anna's archive anna's archive anna's archive

November 2004

2 November 2004

A 30-year-old worker at Detroit's Peerless Metals, a manufacturer of metal powders, complained that another employee had been bullying him. He decided to solve the problem himself. It apparently took him several days to fashion a sword at work. When the weapon was complete, the man used it to kill the alleged bully, nearly decapitating him, according to police spokesman James Tate. The killer fled the scene but had returned to the factory by the time officers arrived. He was having a beer.

Stephanie Cox runs a small toy shop in St. Helens, Oregon. She didn't know what to expect when two agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the shop. One possibility was that something she sold could be considered a weapon suitable for use by terrorists. In fact, the officers were simply following up on a report that she was selling illegal Rubik's Cube knockoffs. After making sure she had removed the dangerous cubes from the shelves, the agents left. Cox then rang the manufacturers of the toy, who verified that the Rubik's Cube patent had expired. Commenting on the agency's concern for the nation's economy and financial systems, Cox asked 'Aren't there any terrorists out there?'

Australia's Joseph Saqu, 44, befriended women on Brisbane railway platforms and at shopping centres, using sleight of hand to convince them that he had magic powers. He went to each of the women's homes, where he performed a ceremony that he explained was designed to cure them of various ills and make them wealthy. In each ceremony, honouring a deity he called 'RW', he placed a coin on the woman's body, and eventually in her vagina. He has been found guilty of rape under Queensland law, and of stealing $250 from the last two women after promising that he could transform the money into $8500 overnight.

Normally when Japanese gangsters chop off their little finger, it is an act of atonement for a betrayal or a plan that went badly. Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, 36, is an unemployed former gangster who cut off his little finger and sent it by post to a 15-year-old girl's father in order to prove his commitment to her. Allegedly, enclosed with the digit was a note that said 'Please let us go out in exchange for this finger. I will send it again and again until you accept my request.' The father, who didn't particularly approve of Yoshikawa courting his daughter, sent the finger back. When it was posted to him a second time, he contacted the police, who arrested Yoshikawa.

During the Christmas Parade of Boats, held in September on New York's Seneca River, a couple participating in this charity event surprised spectators with their contribution. A woman wearing only a strand of Christmas lights on the upper half of her body marched along behind a bare-bottomed man, spanking him. Organisers of the event, which was geared toward children, received several complaints later. After the couple, from Brewerton, were arrested and charged with misdemeanour public lewdness, the parade organiser said it had never occurred to her that she should have to tell participants not to appear nude in a kids' parade.

Karen Stolzmann, a 44-year-old woman from Portage, Wisconsin, was arrested for being a grave robber. The grave was that of her boyfriend, Michael Hendrickson, who killed himself in 1992. His family recently discovered that his cremated remains had been stolen, along with the beer and cigarettes that had been buried with him. When sheriff's deputies searched Stolzmann's home, they found her hiding in the shower, and the urn was in her garage. It is believed that she drank the beer, possibly out of spite for not having been invited to Hendrickson's funeral. His family had not approved of his adulterous relationship with the married Stolzmann, nor of the substance abuse and domestic violence that characterised it.
Columbia County Detective Wayne Smith called the case 'twisted and bizarre'.

Steven Scott Soper, an 18-year-old Florida Marine recruit, was unhappy that his girlfriend was considering voting for John Kerry in the upcoming US Presidential election. He allegedly told Stacey Silheira 'You'll never live to see the election'. Sheriff's deputies who were summoned to the house found Soper threatening to stab Silheira in the neck with a screwdriver. A Taser was applied to him, and Soper was taken to jail, where he was awaiting psychiatric evaluation.

Wisconsin's William Dahlby claims that he threw a live electrical wire into his wife's bath simply to scare her. He said that he had hoped a near-death experience could save their marriage. He said the wire was hooked to a ground fault interrupter designed to cut the electricity when the cord hit water. His wife, who was unhurt in the incident, testified that she jumped out of the water when the wire joined her in the tub but that her husband had tried to push her back in. Prosecutors said he wanted to kill her so he could be with his mistress. A jury found him guilty of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

Dawn Marie Perryman of Burton, Michigan, was surprised to hear, from a reporter for the Associated Press, that an apparent photo of her old driver's licence had appeared on an Islamic Web site that claimed she had been captured in southern Iraq and killed. Perryman, who was described as a US military officer on the site, said her only link with the Middle East is a relationship she had in the 1980s with a man who was in the Kuwaiti military. She said of the incident 'It's kind of scary'.

Polish locksmith Zbigniew Macewicz was summoned to a tax hearing, where he was told he owed the equivalent of about EUR 25,000 for failing to abide by the terms of a repayment agreement. He suffered a heart attack and died at the hearing. It later came to light that tax collectors had miscalculated one of the Bydgoszcz man's payments by about EUR 4, putting him in arrears on the repayment schedule. Deputy Finance Minister Stanislaw Stec said 'I express my deep regret at the taxpayer's death'. He ordered an internal audit of the city's tax authorities.

