evelyn M. Torres and Daniel Villafane, 24, pulled into a Doylestown, Pennsylvania, driveway to have sex. Residents saw the couple inside and atop a Dodge Neon, and they called police. Bucks County District Attorney Diane Gibbons said: 'It was not a real bright move, given what was in the car.' After police obtained a search warrant, prompted by the smell of marijuana in the vehicle, they found nearly a kilo of marijuana neatly packaged in small bags and ready to be sold.

I don't usually report on publicity stunts, but...
It is now the second week for a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, competition in which four strangers live together in a car in a shopping centre's car park watched over by guards and security cameras. The last one to leave the car, with the exception of toilet breaks, will win. Contestant Wong Hsin Ee, 21, said: 'It's a miracle we're still here. I've missed all my classes.' The four contestants aren't allowed to shower or change their underwear, although they may change their outer garments and are allowed to brush their teeth every other day. Diversions such as books and mobile telephones are banned, but the contestants may listen to the car radio, which is tuned to the station sponsoring the challenge.

The Denver Post reports that Gerald DeWayne Lewis, 34, was being held in Arapahoe County Jail while awaiting a court appearance to face charges of sexually assaulting a girl at a church. A 16-year-old girl was placed in the same cell when police didn't see him under the bottom bunk bed, where he was avoiding the light (a common approach for prisoners to try to get more sleep). Lewis faces charges of third-degree sexual assault. Undersheriff Grayson Robinson said the incident involved 'a very unfortunate error'.

Two Martville, New York, brothers got out their shotguns in an argument over a deal they made with each other. William Paige, 32, agreed to trade his brother Randy a chainsaw for a small motorbike. Each brother then discovered that the item he was to receive didn't work. William shot the motorcycle. Randy got out his own gun, and several shots were fired as the two stood in the driveway. The brothers' stories differ as to who shot what, but we do know that William was non-critically shot in the face and arm. The pair had been drinking beer all morning.

15 March 2002

Toronto's Beth Kidnie died two years ago when she was hit by a car driven by Pilar Hicks, 84. Hicks didn't notice Kidnie slapping her hands on the bonnet of the car, nor did she see Kidnie's body on the driveway when she parked almost a kilometre away. Currently, a coroner's inquest is raising the issue of whether stricter procedures should be employed in elderly people's driving tests. Hicks passed her test a month or so before the incident. Hick's son explains that he sent his mother out of Canada to avoid 'the strain' and media attention.

An only slightly more observant driver was described by Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger. An Itta Bena man, identified as Ronald Stevenson, 51, did see a driver and her children before he rammed the car, causing it to flip. Other motorists called police and detained him. According to Jackson police spokesman Robert Graham, Stevenson claimed that he was a highway patrol officer and 'stated he noticed a car had passed him that didn't have a tag on it and he couldn't get his blue lights on'. The car did have a tag, and Stevenson had neither a job with the highway patrol nor a patrol car. Patrolman Sammie Neal asked Stevenson to show him his blue lights, and 'he started pushing an imaginary button', said Graham.

The same newspaper reports on a Northwest Rankin High freshman who sneaked out of the high school and returned in time for lunch. Christopher Williamson, 15, used the time to rob a bank in Flowood. He left the scene of the crime on foot. Responding to a tip, police found Williamson eating lunch in the school cafeteria 39 minutes after the robbery. Police found Williamson's book bag in a classroom. In it were the clothes he'd worn during the robbery and a large amount of money.

According to the Carolina Morning News, two South Carolina teachers were arrested after allegedly trying to hire students to beat up one of their classmates. Tiffany L. Grayson and her sister Lakeisha both taught at Beaufort High School until last month, when Tiffany decided to get back at the female student with whom her (adult) boyfriend was allegedly having an affair. Police Chief Jeff Dowling described reports that Tiffany approached three students at a basketball game and offered them money if they would beat up the girl. Then, in late February, she allegedly accompanied four students off school grounds and made a similar offer. She allegedly did the same the next day in a classroom. A hearing is set for 29 March.

The Beaumont [Texas this time] Enterprise tells us that the Port Arthur school district canceled further performances of an anti-violence play after fighting broke out while high-school students watched it a day earlier. The conflict-resolution theme 'Stop the Violence' didn't prevent a one-on-one assault from spreading to a large crowd of students, including those in the hallways outside the auditorium. The students started becoming disruptive during a re-enactment of the Columbine High School shooting, according to Deputy Chief of Police Raymond Clark.

Two homeless men in Boulder, Colorado, are accused of stealing a Jeep. Robert Steven Lambert, 48, and Richard Raymond Lynch, 43, were arrested after a 7-Eleven clerk rang police to say the men offered him the Jeep as payment for a 12-pack of beer, reports The Daily Camera. According to police, the pair visited the store a total of three times that morning, making various offers.

