News of the Weird

Week of September 15, 1996

-- The London insurance brokerage Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson announced in August it would begin to offer policies to cover people worried about alien abduction. A premium of about $155 a year would pay off about $160,000 to an abductee (provided the abductor was not from Earth) and double that if the insured is impregnated during the abduction. Since alien powers are unknown, men can purchase the impregnation rider, also. Said Goodfellow director Simon Burgess, "I personally would not buy [this] policy."

-- Pushing the Envelope in Police Sex Stings: In April, a sheriff's spokesman in Fort Collins, Colo., admitted that police officers actually engaged in sex with prostitutes during a January sting instead of making the arrest at the point at which the women agreed to have sex for money. Said the spokesman, "[T]he officers thought they needed to do what they did to make the case." And in June, North Carolina's Alcohol Law Enforcement agents in Jacksonville made similar admissions. One agent testified that he put his fingers on a woman's genitals in order to "feel it occurring." Said ALE's lawyer, "If this wasn't the proper role of law enforcement, I don't know what is."

-- Contest Mania: In July, Pepsi Cola was sued by a Lynnwood, Wash., man who took seriously the company's light-hearted offer to redeem 7 million premium points for a Harrier fighter jet in a "Pepsi Stuff" promotion. And in August, a federal appeals court in St. Louis forced Nationwide Insurance Co. to award a slogan-contest-winning ex-employee "his-and-hers" Mercedes-Benzes despite the company's claim that it was just kidding. And in July, David Lee filed a lawsuit against the Cafe Santa Fe in Rogers, Ark., after it denied him a Kawasaki Jet Ski because he failed to write a reason why he liked a certain menu item on his prize-winning entry form. Lee contends that the required "25 words or less" includes "zero words."

QUESTIONABLE JUDGMENTS

-- Amid howls of protest, John Crutchley, 49, Florida's "vampire rapist" and a beneficiary of the state's early-release prison program, was let out on 50 years' probation in August after serving only 10 years in prison for a heinous, blood-drinking rape in 1985. However, Crutchley violated probation by testing positive for marijuana use on the day of his release. Thus, he lost the benefit of early release, and for drug use during probation, he was returned to serve the 50 years behind bars.

-- In Ottawa, Ohio, in May, church secretary Linda Siefer was sentenced to two years in prison for a scheme in which she systematically removed all $20 bills from the collection plates at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Kalida, Ohio, over a four-year period. Ms. Siefer and her husband lived well above their combined $32,000 income, but the scheme did not come to light until a bank employee thought it odd that there were never any $20 bills in the church's deposits.

-- In April in Bedford, Va., John M. Kirby decided to show off to his passengers as he drove by a group of police officers demonstrating drug bust techniques to reporters. Kirby yelled some trash talk, and the officers, seeing Kirby's faulty taillight, chased him. According to police, Kirby had marijuana in the truck and a suspended driver's license.

-- In June, after an investigation, Montreal, Quebec, coroner Teresa Sourour criticized the Fleury Hospital for its judgment in January not to come immediately to the aid of a 75-year-old man who had suffered a heart attack just outside the building. Hospital employees reportedly discussed whether to go out in the minus-20-degree weather to help the man but finally decided just to call an ambulance. The man died a few minutes later.

-- William Keith Fortner, 35, whom a judge put on probation last year for sending three nude photos of himself to a nurse, pleaded guilty in St. Louis in July to sending another one -- to the judge who gave him the probation. After the probation ended in February, Fortner left a message on the female judge's voice mail that said: "I really like you. I hope you don't get upset with the picture I [am sending]. I hope you remember me."

-- After a major riot in April at the Winnipeg, Manitoba, jail, supervisors hired many temporary workers to clean up, and among those who applied and was hired, according to the Winnipeg Sun, was Stephen Lee Gressman, 30, who was at the time on Manitoba's 10 Most Wanted list for extortion and assault. He worked a few days and left town just before being identified.

-- In July, Richard Gallagher was arrested in Mineola, N.Y., and charged with aggravated harassment after making a telephone call to get help in blowing up the high school where he had just lost his job as custodian. The call he made was to a "Peter King," whose number Gallagher had obtained from a friend. Unknown to Gallagher, Peter King is a U.S. congressman. Said Gallagher to police, "I thought he was one of the boys."

THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

-- Albuquerque, N.M., schoolteacher Scott Glasrud failed by two votes (1,170 to 1,168) in the Republican primary for a state senate seat in June, and the next month realized that his father-in-law's and mother-in-law's votes for him had not been counted because a death in the family had delayed their mailing in their write-in ballots.

-- In August, Julian Carlo Fagotti, 30, kicked off his TV ad campaign for a seat on the city council of Curitiba, Brazil, by standing before the camera nude except for one of his brochures held in a strategic spot. Said Fagotti, "[My opponents] are the ones to be ashamed [for how they treat the voters]."

-- In June, the Los Angeles Times profiled California chiropractor and state assemblyman Martin Gallegos, who said he cheerfully offers free chiropractic adjustments to his legislative colleagues and staff members in his office and has treated at least a dozen assembly members of both parties.

UPDATE

News of the Weird reported in 1991 that the Avon, Colo., town council had resorted to a contest to name the new bridge over Eagle River linking I-70 with U.S. Highway 6. Sifting through 84 suggestions (such as "Eagle Crossing"), the council voted, 4-2, to give it the official name "Bob." In August 1996, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that "Bob" is running in second place in an official contest to rename Canada's Northwest Territories province after Nunavut becomes a separate jurisdiction in 1999.

GOD'S WILL

In July, 58 worshipers, seeking divine protection on an astrologically unlucky day, were crushed to death by other stampeding worshipers at two Hindu shrines in the cities of Haridwar and Ujjain, India. And in August, a 9-year-old boy was crushed to death when a granite tombstone fell over on him at a Bible school in Summerville, Ga. Also in August, according to police in New Orleans, Melvin Hitchens, 66, who had been reading the Bible on his front porch, put it down, fetched his gun, and shot to death a neighbor woman with whom he had been feuding about the cleanliness of their yards.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 74777.3206@compuserve.com.)

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