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March 2004

3 March 2004

In a heartwarming story taking place in Arbroath, Scotland, Peter Knight, 28, sent his fiancee a note by SMS to tell her that he had decided not to wed her after all. The ceremony, scheduled for four days later, went ahead anyway. She married ex-boyfriend Daniel Innes, 18. Alison Innes, eight months pregnant at the time, said she doesn't know whether her child's father is Innes, his brother John, or Knight, but, she says, she did discover that she loved Innes.
Innes has appeared before in the Clippings - in September when, less than two weeks after her first marriage, she discovered her husband in bed with her 44-year-old mother. After obtaining a divorce, she served as the pair's bridesmaid.

Michael Clapp noticed that a bottle of medicine was missing from his Fredericksburg, Virginia, flat. The 38-year-old Clapp confronted neighbour Rodney Prophitt, whom he suspected of the theft. Prophitt is accused of knocking Clapp off his feet and removing his artificial leg, then striking Clapp repeatedly with the limb. A police spokesman wrote: 'At some point, Mr. Clapp was able to grab his leg back, get back to his apartment, and call police.' The 27-year-old Prophitt has been charged with assault and theft. The Free Lance-Star reports that Clapp was treated for facial injuries and a broken nose following the incident.

New York's Lillian Carter said a district attorney from the South called looking for Kinte Carter. 'They said he gave my name and number as a relative; I told them I had no clue who this person was', she said. Six months later, federal agents raided her home, waking up her teenaged sons and demanding identification from them at gunpoint. Carter said: 'I think they had the house surrounded. They knocked in the door.' The raid was part of a co-ordinated effort to arrest key members of rival crack gangs. The Staten Island Advance indicates that the agents left after they realised their mistake.

The Toledo Blade reports that Ohio's Kenneth Crosley gave a picture of his clothed crotch to a female student at the junior high school where he teaches. The 33-year-old social-studies teacher was suspended without pay for 10 days as a result of 'an inappropriate action that he did', according to Clinton Faulkner, executive assistant to the superintendent for human resources. Faulkner explained that 'he took a picture of his face and took a picture of his crotch area and said "Show your parents this"' - a violation of district policy.

Texas's Palestine Herald-Press tells of Michael Wayne Howerton, 30, and Melody Lynn Quick, 29, who were pulled over for speeding. Arresting officer Brian Pessink said he noticed 'a lot of furtive movement' in the car as it pulled over, with Quick putting on her shirt and Howerton pulling on his trousers. Pessink discovered that a warrant was out for Howerton's arrest. He also noticed that Quick had a joint tucked behind her ear. A search of the car revealed a brown bag containing various controlled substances in pill form. Officers later discovered other types of drugs in the car, too, along with two books, one containing a methamphetamine recipe and the other listing people suspected of using the pair as drugs suppliers.

Orange County, Florida, sheriff's deputies said 83-year-old Glen Schibley fell while doing yard work. His wife, Harriet, discovered him on the ground, but he refused to let her fetch help, insisting that he would take care of things himself. She left him in the yard for the next three days, bringing him food and covering him in a tarp when it rained. She fell while caring for him. After he was found dead and she was taken to Florida Hospital East with injuries, neighbour Sherman Brunell said: 'They wanted to be left alone and we left them alone, and maybe we shouldn't have left them alone.'

The San Francisco Chronicle describes the death of Ania Walters. Her mother's 17-year-old boyfriend initially said the girl fainted for an unknown reason in his Oakland apartment, but he later admitted that he had hit her on the head until she lost consciousness. Her mother, 19-year-old Allana Booze, 19, found her and took her to hospital. The boyfriend then admitted that he had beaten Walters because she started playing with his PlayStation 2 game. The 22-month-old girl died the next day.

Houston's Gilberto Davila Zertuche was arrested for selling large quantities of cocaine and marijuana. The 42-year-old was easy to spot as he delivered a kilo of cocaine and 45 kilos of marijuana to an apartment building while on his beat as a police officer - and thus while wearing his uniform. Zertuche was arrested as he headed to his patrol car after collecting money for the sale. He has been relieved of duty but continues to receive pay while the investigation is in progress.

