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March 2003


2 March 2003

A Leonia, New Jersey, woman tried to open a spray paint can with an electric can opener. Selimy Mensah, 39, received second- and third-degree burns to her back and face. Her husband and children, who were with her, were not hurt. Police Chief August "Chip" Greiner said the fire might have been caused by either a short in the can opener or the appliance making contact with the flammable paint.

The Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reports that the Conyming District's Shi Yousheng asked his brother, Shi Zhihai, for a loan after an unsuccessful business venture. The 41-year-old's reply was apparently "I can't lend you a penny unless you get rid of my wife". Shi Yousheng agreed and earned himself HK$2400 for killing the woman at her home while his brother played cards with workmates. The brothers were arrested at their homes.

Donald Luis Cooper Jr. and Chaunee Marie Helm of Hesperia, California, were arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a four-year-old girl's corpse at the county morgue. Cooper, 32, and Helm, 30, are employees of All-County Transportation, the firm responsible for transporting bodies for the coroner's office. The mutilation was discovered by a medical technician who went to the morgue to harvest the girl's corneas. Following a review of surveilance tapes, the coroner's office decided to stop using the services of All-County Transportation.

A nine-year-old boy from Daytona Beach, Florida, was serving a three-day suspension from school when he attacked his 88-year-old grandmother. The grandmother, Mazelia Dalmacy, said she had gone into the back yard because she was cold inside the house. When the boy hit her with a shopping trolley, she took her chair back inside, but he followed her, throwing rocks at her. He then wrapped a blanket around her head, she said and threw more rocks. She said she "didn't want to want to wake [the boy's mother]" but started screaming when she became scared. The mother rang the police, who are charging the boy with aggravated battery on an elderly person. Of the child's behaviour, his 11-year-old sister, Favienne Charles, said "He does that to me all the time".

Elsewhere in Florida, Leslie Strickland was driving with a suspended licence when she hit an alligator with her car. The 49-year-old Tampa woman rescued the animal the next day, taking it home and then trying to get the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to collect it. When neighbours told her it is illegal to possess an alligator, she tried to drive the animal to a pond but became distracted by the six-foot-long alligator's thrashing tail and ended up hitting a mailbox. Witnesses say her car got stuck when she tried to drive off, so she walked away instead. When police showed up at her home nearby, she resisted arrest. The alligator died after the game commission removed it from the car.

Here is another item from Florida. Dispatchers in St. Johns County received three calls in one hour concerning a door-to-door magazine salesman. The first caller, Michelle Schreiber, reported that a salesman, unhappy at being turned away, had subjected her to 15 minutes of doorbell ringing and shouting. Another caller said he had to brandish a gun before the salesman - who introduced himself as "the kid you ordered on the Internet" - stopped ringing the doorbell. The third 911 call in an hour reported that the salesman wouldn't let a woman close her door. Deputies arrived on the scene. According to the arrest report, it took three of them to subdue Gerald L. Thompson, 19.

In California, a motorist became annoyed that a trucker passed him over a double yellow line. So he rang the highway patrol to report that Osama bin Laden was hauling a load of paper on the highway. Officer Bob Scranton said "Just in case you needed proof that there are some crazy people out there, this will show you". The agency sent an officer out to pull over both drivers. While the trucker did sport a beard, turban, and Middle Eastern appearance, "it was determined in a pretty short time that he was not, in fact, Osama" said Scranton.

Pennsylvania's Linda Schultz, 36, was with her nieces and nephew when she allegedly placed a dildo in her shorts, pretending to have a penis. She then chased two of the children, ages seven and eight, around. Pottsgrove Police Officer Steven James Ziegler said in an affidavit that Schultz also hit one of the girls on the head with the sex toy. During the investigation, police also found a 15-year-old girl who claimed that who said Schultz threw a dildo at her and said "Have fun with it". The children later confided in an adult and one apparently mimicked Schultz's conduct repeatedly. Schultz is being charged with open lewdness and corruption of minors.

