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November 2003

6 November 2003

Australian restaurant-owner Louis Neil Franklin Miller sued Tooheys because he hurt his wrist while trying to help his companion open a bottle of Tooheys Extra Dry beer. In his ruling, Judge Geoffrey Graham said that 'he explained he held the bottle firmly with his left hand and twisted with his right hand [...] he felt pain which went through his left wrist and screamed out with it, and the top still had not come off the bottle'. Another man in Miller's party then opened the twist-top bottle with relative ease.
The judge decided not to award Miller damages, as 'the problem was with the method' employed by Miller, who admitted to using excessive force and failed to employ a nearby bottle opener or cloth. The judge said a 'twist gently' or 'use opener' warning probably wouldn't have made a difference.

Gregory Hogg, a 41-year-old from Lebanon, Ohio, had heard that the law forbids spouses being forced to testify against each other in court. So, after he was accused of threatening two bar employees who had ejected him for disorderly behaviour, Hogg figured the best way to prevent girlfriend Cheryl Skaggs, 43, from testifying against him was to drag from her apartment and force her to marry him. Skaggs alerted a police officer 10 days after the wedding. The charges against him now include kidnapping, domestic violence, and intimidation of a witness. Skaggs can still testify in the original case if she wants.

A rubbish container was supposed to be empty after being moved from one Philadelphia construction site to another. Worker Philip Walker said: 'I seen the human skull, and I actually had to sit there for a moment to process what I was looking at.' The pile of human bones Walker had discovered were traced to an unmarked cemetery that had been discovered by the builders at the first site. A court had ordered the reburial of the bones in a marked grave at a proper burial site. The builder had had a shipment of bones delivered to a cemetery but then had apparently discovered more.

A man broke into a Tampa, Florida, home through a kitchen window. The man, carrying a sawn-off shotgun, didn't tell the two women in the home what he wanted. Cathy Ord, 60, offered him cash and the keys to her Cadillac, but he didn't leave. Ord and 63-year-old Rose Bucher assumed the man was on the run from the law, so they made him a ham sandwich, gave him a bottle of rum, and offered him a chance to have a shower and shave so he could better effect his getaway. The women called a taxi for him, but he had passed out from the rum by the time it arrived. The cab driver called the police. The man, 52-year-old Alfred Joseph Sweet, is now in jail awaiting trial.

A man rang a Little Caesars Pizza in San Antonio, Texas, and ordered three large pizzas. While the employees were preparing the order, they received another call, this one from a man who had just reported his credit card stolen and been told it had just been used at a pizza place. The police were contacted. Little Caesars let the officer use a uniform, empty pizza boxes, and a delivery bag in order to apprehend the thief. Ernest Mascorro, 20, was arrested after he signed the receipt for the order. The police say Mascorro apparently swiped the card from a neighbour's car.

When his checked baggage set off an explosives detector, Eric Velleca was removed from the aeroplane he had expected to take him from Florida to Illinois. In the boot of his car were pieces of PVC pipe, radios, mobile telephones, batteries with wires attached, and car distributor caps. The 28-year-old Velleca explained that these were components for the 'proton packs' for Ghostbusters costumes he and two friends planned to wear at a Halloween party. Velleca, who insisted that 'it wasn't my idea - I don't even really like the Ghostbusters', caught a later flight, with the trunk.
Lauren Stover, regional spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said that people should 'be careful about incorporating simulated bombs into their costumes'.

A four-year-old girl in Charlotte County, Florida, said her mother's boyfriend told her the smoking pipe he placed in her mouth would give her energy. In addition to the pipe full of crack cocaine, Shawn Malsky, 34, gave the girl a heroin injection. When the police arrived afterward, Malsky jumped into a canal. That didn't prevent officers finding a glass pipe, a tube with cocaine residue, and a bumbag containing cocaine. The girl was given treatment in hospital, and Malsky was given a court date.

Barbara O'Leary called the police and told them she found a newborn baby in the back of her car while she was investigating a sneezing sound. The 36-year-old Swansea, Massachusettes, woman is the child's mother. She has now confessed that 'she felt overburdened with the pregnancy, she did not tell anyone about the pregnancy and at this point really did not know what to do', according to Swansea police Chief George Arruda. He said charges were expected.

A 43-year-old man in Ann Arbor, Michigan, took his son trick-or-treating. When the boy returned from a woman's house in tears and said he hadn't been given any candy, the man confronted the woman. She told him that she had given him candy. The pair left and returned a few minutes later. The man gave her a piece of paper with his address on it and told her to call the police. The police report states that the man then threw a pumpkin through the woman's front window, threw another at the front door, and tore out and smashed a bird feeder in her front yard. When he approached a large potted plant, a neighbour yelled at him to stop. The father and son were at home when the police arrived.