Joseph Bulot of Chalmette, Louisiana, called the local sheriff's office to complain that he had traded a microwave oven to two men for crack cocaine and been ripped off. An officer conducted a field test, which determined that there were no traces of cocaine in the off-white rock. The 32-year-old Bulot was arrested. Maj. Marcel David, chief of the sheriff's special investigations division said he couldn't recall anyone ever asking a deputy to look at their drug paraphernalia before.

A bill is now being considered by the Missouri state legislature that would make it a crime to escape from civil commitment, such as confinement to a state mental health facility. After Thomas Ingrassia's conviction for rape, he escaped from the Sexual Predators Unit at the Farmington Correctional Center in full knowledge of this loophole. 'I had researched it', he said when captured two years after his escape. Apparently, the only crime he can be charged with in connection with his escape is property damage for cutting through the facility's fence. Ingrassia could face up to seven years in jail for property damage.

Not everyone has bad credit before reaching age five. Elizabeth O'Leary of Hamilton, Ohio, has been given five years of probation as punishment for stealing her daughter's identity. The 26-year-old O'Leary used the girl's social security number to get a fake driver's licence, which she used to open a bank account, against which she wrote $2,500 worth of bad cheques. She must repay this amount. Meanwhile, her husband, Brian, has been convicted of using their son's information similarly, and he is serving time for identity theft and possession of child pornography. Aiding the pair in their crimes was the fact that they had named their children Elizabeth and Brian.

Robert Fida of Cheyenne, Wyoming, received a call from a woman who had meant to report a disturbance to emergency operators. Fida told her she had the wrong number. After a few more calls from people in the same building, he decided to call 911 to report the disturbance. He said: 'Lo and behold, I got my house voice-mail message.' He rang 911 dispatch on his mobile telephone and began relaying information from the callers to the dispatcher. Fida, himself a former police dispatcher, estimated that he received more than a dozen calls intended for 911 in the 40 minutes before resolution of what telecommunications provider Qwest's Rebecca Tennille called a 'very brief routing error'.

Virginia's Fitsum Gebreegziabher, 27, stopped and got out of his car when he had a flat tyre on the interstate highway. SUV driver Josuel Galdino, 25, had been drinking. He ran into Fitsum Gebreegziabher, killing him. After arriving at his home, 13 km away, Galdino contacted the authorities to report that 'he thought he ran somebody over at the interstate and by the way the man is dead, laying in front of his house', according to police spokeswoman Sophia Grinnan. Galdino faces several charges.

Alan Birkett, 41, has been ordered to pay 50 quid to his latest victim. The case, involving his ninth arrest for inappropriate behaviour at his window, centred on Birkett's standing on his flat's window sill and urinating on a man who was walking past. The man contacted the police, who dragged Birkett from his window because they feared he was too drunk to avoid falling from the building otherwise. This was not the first time that Birkett, of Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria, has been arrested for this offence.

The New York Post reports on the murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl by 19-year-old ex-serviceman Anthony Perez. The killer tried to cut Guilene Valcin's body apart, apparently using a knife and barbecue fork. He dumped Valcin's body and the Bible she was carrying in a plastic trunk and tossed it in a skip. The trunk bore Perez's name and address. He surrendered to police.

Rapist Arthur Wright was facing the final charge against him, theft of $1000, at Ohio's Bradley County Sessions Court. Bob Gault, public information officer for the local sheriff's department, said: 'At some point yesterday afternoon, sitting in court with shackles on, although he was dressed in street clothes, he was able to get up and walk out of the courtroom through the lobby of the Justice Center and out the front door.'
Judge Andrew Bennett Junior said he may have asked the sole court officer on duty to take care of something outside the courtroom and the inmate 'just left'. There is a security camera above the courtroom door, but it doesn't work and is covered in cobwebs and dust.

Rosalind Stillwell, 24, broke eight ribs and her collarbone in a car accident. She slept for the first part of the ambulance journey intended to transfer her to a hospital closer to her home in West Sussex. When she woke up, she said, the paramedics said the hospital was 10 minutes away. At that point, Stillwell realised that the crew had gone 95 kilometres in the wrong direction. She said: 'Then they stopped, showed me a map and asked me how to get there - it sounds funny, but it was farcical.' She arrived at the hospital two hours late.

