News of the Weird

Week of April 13, 1997

-- The (Nashville) Tennessean reported in February on state government engineer Ken Robichaux's lonely, 10-year crusade to wipe out both the English system of measurement and the metric system, in favor of one that combines weight, length and volume into a single set of measures denominated as (not surprisingly) "robies." (For example, 25 robies could stand for any of 8 ounces, 1 cup, 250 milliliters, 250 grams or 250 cubic centimeters.) He said Al Gore, when he was a senator, once called his ideas "intriguing."

-- In Milwaukee, the family of Robert Senz demanded shortly after his burial last July that Borgwardt Funeral Home dig up the body because his wallet was missing. Sure enough, the wallet containing $64 and credit cards was still in Senz's pocket. In February 1997, Borgwardt sent the family a reburial bill for $2,149, but then decided the whole thing was the county medical examiner's fault and sent the bill there, but that office has denied responsibility.

-- In March, four strippers at the Scene Karaoke and Coconut Karaoke bars in Pattaya, Thailand, were fined a total of about $80 for indecency for an act in which live ducklings were placed inside plastic "eggs" (with air holes) and inserted into the women's bodies so that in the course of their routines, they would "lay" the eggs, which would then "hatch."

OOPS!

-- In February in Redwood City, Calif., Rachel Landa, 48, got out of her van to pump gas, but when she realized the hose wouldn't reach, she instructed her 14-year-old daughter to get behind the wheel and back it up. By the time the girl wrestled the van to a stop, the mother had been run over three times (broken ankle, foot and finger), and the van had crashed into a traffic signal box adjacent to the station.

-- Latest Highway Truck Spills: Several hundred thousand apples near Brighton, Mich., in November; a tractor-trailer full of Hills Bros. ground coffee in downtown Louisville in December; a truck hauling spaghetti sauce and ranch dressing (colliding with a truckful of computers) on I-35 in Austin, Texas, in January; and during a November ice storm, a tractor-trailer full of nuclear weapons near Brownlee, Neb. (an accident kept secret for a month by the federal government).

-- John O'Neill, 73, had to be rescued by firefighters in Huntington, N.Y., in February after he wandered out of a bar late at night and somehow got wedged between two buildings overnight. He was stuck so tight that he had to be pulled out from above.

WELL-PUT

-- A breathalyzer company executive testifying in a Knoxville, Tenn., DUI trial in September, disputing the defendant's contention that an untimely belch yielded a falsely positive reading: "Belching? I frankly have never seen a belch that brought alcohol up into the oral cavity."

-- Honduran Congressman Julio Villatoro, reacting in February to the bigamy charge filed by his wife: "(I) have problems with my wife, even though she knows a handsome man is not for one woman but for several. God gave me a physique attractive to women, and I take advantage of it."

-- Employees who have become ill in asbestos-laden workplaces have their own class-action lawsuit, so lawyer Michael V. Kelley filed one in January in Cleveland on behalf of employees in those workplaces who are perfectly healthy (in case they someday become ill). Said Kelley, "It's very proactive."

-- King Letsie III, 33, king of Lesotho, imploring other southern African monarchs and dignitaries in December to help him find a wife: "The pressure on me to find a wife soon is heavy, especially (from) my mother. (I) sometimes feel jealous when I see other leaders getting partners with such remarkable ease."

RECENT CRIMINAL MOTIVES

-- Kevin Carter, 21, and Michael Harrison, 26, were charged with murder and armed robbery in Boynton Beach, Fla., in December. Motive: to raise money to attend the police academy.

-- Darrel Voeks, 38, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Appleton, Wis., in December for stealing $100,000 worth of pigs from his farmer-employer. Motive: to pay for breast implants for a stripper at a club he patronized.

-- Michael Pollina, 26, pleaded guilty in Chicago in February to three bank robberies. Motive: to pay for a lavish reception that he and his fiancee had planned for their upcoming wedding.

-- Jack Swint, 42, pleaded guilty to passing bad checks in Roanoke, Va., in November (while he was awaiting trial on other bad-check charges). Motive: needed to pay for counseling sessions to help him kick his bad-check habit.

UPDATE

The famously dysfunctional Sexton family, headed by Eddie and Estella, of Canton, Ohio, and Tampa, Fla., made News of the Weird in 1994 and 1996 based on almost unimaginable charges of incest, child molestation and murder. In March 1997, son Willie, 26, was found to be "competent" after two years in the Florida state mental hospital, and now will stand trial for killing his sister's husband (as allegedly ordered by Eddie, who feared the husband would turn Eddie in for killing the man's baby, whose crying annoyed Eddie). Ostensibly, the dead baby was Eddie's own grandson, but according to trial testimony in a case against Estella, the baby was actually Eddie's own son, the result of a father-daughter coupling.

(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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