In Harris County, Texas, radio-controlled aircraft instructor Ronald Kyle of Houston was conducting flight manoeuvres with a model helicopter in a park when he handed the controls to the student who owned the craft. Authorities say the helicopter apparently went out of control and flew toward the 41-yer-old Kyle and the student. Kyle was struck in the throat area by the rotor and died. Sheriff's authorities are conducting further investigations.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a woman on a local bus lost her balance as she prepared to get off at her stop. The driver was trying to keep her from falling when he reached out from his seat to grab and steady her. Police sergeant Bruce Rapa said the driver indicated that 'she kept continuing to go, and the inertia pulled him. He had his hand on the steering wheel and turned the bus' as he was pulled out of his seat. The bus hit an elm tree, leaving three dozen passengers injured, four of them seriously.

Finland's Helsingin Sanomat reports that three men in their 50s are to do time in prison in connection with a bank robbery in Haukivuori. The men, armed with an air pistol, had demanded EUR 50,000 from a teller, then reduced the demand to EUR 10,000. The bank manager then persuaded the men, reported to be 'heavily intoxicated', to take out a loan for the amount instead. He gave them 10 euros and told them to have a beer in the pub since the loan documents would take a little while to prepare for signature. The men left the bank. The police arrested them later in the day.

Helicopter designer Thomas Milnik decided to spend a weekend hiking in the Alps. A snowstorm trapped the 41-year-old German on a nearly 3,000-metre-high peak, where he survived by eating snow until workers at a nearby research station heard his cries for help five days later. After being rescued by a helicopter he had personally equipped, he was sent to hospital. On finding out what had happened, Milnik's employer, Schroeder & Uehlken, sent a dismissal letter to the hospital. Company head Florian Schroeder explained that Milnik was behind schedule and 'this is the second time something like this has happened' since his hiring at the start of October.

Independence, Missouri, police officers asked Daniel Smith for his driver's licence after an accident in which his car struck another vehicle. Smith, 45, replied that his name is copyrighted and produced a printout explaining that duplicating his name in any fashion would be grounds for a lawsuit. A supervisor who showed up to deal with the situation was added to the list of people Smith threatened to sue. After he was given tickets for expired tags, careless driving, and improper registration, Smith refused to take his licence back, demanding a receipt. He explained that the more times his name is written, the more money he would get, at $500,000 per infraction. He was offered a field receipt and left the scene.

After a decade of neighbours' complaints about his garden being an eyesore, Alan Davis of Altamonte Springs, Florida, was found guilty of felony littering. A judge agreed to release Davis from jail in the belief that the close call would prompt him to start cleaning up the yard. Davis moved a few items around, such as a statue of buttocks, but didn't discard anything. Prisoners were later sent in to remove several tons of 'trash' from Davis's yard. He will have a year and a day in state prison to contemplate how he will manage without the non-working toilets, bathtubs, and rats.

Little Ferry, New Jersey, has about 10,000 inhabitants, some of whom decided to hold a Halloween party at a the Post Office Pub. Local police officers showed up dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Grim Reaper, among others. They arrested 18 people on drugs charges. Investigators say a number of bar patrons bought cocaine as part of their drink orders, charging it to their credit cards or just leaving a very large tip. The bar-owner and four employees were among those arrested.

The Boston Herald reports that SUV driver Mark Corkery rear-ended a car that was stopped in traffic. His head cracked the windscreen. Short one vehicle, he jumped into the back seat of Jean Ridino's Mercedes-Benz to attempt a carjacking. The 57-year-old Ridino splashed hot tea into his face and broke the mug over his head. 'He never even bled. I thought he was a robot', said Ridino. Corkery was quickly arrested. He unsuccessfully tried to escape from the patrol car by breaking out the window with his skull. Mashpee Police Chief Maurice Cooper said that 'he had a bad day'.

A woman in Ohio saw a 10-year-old neighbour type a password on a keypad and activate the garage door at his home. The boy, Nick Green, then grabbed the bottom of the door and let it pull him off the ground. He jumped down when the door neared the top of the garage. Repeating the stunt, he didn't let go, and his head became caught in the garage door mechanism, according to the neighbour. He is in hospital with a severe head injury.