Philadelphia's Robert I. Morris was arrested after his three-month old child, Jhayden, was found dead in his bed. In 1995, Morris's first two children - Shainara and Lashai Payne - were found dead in bed. A medical examiner ruled that they had been suffocated, but no-one was charged in connection with this. In 2002, 24-day-old Robert Morris died in bed, and the death was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome. In light of the fourth child's death, that of Robert was reclassified as asphyxia. A murder charge is expected.

Two homeless people in Stockholm participated in a week-long protest concerning inadequate shelter from the cold - by having sex in a bed in the middle of a downtown square. Under a sign reading 'Even homeless people want to have sex', the pair fornicated for about an hour and a half, with several spectators taking photographs with their mobile phones, before the police responded to multiple complaints by collecting the pair. In the back of a police van, they continued to have sex, according to media reports. Police spokeswoman Carolin Karlsson said: 'They did commit a crime, causing a public disturbance, but we didn't see any reason to arrest them.' They were taken to a shelter for 'urgent cases'.

14 March 2004

Davaugn Gothe, 17, wanted to sell drugs, so he waved down two police officers who were looking for fugitives in Stamford, Connecticut. He hopped into the back of the unmarked car. After asking the officers what they wanted and in what quantity, the teenaged truant said: 'You guys look like cops.' That might have been because they were wearing raid jackets - marked 'POLICE' - so that everyone would know they were cops. When the two officers grabbed Goethe, he appeared to swallow the drugs. A court date has been set.

When Trooper Douglas Humphrey pulled over Walter H. Martin, 30, and Tawana Fairley for speeding, a check revealed that Martin was a suspect in a drugs investigation. Court documents say Fairley admitted that she had marijuana after a drug detection dog started sniffing around. When Humphrey lifted the Evansville, Indiana, man's 18-month-old son, he noticed what he described as 'a large load' in the child's nappy. The officer discovered a bag of crack cocaine inside. Martin argued in court that the nappy change performed by the trooper was a search conducted without probable cause.

Larry Brindley of Oran, Missouri, explained that his son was in detention after showing up late to school three times. 'He has attention deficit disorder, and he was misbehaving' at the detention hall, according to Brindley. So the teacher asked two students to help her tape the seventh-grader to his desk, according to Superintendent Tom Anderson. The boy's mouth was covered with tape as well. The teacher, a 21-year-veteran whose name has not been released, has retired, and the boy's family are considering pursuing criminal charges and filing a lawsuit.

Agents investigating child pornography online discovered that Larry Michael Jeffs, a 41-year-old from El Dorado Hills, California, was distributing explicit child porn images via his home computer. Conducting a search of the Jeffs home, agents found these images, which showed him performing sexual acts with a two-month-old girl. Jeffs is being held on a federal charge of child abuse.

Michael Lee Merritt, 18; Wendell Mackey, 20; and Darrell Robinson, 22, ambushed 35-year-old Eric Haney outside his apartment and proceeded to steal DVDs, clothes, and a video game machine from him at gunpoint. The thieving trio then drove around in Haney's SUV. While in the vehicle, Merritt posed for a photo of himself in Haney's black leather jacket. There were photos taken of the other two as well. The disposable camera remained in the SUV when the thieves finished their joyride. After they were sentenced on multiple charges, Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutor Chris Toles said: 'They basically convicted themselves.'
In a similar story, this one from Indiana, we have Joshua W. Kochell, a 27-year-old who is accused of the armed robbery of two petrol stations. He was fairly easy for police to track down, as he was still wearing the electronic monitoring device he was ordered to wear as part of his sentence for habitual theft two years earlier. The police found him in a hospital emergency room. Detective Tom Davidson said he didn't know the nature of Kochell's injury.

Brenda L. Kennedy bound her eight-year-old son with duct tape in the morning, releasing his ankles and wrists when she returned from her part-time job at the end of the day. On the third day of this, apparently, the boy called the police. In court, the defence argued that the boy had tied himself up because he wanted to frame his mother, with whom he didn't want to live anymore. The 34-year-old Kennedy, whose criminal record includes eight theft-related felony convictions, works for Alabama's child welfare agency. She could spend 15 years to life in prison on account of the duct tape incident.