9 November 2004

Julia Bauer, a 21-year-old woman from Bochum, Germany, laid out a bowl, a packet of muesli, a pint of milk, and a spoon so she could eat breakfast before work. With these items ready on the passenger's seat of her car, she then headed off for work, preparing the breakfast while driving. When she reached out at one point to stop the bowl tipping over, she lost control of the vehicle. A police officer said that Bauer swerved, hitting a parked car and a lamppost. She caused about EUR 15,000 of damage in the wreck.

Officer David McCranie of the Tallahassee, Florida, police thought it would be funny to set off a canister of tear gas in the direction of another officer during training. The prank seemed a less good idea after the wind carried the tear gas to a row of homes where children were playing outside and adults working. About a dozen people were treated for tear gas inhalation. McCranie was suspended from the force without pay for three weeks. He was also thrown off the police tactical team.

Bryan Bridges, a 52-year-old substitute teacher from Northampton, Massachusetts, was found to have over 30 unregistered weapons in a wide range of locations in his home. Also discovered in the search of his home was a prosthetic arm, which a 15-year-old student at the local high school has since identified as hers. She had brought it to school to show to other students. It was stolen when she left it at school, according to Assistant District Attorney Michael Cahillane. Bridges has been sentenced to two years in prison on weapons-related charges. No charges have been filed in connection with the arm.

In the days after Halloween, it emerged that a 53-year-old Saskatchewan man gave some trick-or-treaters an unusual treat. Dave Kozicki of Saskatoon says his son and two other children, all nine years old, stopped at the man's house and were given cans of beer rather than the more usual chocolates or bubble gum. The homeowner, allegedly intoxicated at the time, then apparently told the children not to come back. Kozicki contacted the police, who charged the man, whose name has not been released, with distributing alcohol to minors.

Officers in Espoo, Finland, let a police dog out into an empty field to urinate. The German shepherd drew the officers' attention to a spot in the field where, it turns out, two plastic-wrapped glass jars of amphetamines had been buried. Espoo police inspector Jukka Paisio said the two kilos of drugs had apparently been hidden there for some time. An investigation has been launched.

Michael Lonsway, 43, saw a man hold up a petrol station in Warren, Michigan. Lonsway waited near the entrance, he says, and, when the robber left, tried to pin him with his car. When the robber shouted 'Let me go!', he refused and 'floored it'. With the robber on the bonnet, Lonsway's car smashed through a window. Merchandise in the petrol station was knocked over, and a fake pistol was knocked from the robber's hand. The robber fled. Lonsway says he thought he saw the man drive off in a Cadillac, so he rang the police to alert them. He was wrong about the Cadillac.
Lonsway's insurance company says it will not pay for the substantial damage to his car. Nonetheless, Lonsway said he would do the same thing again.

Four years ago, Canada's Susan MacIntosh moved in with Ray Lindley, now her common-law husband. The couple had a child and seemed happy. In January of last year, Lindley told MacIntosh he had cancer and needed to go to Montreal for treatment. He didn't have cancer but was indeed going to the hospital, for a sex-change operation. When he returned to Vancouver some months later, MacIntosh couldn't help but discover that Ray was in the process of becoming Cara-Anne. She decided to sever the relationship. An unhappy Lindley decided a few months ago to repay her by visiting her home and beating her 20 times with a tyre iron. She required major reconstructive surgery. Lindley has now been sentenced to five years in prison. Reports did not specify whether (s)he is to do time at a females' prison rather than a men's one.

Washington lawyer Kevin Y. Jung was shot and critically injured while parking at his office. Witnesses reported the licence plate number and a description of the shooter to police, who determined that another lawyer, former county deputy prosecutor William R. Joice, had rented the vehicle. Joice, who had worked on a case with Jung a few months earlier, had been scheduled to face him as opposing counsel in a civil hearing for contempt of court. When neither lawyer showed up for the hearing, 'I thought they'd resolved it', said County Commissioner Lester Stewart. Joice has been jailed while an investigation for attempted murder is conducted.

Michael Donald Marshall walked into the new Bank of America branch in Kennesaw, Georgia, and demanded $500 from the tellers. He said he had a gun. That didn't change the response of the employees, who reiterated that the bank was still under construction and not yet open for business. There was no money available yet. When the 39-year-old Marshall left the building, officers were waiting. He has been charged with armed robbery.

A vice president at Castle Metal Finishing Corp. told Kemarat Vathananand not to drink coffee in the company's shop area. Employees at the Illinois-based company later noticed a bitter taste in their coffee. New coffeepots didn't help. After a test of the coffee and the installation of a hidden camera a few weeks later, police arrested Vathananand and accused him of adding urine, lead acetate, and a heavy metal removal chemical to the coffee maker. Vathananand, a pollution-control operator who has worked at the company for 15 years, has been charged with unlawful tampering with food as well as attempted murder.