According to AP reports, a New York man dropped his mobile phone into a train toilet during his evening commute. Edwin Gallart, 41, reached in to retrieve the unit and couldn't extricate his arm. When the arm couldn't be freed by those on the train, it pulled in at Fordham station, where it blocked traffic for nearly 90 minutes. Metro-North spokesman Dan Brucker said that 'when this moron's arm went down the crapper, so did our evening commute'. Police and firefighters ended up taking apart the entire toilet to free Gallart. His telephone was not found.

16 November 2003

According to Missouri's Springfield News-Leader, policeman Michael Murphy says he was told to dispose of some evidence in the police department's property locker. The evidence consisted of 70 beers that the under-age drinking task force had confiscated. Murphy drank it. The police chief decided to fire him. Murphy's lawyer, who is threatening to sue for Murphy's reinstatement, said: 'He didn't steal [...]. Turning beer to urine is disposal'.

The New York Daily News reports on 49-year-old Mary Thurman. Caring for 30-year-old daughter Samantha, described as a grown woman with the mind of a two-year-old, she was left with three more children to raise when her sister died in 1996. She decided to place Samantha in a state-run group home but removed her from care after noticing changes in Samantha's personality and that she had burn marks. Samantha died after a fit of seizures at home, and Mary demanded an autopsy. The results showed that she died from eating too much cocaine. Mary explained that 'I could never leave the house, and I turned to drugs', some of which she left lying out. She will not be charged in connection with the death.

Ohio trucker Terry Gilmore, 59, rolled his semi-articulated lorry in LaPorte County, Indiana. He told police he had set the lorry's cruise control to 96 km/h and was in the process of changing his clothes when he approached a curve. He misjudged the turn, and the truck ploughed through two fences. A witness reported to police that she went to check on the truck driver after the incident and that he was not wearing any clothes when he climbed out of the truck.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that employees of the Tarusakayama Blooming House, a facility for mentally disabled people in Yokkaichi, have been teaching patients how to vote for specific candidates. Since 1995 or earlier, employees had residents of the group home practise writing the names of candidates who had visited the facility while on the campaign trail. After Masaki Mori, 52, was arrested for this breach of the Public Offices Election Law, Blooming House boss Takako Kashiwagi, 71, said: 'We couldn't possibly influence votes by taking advantage of these people's mental disabilities [...]. All we were worried about was helping our patients gain a bit of social independence.'

One vote made a difference recently in Ocilla, Georgia, where city council candidate Tyrone Smith received 65 votes and Allan Smith had 64. One of the absentee ballots was rejected by poll workers because the voter had died. Elections superintendent Frances Bradford said that 'the registrar, Mary Denney, had said something about how it would have been a tie when we were counting, and then after we went home I started thinking: 'How does the code read?' State law specifies that an absentee vote may be counted only if the voter is still alive when the polls open. Election officials believed the woman had died the previous evening. When they discovered that this was not the case, officials called for a runoff election.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the death of college student Kelly Bullwinkle at the hands of two former classmates. One of the friends, 20-year-old Kinzie Gene Noordman, has explained that the pair lured Bullwinkle to a freshly dug grave, where they had planned to scare her with a fake death threat: 'Kelly was supposed to freak out, and that was supposed to be it.' 'But then the gun went off', Noordman told her boyfriend in a telephone conversation recorded by the police. She said Damien Matthew Guerrero - an ex-boyfriend of Bullwinkle - fired by accident but, as Bullwinkle lay wounded, 'I shot her in the head [...] didn't want her to suffer anymore'. Paintball players found the partially buried body three weeks later.

Also in the 'now it all makes sense!' department we have a 16-year-old Japanese boy who went to Nishiyama Junior High School in Kumamoto and took a female student hostage at knifepoint. He called the police to report that he had a hostage. The girl, also 16, managed to escape an hour later when the boy wasn't paying attention. He was caught at a local convenience store nearby. According to the police, the boy said he was trying to do 'something big' to gain the attention of his former girlfriend, who had recently dumped him. He was hoping the media coverage would remind her of him. He had no prior relationship with his hostage.

Turkey's Orhan Babutcu, 41, was found in the bathroom of his house. His wife had placed a bowl on the floor for his food. The Hurriyet daily reports that Babutcu, a rich industrialist, had been locked in the bathroom for three years by his wife, who claimed he was mentally disturbed. As evidence of his madness, she cited his taking three showers each day. Babutcu said his wife - who stated that she plans to seek a divorce - planned 'to make me sick so that I die and she inherits my fortune'.

In Daytona Beach, Florida, Denise G. Butterfield had a bad car day. She went to her local Department of Motor Vehicles branch to get her driver's licence renewed. The 69-year-old Ponce Inlet woman says she began to pull into a handicapped parking space when her car jumped a kerb, went between two poles, and came to rest outside the driver's licence office. 'The gas engaged itself', she said. A police officer said a quick check showed nothing obviously wrong with the car. Damage to the building and car was minimal. She passed the written examination by one question and succeeded in the road test, so her licence was renewed.