Vivian Frazier married Jeremy Guinther in the Indiana jail where he was incarcerated. During the ceremony, she kissed him, passing two grams of methamphetamine to him by mouth. A guard at Vigo County Jail became suspicious when seeing a bulge in Guinther's cheek. Guinther, 26, swallowed when ordered to open his mouth, and the packet of drugs was recovered in a hospital. After pleading guilty to felonious trafficking in drugs with an inmate, she has now been sentenced to two years in prison. Kissing during weddings at the jail is now forbidden.

Annoyed that his girlfriend dumped him, Ulysses Davis doused his 1990 Ford station wagon with a flammable liquid, set the car on fire, and drove it into her Novato, California, home. Investigators said he was aiming for her bedroom, evidently hoping his ex would die. The car stopped near her bed. Davis, 44, left the scene and, after a tip from a homeless man, was found nursing his wounds on the road. He was arrested and hospitalised with severe burns to the face and hands. Police Sgt. David Bynum said the woman and three others in the home were surprised but not hurt.

In Ohio, Patricia Martin maintains that "it was an accident" when she started a fire that left her family of six homeless. She explained tha she lit a piece of paper, put the flames out, and was trying to "smoke out" a group of spiders, which she tried to hit with the paper. She had not extinguished all the flames, however. Cleveland County Deputy Fire Marshal Perry Davis said there are various ways to get rid of pests safely but that "fire is not one of them".

Jarrod Devinney took his nine-month-old son on an outing, robbing a convenience store with the child, who was in a car seat. According to a complaint filed in court, Devinney ran to a nearby hotel with the child and about $120 he took in the robbery. Robbery detective John Thies said the baby made it easier to find Devinney, 22, as "he's running with that child [and] kind of sticks out".
The shop clerk recounted that Devinney, baby in tow, bought a candy bar and returned to the store a moment later and asked to stand inside because it was too cold for the baby outside. When the crowd thinned out, he threatened her and demanded cash. She gave him all the $20 bills and was trying to give him more cash when he said he didn't need more and ran off.
Thies said the child's mother "was a little bit upset at the whole incident".

According to local news reports, two 20-year-old Massachusetts men, Leonard Garland and David DeCristofaro, saw some cars parked at a house in Ashland and correctly guessed that a party was in progress. Garland went into the house, helped himself to a drink, and introduced himself to a man in the kitchen. Oblivious to the picture of the SWAT team on the refrigerator and the Burlington Police Academy shirt worn by the party's host, Garland asked the man if he wanted to get high. The man, Matt Gutwill, said he "was incredibly taken aback" but asked Garland if he had anything with which to get high. So Garland fetched DeCristofaro, who allegedly produced a bag of psychedelic mushrooms. Gutwill said they would upset his stomach, so Garland offered him cocaine and called a friend. The friend said he didn't like making deliveries to Ashalnd because of a vigilant narcotics detective named Gutwill.
The host chimed in here by saying "Yeah, I know that cop. He's a [expletives deleted]", and Gutwill added "Gutwill arrested me twice". At this point, the host rang the police, several of whom were at the party. When Gutwill produced his ID and badge, "the look on their faces was like they saw death knocking on their door" he said. The pair were easily detained when they tried to flee.

11 March 2003

Reuters reports that Manchester driver Chris O'Mahoney had just pulled to a halt when a traffic warden gave him a 40 UKP parking ticket and explained that the area, a bay marked 'buses only', was restricted. The passengers waiting to get on his number 77 bus were surprised, as was he. O'Mahoney said "when I asked 'Restricted to who?', he replied 'buses'. I thought he must be blind." O'Mahoney said he repeatedly tried to explain to the warden that he was in fact driving a bus.

The Sacramento Bee reports on the death of Vladimir Shalnev, 77. The North Highlands, California, man was fishing at the Natomas Main drainage canal with his grandson, Eduard Komatskiy, when a driver lost control of his pickup truck and struck two cars that were parked nearby. A rear tyre flew from one of the vehicles and knocked Shalnev into the water. Lt. Daniel Hahn of the Sacramento police said the pickup then entered the canal itself. Komatskiy tried to save his grandfather, but Shalnev was declared dead at the scene. The pickup's driver, whose name has not been released, was treated for minor injuries.