Sunderland's Jordan Barnes, 20, was drunk when he stole cash, alcohol, and two mobile telephones from a house. The police know it was Barnes because he was drunk enough to drop his key fob, bearing a head-and-shoulders photograph of him and his surname. He also dropped one of the telephones. When these items were turned in to the police, they rang the 'home' number on the telephone, ascertained that a burglary had occurred, and arrested Barnes. He admitted to burglary and was sentenced to three years in jail. A spokesman for the Northumbria Police said 'It wasn't too difficult to figure out who was responsible for this one.'

A three-year-old girl took off her jacket when she arrived at her preschool in Hunts Point, New York. Out of the pockets fell a deck of flashcards and two bags of cocaine. The teacher noticed the bags on the floor and contacted the police. A third bag was found still in a pocket. The police arrested the girl's father, Rafael Rojas, whom they described as a small-time drug dealer and ex-convict. He admitted to placing the drugs in the jacket.
The girl's mother, Laura Roman, said the cocaine must have been in the jacket when the girl's grandmother bought it at a second-hand shop. She said Rojas couldn't have been responsible because 'the coke was already in it. I put it on her and sent her to school.'

Meanwhile, a six-year-old girl in Orange County, Florida, brought more than $1000 worth of crack cocaine to school. She explained that she found the bag at home. Her mother said she must have received it while she was trick-or-treating. The principal of Tangelo Park Elementary School said the girl was removed from the classroom, in keeping with district policy. She has been suspended indefinitely. Since the girl's mother listed a fake address when enrolling the girl, she will not be coming back. The Department of Children and Families will interview the mother.

Louisiana's Kenneth Rabalais, 19, is accused of prising open the crypt of his cousin, who died in a car crash a little under a year ago. Col. Richard Baumy, a spokesman for the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office, said 'He believed there was money and possibly marijuana behind the face of the tomb, but apparently there was nothing there.' Rabalais, who believed the grave goods were placed there as a tribute by friends, was charged with misdemeanour grave desecration.

Ohio's Bryan Gibson decided to enter his office Halloween costume contest as a barbecue enthusiast whose propane tank had exploded. A few layers of theatrical latex and a bit of hairspray later, he left for his commute to work, black-faced, splashed in fake blood, and carrying oven mitts and a spatula. The 39-year-old art design consultant said he kept hearing sirens in the background as he drove but didn't see any emergency vehicles. Eventually, a car whipped out in front of him and the driver jumped out, gun drawn. Gibson said the man, who was not in uniform, told him he was in a lot of trouble and had caused several complaints to the police. With a gun in his back, Gibson pleaded to be allowed to drive to work before the costume contest. The man then demanded Gibson's ID, so 'I took my hand off the roof of my car to point to where my wallet was, and the guy flips out again', Gibson said.
Radio presenter Mark Perzel, who had followed a police helicopter to the scene without knowing exactly what was happening, said he pulled up and 'it seemed pretty obvious it was a Halloween deal.' The same thought crossed the cop's mind at about this point, according to Gibson: 'he said "Man, you got me. Now hurry on to work."'
Gibson, who ended up winning the $50 'best costume' prize, said 'what if I'd really been in a grilling accident and I was driving myself to the hospital?'

In another Halloween-related story, a student at City High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, won the 'scariest costume' prize at the school's masquerade party and was later suspended for five days because of the outfit. Superintendent Bert Bleke said he agreed with the school's decision to suspend the student for wearing Ku Klux Klan garb but asked why adults at the party didn't stop the student from entering the contest in the first place if the costume was that much of a problem. He said 'There are a number of questions I have and don't yet have answers to.' The student refused to comment, saying that he didn't want to create further trouble for himself.

A Missouri man was noticed driving erratically and then entering the Cape Girardeau Wal-Mart store. He was carrying a rifle and a long sword. He smashed a few display cases and threatened customers. When a police officer approached, the man opted to use neither of these weapons. He instead pulled a knife. The officer's police baton could reach further and did so, knocking the knife-wielding man on the head a few times. The man was arrested. His claims that there was a bomb in his car were shown to be false.

Arkansas's Tristian Wilson, 20, was sent to jail on theft, forgery, and burglary charges, so his wife and a friend forged a fax from a detective authorising his release. Although this was sent from a McDonald's, that didn't stop the jailers from releasing Wilson. He was soon recaptured but less than a week later had escaped again, jumping from a second-storey window of the Marion, Arkansas, courthouse and apparently breaking a leg. He was arrested again the next day and is to be charged with two counts of escape.

