News of the Weird

Week of August 16, 1998

-- In Columbus, Ohio, in July, convicted child-pornography importer Timothy Rowles, 29, had his prison sentence bumped from one year to two after he wrote the judge a letter showing a lack of remorse. Rowles asked the judge matter-of-factly if his explicit, kid-sex magazines could be returned to him, saying they did not violate "community standards." "I'm part of the community," he wrote, "and if what I have doesn't bother me, why should it matter?"

-- Rosamaria Machado-Wilson, formerly a manager at BSG, a Panama City, Fla., audio lab doing product development for the gambling industry, filed a lawsuit against the company in July, claiming she was fired for not embracing the company's workplace Christianity. The lawsuit claims the company forced her to be baptized and to attend prayer meetings and that Machado-Wilson sometimes encountered prostrate employees in the office, praying in tongues. She claims the experience caused her to compulsively read the Bible and to refuse conjugal sex.

-- Tourists driving a pickup truck with California plates camped out in a Peruvian historical-landmark area in July and defaced the thin, 1,000-year-old Indian etchings (called the Nazca Lines) with their tire marks. The stretch of desert 250 miles south of Lima is not well-guarded but is ringed with concrete markers, and some observers believe that it will take decades for blowing sand to cover the tire tracks. The tourists also left garbage behind.

Least Justified Road Rages

A 41-year-old man in a pickup truck was arrested in Conneaut, Ohio, in May and charged with shooting two volunteer firefighters. The victims were assisting an ambulance crew to tend to an elderly woman; apparently, the ambulance driver, with traffic stopped in both directions, was taking too much time backing out of a driveway and thus needed to be shot. And in April on the side of I-395 in Alexandria, Va., during rush hour, Army Maj. Odie Butler stood for 45 minutes protecting a critically wounded woman whose van had just overturned. During the wait, Butler said he had to endure many refusals to call for help, plus epithets and middle fingers, because the accident had blocked a lane of traffic.

Cliches Come to Life

In May, when New York City sixth-grade teacher Ms. Aishah Ahmad, 44, declined to switch the classroom TV set from educational programming to "The Jerry Springer Show," four girls aged 11 and 12 pounced on her and beat her up, sending her to the hospital. However, a month before that, Stratford (Conn.) High student Joseph Calore filed a lawsuit against the school because it kept the Springer show on in the classroom during an exam. According to Calore, a fight on the show provoked another student to punch Calore and break his jaw.

The Church of Stevie Nicks

In July, while a religious organization was running a controversial national advertising campaign offering help to gays to "change" into heterosexuals, Ronald Anacelteo, 38, was ordered by a court in Los Angeles to stay away from singer Stevie Nicks, whom Anacelteo thought could change him from gay to straight. According to a law enforcement officer, Anacelteo (who is not affiliated with the ad campaign) "is a self-proclaimed homosexual" who believes that Nicks can "heal" his homosexuality and "find (him) a woman to marry."

The Lowest of the Low

-- In June, retired Missouri Highway Patrol investigator Jack Merritt told reporters he had since destroyed the 1994 photograph he admitted playfully taking of Christian County sheriff Steve Whitney touching a murder victim's breast during an autopsy. (The man charged with the murder is in court, questioning autopsy procedures.) And Mark Calebs, 31, was arrested in July in London, Ky., and charged with breaking into the House-Rawlings Funeral Home and stealing the underpants from the body of a 9-year-old girl who had died of cancer.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- In July, a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., rejected a prosecutor's request to stop Latin Kings gang leader Antonio Fernandez from selling Amway products. Fernandez, out on bail on drug charges, is restricted to his home except under certain conditions, and the prosecutor believes a sales route would allow Fernandez a way to conduct Latin Kings business. Fernandez's lawyer, chiding the prosecutors, said the Amway business was a good thing and could lead Fernandez into Tupperware, Mary Kay and Avon.

-- The French company Neyret announced plans earlier this year to market "exciting" underwear, beginning with an aromatic bra that will go on sale sometime this year. While stretched taut, and even more so when it is caressed, the bra will give off scents of pink grapefruit, apple, watermelon, black currant or apricot.

-- In February, the Kloser brewery in Nuezelle, Germany, announced it would soon begin selling dark beer concentrate for foam baths and eczema treatment. The new product differs from beer only in that the yeast is left in, creating its skin-soothing quality. Said owner Helmut Fritsche, "You can bathe in it or drink it. Whoever wants to, can do both."

-- For People With Way Too Much Money: The New York Times reported in April that Burberrys had just introduced six new styles of trench coats for dogs at prices ranging from $65 to $575. A July New York Times feature pictured the Gucci Dog Bowl at $750, black or clear. In late 1997, Gucci introduced its nipple ring attached to the larger "G," at $790 for crystal and $6,300 for diamond.

-- San Diego businessman Denis Braun told the Union-Tribune newspaper in June of his proposal to finance a new downtown baseball stadium for the Padres by selling space inside the outfield wall for about 70,000 urns with ashes of baseball fans, at about $2,500 a slot. According to Braun, the boring alternative would be to "deep-six (the ashes) in a pine box in the back 40 of some anonymous cemetery."

Least Competent Criminals

Jailed drug-dealer suspect Dwayne Brown, 24, in Cambridge (Mass.) Jail in February, allegedly hatched an escape plot with two friends. Brown was to lower a rope-blanket out an 18th-floor jail window; the friends would tie a gun to it; Brown would hoist it up; and Brown could use it to threaten a judge at his next court date. Problems: (1) Despite casing the joint, the friends did not notice a ledge that prevented the rope-blanket from even reaching the street. (2) Jail and court searches still would have uncovered the gun. (3) Most important, guards overheard the whole plan when the friends visited Brown in jail to plot it out and thus had heavy surveillance on the street that night. (Apparently it failed to strike the friends as eerie that no other traffic was present on the sealed-off street.)

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on husbands who Super Glued their wives' genitals in retaliation for alleged extramarital affairs, most recently in a Newport, Tenn., case in 1997. In April 1998, Richard McDonald, 32, was arrested in Rock Island, Ill., for Super Gluing his girlfriend's genitals. And in Easthampton, Mass., in July, Ms. Kim M. Bonafilia, 34, was charged with assaulting her ex-boyfriend with a baseball bat and attempting to Super Glue his penis to his leg after he allegedly admitted he was interested in her only for sex.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Jerome Covington, 43, identified by a woman as the man who broke into her car in Chicago in June and stole her computer, collapsed and died of a heart attack in the police cruiser as he was being taken to the station. The following week, Terrence C. O'Neal, 48, who police say had just robbed a Kroger pharmacy in Westerville, Ohio, collapsed and died in his getaway car (driven by an accomplice) during a 10-minute police chase.

(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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