The New York Daily News reports that 55-year-old Mary McCray became suspicious when her son, DeWayne, kept making trips to her bedroom, where she had money hidden. She says that when she confronted him about the ransacked bedroom and her empty wallet, he called her a 'bitch and a ho', lifted her from her wheelchair, and threw her onto her bed. She told him she had had enough of his abuse, and he punched her in the face. She says she climbed back into her wheelchair and fetched a steak knife from the kitchen. She stabbed him once in the chest, and he died. McCray called the police. Police say the theft of $40 was to pay off a drug debt.

Lisa Armstrong of Brewster, Massachusetts, didn't like the 'cold and raw' public cemetery in which her nine-year-old son had been buried, so she covered the grave with mulch, Halloween decorations, stones, fencing, toys, solar-powered lighting, prayer cards, and various other objects. In a letter, the city gave her a deadline for removal of the items and optionally removal of the child's body to another cemetery at the town's expense. She has rejected the offer, saying he can't rest in peace if moved and the decorations give her and the boy comfort. 'If it was my choice, I would have kept him in his bedroom or put him in my parents' back yard, but by law you have to cremate them or bury them - and I'm certainly not about to burn my son's body', she added.

In North Wales, Jackie and Karl Fekete retired to the bridal suite after their wedding. The Queensferry, Flintshire, couple were interrupted by another hotel guest, who claimed that the room was his. Jackie said that 'Karl leapt up red-faced and stark naked' to confront the other man. The ensuing drunken brawl, in which she says she tried to be a peacemaker, left Jackie jostled toward the door and then locked out of the room naked. When she was able to return to the room, Karl had disappeared and 'I spent our wedding night alone'. Karl had spent the night in jail after the hotel rang 999 to report a disturbance. He was charged with resisting arrest. Deciding that she and her four children couldn't cope with Karl's temper, she dumped him on the following day.
The couple had been in the right room.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Graham Halksworth, a former Scotland Yard scientist, was paid UKP 60,000 by a London bank to authenticate what he described as US Treasury bonds secretly issued in 1934 to help undermine China's communist revolution. He said that, after a plane crash, the bonds were lost to tribesmen in the Philippines who kept the 22 eagle-stamped cases for over 60 years before they were taken to the bank.
The bonds' questionable status came to light when two men tried to pass off a few million dollars' worth of them at a Toronto bank and a Mountie noticed that each bore the word 'dollar' rather than 'dollars'. Another problem is that the bonds were in cases made of plastics that didn't exist at the time of the alleged plane crash. Also, the $2.5 trillion in bonds - more than the value of the global gold stock - was printed on an inkjet printer. The notes also bore ZIP codes, which were introduced in 1963.
Halksworth was jailed for six years for his role in the conspiracy. Judge William Birtles told him that his 'motivation could only have been one of greed, and your reward was not to be just a fee for the authentication that you made'.

Carlos DeMarco, a 39-year-old man from Sydney, Australia, sought to avoid two speeding fines by placing a 70 km/h sign under the speed camera that caught him driving too quickly in a 60 km/h zone. He took pictures of the sign and speed camera to indicate his innocence. New South Wales Road and Traffic Authority officers found that the sign had been stolen from elsewhere. The speeding fines were for the rough equivalent of UKP 100. DeMarco's additional fines amount to about UKP 530.

Ralph Timperi, long-time head of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's laboratory, recently began signing e-mail messages with an indication that he held a doctorate from Trinity Southern University. The degree was awarded by an online institution that offers no classes, instead supplying doctorates on the basis of self-assessment, within 72 hours of payment of $499. Timperi said: 'I truly believed what had been sent to me was valid.' With over 40 years of experience in epidemiology, Timperi also holds an adjunct professorship at Harvard University. The agency is investigating the more recent 'degree'.

Natalie Kathryn Dibden, a 16-year-old from Charfield, Gloucestershire, was picked up by an ambulance after a 999 call. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, according to a spokeswoman for the Gloucestershire Police. However, her condition worsened on the way to the hospital. It is believed that she was in a confused state when she opened the doors of the ambulance. She died of injuries sustained when she fell onto the northbound carriageway of the M5. A paramedic and technician who were in the ambulance during the incident are receiving counselling.

New Zealand judge Stephen O'Driscoll fined Philip William Bain and revoked his driving privileges for six months after the 33-year-old Bain admitted that he was guilty of the drink-driving charges filed against him. According to the New Zealand Herald, O'Driscoll also told Bain he was 'just asking' to be stopped. His number plate read '2DRUNK'.