Michigan's Free Press reports that a 49-year-old man rang the emergency services in the town of Taylor to report that he had just shot a man with a revolver and a shotgun. Explaining that he did it because the man said he didn't believe in God, the caller said he was standing over the body of 'the devil himself' 'in case he moved'. The dispatcher said she asked how many times the caller had shot the man, whereupon he replied 'Hopefully enough'. The man was, indeed, dead when the police arrived. Seven shots had been fired.
The suspect said the victim had told him there was no way he could be convinced to believe in God. He told the authorities that he went into another room to remove his shirt and shave. Carrying the shotgun, he tried to convince the man to believe in God, and again failed.
The newspaper mentions police reports that the man commented at the station that he believes there is a God, then lowered his eyes and said 'Maybe there's not.'

A 29-year-old man in Gold Bar, Washington, proposed to his girlfriend at her 62-year-old ex-boyfriend's house, while he was looking on. According to Jan Jorgensen, speaking for the county sheriff's office, the woman accepted the proposal and the ex-boyfriend became upset, striking the woman while all three were yelling at each other. At this point, the younger man fetched a metal baseball bat from his pickup truck and hit the jealous 62-year-old on the head and in the ribs. He was taken to hospital with a severe head injury. His assailant, the unnamed Romeo, was jailed pending further investigation.

Indiana University mathematics professor Safwan Akkari received an invoice from the county for a $22,721.57 hazardous materials cleanup at the Fort Wayne airport. Officials closed the airport for 10 hours in August after a worker saw a liquid leaking from Akkari's luggage and became ill. Seven others were sent for medical treatment. The culprit was a bottle of rose water in the luggage, which had broken due to rough treatment by the airline. American Airlines has announced that it will pay the invoice. Akkari said he doesn't think he'll ever use rose water in his desserts again.

Claude Gipson-Reynolds of Glen Ellen, California, says he went on a drinking binge after a fight with his wife. Two alcohol-soaked days later, he ended up with his car stuck in the mud. The obvious solution seemed to be to break into a nearby volunteer fire station and steal a fire truck to free his car. The fire truck ended up stuck in the mud as well. Gipson-Reynolds, who called for help via the fire truck's radio, has since vowed to get help for his drinking problem.

A bouncer at a bar in West Palm Beach, Florida, paid taxi driver Robert Lee Smiley, Jr, $10 to drive a heavily intoxicated man back to his home. Bar manager Dave Lynch said 'We thought we were doing the right thing.'
On arrival at his home, the man, Jimmie Morningstar, apparently refused to get out of the cab. Witnesses said they heard Smiley yelling, shouting that he needed to earn money and couldn't drive Morningstar around all night. Next, Smiley allegedly tried to pull Morningstar out of the cab, then zapped him with a stun gun. Morningstar apparently left the taxi at this point. Police said Smiley then fired a gun twice into the pavement near Morningstar's feet, following up by firing directly at him twice. The 43-year-old Morningstar died half an hour later.
Smiley is being charged with first-degree murder.

At Utah State Prison, jail officers must stand behind a wall out of view of the jail cells when operating the mechanism to close the cell doors. Prison spokesman Jack Ford said the guard shouts out a warning 10 to 15 seconds before the doors are closed. Prisoner John J. Gardner, 27, convicted of theft, was looking out of his cell on Thursday when the door closed, fatally crushing his head. Ford said this is the first such incident as far as he is aware, though 'we've had arms caught before'.

16 November 2004

I'll start with a story from a week or so ago that I forgot to run last time. A nine-year-old boy drove his family's car into a parked vehicle in a supermarket car park in Syracuse, New York. A witness said the child moved over into the passenger's seat after the collision, which damaged both cars. The witness promptly rang the police. The boy's father, Robert Samuel, Sr, said that the police are 'making a big deal out of nothing [...]. I was only going to let him park the car'.

William Warren Mucklow, 38, of Charleston, West Virginia, ran 'wanted' ads asking for home health care workers to care for a man with the mind of a two- or three-year-old child. Three nurses hired to care for the man reported to the authorities that he grabbed their breasts while they were changing his nappies. They explained also that the man 'slipped up' after several hours of care and began behaving as a 40-year-old man would. Mucklow was arrested on Tuesday for posing as a mentally retarded person. A civil lawsuit is pending.

In a story from Oregon, a 12-year-old boy and his father, 36-year-old Travis Greif, recently went hunting together in the Ochoco National Forest. Standing next to each other, the pair saw a buck. They raised their guns. The boy's gun discharged, shooting the older Greif in the head. He died instantly.
In another hunting tale, Jim Mick of North Vernon, Indiana, entered the forest with a bow and arrows. They were little help to him when a buck 'came out of the tall grass and briars', striking him in the chest, knocking him down, and goring him in the thigh. Mick said he managed to grab the animal, which weighed about 70 kilos, and, after a 10-minute wrestling match with it, find safety on the other side of a tree. He estimates that he fared worse than the deer did in the encounter.