The Namibian reports on a couple who apparently died while having sex. The pair were lying on a road near Brakwater when they were hit by an all-terrain vehicle, driven by Liz Komen. Shortly afterward, they were hit again, this time by lawyer Cobus Potgieter, who later said this was "a typical example of people indulging in alcohol. No persons in their sober minds will lie having sex in the middle of the road." Police spokesman Sergeant James Matengu described a case occurring last year in which four people were hit and died while sleeping on a road.

In West Roxbury and Roslindale, Massachusetts, 40 idling cars were stolen in January. Captain Tim Murray has ordered officers to enforce a state law against leaving cars idling, imposing $50 fines on offenders. This comes too late to help one Roslindale man, who Murray says left his car idling while he made his coffee and collected his briefcase. When he noticed that his car was missing, he called the police, who asked him to file a report at the station. He started his wife's BMW, went inside to get the necessary paperwork, and emerged to find a lack of BMW. Murray said "Two cars, 10 minutes. A Guinness record for foolish behavior".
Both cars were found, and a 13-year-old was arrested in connection with their theft and, allegedly, that of four other cars stolen in similar circumstances.

Berlin artist Karl-Friedrich Lenze, 54, has applied for a licence to open a bordello for dogs. He said he plans to charge dog owners 25 EUR per half hour at the brothel, explaining that the 'employees' - of both sexes - will be carefully chosen, private rooms will be available, and an area will be set aside where dogs can take their pick from the selection on offer.

California inmate Andrew Burnett has decided to sue the woman responsible for the road rage that led to his conviction. Three years ago, Burnett flung Sara McBurnett's dog into oncoming traffic. He now claims he suffered injuries to the neck and spine when McBurnett's car bumped his sport-utility vehicle. When she rolled down her window to speak with him, he grabbed the dog and threw it into the road. Because the story of the incident became big news at the time, Burnett is also suing the Mercury News. Hoping to gain over $1 million from the suit, he is representing himself. Burnett claims to have suffered mental anguish, fright and shock, lost wages, and post-traumatic stress disorder in connection with the affair, among other things.

In a plea bargain agreement, Caroline Marie Mayer of Punta Gorda, Florida, pleaded guilty to child neglect and attempted sexual activity with a minor. Mayer, who is infertile, used her 16-year-old daughter as a surrogate mother, watching as her husband, Andrew Christopher Mayer, impregnated the girl three years ago. After the girl told her aunt that her stepfather molested her and stated under oath that "they pulled me out of bed at midnight and asked me if I'd have a baby for them", Andrew was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Caroline and Andrew had planned to replace their baby's name on the birth certificate with Caroline's.
State prosecutor John L. Burns said the plea agreement was based solely on the victim's wishes. Mayer will serve one year, less time already served, is not to contact her daughter or any minor for eight years, and will be classified as a sex offender for the rest of her life.

Charles Allen of Moriarty, New Mexico, parked illegally when he went to pick up his wife from the Bernalillo County jail. Apparently, a man then told a deputy that his friend's pickup truck, which had been stolen, was parked outside. When Allen, 35, approached the truck, he was arrested. In addition to the stolen truck, sheriff's officials said he had what appeared to be crack cocaine with him at the time of his arrest.

John Hopkins Clare, 53, vented his frustration with a sledgehammer. His sister called the sheriff's office to report that he was "having a mental breakdown" at her house. Before officers arrived, she called to indicate that Clare had left. He crashed his truck into three moving cars and then stopped at the Manor, Texas, fire chief's house, where he used a sledgehammer to break into the fire department vehicle parked outside. He removed the steering wheel, then got back into his truck and hit some more cars, including a police cruiser with Officer William McCaughey inside. Clare chased the officer for five blocks, hitting his vehicle repeatedly before pushing it off the road.
Finally, Clare became stuck in the mud, so he used the sledgehammer to break into a motel. He was then arrested. Manor Police Chief Robert Snyder said he expects that multiple charges will be filed against Clare.

