News of the Weird

Week of October 12, 1997

-- In July, a group of lawyers and state legislators petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to halt all executions immediately and appoint a commission to study why, in the 20 years since the state reinstated the death penalty, more death row convicts have subsequently been found innocent and freed (nine) than have been executed (eight).

-- Among the many varieties of Tamagotchi toys (egglike, electronic "virtual pets" that must be fed and cared for lest they die) is "My Baby Dinosaur" manufactured by a company in China. An Associated Press story in August reported a complaint of Ms. Dale Brooks when she bought one at the Meriden (Conn.) Square Mall. The user's manual apparently was written by someone for whom English is not the primary language. In several places, instructions on how to deal with the dinosaur's virtual defecation freely and matter-of-factly use the s-word.

-- In June, the Court of Appeal in London, England, turned down Thomas Moringiello's challenge to his fraud conviction and 18-month prison sentence. Although Moringiello was able to prove that Judge Richard Hamilton had slept through portions of the testimony at trial the year before, the higher court said Moringiello was not harmed because Hamilton still was able to give a summary of the case for the jury's deliberation.

SCHEMES

-- In August, a judge in Des Moines, Iowa, turned down two inmates' petitions for Jewish ceremonies, citing the facts that the men were not Jews when they came to prison and don't know much about Jewish traditions, and the suspicion that the men were only interested in Jewish ceremonial fruits and shawls, which are helpful to inmates in, respectively, making wine and strangling people.

-- Bad Pick-up Routines: Arlington, Va., produce clerk Salvador Rodriguez, 38, was charged with trying to fondle a female customer at a Giant Food store in August. According to the woman, Rodriguez approached her at the spinach bin and told her he knew where she could get some even fresher spinach, and she followed him to a back room. And in July, Jeffrey Maurice Young, 19, was arrested in Gastonia, N.C., and charged with assault. Police said Young had hidden under a table at the Outback Steakhouse and had begun to touch the legs of two women who had sat down to eat (and who at first thought there was a loose thread on the tablecloth). When discovered, he fled the restaurant but was captured nearby.

-- Though the Fiesta de San Isidro in Madrid, Spain, in June is reputed to be the world's major bullfighting event, organizers this year had economized by buying cheaper, docile bulls. An ordinary card would feature six bulls with three alternates. One night, the main bulls were booed and the three substitutes quickly used up, so one of the rejected bulls was painted with white splotches and returned to the ring masquerading as a fresh one. However, the crowd got wise, and rioted, when the toreador's red pants turned whiter and whiter with each pass.

-- Arab-born Israeli mechanic Azzam Azzam, who has been in jail in Egypt since November, charged with industrial espionage, was again turned down for release in August, despite flimsy evidence against him, and faces life in prison. Azzam, working in Egypt on an Israeli joint venture, was accused of writing Egyptian factory secrets in invisible ink on Calvin Klein women's underwear and passing them along to a cohort, who allegedly sent them on to Israel. Egyptian authorities say the cohort has confessed, even though no one knows what Azzam could possibly have learned that could be of use to Israeli intelligence.

UH-OH!

-- After Calle, 30, a San Francisco Zoo elephant, had many times rejected her tuberculosis medicine, the curator and a local pharmacist finally devised a drug-delivery system in August: Calle was fitted with special 10-inch-long, two-pound, cocoa-butter suppositories containing the medicines, which she'll have to take daily for 10 months. A team of four is required to administer each one, and, said associate curator Michele Rudovsky, "It's not a pretty sight."

-- Surprises: In July, Charmaine Josiah, 24, awakened in the middle of the night in Pompano Beach, Fla., to an unfamiliar touch in her bed. When she turned on the light, there on her pillow was Theodore, a 5-foot-long boa constrictor that had escaped from a neighbor's house weeks earlier. And in August in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thor Skule lifted his toilet seat first thing one morning and saw the head of a 3-foot-long python peeking up through the bowl; it had been hiding in the plumbing since the previous occupant of Skule's apartment moved out in April.

-- In April, San Diego plastic surgeon Joseph Graves was found negligent by a jury in breast-implant surgery on a 30-year-old former beauty queen. According to the woman, Graves was assisted in surgery by a friend of his, a waiter, who may actually have been the one who inserted the implants. More than 20 lawsuits against Graves are still pending.

-- The Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard reported in July that a driver fired two years earlier by Greyhound for drunk-driving was now employed in Liverpool, N.Y., as a driving instructor at the National Tractor Trailer School. The driver had challenged her firing, claiming she had never driven a bus drunk, despite the company's contention that one time on the job she was so drunk that she urinated in her pants twice.

EH-UUUH, GROSS!

-- In July, the Centers for Disease Control reported the first instance of HIV transmitted not through sex or drugs but through deep kissing. However, doctors insisted the transmitting agent was not saliva but blood. Doctors said that the man had gum disease, canker sores and "hairlike growths on his tongue," and the woman had bleeding gums, but that the couple nonetheless were very affectionate.

-- In August, it took a recovery team two days finally to pull out the body of a 23-year-old tourist who slipped and fell over a scenic waterfall at Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada. During the two days, visitors expecting to take in a remarkably beautiful site were forced to gaze also at the dead body lodged in the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.

-- Maria Garza filed a $50,000 lawsuit against her landlord in Moorhead, Minn., in July because bugs had so thoroughly infested her apartment in 1994 that allegedly one crawled in her ear while she was sleeping and stayed for a week before a doctor extracted it. The landlord's lawyer said the lawsuit is frivolous since Garza is a migrant worker and probably brought bugs with her to Minnesota.

RECURRING THEMES

-- Latest escape through a narrow jail opening by a soaped-up prisoner (Walterboro, N.C., August, William Evans, 18, 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, 9-inch passage between two walls); latest overdone robbery (East Knoxville, Tenn., July, three men with a 9mm handgun took four bags of potato chips from a Subway sandwich shop); latest fortuitous discovery of treatable brain tumor (Sacramento, Calif., August, revealed when a woman had an MRI after being hit by train); latest wealthy dog (New York City, August, mixed-breed shepherd belonging to the late tobacco heir Doris Duke, had a $100,000 trust fund approved by a judge).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)

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