News of the Weird

Week of August 29, 1999

-- The city commission of the border town of El Cenizo, Texas, voted in August to establish Spanish as the town's official language and to prohibit municipal employees, under penalty of firing, from cooperating with the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service on undocumented aliens. Mayor Rafael Rodriguez has acknowledged that he entered the United States illegally many years ago (though he is now a citizen).

-- Scottish psychopathic murderer Noel Ruddle, who has been in the Carstairs mental hospital in Glasgow for eight years, was released in August because no treatment is currently available for his paranoid schizophrenia, and British law prevents a prisoner's hospitalization if it does not result in the improvement, however slight, of his condition. Various officials and psychiatrists quoted in the British press were aghast at the decision, for nearly 2,000 seriously disturbed prisoners are in situations similar to Ruddle's.

Everyone's Favorite Understatement

"I know I'm not perfect" (recidivist drunk driver Donald Branch, sentenced to 49 years in prison for killing a pregnant woman and her daughter, Memphis, Tenn., June). "I'm not perfect" (Steven Carmichael, 39, with convictions for burglary, theft, drug trafficking and two rapes, Portland, Maine, July). "I'm not perfect" (convicted murderer Raymond O. Nichols, placing a singles ad from his Massachusetts prison cell, May). "(She's) not perfect" (Salt Lake Tribune reporter writing a sympathetic article about a once-drug-crazed mother asking for custody of the daughter she abandoned, June). "He's not perfect" (Monica Turner, wife of boxer-rapist Mike Tyson, May).

Awesome, Duuude!

-- The San Francisco Examiner reported in June that one-third of outdoor rodents at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge have both male and female reproductive organs, a finding attributed to a nearby reservoir of selenium, which is a byproduct of agricultural runoff. The lead investigator said the rodents are male on the outside and female on the inside.

-- Latest Survived Plunges: Allen Frith, age 45, 75 feet off a cliff at his home near Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (February); 30-year-old woman in her car, off the seventh floor of a parking garage, Pittsburgh (April); 27-year-old man, 80 feet off a construction platform, Washington, D.C. (July); Leung Man-chun, 8, 17 floors from a Hong Kong apartment (with four clotheslines and a canopy breaking his fall) (April).

-- Spectacular Crashes: Piedmont, Mo., teen driver Rory Dale Smith survived a collision with a train even though he was ejected from his truck and slammed through the rolled-up passenger window of another truck (March). A one-vehicle crash on the Capital Beltway in Alexandria, Va., vaulted the chihuahua Tito over a 4-foot-high median barrier and four lanes of traffic safely to the grassy shoulder (April). Olivier Faure, 21, was knocked off his motorcycle by a car in the village of Upaix, France, but walked and hitchhiked, in shock, to his home six miles away before he realized that his forearm had been severed (February).

Questionable Judgments

-- In July, police in Tijuana, Mexico, investigating a roadside sniper attack, jailed suspect Dennis A. Macchione, 33, before they had released the victim's two companions, whom they were holding temporarily. The companions chatted and shared food with Macchione but only because they didn't know who he was; they said if they had known, they'd have killed him. (In December, Las Vegas police inadvertently locked up a witness to a contract killing in the same holding cell with one of the two men accused of arranging the hit.)

-- At a pretrial hearing in Albuquerque, N.M., in March, a judge disclosed government witnesses' addresses over prosecutors' protests; among the evidence: a rap song recorded by the defendants' gang, the Sureno 13, that included a chorus, "I gotta kill me a witness." And key evidence convicting Jeffrey Myrick at his February trial in Cambridge, Mass., for pushing his girlfriend off of a roof: a poem he wrote, reading: "As we stand here / on the roof top / for an unknown reason / my girlfriend took a hop / I screamed / call a cop / because I threw my girl from the top."

-- A 19-year-old man was hospitalized in Salt Lake City in June after personally investigating whether a .22-caliber bullet inside a straw could be ejected by hitting it with a hammer. Answer: sometimes (including this time, wounding the man in the stomach).

-- In June in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thomas Hendry, 23, won the "How Far Will You Go?" contest at Trader McKendry's Tavern (prize: about $300 (U.S.)) by stapling his penis to a crucifix and setting it on fire. Hendry said he needed to pay some bills and was inspired by an earlier contestant who merely pierced his foreskin with a safety pin: "I thought I could do better than that." Hendry's mother was in the bar that night and said, "I'm just very relieved that he won. I would have hated for someone to go through all that and (lose)."

Leading Economic Indicators

According to recent figures, about 90 people per day in Japan kill themselves, a per capita rate about 75 percent higher than the suicide rate in the United States. The main reason, according to experts cited in a July New York Times dispatch, is the shame and fear of layoffs during Japan's recession. And in July, Villaricca, Italy, with more than 20 percent unemployed, conducted a televised drawing among 177 contestants for six municipal street-sweeper jobs.

Recurring Themes

People continue to receive surprises as they innocently take their seats in the bathroom. In May, Betty Rook, 79, was hospitalized in Petersburg, Va., with a rat bite on her butt as she sat on the toilet; city official Tim Jones said he gets about one report a year of a rat making it through sewer lines into a residential toilet. And as Tom Smelcer of Apsley, Ontario, flushed his toilet in April, he saw a bird battling against the flow, finally thrusting itself free and crashing against Smelcer's head; health officials said it probably came from a roof-top septic-tank vent.

Least Justifiable Homicides

I Love This Game: Kenneth Demarrias, 19, was convicted in May in Kansas City, Mo., of killing two and wounding a third after an argument over a basketball game. And Yasser Ashburn, 15, confessed in January in Brooklyn, N.Y., that he stabbed a 14-year-old boy to death after a school basketball game in which the latter starred in his team's victory.

Also, in the Last Month ...

After an investigation to alleviate residents' fears, police in the village of Durness, Scotland, issued a public certificate of assurance that two recently arrived gay restaurateurs were definitely not pedophiles. A Franciscan nun admitted scrawling white supremacist graffiti on the walls of a hospital just to see how people would react (Joliet, Ill.). A fire broke out in a beer factory but was quickly quashed when the flames melted a hose, releasing 25 gallons of brew (Ostrava, Czech Republic). A 38-year-old man was charged with sexually assaulting three sheep (Lakeside, Calif.). A judge foiled a conciliation plan by Cleveland mayor Michael White (who is black) to allow Ku Klux Klan members to use a police building to change into their robes and hoods at their Aug. 21 march.

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

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