A 35-year-old welfare recipient in Germany sued the state after authorities refused to pay for his wife to fly back to Germany from Thailand. The man asked an Ansbach court for the equivalent of about $3,050 per month to pay for his brothel trips, pornographic videos, and transport to and from the video store. He explained that four brothel visits a month were necessary to ensure his 'health and bodily well-being' while his wife is away. The court ruled that the man's social security benefits already met his 'everyday requirements'. The man has now been jailed for six months for making improper demands of state officials.
The case follows one in which an unemployed man from Frankfurt was awarded treatment with Viagra and another where an expatriate in Miami was granted $875 a month for his rent payments. A statement issued by the government more recently says that 'there will be no more social security under palm trees'.

Kenneth Blackstun, a 42-year-old former jockey, robbed a bank in Hollywood, Florida. He contacted the police when he realised he had left his cheque book at the scene of the crime. He explained that it had been stolen from his apartment earlier. No hard evidence linked Blackstun to the crime. The next day, he robbed another bank. As he ran away from the police dogs that were tracking him, a dye pack exploded and Blackstun tore off his dye-soaked clothes. The naked, red Blackstun confessed to five area bank robberies after his arrest.

All four firefighters in Melbourne, Florida, were responding to calls when a Cocoa Beach firefighter drove past the town's firehouse, saw smoke pouring out of it, and rang emergency services. Area firefighters returned to fight the blaze, which had been caused by the firemen forgetting to turn off a deep fat fryer in the kitchen. Battalion Chief Robert Apel said: 'We're human and this kind of relays that to the public, that we're just as human as them and we make our own mistakes.' No-one will be reprimanded in connection with the incident, which left the department in need of a facility from which to operate temporarily.

The Pioneer reports that Shivdan Yadav of Khohari in India's Alwar district, is trying to pass his Class X examinations. His first attempt was at age 18, when he insisted on passing his exams before his arranged marriage took place. After three years, the woman's parents tired of waiting for him and found another potential bridegroom for the girl. Now 56, he has been appearing regularly ever since to attempt to pass the examination. This is his 38th try.

A bus driver in Lacoochee, Florida, is in trouble. Sherry Hattaway, 41, was driving 11 middle- and high-school students home when an alligator crossed the road. Wilfredo Santiago, 14, asked Hattaway to stop the bus for an alligator-catching. She complied, after which four boys jumped off the bus, used sticks to poke the animal until it left the hole in which it was hiding, bound its jaws with electrical tape, and brought it back aboard the bus. The students removed the alligator from the bus at the home of two of the boys. It was released into a nearby river by their father, Jimmy Scroggins. Pasco school superintendent John Long said this of Hattaway: 'If the facts I'm hearing are true, then at the least she used some of the worst judgement someone could use in endangering kids.'

Alice Regina Pike of Covington, Georgia, probably didn't know that $100 is the largest denomination of currency currently in circulation in the US. She tried to use a $1 million note to pay for $1671.55 worth of merchandise at Wal-Mart. When handed the note, the clerk who was dealing with the 35-year-old Pike fetched a manager. Pike then tried to buy the merchandise with two gift cards worth $2.32. When the Wal-Mart staff didn't accept that option, Pike again tried to pass the bogus note. The store called the police, who found two more large phony notes in Pike's handbag. She told the police that her husband had given her the money.
Neither Pike nor her husband may be charged with counterfeiting, as the note wasn't a replica of real currency.

A Massachusetts physician is in trouble. Dr Robert Mark Caulkins allegedly arrived for work at Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center drunk. Caulkins, who has been convicted multiple times of driving while intoxicated, was relieved of 'medical staff privileges' after the incident, in which he was deemed unfit to perform the orthopaedic surgery for which he was scheduled at the hospital. The surgery was postponed.