After a group's evening out, the designated driver dropped William Winstead, 25, off at his car in a Wal-Mart car park in Claremont, New Hampshire. So the friend wouldn't have to drive as far, Winstead planned to sleep in the vehicle until sober. He had the engine running for warmth when Officer Shawn Hallock woke him. He passed a breath alcohol test but told Hallock that he planned to sleep until he felt sober enough to drive home. Hallock then asked him to take a blood test 'to check for drugs, which I had no problem with because I've never taken drugs', said Winstead. The test showed that he was legally drunk. The state Supreme Court has upheld Winstead's conviction of drinking and driving because the engine was running and he was 'in actual physical control of the vehicle'.
Winstead said others sleeping in their vehicles weren't disturbed and added: 'I was trying to do the right thing [...] what else could I do? Stumble around Wal-Mart until I got arrested for disorderly conduct?'

Robert Hicks was a school librarian in Arkansas City, Kansas. He was fired in 2001 for surfing porn sites. He explained that he has to know what is on the Internet, including the sex sites, so that he would know if the content filters installed on school computers were suitable and whether they were working or not. He was later reinstated and is now suing for half a million dollars in compensation for the year he was out of work.

Robert Hollywood, a 46-year-old resident of Menlo Park, California, kept hundreds of animals in his home. The animals aren't the usual cats or dogs but rats. Hollywood is accused of felony cruelty to animals for keeping the domesticated rats in 'deplorable conditions' all over his home. Some were alive and some dead. The Peninsula Humane Society discovered the situation by June 2002, at the latest, and the charges are based on multiple visits to the home since then.

Thailand's Boonchai Lotharakphong ran a factory in Lopburi province that has made sportswear for Nike for 10 years. In the wake of financial problems, the 43-year-old man visited a Chinese fortune-teller, who gave him a flag believed to be good for warding off bad luck. According to police Major Jeerasak Kerddee Muangkon, Boonchai had climbed onto the roof of his building to raise the flag when he slipped and fell to his death.

Madrid police stopped Tomas Valdivielso for using his mobile phone while driving. He said he was scratching his ear and showed the officers the log from his phone, which indicated that his last call had gone out the previous evening. He was then fined for 'holding his ear with his right hand in a permanent fashion'. Valdivielso, who is a lawyer, filed a 10-page appeal that says, among other things, that Spanish law doesn't forbid ear-scratching or require motorists to pull over to have a good scratch.

Five police officers were assigned to protect a power plant near Austin, Texas, from potential terrorist attacks. They went fishing in a lake on the plant's property instead. They were seen cleaning the fish they had just caught, while in uniform. This prompted a complaint. 'Quite frankly, we are very disappointed', said Assistant Police Chief Rick Coy. Violations cited by the police include continuing to fish after being ordered to stop and telling security guards at the plant to let other officers onto the property to fish.

A jury acquited Levittown, Pennsylvania, mother Colleen Broe of child abuse charges connected with her alleged duct-taping of her foster children. Broe's estranged husband, Neil, photographed the silver-wrapped children, aged one and two, lying in a crib. Three of Colleen's sons said they saw her taping the foster children. The defence argued that Neil duct-taped the children himself and gave the authorities the pictures to punish his wife before she finalised a divorce. The matter of custody of three other children has yet to be resolved.

20 November 2003

Police in Modesto, California, are on the lookout for the man who robbed the Oak Valley Community's Bank at gunpoint on Monday. The man was wearing a pink shirt, white gardening gloves, tight jeans, and a mask made of flannel. During the heist, he sometimes lifted the corner of the flannel mask so he could see where he was going, for he hadn't cut eye holes in the mask. He escaped with an accomplice, according to Detective Tom Blake. This is despite his running into the steel doorframe on the way out of the bank.

A court in Norway has ordered the state to pay for a car for a man because he is short. To be more accurate, the 22-year-old man, whose growth was stunted due to radiation treatments he received for a childhood brain tumour, explained that he fears using public transport due to aversions caused by the constant teasing he suffered in his youth on account of his height. A local court had ruled that the 149-centimetre-tall man must deal with his aversion to public transport himself, but the social welfare court overturned the ruling.

Stuart Toy of Alexandria, Virginia, was crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland when a pitchfork came loose from an oncoming vehicle and crashed through his SUV's windscreen at a relative speed police estimate to be over 160 km/h. The pitchfork's prongs protruded 'several inches' into the passenger compartment. Roy pulled over to inspect his vehicle after crossing the bridge. He said he will keep the pitchfork, which missed his face by just centimetres, for good luck.

