-- In September, prominent Iraqi orthopedic surgeon Hassan al-Khoudairi abruptly fled the country after local newscasts showed that his patient, Saddam Hussein's son Odai, was still walking with a bad limp after being treated by al-Khoudairi following a 1996 assassination attempt. And in November, the bodies of three prominent Mexican plastic surgeons were found, mutilated and encased in concrete inside 66-gallon drums alongside a highway; the doctors had operated on drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who died in July of complications from the surgery.
-- In November, Paul Z. Singer, head of Singer Financial Corp. in Philadelphia, was sentenced to nine months in prison for an extreme reaction to what he called business pressures. One night in 1996, an extremely depressed Singer decided to deal with his tension by loading a backpack full of spray paint cans into his BMW. When he was arrested, said police, he had written graffiti all over 31 walls, windows and automobiles.
-- Kenneth Curtis, 32, was arrested in November in Hartford, Conn., and state prosecutors will again attempt to bring him to trial for the 1987 murder of a former girlfriend. Curtis had avoided trial earlier because of mental incompetence due to a brain injury caused by his shooting himself in the head in a suicide attempt. A judge had released him in 1989, saying Curtis had almost no chance of ever regaining his faculties, and an appeals court removed an order that he be retested every year. He was freed simply because Connecticut has no law to require him to be detained. WTNH-TV, New Haven, found that Curtis is currently enrolled in a pre-med curriculum at Southern Connecticut State University, with 48 credits and a 3.3 (B) average, and that a state agency had given him almost $1,000 in tuition assistance.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
-- In Springfield, Mo., in June, Vernon Wayne Richmond, 18, stood up in court to give the details of his crime as part of a plea bargain to cocaine possession. Richmond said he found cocaine, put it in his pocket, and then was arrested by police after a Wal-Mart guard detained him. Unfortunately, Richmond had misunderstood which of his cases the plea was for. Actually, the district attorney was prosecuting him for an earlier arrest for having cocaine in his car and was unaware of the Wal-Mart arrest.
-- Army military policeman Daniel Christian Bowden, 20, was arrested in June at the Fort Belvoir (Va.) Federal Credit Union as he attempted to deposit almost $3,000 cash into his account. A teller had called police on Bowden because she recognized him as the very man who had robbed the credit union of nearly $5,000 two weeks earlier.
-- In September in Wichita, Kan., police officers staking out a convenience store inadvertently unnerved two men parked innocently at an adjacent liquor store. According to police, a 19-year-old man in the car had a gun and thought that since police officers were nearby, he ought to get rid of it, but in the process of pulling it out of his pocket, he accidentally fired one round, which hit him in the leg, went through the front seat, and hit the companion, age 20. According to police Capt. Paul Dotson, the officers on stakeout, who had until then ignored the liquor store, had their attention engaged by the gunshot and the gun owner's limping out of the car and throwing the gun over a fence. The shooter was charged with illegal possession of a firearm, and his companion was treated at a hospital and released without charges.
-- Carlos Manuel Perez, 21, was jailed in Anniston, Ala., in October after a series of missteps that almost begged for his arrest. He stopped in front of a local government building in a stolen car, which had no license plate. His intention, he told the first person he saw, was to inquire about getting a nonphoto identification card, since he was not carrying a driver's license. That first person happened to be Sheriff Larry Amerson, in uniform. When pressed for ID, Perez produced a Social Security card with the name Matthew Nowaczewski (though Perez has a dark-skinned Hispanic complexion). He also produced a birth certificate under that name but with some information erased and rewritten in pen, including his birthplace of "MiSSSissippi." Said Amerson later, "I know we're from Alabama, but we're not that stupid."
-- A 17-year-old motorist was cited for driving without a license in Springfield, Ill., in September. When stopped, he gave the name "Johnny Rice," but police got tough with him when he was unable to spell "Johnny" in any of the conventional ways. His real name, he said then, is Dyvon D. Stewart, and after an inquiry of the car's owner, police learned that Stewart had legitimately borrowed it and that despite the false name, he was not wanted by police on any other matter.
THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
-- Tax Reform: In September, Albanian Socialist Party leader Gafur Mazreku and Democratic leader Azem Hajdari got into a fistfight on the floor of the parliament about the wisdom of raising the country's value-added tax from 12.5 percent to 20 percent. Two days later, Mazreku returned to the chamber and seriously wounded Hajdari with four shots from a handgun.
-- In September elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, dictated by the 1995 Dayton peace accords, a Muslim slate won control of the city council of Srebrenica, a city that Serbs had ethnically cleansed of Muslims during the war in what human rights agencies call the worst European atrocities since World War II. However, still not a single Muslim resides in Srebrenica. Under the Dayton agreement, Bosnians, wherever they reside, could elect governments in their former municipalities.
-- One Man, Two Votes: Prosecutors in Madisonville, Tenn., announced in October they would send newspaper publisher Dan Hicks Jr., 76, to trial for voting twice in the 1996 presidential election. Of his second ballot, he said he had taken pain pills and martinis on Election Day for his recent knee surgery, had fallen asleep, had awakened abruptly to a radio warning that the polls would soon close, and had thus rushed to the polling place, completely forgetting that he had voted by early ballot two weeks before. And St. Paul (Minn.) City Council candidate Mark Roosevelt voted twice in the September primary, once based on residing at his current home in St. Paul and again a couple of hours later based on his old residence in Minneapolis, under his former name Mark Hatcher. "It was total ignorance," he said. "I didn't know you couldn't do it."
-- Winston Salem, N.C., mayoral candidate Rick Newton, who had recently stopped taking his manic-depression medicine, was tossed out of court by bailiffs in July after he walked in in a curly black wig and carrying a guitar and a red pillow shaped like lips, claiming he was Jesus. He was there to answer charges that he violated a court order by harassing his estranged wife on the telephone.
NAMES IN THE NEWS
-- Striking Fear in the Hearts of Rival Gangs: Among the six members of the Latin Kings gang in Providence, R.I., who pleaded no contest in October to breaking into an apartment: "Tu-Tu" Vasquez, age 19, and "Hecky-Heck" Heredia, 24.
-- The University of Missouri women's cross country team won both the Illinois Invitational and Loyola Invitational meets in September, earning accolades for its three freshmen stars, Katie Meyer, Angela McBride and Justa Dahl.
-- In Washington, D.C., in October, Mr. Alexander Alexander gave away his daughter Stacy in marriage to Mr. John Roberts Stacey.
(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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