Kathleen Garrett teaches special-needs students in Seminole County, Florida. The 48-year-old teacher is accused of rubbing an autistic student's face in vomit and slamming another child's head so hard that his front teeth fell out. Witnesses described the 135-kilo Garrett as also rubbing her body against a child and repeatedly telling him to 'cry for mama'. She is also accused of punching a student in the head for wetting his pants, as well as pinning a student down until he choked and two assistants had to intervene. She was charged with nine counts of aggravated child abuse.

Theresa M. Wilson of Curtis, Washington, discovered her ex-boyfriend with another woman. Some time later, she decided to vent her anger at him by forcing his car off the road and ramming it three times. After this display of aggression, as officers arrived on the scene, the driver emerged from the damaged 1987 Chevrolet Sprint and Wilson said 'Oh my God, oh my God, that's not my boyfriend'. It wasn't his car, a 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum, either. The driver, who had been on his way to work, said of the incident 'Things like that just don't happen around here'. The 43-year-old Wilson was arrested pending an investigation for second-degree assault.

A 53-year-old Australian man has been sentenced to a 10-year jail term for sexually abusing his eldest daughter, now 18, since she was seven years old. He forced her to have an abortion when she became pregnant with his child at the age of 13. The court, in Brisbane, heard that the man beat and mentally abused the girl and her four siblings, all of whom were born to his de facto wife, who was also his step-daughter. Justice Martin Moynihan heard how the five children were taken away from the man in 2000 after the oldest girl's friend revealed that he had shown her pornography. It then emerged that the father had tried to hang his eldest daughter from a clothes hoist using a rope, saying 'die, bitch' and then leaving her there. She managed to swing herself round until she could reach a crate with her feet.
The man pleaded guilty to the two charges brought against him: maintaining a sexual relationship with a child and torture.

Brian Calen of White Plains, New York, reported that he was left blind in the right eye after a cruise ship accident. Seven years later, in 1992, he reported being blinded, again in the right eye, when the filter fell off a ship's telescope, causing solar burns. He later received another payout, for being blinded in the right eye by a champagne bottle. He had collected millions of dollars in travel insurance money but wasn't done yet. He filed a claim for being blinded in the right eye by a flying disc. This time, an insurance investigator became suspicious. Calen has now been charged with insurance fraud and grand larceny. The 48-year-old Calen's lawyer said 'it's up to the insurance company to determine the validity of the claim'.

The owner of a second-hand shop in Japan found the equivalent of EUR 20,000 sewn into the sash of a kimono that someone had donated. After 17 other people had tried to claim the money in response to a newspaper article about it, a 77-year-old woman from Yokosuka came forward to explain that she had forgotten about the money until seeing the article. She showed how she had bundled the cash into the garment, explaining that there had been a lot of thefts in her neighbourhood at the time she hid the cash. The police found a second cash-filled kimono in the woman's home.

Shortly after repairing the hurricane damage to their home in Punta Gorda, Florida, Joel and Carol Prucha went to Ohio on holiday. When they returned, their house was missing. It had been demolished and completely removed. Carol said 'You just don't know what it's like to come around a corner and not see it there and it should be there.' Bob Callahan, a member of the Windmill Village Board of Directors, said the two main contractors in the neighbourhood both denied responsibility for the home's removal. The couple have insufficient insurance cover to replace the home and all their belongings, so they are hoping that some of their neighbours will remember the name on the white van that they saw removing the house.

Keith Knuckles of Louisville, Kentucky, worked as a school-bus monitor for three- and four-year-old children at public schools. A few months ago, he confessed to being a child molester. The police say they didn't arrest him, as that was part of a deal they made to get more information from him. Also, he was allowed to continue in his job until a little over a month ago. More recently, officers went to his home to serve him with warrants charging him with rape and sodomy. In the home they found his five-year-old daughter, Keishell, dead of an overdose of sleeping pills. He was apprehended in Ohio and has been charged with murder.

It's nothing new to read about a couple who go for a drive in a wildlife preserve and are attacked by a wild animal after ignoring notices about keeping car windows closed and not enticing the animals with food. The story of David Balac, 31, and former girlfriend Jennifer-Anne Cowles, 28, begins the same way. A tiger pulled a car window the rest of the way open, attacking Cowles and biting Balac on the arm. There was rather a lot of blood spilt before the car, which had a habit of stalling, could be started, just as two more tigers began fighting to enter the car. After the couple made a successful escape, they decided to sue the Rockton, Ontario, game park, claiming that the incident turned Balac, an accomplished accordion player, into an unemployable recluse and left Cowles disfigured enough that her career as an exotic dancer was cut short.

Allen Coleman, 42, was crossing a dark stretch of highway in Magna, Utah, when his artificial leg fell off. He began crawling back to retrieve the limb, and motorists stopped to render assistance. However, they couldn't reach Coleman before a car ran over him. He was killed in the impact. No-one was charged in connection with the incident.

