News of the Weird

Week of December 24, 2000


-- Las Vegas body modifier Nathan McKay, 24, complained in November about the difficulty of getting proper medical care: further surgery to prevent his already surgically forked tongue from fusing back together and removal of all teeth (and replacement with platinum implants). Said McKay, who also has 1-inch-stretched holes in his earlobes (for holding ebony disks): "I want my tongue split ... as far back as possible, to the uvula, so I have two separate strands in my mouth." The original surgeon was a family friend, but he has balked at the follow-up. Said McKay, "I'm not trying to turn myself into anything except someone to remember."

-- London's The Independent reported from Tokyo in December on the prolonged, even "epic" sulk (a state of funk called "hikikomori") that afflicts a million young professionals, who simply withdraw from their careers and hole up nearly 24 hours a day in their apartments (or rooms in the family home) for months at a time, emerging only to gather food before retreating back inside for TV or other solitary pastimes. Many psychiatrists call it merely an extreme reaction to parents who have pressured their sons to succeed.

Where They Store Their Kids

Girls, ages 10 and 5, were harnessed together daily in a motel room while stepfather was at work (Des Moines, Iowa, September). Girl, 7, kept in a clothes dryer daily for weeks by foster mother (Ottawa, Ontario, September). Boys, 2 and 6, put into tumbling clothes dryers as punishment by mother's boyfriend and mother, respectively (Chicago, October; Niles, Mich., November). Boys, age 17 and 12, chained to bedpost by father, who, citing Proverbs, said he feared they "will grow up and kill their parents" (Riverside, Calif., October). Girl, 16, chained up by father for fear of promiscuity (Corpus Christi, Texas, October). Boys, 5 and 7, kept in trunk of car while mother was at work (San Jose, Calif., November).

Compelling Explanations

-- In a September hearing before an employee appeals panel in Drogheda, Ireland, Paula Levins, 36, claimed her dismissal by the accounting firm M.A. Whately was retaliation for her unwillingness to share an office with an excessively flatulent co-worker and that she should get her job back. Levins said she was pregnant at the time and that the man's gas exacerbated her nausea, especially in the winter when windows were closed.

[Drogheda Independent, 9-29-00]

-- In arguments to a federal appeals court, convicted drug dealer Jorge M. Lopeztegui claimed he was not guilty by reason of entrapment, which he said drug agents committed by not arresting him despite having enough evidence to do so, with the result that he therefore felt free to commit more crimes. (Lopeztegui's appeal was rejected in October.)

-- According to an October report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the city's leading traffic-ticket scofflaw is Thomas Wehrer (250 tickets outstanding, totaling $16,375), who is angry at the city's having changed its rules for collection. Previously, tickets were filed by vehicle so Wehrer would drive junk cars and abandon them with impunity. Recently, the city began filing tickets by owner, making it worthwhile to pursue Wehrer, who claims that's unfair, in that by having continued to register Wehrer's junkers, the city "enabled" his ticket-accumulation habit. (Wehrer also argues that he's a good citizen: Whenever he parks illegally beside a fire hydrant, he leaves the windows down so firefighters could run their hoses through the car.)

Courtroom Antics

-- In October, a federal appeals court refused to grant a new trial to Texas death-row inmate Calvin Burdine despite evidence that Burdine's lawyer slept during portions of his trial. The court said it was unable to determine exactly when the lawyer slept and thus that he might have slept only during unimportant parts.

-- Diane Tuzzolino told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter in November that Cook County Judge James T. Ryan, swearing in as witnesses her daughters, ages 8 and 12, in a fee dispute with an animal hospital, told the girls, "If you lie (on the witness stand), you will go to hell." Judge Ryan said he was simply carrying out state law, which requires judges to make sure children know the consequences of lying.

-- A Texas judicial discipline panel issued a public reprimand in April to a former judge, Robert Hollman, who heard child-support actions in Odessa until he resigned early in 2000 following a female employee's sexual harassment complaint. According to the panel, Hollman played an almost-daily, nonconsensual "bondage game" with the woman in which he bound her hands and ankles together and gagged her and then timed her as to how quickly she could escape.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported on jurors who identify a little too much with those they were judging, most recently Gillian Guess, who was convicted in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1998 for her jury-box flirtations with a murder defendant with whom she subsequently had an affair. An August 2000 Washington Post story profiled Dale City, Va., jury foreman Jennifer Day, 30, who led a death-row recommendation for brutal, conscienceless rapist-murderer Paul Warner Powell in May but then spent the next three months visiting Powell for hours daily, becoming his "soul mate," expressing her "love" for him (though Day claims to be happily married), and ultimately testifying that she and her colleagues had made the wrong sentencing recommendation. Said Day, "It's twisted, I know. I don't know if I even fully understand it."

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (41) Carjackers who come up empty-handed because they never learned to drive a stick shift, as was the case with a teen-ager who failed at stealing a 1998 Mustang GT in Bedford, Texas, in July. And (42) the criminal suspect running from police and who leaps into a river, though either unable to swim or unaware of the water's temperature or treacherousness, and drowns, such as Louis Wade Hermann, 24, in Louisville, Ky., in September (who would have been charged only with public drunkenness).

Least Competent Criminals

In "The Bar," Norwegian television's version of "Survivor," 10 participants live and work together for 10 weeks, tracked by video cameras 24 hours a day on the Internet (with highlights shown each evening on television). In October, a 44-year-old man was arrested after he happened to choose, of all apartments to burglarize, the participants' home, while all were at work. As the man moved around the apartment gathering valuables, he was shown on 17 video cameras, and show staff rushed to the apartment and captured him after catching a glimpse on the Internet.

Also, in the Last Month ...

The San Francisco Ballet School denied illegally discriminating against an 8-year-old applicant when it rejected her because it guessed she wouldn't become a tall enough adult to be a first-class ballerina. Cost-conscious Buckingham Palace officials said they were contemplating closing a subsidized staff bar which has long permitted employees to drink on duty. A Japanese rail line scheduled some female-only cars during December to head off an expected epidemic of passenger-groping by holiday-reveling men. A deer hunter was accidentally shot in the leg when he tried to pose his dog for a photo holding a shotgun (Bay City, Mich.).

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

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

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