The Washington Post reports that a Howard County, Maryland, high school teacher asked each of his students to perform a nonconformist act in conjunction with their studies of authors such as Emerson and Thoreau. Some students chose to eat cereal at lunch or address teachers by their first names. Honour students Katherine Pecore and Stephanie Haaser chose to climb atop a table in the cafeteria, shout 'End homophobia now!', and lock lips for several seconds. They were suspended for two days for being disruptive.
After the local television station asked them to recreate the kiss, Pecore said that 'they don't care about our message. They care because the whole lesbian kiss thing [...] sells'. The suspension prompted an anti-homophobia rally at the school. In total, two students showed up.

Ashby, Leicestershire, police picked up a 17-year-old girl and 22-year-old man running down a road in the village of Appleby Magna. Both were naked. Nearby, a fire raged in farmer David Collington's barn, destroying 80 tonnes of hay and animal feed for his 20 cattle. The pair were arrested on suspicion of arson but released as investigations continued. Sub Officer Michael Townsend of Coalville fire station said that 'the police told me they said they knocked the candle over when they were having sex'. Collington said: 'It's not what you want people to be doing in your back yard, is it? It is all the winter food and bedding that has gone.'

Milwaukee postal workers were sorting mail when they noticed an alligator chewing its way out of an Express Mail carton, according to Postal Service spokeswoman JoAnne Blackburn. Workers tried to tape the box closed again, but the four-foot-long animal bit it open. A worker picked the alligator up by the tail and threw it into a hamper. Animal control officers were summoned. The alligator will be sent to a sanctuary.
The attempted shipment from Milwaukee to Colorado is under review since alligators over 20 inches (about 50 cm) in length are not allowed to be sent by mail.

Aftenposten reports that a 47-year-old man from Kongsvinger, Norway, was fined NOK 5000 for his behaviour at an Oslo hair salon. On the advice of a friend, he visited the salon, where he asked if he could have his pubic hair cut and styled there. When the employee didn't understand his request, he tried to switch to English, asking 'do you take inteem fressering [pubic hairdressing]?'. The woman said the salon only cuts women's hair. He then exposed himself. The court stated that it didn't doubt the man's explanation of his behaviour but added that it was still inappropriate.

Illinois's Belleville News-Democrat tells us of custodian Emanuel Fleming, 46, who tried to retrieve 50 cents in change from an East St. Louis pay phone and got his middle finger stuck in the anti-theft device. He tried to call his wife, but the line was busy. People boarding a bus there 'all knew me but they didn't care. They said: 'Look, there's Mr Fleming. He's got his hand stuck in the phone.' After two passers-by were unable to help, he rang 911. Emergency services and a representative of the telephone-owner couldn't free him, so ambulance workers cut the phone off its base and took it and Fleming to the emergency room. Over three hours after his ordeal began, a physician gave him a painkiller and used a wooden device and lubricant to poke up into the slot until the finger was free.

Hartford, Wisconsin, police chief Thomas Jones said three teenaged girls bought aerosol cans and drove to a park, where they hoped to get high by inhaling the fumes. After an hour or so, one of them produced a cigarette lighter, which ignited the combustible material from the cans. The explosion in the car left the girls - aged 14, 16, and 17 - with burns to the face, chest, and arms. They were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.

According to the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, a jury in Gent found a 31-year-old police officer guilty of child abuse for luring a 12-year-old girl into 'improper conversations' online. The officer, who was sentenced to a one-year jail term, had been attached to a special police unit responsible for tracing and collecting evidence against paedophiles on the Internet.
The sentencing comes days after it was revealed that convicted paedophile Marc Dutroux sent 400 love letters to a 15-year-old girl over a two-year period, from his cell in a Belgian prison. Prison authorities apparently had full knowledge of these goings on.

In another story from Belgium, Marc Marchal died in an accident involving his motorbike and a tractor. Due to the condition of the body, the undertaker suggested that the wake be held with the body already in the coffin. During the 32-year-old Rochefort man's wake, a mobile phone shattered the silence of the chapel. The sound came from the coffin, which the undertaker then re-opened so Marchal's pockets could be emptied. His relatives have filed a complaint, asserting that the body cannot have been prepared properly for burial.

Derek Keenan, 44, of Lethbridge, Alberta, got out of his car in a parking lot, and his baseball cap blew off in a high wind. Witness Josh Emard said a semi trailer 'was rolling forward and he dove under to grab the hat. He tried to grab it and wiggle out quickly' as the truck began to move. Keenan died after the rear wheels of the vehicle rolled over the upper part of his body.

