News of the Weird

Week of December 5, 1999

-- In October Derek Farmer, 42, who served 18 years in prison for the murders of a civil rights activist and a police officer in Dayton, Ohio, passed Ohio's bar exam and was sworn in as a lawyer. However, two weeks earlier, Kevin Kapel was denied permission to take the same exam because of insufficient "character and fitness" to become a lawyer; Kapel's criminal record consists only of charges that he stole a girlfriend's cat and once tried to take his car back illegally from a mechanic. (Farmer's application was helped by the strong support of his presiding judge and two other judges.)

-- According to a November Boston Globe story, upper-crust restaurants in New York and Boston have taken to adding genuine gold flakes to some dishes, not merely as garnish but with the expectation that they be eaten. Boston's Riba restaurant recently offered "risotto of summer's golden squashes with leaf of 24-carat gold." Said the owner, "It's so thin and weightless that by the time you eat it, it's gonzo." She added, "There's a feeling of plenty around. People are feeling rich."

Latest Bra Technology

In July, London art student Kursty Groves told reporters she had developed a prototype "Techno Bra," which houses in its lining a Global Positioning Satellite locator, heart-rate monitor and cell phone transmitter, to be activated if the wearer is attacked (which supposedly produces a heartbeat distinct from that produced by exercising or passion). Also in July, a report of an American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study indicated success with the battery-operated vacuum bra that removes air from its two domes so that breasts are sucked forward; 15 women testers grew by an average of one cup size after 10 weeks.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Tensions grow daily in rural Eatonton, Ga. (60 miles southeast of Atlanta), between the Putnam County sheriff intent on enforcing agricultural zoning laws and the 80 African-American disciples of Chief Black Eagle Malachi York, who has built a religious retreat, with shops and 40-foot-high pyramids, called Tama-Re: Egypt of the West. York, a convicted felon who says he was born in the galaxy Illyuwn and who invented the group's Arabic-English-blend language, Nuwabic, teaches that a spaceship will land in 2003 and take away only 144,000 chosen people.

-- According to an October report in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, a national Christian "lighthouse movement" seeks to pray for every single person in the United States by the end of next year. Among the techniques suggested: praying for the 10 households to your left and right and to the five in front; praying for people listed in telephone directories; and, in rough neighborhoods, "drive-by praying." In late August, a convention of related groups met near Dallas to assess how they could best spend the remaining months on their particular goal of exposing every single person on Earth to Christianity by the end of next year.

-- The Wall Street Journal reported in September on efforts by the United Society of Believers (better known as the Shakers, named for the way they tremble while worshipping) to recruit new members. By the mid-1800s, there were 6,000 members, but since part of their philosophy is celibacy, there are now only seven, living near New Gloucester, Maine. Though their original philosophy was built on "separation from the world," the Shakers now have a Web site, give musical concerts and sell CDs.

Police Blotter

-- Police in Stockton, Calif., arrested Tina Watts, 28, in June and charged her with cruelty to an animal after she shot a neighbor's dog. She claimed the dog had just bitten her 4-year-old son, but she later admitted that wasn't true after police discovered that the bloody dog-bite wound was just a bandage she had saturated with ketchup.

-- Thieves Living Large: In July, thieves stole more than a mile of natural-gas pipeline, weighing 250 tons, near Kotovskoye, Russia. And in August, thieves stole an entire neighborhood garden in London's West End. And in March, thieves stole an 11-prefabricated-building high school, along with its security fence, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. And in July, thieves stole every single thing (except a few clothes) out of a townhouse in Montreal, including toilet paper on the holder.

-- Two thieves abandoned their rental car in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in May and escaped, leaving a sheep and three goats in the car, allegedly rustled from a farmer. The sheep was wearing a dress, and the goats wore shirts, pants and hats. Police guessed the thieves had dressed the animals to avert suspicion, but with nightfall approaching, the driver actually created suspicion when he failed to turn on his headlights.

-- Problems of Postmodern Policework: Flamboyant cross-dresser Donald Ray Johnson was arrested in Baton Rouge, La., in September on theft charges after police found him hiding in a closet. According to an Associated Press report, Johnson did not resist arrest, but he did ask police if they could wait a couple of minutes for him to fix his hair.

Active Seniors

Paul Faglin, 87, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for strangling his wife (age 83) out of jealousy (Rouen, France, in June). Brose Gearheart, 90, was sentenced to four years in prison for trafficking in crack cocaine (Saugerties, N.Y., April). J.L. Hunter Roundtree, 88, was arrested and charged with bank robbery (Pensacola, Fla., October). Driver Warren Collins, 83, critically injured his wife and himself by plunging over an embankment into the Pacific Ocean after doing "doughnuts" with his car showing it off to a prospective buyer (Long Beach, Calif., October).

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1996 on a hospital in Kinshasa, Zaire, that was detaining newborn babies and their mothers until they paid their bills. In September 1999, Reuters reported that the government's Sina hospital in Tehran, Iran, earlier in the year created a detention cell in the building, staffed by three guards, that has housed about two dozen patients a month who had not paid their bills. Said the hospital's director, "We had no other choice."

Least Competent Criminals

In September, Roland Tough, 22, and five colleagues, convicted of theft in Greater Manchester, England, were given prison sentences of from three to six years. The men had burglarized a Tesco's department store in Walkden, with Tough commemorating the heist as the gang's official photographer. However, Tough later dropped off the roll of film for processing at the very same Tesco's, and employees recognized some of the stolen items.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A jail warden accidentally fell to his death from the ceiling on top of a conjugal-visit couple he was spying on (Tapachula, Mexico). The year-old investigation of a used-car salesman's murder was stalled when police discovered that the man was hated by so many people (Edmonton, Alberta). A 40-year-old suicide, rigging a gun to shoot himself in the head, missed, sending a round into his groin (Glendale, Ariz.). A woman serving a life sentence for stomping another woman to death broke down in tears as she told prison authorities how a fellow inmate had killed her two pet fish (Kingston, Ontario). A 270-pound University of Kansas football player got stuck in a Taco Bell drive-thru window when he climbed in after a clerk who had screwed up his chalupa order.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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