Reuters reports on another botched crime. A thief in Johannesburg, South Africa, held up the gate guard at Krugersdorp's Rhino and Lion Reserve. When staff and visitors chased him, he climbed a high fence, on the other side of which were a pair of tigers. Police spokeswoman Milica Bezuidenhout said: 'They grabbed him and first played with him. He died of a broken neck and a fractured skull.' An accomplice and the driver of the getaway car were arrested.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, thought it was a hit and run when they found the body of Gregory Glenn Biggs in October. Chante Mallard, a 25-year-old nurse's aide, confessed to hitting Biggs after an evening of drinking and using Ecstasy. With the victim's broken legs hanging out the windscreen, she said she panicked and drove to her home 6 km away. It is alleged that she went into the house to have sex with her boyfriend, then checked to see if Biggs was dead yet. Mallard said Biggs pleaded for help over the next two or three days, but he remained in the windscreen. She said she apologised to him, though. After Biggs died, several of Mallard's friends helped dump the body in a park.
Police found blood and hair inside and outside the damaged car, which remained in the garage since the incident. Biggs sustained no internal injuries in the accident but rather died of blood loss and a state of shock, the county medical examiner's office ruled. Mike Heiskell, Mallard's lawyer, said: 'I believe the law will shake out that this was simply a case of failure to stop and render aid.'

A jury found Belgium's Andras Pandy, 74, and his daughter Agnes, 44, guilty of killing six of his family members and dissolving the corpses in Cleanest drain cleaner, despite his lawyer's insistence that there can be no conviction without bodies. Pandy, a pastor, insisted that his wives, sons, and step-daughters are still alive and that he has contact with them 'through angels'. Agnes's lawyer, Walter Muls, said she was under the spell of her father, who had raped her.
Police started searching for human remains at Pandy's homes in 1997, but at that time they only found kneecaps and other body parts which didn't belong to a family member.

A Marshall, North Carolina, couple are the latest addition to the 'too many pets' category, but these are pot-bellied pigs rather than cats or dogs. Hugh and Karen Koontz were housing over 100 of the animals before being served with arrest warrants on Tuesday. The animals were discovered by Elbert Roberts, who bought the house during a foreclosure auction and couldn't get the Koontzes to leave. Roberts also found about 20 dogs, two dozen cats, and some chickens and ducks in the house. Koontz said the couple's good intentions got the better of them in December, when every animal on their farm was scheduled to be killed. Karen, who rescued animals for her Peaceable Kingdom Animal Sanctuary, became ill a couple months ago and couldn't care for all the animals, she said.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports on Bruce Livingston of Jefferson County, Nebraska, who is appealing his property tax bill. He claims the $8,400 bill is unjust when one considers that his home's resale value is diminished due to the 15,000 hogs nearby. State property tax administrator Catherine Lang said a late-February decision in Livingston's favour is the first time a court verdict has tied lower taxes to such issues as odours. The hogs are Livingston's, a fact the court said was irrelevant.
Livingston said: 'I don't want to open a can of worms for my fellow hog producers.'

Elizabeth J. Holt, 23, of Billings, Montana, was annoyed that her boyfriend was washing the dishes too slowly, so she stabbed him in the back with a kitchen knife. She claimed that he was making her late to visit her parents. But Holt's call to emergency services on the bleeding James S. Demontiney's behalf didn't make her visit to her parents occur any more quickly.

Compulsive gambler Raymond Koval, 65, of Elm Grove, Milwaukee, robbed a bank after he depleted his life savings. His wife Marcia said he then bragged that 'I can rob banks, and you can't testify against me because you are my wife'. Seven months later, after she filed for divorce, he shot her in the shoulder with the same distinctive blue gun used in the bank robbery. He was jailed for the shooting in November, but the charge of armed bank robbery was delayed because of a misunderstanding of the law. Marcia could have testified against Raymond while married to him, but she could not have been compelled to do so.

And the Associated Press reported yesterday on a Vancouver, Washington, court scene. In an effort to keep her boyfriend from doing jail time for failing to pay court-imposed fines, Lisa Marie Brecht, 31, stepped forward to tell Judge James E. Rulli that she mailed in a payment for the fines last week. Court clerk Julie Brown said: 'She was gesturing with her hands, which had been in her pockets, and when she took them out the baggy flew out.' The defendant, Randy Lee Baker, covered his face with his hands and shook his head. Brecht bent down to retrieve the small plastic bag, which custody officer Albin Boyse told her to put on the table. Brown reported that when the judge told Baker that 'I thought you were clean and doing well', Baker replied: 'I am, and I thought she was, too.' Brecht is now in jail herself.

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