Canada's Peter Neumann is suing the City of Montreal for ruining his grandson's $30,000 bar mitzvah party at the Pierrefonds Cultural Centre. First, the cleaner hid the ice for the drinks in a padlocked freezer, which he insisted on being paid to unlock. He then had a few drinks and left. When the lifts malfunctioned, trapping a paraplegic with panic attacks and several other guests, firefighters were summoned in the cleaner's absence. A firefighter too became stuck in a lift; emergency workers freed him. Neumann said that 'when it's all over, the drunk appears with keys to open the elevator doors'. Then, shortly after the dancing started, the cleaner announced that anyone remaining in the building after midnight would be locked in, so the caterers left. At this point, the piano player suffered a heart attack and collapsed. The cleaner appeared not to know where to find a first-aid kit or telephone. When guests managed to call an ambulance, no-one knew the building's address and someone had to run outside to read the number on the door.
Neumann said he would have settled for an apology but 'I've been waiting for an answer for six months'. The cleaner, who has now been fired, had been disciplined five times before, the lawsuit papers claim.

When police officers pulled his car over for swerving erratically while proceeding at 8 km/h, Lionel Cerda of Bakersfield, California, explained that he had been drinking and noticed that he was falling asleep at the wheel. So he had given his car keys to a 14-year-old girl so she could drive. When the car was stopped, however, the 14-year-old was drinking beer in the back seat and a 10-year-old girl was driving. Police Lieutenant Dave Hasking said that 'this is a strange one'.

A woman rang a Pennsylvania newspaper to report that Stuart Ackerman, subject of a recent front-page story on Internet-based sexual abuse, had molested her 11-year-old daughter. The woman said she met Ackerman online then, seeing him in person for the first time, was forced to watch as he made her daughter strip and perform sex acts on him while he lay naked on a motel bed. Amity police report that the woman has changed her story. She now says she had her daughter undress and made her get on the bed and watch as she cavorted with Ackerman. After that, it was the mother's turn to watch. She faces a range of charges.

At a children's birthday party in Baltimore, Maryland, a 12-year-old boy was challenged to kiss a girl, also 12, as part of a game of 'Truth or Dare'. The boy's 14-year-old girlfriend complained to her mother, who was hosting the party. Told to 'handle your business', the girl did so. She and as many as eight other people beat the 12-year-old kissee, leaving her unconscious and with brain damage. The police were told that the girl fell down the stairs but later received an anonymous tip describing the attack. The youngest of the girl's attackers was seven years old and the oldest 26.

The three firefighters on duty at the Oamishirasato fire station, in Chiba, Japan, fell asleep, remaining unaware that the inn about 60 metres from them was on fire. They didn't hear the fire itself or the alarms going off. They awoke when they received a call from headquarters and guests at the inn started banging on the fire station doors. By then, it was too late, and their efforts couldn't save the inn, which burned to the ground.

Robert Lee McKiernan of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, decided to steal some Hostess crumb cakes and a box of Ho Hos from a building on an Amish farm. The 35-year-old might have got away with the snack cake theft were it not for the residents having a telephone booth in their front yard. After his licence number was reported via the only telephone in a three-kilometre radius, McKiernan was swiftly apprehended. Officers discovered what statements described as 'precursors to manufacture Methamphetamine along with the snack cakes' in the car. The police also noted that McKiernan was driving without a valid licence.

Indiana state police probably wouldn't have paid much attention to a pickup truck as it headed down the road - were it not for the fact that it appeared not to have licence plates. When officers pulled the truck over, it became clear that the pickup did have a temporary licence plate displayed in the rear window. It was obscured from view by the large bags on the bed of the truck. Trooper William Etter said that it was obvious that the truck was full of marijuana, as 'you could smell it'. About 900 one-pound bricks of the drug were removed, and the driver was arrested along with both passengers.

A Mount Carmel, Tennessee, woman apparently wanted to make sure she didn't have any cheques bounce, so she faithfully recorded each of her transactions in the register of the cheque book she took from an unoccupied car parked at a primary school. Debra Janan Goins, 39, was arrested when an officer stopped her car and found the stolen handbag and several shopping bags from department stores. Officer Will Mullins said the stores never asked Goins for identification.