A cleaning worker at Minnesota's Regions Hospital became trapped in a sanitiser used to sterilise large pieces of equipment such as gurneys and wheelchairs. When the door closes, jets of hot water begin the sterilisation process. It is unclear how the woman became trapped in the room. When she was found, she had suffered severe steam burns, which were ultimately fatal. An investigation is being conducted into the circumstances leading to the incident.

Jason Rodd, a 27-year-old man from Johnsbury, Vermont, led police on a high-speed chase. Upon reaching an exit from the highway, he turned off the lights of his minivan, presumably so police couldn't find him. He ended up driving off the road and into a pile of manure. Rodd ran from the van on foot and was eventually caught. He was charged with drunken driving, attempting to elude officers, careless and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and unlawful entry of the private manure pile.

Jennifer Clark of Bath, New York, was happy when her 82-year-old neighbour decided to include her in his will, but she was also impatient. The 26-year-old Clark is accused of including a nighttime pain reliever in the apple strudel she baked for him. Prosecutor Travis J. Barry said 'Luckily, he noticed the pills in the strudel before he got more than a bite or two of it.' Clark was arrested but released from jail to give birth. She is now confined to her home and monitored electronically.

Takashi Kitamura, a 23-year-old unemployed man from Omuta, Japan, was arrested for murdering a family and was taken in for questioning. Between questioning sessions, his handcuffs were removed so he could eat dinner more easily. Three police officers watched him in a room with a door designed to lock automatically when shut. As the officers didn't have a key, they left the door ajar. When Kitamura darted past them and left the room, all he had to do to avoid being chased was close the door behind him.
He was recaptured a few hours later, after officers found out what taxi he had taken and where.

The Rev. Tony R. Caldwell of Kansas City, Missouri, said a homeless man approached him after a Bible study group meeting and asked to speak with him. The two were talking in his office when a second man walked into the room. Caldwell said 'I knew I had a problem at that point', as both men smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and had been kicked out of the same programme for the homeless and former convicts. The new arrival asked for money, saying 'It's up to you. I mean, your congregation could get shot up or your church could burn down.' Caldwell said he was worried about other church members in the building so 'wasn't going to push this issue'. He agreed, albeit at gunpoint, to give the men money. Low on cash, he offered to write them cheques. They agreed, making sure that Caldwell knew the correct spelling of their names.

Joshua Dean Williams, 20, and another man went to a Sears Auto Center in Roseville, California, and tried to buy two tyres with marijuana. When the worker rebuffed their barter attempt, one of the men swung at the employee with a baseball bat, according to police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther. The worker evaded the swing and managed to break a window of the men's car with a rock as they took off with two tyres. The shop's assistant manager said that the pair came back an hour later to find the worker who had broken their window. While the two managed to escape again after workers recognised them, police were able to catch Williams.

[IMG: The bogus banknote] Pennsylvania's Deborah L. Trautwine, 51, was charged with passing a $200 banknote with President Bush's picture on it. Her attorney, Harry Smail, Jr, said she 'wasn't aware that it [...] wasn't actual legal tender', which apparently was also true of the clothing shop clerk who gave Trautwine $100.58 in change from the purchase she made with it. Prosecutors have dropped all charges, now that Trautwine has paid the Fashion Buy shop in real currency.
Seemingly identical funny money made an appearance in the Clippings in February 2001 (see this story).

In Ardmore, Oklahoma, Carol Windham was forced to run a red light when she applied the brake and her van's accelerator pedal remained stuck in the depressed position. With both feet on the brake, she managed to bring the vehicle to a stop nearby. After the van was towed to an auto repair shop, mechanic Jeff Rutledge found what he estimated to be 50 pecans under the bonnet. Apparently, one of these had fallen when Windham pressed the brake. It lodged next to the accelerator pedal, keeping the throttle open. A wood rat was apparently to blame. When Windham checked the engine compartment of her other vehicle later in the day, she found more pecans and half an apple.

According to AFP reports, a 30-year-old man rang the police station in Enghien-les-Bains, just outside Paris, to report that he had lost his keys and needed help getting into his jewellery shop. After officers and a locksmith let the man into the shop, he grabbed a handful of fountain pens and watches from the display counters, leaving the locksmith suspicious. When the locksmith asked the man for a form of ID, he said he left his papers at home. He then fled the scene, with about EUR 10,000 in merchandise. Police caught the man, identified only as Yves, the next day and recovered some of the stolen goods from his home.

Eight passengers on a bus in Malaysia's Terengyanu state grew somewhat nervous when the driver tore away from a routine speed trap. The cops took off in pursuit. The 42-year-old bus driver rammed one of the two police cars, trying to run it off the road. The high-speed chase ended about half an hour later, when vehicles at a traffic light blocked the way. After a brief struggle, the bus driver was arrested. He tested positive for drugs. State police chief Hussin Ismail said the passengers were all unhurt.