26 November 2003

Joseph Tomaino of Neptune, New Jersey, sued the male Sexual Dysfuncion Clinic for leaving him with an erection whose ending, three days later, required a second surgical procedure. He was left with disfigurement. A jury awarded him $3 million, but an appeals court thought the award's size 'shocked the court's conscience' since Tomaino remained able to work and carry out other non-sexual activities. Superior Court Judge Alexander Lehrer, who had presided over the trial, was ordered to decrease the award. He lowered the amount by one cent. Citing Lehrer's 'demonstrated unwillingness to comply with our instructions', the appellate panel asked another judge to further decrease the amount.

A 911 operator in Orlando, Florida, heard a baby crying at the other end of the line. The toddler who had apparently placed the call then hung up, whereupon the dispatcher called the number back. The boy's mother, Navera Alexcia Noel, explained that the child had just been playing with the telephone. Nonetheless, Orange County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Mayer investigated the call. The 27-year-old Noel apparently let Mayer inside the house, where cocaine, marijuana, and a heaps of cash were in plain sight on the coffee table. After a search warrant was obtained, a stolen gun was also found in the home. The baby was placed with his grandmother.

Maryland's Christopher Stephen Mattison was charged with reckless endangerment in connection with the death of his 10-year-old son, Tyler. According to the police, the 39-year-old Perry Hall resident and his son were hunting on private property when the boy, climbing down from a tree stand, apparently set the crossbow down, activating the trigger. He was shot in the chest and died. The boy didn't have a hunting licence or safety training.

The Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti reported that 61-year-old Jugoslava Tomovic entered a bank in Podgorica, produced a shotgun, and demanded money. An alarm was sounded, and police arrived in minutes to arrest her. She was described by police as a relatively affluent woman who carried out the robbery attempt 'for the adventure'.

In San Francisco, police sergeant David Herrera was on his horse when a woman illegally let her pit bull off its leash. He yelled at her to control the dog, which meanwhile had begun attacking Herrera's horse. The officer was thrown to the ground. The dog-owner was kicked in the face by the horse when she tried to intervene. As the dog chased the horse, another officer fired two shots, one of which connected with the pit bull. Animal control officers collected the wounded animal. Its owner sustained head injuries and a broken finger, and she might face charges. Herrera was treated for injuries to the neck and back. The horse is recovering.

John Brewer of the Geuda Springs, Kansas, city council complains that people misunderstood an ordinance he proposed and which has since been approved. It states that every head of household must own a firearm and ammunition. Brewer explains that the town, with a population of 200, is too small to have a police department or a marshal and that 'the ordinance is really just a legal statement that shows that we are providing for protection of our citizens'. Brewer explained that the fine of up to $10 that can be levied against violators isn't intended to pressure people into buying a gun. Rather, 'the only reason we have that included is that it would not be a law without a penalty or fine'. The physically or mentally disabled, those whose religions forbid gun ownership, and people convicted of a felony are among those exempted from the requirement.

Jeffery S. Murr, 24, was critically injured during a Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony in Johnson City, Tennessee. About 10 people - two of them children - were at the ceremony, during which an initiate was blindfolded, tied with a noose to a tree, and shot with paintball guns. Sheriff Fred Phillips said Gregory Allen Freeman, 45, fired a pistol into the air to provide an authentic gunfire sound. Murr was struck in the top of the head with a bullet, which emerged from the bottom of his skull. Freeman fled the scene but was later arrested near his home and charged with aggravated assault.

Gabriel S. Hernandez, 22, of Santa Rosa, California, found that his car had been towed away, so he went to the police station with friends to secure its return. Waiting in the lobby, Hernandez grew bored and scaled the 7-foot-high plexiglass barrier around the receptionist's area to snatch a teddy bear from the counter display. The department sells the bears for $10 each as part of a fund-raising project. Dispatcher Lori Royston saw the incident on a video monitor in the station, and officers promptly arrested Hernandez. His climbing over the wall made the crime a felony, according to department spokesman Sergeant Art Sweeney.

Boston inmate Donald Delaney, 39, wanted a bit of extra money in his canteen account, so he directed a woman's prostitution activities via pay telephones at the South Bay House of Correction. Jail officials became suspicious when Delaney's account received nearly $2000 in anonymous contributions (canteen accounts are capped at $500). Delaney, serving a two-year prison term, was arrested easily in the jail's dining hall.