24 March 2004

Roslyn Hines, a 51-year-old welfare mother from Queens, New York, was preparing to give three-year-old adopted son Robbie a bath when she suffered a massive coronary. The heart attack killed the 100-kilo Hines, who fell atop the boy, killing him. The bodies were found after worried neighbours expressed concern about the packages collecting outside the front door of Hines's basement apartment. Neighbour Valjon Furr said: 'She loved that baby to bits.'

Julia Roberts of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell and deliver it. After the drugs were found in her wheelchair, the 96-year-old Roberts said: 'I don't know how they could get there.' Her trailer home was raided after an informant reported that she had hidden crack in her prosthetic leg during a previous search. This is the third time crack has been found in the trailer.

A 35-year-old man from Montpelier, France, tried to run down a pedestrian he thought was Osama bin Laden. When the man ran out of the way, the car hit the side of the street. The driver's lawyer, David Mendel, said: 'It wasn't bin Laden' but could have been a hallucination caused by concern over global terror alerts. The driver was given a three-month suspended sentence, fined 500 euros, and ordered to seek counselling.

A Whidbey Island, Washington, 18-year-old cut his hand when he broke through the glass door of a petrol station after hours. Failing to open the cash drawer, he stole some cigarettes. He left the scene but changed his mind and returned to try again to battle the till. Still bleeding, he failed. So he grabbed more cigarettes. He then decided to ring emergency services. When he was found on the floor of the blood-festooned store, the teenager explained that he had tried to prevent a burglary but the two burglars beat him with a bat. The surveillance camera footage disagreed. Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Smith used the words 'not particularly smart'.

[IMG: Man in bin] In another theft attempt gone wrong, a 43-year-old man in Bochum, Germany, decided to steal clothes that had been given to charity. He fell into the collection bin and became trapped. A passer-by heard strange noises emanating from the metal container. Police said that when officers arrived, the man in the bin held out a cigarette and demanded it be lit. Police refused. They did summon the fire department, who freed the man. He was charged with attempted robbery. Police spokeswoman Ingrid Laun-Keller likened the incident to 'a peculiar kind of Big Brother'.

A 23-year-old man from Hartland, Maine, nailed two pieces of wood together in a cross shape and placed them on his living-room floor. He attached a label reading 'suicide' to the cross and then nailed one of his hands to the cross with a 14-penny nail. Somerset County Lieutenant Pierre Boucher said: 'When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911.' It wasn't known whether the man, who claimed he had been seeing pictures of God on the computer recently, wanted help nailing his other hand down or another sort of help. The nail was removed from the wood and the victim at Sebasticook Valley Hospital. Sheriff Barry DeLong said no charges would be pressed, as no crime occurred.

Mary Ann Sweeney, 33, is an Evansville, Indiana, woman who found that a bus was in her way. An SUV was trying to pass at the same time. When its driver braked for Sweeney, she flipped him off, perhaps without noticing that the SUV was marked as a sheriff's vehicle. When the sheriff and his chief deputy pulled Sweeney over to have a chat with her about road rage, they discovered that civil warrants were out for the arrest of both Sweeney and her husband. The car she was driving was illegally registered. Also, Sheriff Brad Ellsworth said there was marijuana in the car and in Sweeney's handbag and pack of cigarettes.

When a man in Niigata, Japan, underwent surgery for a fist-sized tumour that was causing 'stiffness' in his stomach, he found out exactly how the tumour's formation could have been prevented. At the core of the tumour was a clump of bandages, which doctors at the Niigata Prefectural Chuo Hospital believe was left behind in a stomach operation in November 1977. The man, in his 60s, received an apology from the hospital, where the surgery 27 years earlier had been performed.

Elsewhere in Japan, a man loaned 60,000 yen to a female co-worker. He asked for a pair of her knickers as collateral. According to the police in Chiba, two other employees at the company - Masuhiro Katsuyama and Daigo Mihara, both 21 - heard the story and saw an opportunity. After confronting the 28-year-old man in a park last year and accusing him of forcing the woman to act in an embarrassing way, they extorted at least 600,000 yen from him. The pair have been arrested, and investigations continue.