Several fifth-graders decided to poison a classmate in Denver, Colorado, reports district attorney's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough. Five students were charged with felonies and two with misdemeanours in connection with the incident, in which an 11-year-old girl told her teachers about finding foreign matter in her water bottle and soda. Over a three-day period, she discovered pills, glue, lead, and chalk in her drinks, which she did not drink. Three of the students were expelled. Authorities said the students indicated that they didn't like the girl and that they wanted to hurt her.

16 March 2003

The boys' district championship basketball game at Michigan's East Kentwood High School was stopped after newspaper photographer Jon Browner told the referee that something was on the gym floor. The official waited until there was a foul and then collected the item, a bag that Browner described as "sizable". Kentwood Athletic Director Bill Giarmo said it was marijuana so he called the police. At first it was unclear whether the bag came from a player or a spectator, but an Ottawa Falls player was suspended after police reviewed videotapes of the event.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that 14 police stations have been burgled in the Tokyo area since February. The latest of the thefts involved the removal of a video recorder and tape from a police box that officers left unattended while conducting a patrol of the neighbourhood. About 15 minutes after the discovery of this break-in, another police box was freed of property: a bulletproof jacket and a videotape. Police believe the same party has been responsible for all the burglaries, as they make a bogus call to lure officers away, then break a window to gain entry.

According to the Ming Pao daily, Hong Kong's Chan Kwok-keung, 34, was acquitted at his January trial but swiped a court interpreter's handbag as he left the courtroom. The bag contained keys, herbal tea, and other items worth a total of about US$25. Officials, alerted to the theft, found Chan with the bag outside. Pleading guilty on Monday, he was sentenced to four months in jail. The judge did not believe the defence lawyer's explanation that Chan thought the bag was his mother's. This was his fifth theft conviction.

Norwegian death metal band Mayhem hit the news after a sheep's head hit a member of the audience at a gig in Bergen. The band were carving up the animal as part of their stage act when the head struck Per Kristian Hagen, 25. Hagen, whose skull was fractured, is expected to recover. He filed involuntary assault and battery charges against the band. Mayhem member Rune Eriksen said "the whole thing was an accident, but maybe it would be an idea for another show". He promised Hagen a free ticket to the band's next gig.

Leonard Crapps, who worked at the Gilpin Hotel Casino in Blackhawk, Colorado, was asked to help empty the slot machines. With his back to security cameras, he stuffed hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from the 'tamperproof' canisters down his sweatpants. At 280 pounds, Crapps, 35, was too large for one of the standard company-issued pocketless jumpsuits so had been granted a dress code exception. He pleaded guilty last week and will have to repay over $200,000.

Responding to locals' reports of a fire in a yard in Kellinghusen, German police discovered an 11-year-old boy using a homemade flamethrower to kill goldfish. A police spokesman said the "lethal contraption", made from a water pistol, cigarette lighter, and stolen petrol canister, could easily have exploded in the boy's face. Officers confiscated it. The boy had stolen the goldfish from a neighbour's pond. Due to his age, he will not be prosecuted, Reuters reports.

Hillside Cemetery in Auburn, Massachusetts, received a telephone bill for plot resident David Towles. The bill arrived five years after Towles died, and came as a surprise to Cemetery Superintendent Wayne Bloomquist. Most of the charges on the 12-cent bill were for a call placed this February. Sprint's automated service indicated that interest charges have now brought the account's balance to $3.95. The bill was turned over to interim Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury, who said "Mr. Towles' credit could be affected if it remains unpaid".

After electrical and other services to his Denton, Texas, home were suspended due to nonpayment, James Mack, 48, and his 87-year-old mother had apparently been living out of his van to stay warm in recent months. After someone told police that no-one had been seen around the house for a few days, officers entered the home and found empty beer cans and rubbish throughout, said officer Jim Bryan. They then broke into the van, where they found empty beer cans piled nearly to the ceiling as well as Mack's decomposing body, naked below the waist. His mother's body was also found in the van, under a pile of rubbish, and appeared to have been decomposing several months longer than Mack. Two dogs were alive in the van.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, flight attendant Daniel Cunningham is accused of dealing with a crying infant by spiking its juice with the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. According to the FBI, the 39-year-old Northwest Airlines employee gave the 19-month-old child the prescription drug on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit and the mother became suspicious after taking a sip herself. According to court papers, she called her doctor, who had her take the drink to a lab for testing.
FBI agents detained Cunningham on his next flight and found various prescription medicines in his suitcase. He explained that a doctor in India gave him the pills but couldn't provide prescriptions for them.