In Chile, Yamilet Contreras agreed to be a character witness for a friend who stood accused of being a drug dealer. According to Las Ultimas Noticias, the 43-year-old Arica woman became nervous and repeatedly contradicted herself while on the stand. She finally ended up confessing that she was the owner of the cocaine that had been found with her friend. She is now in prison awaiting her own court date for drug dealing and perjury.

Missouri's Violet and William Kaczmark set off for a family reception in another part of the state. When they got lost, 83-year-old Violet offered to ask a nearby police officer how to get back home to Florissant. She said husband William, 81, refused. The couple continued driving all night, stopping three times for petrol. Meanwhile, the police in Florissant mounted a search and contacted the media. After the couple had been on the road for nearly 24 hours, a motorist heard a radio report on the Kaczmarks' disappearance and connected it with the couple who were weaving from lane to lane in front of him. He got the couple to pull over, then grabbed the keys from the vehicle and rang the police. Violet said they'd probably still be lost if the stranger hadn't stopped them.

During a football match in Moldova, referee Vitalie Onica gave Politehnica Chisinau a penalty kick when the score was even. When Politehnica made the kick, the opposing team's chairman, Mihai Macovei, drove his car onto the field. He attempted to run over the referee, who dodged the vehicle. After several more unsuccessful attempts to flatten the referee, Macovei left the field. When he tried to return, he was stopped by police officers. He has made no comment since. The Moldovan soccer federation fined him the equivalent of about EUR 2000, and an investigation has begun.

A landlord who is responsible for about 50 properties in and near Omaha, Nebraska, has been charged with demanding sex from female tenants, many of them low-income women desperate for housing, in lieu of some fees. Prospective tenant Tamechia Nedds is one woman who complained that sexual favours were made a condition of renting from him at all. After agreeing to wear a wire, she was told by John Koch: 'Let's put it on the table [...]. Once a week sounds good.' Koch is also charged with entering women's homes unannounced and stealing things if they rejected his advances. Some who didn't co-operate were evicted. In response, Koch's lawyer wrote that the man's acts, while perhaps 'immoral' and 'not proper', didn't break federal laws and 'there were no violent acts committed by Mr. Koch - that's important here'.

Celebrity photographer Michael Forsmark said he saw Denmark's Prince Joachim driving 140 kilometres per hour on a northern Copenhagen highway with a posted speed limit of 90 km/h. In the prince's car were also his two sons, ages two and five. It is up to Queen Margarethe to decide whether he will be subject to the normal law in this matter. Forsmark, who reported the speeding to the police and captured it on video, is being investigated for exceeding the speed limit himself while shooting the video.

22 November 2004

Garry Arnould of Thunder Bay, Ontario, entered a chemist's and presented a prescription for a narcotic. The staff became suspicious because of the fine penmanship, so they rang the physician whose name was on the prescription and determined that the document was bogus. Police arrested Arnould a block away. In court, he pleaded guilty to one count of uttering a forged document. He received a 30-day intermittent sentence, to be served on weekends. The judge jokingly suggested that he practise less legible scrawling.

Patricia M. Frankhouser of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, was hit by a train as she walked along a set of railroad tracks near her home. It isn't clear whether she was walking on the tracks or just beside them; we do know that she suffered only some cuts and a broken finger in the incident. Since she claims that the accident also caused her lasting 'pain', she has sued rail company Norfolk Southern Corp. on acount of its failure to post signs warning of the dangers and indicating that trains use the tracks. This failure, the suit alleges, 'negligently provided plaintiff with the belief she was safe in walking near the train tracks'.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports on a wheelchair user's attempt to use an escalator at Chiba's Yawatajuku Station. The escalator has a function whereby three steps flatten out to provide a surface suitable for a wheelchair. An employee activated this function while the escalator was stopped. When the worker reactivated the escalator, however, this surface reverted to steps, sending the man tumbling to the bottom of the escalator. The 50-year-old man suffered a fractured rib, according to the police. An investigation is being conducted into the incident, but the man says 'So far no-one's given me an apology. I want it made clear who is responsible for this.'

The police in Boulder, Colorado, arrested Andrew McClure Johnson after two 13-year-old trick-or-treaters reported that the man who answered the door at his house said he would see if he had anything inside for 'treats', then gave them pornographic DVDs after asking whether they had DVD players. The boys were afraid they would get in trouble for having these 'bad' DVDs and therefore crushed the discs on the ground, they later said. The grandmother of one of the boys contacted the police. According to the authorities, the 23-year-old Johnson admitted to giving the DVDs to the boys and said he didn't know what he had been thinking at the time.

Michael Sullivan is a candidate for mayor in Lake Placid, New York. He is also known for the parrot that sits on his shoulder. After an acquaintance's Dirt Devil hoover was stolen, the green feather nearby provided enough of a clue to give away the involvement of Sullivan, who has been arrested and released on $500 bail.