Mohammed Sami escaped from custody shortly before his trial on drugs charges in Egypt. Seven embarrassed policemen persuaded a co-worker to pose as the suspect at the trial in an attempt to cover up the escape. The ruse was brought to light because another defendant knew Sami personally. A court in Luxor sentenced each of the seven to six months in jail, according to BBC reports. Sami was recaptured to face trial. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Most readers of the Clippings are probably familiar with the sheer variety of excuses parents provide for losing track of their children or killing them. So it might not seem strange that Judith Saint Hillaire of Brooklyn, New York, claimed that a voodoo curse laid on her by a neighbour prevented her from seeking medical help for her three-year-old son, who suffered a temperature of over 40 degrees and an infection. What is noteworthy is that a jury found the excuse sufficient. The 31-year-old woman was found innocent of criminally negligent homicide, but she was ordered to attend a parenting class.

Houssain Mishkin of Grafton, Ohio, bought a second-hand car. On a family trip, his 11-year-old daughter found a loaded handgun in the back pouch of one of the car's seats. According to a police report, the .38-calibre revolver belonged to the car's previous owner, former Oberlin police chief Robert Jones. Jones said he had lost track of the gun. Mishkin said: 'As a family man, as a businessman, I think he's really irresponsible.' Mishkin wants Jones, who has been reunited with the gun, to be punished for negligence.

Twin brothers had an argument on a flight from New York to Florida. Their argument over use of an armrest escalated into a fist fight. Witnesses say an air stewardess offered to assign at least one of the men different seats but was ignored. The pilot of JetBlue Flight 385 made an emergency landing at North Carolina's Wilmington International Airport, where the brothers were taken into custody. JetBlue spokesman Garth Edmondson-Jones said the two men were questioned by FBI agents and then released. They completed their trip in a rental car.

The jury for a murder case returned to Judge John N. Prevas's jury room after hearing testimony to discover that a thief had taken their money, mobile telephones, and car keys. Baltimore police spokesman Detective Donny Moses said it was probably an inside job. The thief used a set of keys to gain access to the jury room. Lawyer and witness Warren A. Brown said: 'Here they are, jurors in a murder case, and we can't even trust the court to protect their belongings from thieves.' The defence attorney in the case tried to have a mistrial declared due to the incident.

Police in Indianapolis report that a four-year-old boy produced about 370 rocks of crack cocaine from his backpack and showed them to other students in his preschool class. He said the drugs, worth as much as $10,000, were flour. Teachers knew differently and confiscated the bag of white clumps. Authorities searched the boy's home but didn't find his parents or 11-month-old sibling. The police force's Sergeant Roger Tuchek said: 'Obviously, these parents aren't going to get any Parent of the Year awards.' The child and a sister are now in protective custody.
Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade, Florida, a school monitor saw a five-year-old boy sprinkle what he said was oregano on a friend's lasagna. The monitor noticed that the boy had dropped a small bag, which he was trying to hide with his feet. Speaking for the school authority, Mayco Villafana said: 'The focus is on the child's environment and what issues could have led to a child having a bag of marijuana in school.' The Miami Herald reports that the lasagne was confiscated before the student could eat it.

Authorities in Comfort, West Virginia, say Terry Lee Romine held up the V-Mart convenience store after ordering a slice of pizza. When the clerk had trouble opening the till, Romine is accused of grabbing the till. On his way out, Romine crashed into the wrong door, the clerk said. She noticed that the robber had left his wallet on the counter. Romine was arrested a short while later.

The 16 violinists in the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn, Germany, are complaining that they play more notes per concert than those who play the oboe, flute, or other instruments do. They are demanding a pay rise because they do more work than the rest of the members of the orchestra. Director Laurentius Bonitz said the demand, whist perhaps involving 'an interesting legal question', is absurd. A labour court is scheduled to hear the case in May.

Su Groome, who is standing for election to Australia's Cairns City Council, has noticed that several of her campaign posters feature moustaches and glasses. She has decided to offer two prizes worth about 40 euros each to those who provides the most original defacement of one of her posters. While acknowledging that one of her aims is publicity, she said: 'People are maybe tired of the amount of signage that's around [...] maybe the public need the right to express themselves back.'

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