Chilean teacher Sandra Vera found that someone had scratched images of flowers and hearts into the side of her car. The culprits, two five-year-old girls, used hairclips to make the pictures and to sign their names - Zhaira and Francisca. Vera, who is suing the girls, said "And they did it while their mother was around". Zhaira's mother said "the teacher is making a storm in a teacup. The girls meant no harm."

The BBC reports on what happened after Mombasa, Kenya, student Dora Mwabela dropped her mobile 'phone into a pit latrine. After Mwabela offered a reward equivalent to $13 for its retrieval, Patrick Luhakha ripped up the toilet floor and descended a ladder into the latrine. The 30-year-old radio technician did not emerge, so neighbour Kevin Wambua decided to check on him - but slipped and fell himself. Attempting to rescue Wambua, John Solo was overcome by the fumes and collapsed when halfway down the ladder. He was pulled to the surface while police looked on, but he died on the way to hospital. Acting police chief Peter Njenga restrained another man who wanted to attempt a rescue.
Mwabela will have to do without her telephone.

28 March 2003

Reuters reports on local residents' complaints about homeless people loitering near Los Angeles's K&C Recycling centre. The complaints, which began in 1997, concerned transients digging through skips for bottles and cans, urinating in public, and taking drugs. After investigating the recycler, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said "transients were given coupons for a [nearby] liquor store instead of money for their cans and bottles". While he described this as distorting the concept of environmental protection, it is not illegal. The centre, which did not have a local permit, has been closed down for being a public nuisance.

A woman saw a human leg hanging out of a large commercial clothes dryer at the Lake Carmel, New York, 24-hour Self Service Laundromat. Police Sgt. Ronald Yeager found not a murder victim but a sleeping man, 41-year-old Kevin Johnston. According to the police, Johnston explained that he had been walking home from a nearby tavern and the machine seemed like a good place to seek shelter from the cold. The police allowed him to go home.

After handling a stained white envelope with a foul smell, a Minneapolis postal worker went to the hospital, where he complained of a headache and burning sensation. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force was called in to deal with the envelope. It contained a piece of potato. Paul McCabe, the FBI spokesman for Minneapolis, said "we do have the potato in our office and it is definitely rotten". Addressed to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and with a bogus return address of 123 American Way, the envelope also contained a Post-it note saying "Have a french fry".
Postal service spokesman Jim Ahlgren said "we assume it is a political statement having to do with the House changing French fries to Freedom Fries" on menus. He noted that there was no crime since mailing perishable foods in not a crime and the note wasn't threatening.

Wearing a sign reading 'Reduce Deficit', Jody Mason padlocked himself to a building in Olympia, Washington, to protest the war in Iraq. When employees asked him what he was doing, he quickly realised that he was not at the U.S. Department of Energy office but the state headquarters of the Grange, a nonprofit advocacy group for those in rural areas. Police used heavy-duty bolt cutters to free Mason, who Cmdr. Stever Nelson said asked for help because he had no key. Mason, who got the address from the telephone book, is not going to face charges.

Backing the family van out of her driveway, Dianne Anthony of Germantown, Wisconsin, hit a landscape timber near her lawn, so she backed up and tried again, hitting the timber again. Meanwhile, Anthony's father, Kenneth Hess, who was minding some of Anthony's children, noticed them run outside. Watching through the window, he saw her back over something but couldn't get her attention, he said. When he went outside, she got out of the vehicle and realised that she had in fact hit her two-year-old son four times. The child will live.