In yet another story of someone getting trapped in a tight space, 15-year-old Henry Golatt locked himself out of the family home and decided to enter via the chimney. He became stuck a few feet from the bottom, when he encountered the flue. Battalion Chief Craig Mosley said firefighters decided to lower a rope to Golatt from an aerial ladder and thus retrieve him without damaging the chimney. He was retrieved but lost his trousers on the way up.

Border guards took an interest in the rear seat of a pickup truck that was heading into Texas via the Paso Del Norte bridge. The original rear seat of the extended-cab pickup had been removed and replaced with a new one, on which children were sitting. Mexican bologna, 756 pounds of it in the form of 81 rolls of meat, has been arranged into the shape of a seat and covered with blankets. Customs spokesman Roger Maier said the agency plans to pursue civil penalties for the Mexican man driving the truck.

North Tyneside truant officers caught quite a few students when conducting a recent one-day patrol of shopping centres and metro stations. A spokesman for North Tyneside Council said that 'on this occasion, something went slightly astray'. More than 1,400 pupils had an excuse not to be in class: their schools were closed that day.

Dean T. Munnell, 33, a doctor with the US Army, used drugs while in Amsterdam and brought back a small bag of hasish back to his base in Vilseck, Germany, to smoke while off duty. When a surprise drug test was announced the following month, he decided to give the authorities a fake urine sample he had stored in his office just in case. He tried to inject the sample into his bladder, but 'it didn't work as I intended. It caused uncontrollable penile bleeding', he later said at his court martial. A month after he received treatment for the botched injection, he told a subordinate about the incident and complied with the man's request for remaining portions of the hash stash.
The doctor's medical licence was suspended, he will be jailed for a year, and he will be dismissed from the armed forces.

In Clintonville, Pennsylvania, Samantha Carla Hoffman, 23, was preparing food in the kitchen when her boyfriend pulled down her sweatpants. Accoding to a criminal complaint, 'as [he] was walking away she threw a butter knife at him'. The knife missed her boyfriend but did connect with her 6 1/2-month-old son, becoming lodged in his head. The child was in critical condition at last report, and Hoffman was arrested on assault and reckless endangerment charges.

San Francisco's Susan Leong offered a reward of $1000 and hired a private investigator after someone stole her dog, which she had left tied up outside when she went shopping. A witness reported seeing a man in a Mercedes-Benz collect the distressed-looking dog. A few days later, Leong saw a Mercedes-Benz, her dog, and a man, who jumped into his car and drove off when Leong shouted: 'That's my dog!' She captured the licence number, which matched the partial number given by the witness at the store. After police gave up, the private investigators hired by Leong took up the stakeout at the car's registered address, the Metropolitan Community Church. After a few days, they saw 49-year-old Jeffery Snyder drive up in the car with a Chihuahua-corgi mix that had been dyed pink and had its fur shaved off. Snyder was arrested and the dog returned to Leong.

Christy Walker, 37, drove past shouting firefighters and ignored cones set up to block a flooded West Virginia road. When her car sank, volunteer firefighters rescued her. Footage was broadcast on CNN and The Weather Channel. Watching the incident on television, Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy David Bailey thought he remembered her so ran a driver's history check on her. As he had suspected, her licence had been revoked and she had been charged for driving despite this.

A Beijing woman hired Li Changjiang to kill or disfigure her husband's mistress. According to the Beijing First Intermediate People's Court, Li and helpers Zhang Hongyu and Sun Yanhai failed to carry out their part of the contract, so the woman demanded that her money - the equivalent of US$ 12,100 - be returned. The three killed the woman and burned her car. Li was executed and Sun sentenced to a life term in prison. Zhang remains at large.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports on a 14-year-old boy in Toyama Prefecture who saw Hiroyasu Nagai's advert on a personals site and decided to help the 44-year-old Nagai, a former junior high school teacher. He asked three girls in his class to act as prostitutes for Nagai, who he was short of money. Acting as a pimp, Nagai took the girls to a love hotel, where he collected the 50,000 yen they were given for a several-person encounter. He later introduced the girls to another man, receiving 20,000 yen and a pre-paid mobile phone for their efforts. He is now under investigation.

Two firefighters arrived to deal with a blaze spreading through a slum area in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City, The Philippines. Apparently following standard procedure, they first prepared to hose down area factories to prevent the fire spreading, but residents wanted their houses saved first. Robert Mendoza and Mario Bagaman Mendoza pulled out the water hose, and locals tried to grab the nozzle. The firemen resisted so were beaten up. Two more firefighters arrived, and the incident repeated itself, with a firefighter stabbed in the hand and residents making off with the fire brigade's nozzles. Other firefighters were thus reluctant to do much in the area, and 500 homes burned down.


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