After an unsuccessful attempt to hunt deer in northern Wisconsin, Bill Rusch, the 50-year-old owner of an archery business, was sitting in a car while awaiting the return of a hunting companion. The release on the companion's bow apparently malfunctioned as that companion emerged from the woods. Therefore, an arrow shattered the window on the driver's side of the car, missing the driver and reaching about five centimetres into Rusch's neck. Rusch's daughter later reported that medics indicated that 'it was 1/25th of an inch away from him never breathing again'.

A truck driver stopped at a traffic light in Birmingham, Alabama, and gave a dollar to Michael Burns, who was holding a cardboard sign reading 'Homeless. Need Help. God Bless.' Witnesses and police said that when the truck started turning left at the light, the trailer knocked the 43-year-old Burns down and two sets of tyres ran over him. The truck had no identifiable markings, and witnesses couldn't take down the tag number. Office Randall Ward said the incident appeared to be an accident.

Cheryl Otero of Pocatello, Idaho, heard her car start at just after midnight. She rang the police while her husband took off after the thief in his own car. He and Cheryl's friend Cami Gelles began driving through the town of 50,000 in search of the stolen car. Giving up on the search two hours later, Cheryl told Gelles she would buy her a tank of petrol for her trouble. At the petrol station they chose, they saw Cheryl's car pull up to a bank of pay telephones across the street, and a man got out to place a call. Gelles drove up to the stolen car, and Cheryl used her key to start it and drive off. She initially worried that perhaps it wasn't her car after all: her Christian CDs had been replaced with rap music, among other things. Gelles decided to hold the man until the police arrived, but he wriggled away just as an onlooker approached to help. The police say it is likely he'll be caught.

The Scotsman reports that Blackpool's Jason New, 31, was upset at the slot machine at Birch Services on the M62, near Rochdale, after losing a hefty amount of cash (200 pounds) to it. He set fire to the machine to try to get his money back. This didn't work. The fire, which took 74 firefighters three hours to tame, caused about seven million pounds in damage to shopping and restaurant areas at the service station. After initially denying that he started the fire, he later admitted his guilt. The maximum possible sentence is life imprisonment.

A 19-year-old man was outside his house in Lincoln, Nebraska, when two men drove up and forced him into their car at gunpoint. They took money from his wallet, then forced him to deposit a $75 cheque in his account and withdraw $60 to give to them. They then let the teenager go. Police Chief Tom Casady said officers were given a clue as to the culprits' identity by the name on the cheque, which was made out to Kevin Martzett by the Cass County Jail, probably money remaining in a jail account at the end of a sentence. The victim was able to identify the 39-year-old Martzett as one of the robbers.

In court in Georgia, Martin Perez-Hernandez and Victor Trujillo testified that they couldn't remember what caused an argument in their mobile home to escalate into 28-year-old Perez-Hernandez biting off Trujillo's right ear. They did remember that alcohol was involved and that Trujillo might have bitten Perez-Hernandez's finger first. Six others who lived in the home refused to give statements. When Trujillo told the court that he wanted to keep Perez-Hernandez as a room-mate and forget about the incident, Judge Mary Buckner dismissed the aggravated battery charges and ordered Trujillo to pay the court costs.

Constables Christopher Bancroft, 45, and Mark Humble, 33, took off after a pair of car thieves in Middlesborough. According to AFP reports, the thieves abandoned the vehicle after a 20-minute chase. The constables, on horseback, were then able to catch the thieves. Bancroft said after the incident, 'They just couldn't believe' that they'd been caught by cops on horseback.

Father Josip Stefancic, a 35-year-old priest from Slunj, Croatia, was arrested for four drink-related offences. He admitted to punching a fellow drinker in a restaurant after the man had made a rude comment about Stefancic's mother and explained that he had a rifle with him because he had been hunting. He is accused of brandishing the weapon in front of worried patrons of the restaurant, causing a car crash after leaving the restaurant, and insulting officers when refusing to submit to a breath test. According to Vecernji List, Stefancic explained 'Someone must have put something in my drink. I only had a few glasses of wine and I doubt I could get that drunk from that amount of alcohol.'

Three people wearing hoods over their faces approached an Australian restaurant, perhaps with robbery in mind. One of them tried to push the door open and failed. According to Acting Senior Sergeant John Klepzcarek, spokesman for the police in Gerringong, New South Wales, 'Because it wouldn't open, he started kicking it.' Bemused diners watched as the three men made a few more attempts at opening the unlocked sliding door and then ran off.

Zhu Yongcheng, a 62-year-old Chinese man, told four separate people that he was Sun Yat-sen and needed their help to recover the equivalent of thousands of trillions of euros in assets that had been locked in foreign bank accounts since the early 20th century. All he needed was a little money to get him started. This advance fee fraud netted Zhu roughly 84,000 euros. To add to his credibility, Zhu had had a seal made with the name 'Sun Yat-sen' on it and memorised details of his alter-ego's life, which ended in 1925. Zhu is now appearing before a Beijing court.

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© 2004 Anna Shefl