No charges have been filed in connection with the death of a Salem, Oregon, infant at the hands of a four-year-old girl. County prosecutors say the girl repeatedly threw four-month-old Jakob Goulart onto the bedroom floor at the day care run by her mother, Jessica McNeely. McNeely had asked the girl to carry Goulart to the bedroom while she talked on the telephone and breast-fed another daughter.

Sisters Roberta Stubbs, 21, and Beth Stubbs, 20, told investigators that Orson William Black Jr., accused of having unlawful sex with them when they were minors, is innocent. They explained that he filled a syringe with his semen and, after showing them an explanation in a medical encyclopaedia, left them alone to artificially inseminate themselves. "He said the Lord told him to do it this way", Roberta was quoted as saying in court transcripts.
Three other women living with Black have agreed to be interviewed by investigators. Black himself, a member of an offshoot of the Mormons, has so far eluded capture. The 41-year-old fathered two children with Roberta, one with Beth, and three with their older sister Rosie. All told investigators they are engaged to Black, who has a legal wife and a girlfriend.

Pierce County, Washington, sheriff's deputies said a three-year-old boy was staying in the yard at a family friend's house while the mother was doing laundry inside. The child began to play - it is unknown how roughly - with the friend's three pit bulls, one of which then attacked him. He was rushed to Tacoma's Mary Bridge Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

Police saw John Gladney, 40, walking as if in pain near the National City Bank in Columbus, Ohio. A short while earlier, the bank had been robbed. Stopping Gladney, the officers diagnosed him with injuries stemming from a dye pack exploding near his groin. He had stashed the loot from the bank robbery in the front of his trousers. Gladney was charged with aggravated robbery.

Norway's Aftenposten speaks of numerous UFO reports in Lardal. At night, residents saw a fireball explode and fall to the ground. Investigators believe the explanation to be more mundane than flying saucers or Visitors, for the charred remains of a cat were found by an electrical mast. Lars Helge Sogn said people saw the cat exploding and falling, presumably after climbing the mast and touching a live wire.

After a massive search for Malinda Kelly's stolen car, with her infant inside, the Scotia, New York, woman admitted to police that she had made up the story to cover her back following a burglary. She had broken into her uncle's home to steal cash and then couldn't remember where she had parked. Police chief John C. Pytlovany "that's when she freaked out -- like you would expect her to -- and called 911 screaming that her car was stolen". Two hours later, two pedestrians found the infant in the idling car. Kelly's purse had been stolen from the car during the burglary.
When her aunt and uncle reported the burglary, police becamse suspicious and confronted her with the evidence.

Melody Marie Graham let police search her Iowa home for suspected crack cocaine dealer Jerome Anthony Dobbey. They found him. To escape discovery, the 24-year-old Dobbey had hidden in a closed refrigerator, which had several items piled in front of it. Greg Hoffer, an investigator working with the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force in Burlington, said "I definitely heard comments that this was a first". Graham is being charged as an accessory after the fact.

Katsuyuki Tsujioka, 26, stole a station wagon in January and changed its licence plates. When he left it in an area of Osaka where parking is prohibited, police moved the car to a private parking lot. Tsujioka stole the car again but abandoned it earlier this month when he was spotted by a patrol car. The police moved the car to the Nishiyodogawa police station. Four hours later, Tsujioka and an accomplice managed to steal the station wagon again. The parking lot's steel entrance door had been left unlocked. "We intend to strictly tighten watches", deputy station chief Yukio Kitamura said. Tsujioka was arrested.

Miles Downing, a high school teacher in Middleton, Massachusetts, slung a dead coyote into the back of his pickup truck on the way to work. An amateur taxidermist, he skinned the carcass in front of his carpentry class. School officials suspended Downing when they got word of the incident. Health officials were also alerted.

Arkansas's Donald Steven Atwood, 20, pulled alongside another car and began yelling out the window to its driver and waving a small bag out the window. The bag contained marijuana. The other car contained Forrest City police officer Ricky Baxter, in uniform. When state police arrived and searched the car, they found the baggy, drug paraphernalia, more marijuana, and a small amount of crystal methamphetamine. Atwood was under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest.


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