News of the Weird

Week of December 31, 2000

LEAD STORIES

-- In November, U.S. marshals in Detroit confiscated the belongings of Marie Antoinette Jackson-Randolph, a former high-society, day-care chain owner, who is now in prison for scamming the government out of $13.5 million in meal money for underprivileged children she allegedly fed at her centers. Among her "estate": 100 pieces of Baccarat, Waterford and Lalique crystal, 911 purses, 606 pairs of shoes, 165 pairs of boots, a roomful (floor to ceiling) of costume jewelry, and various fur and skin garments (leopard, coyote, mink, fox, sable, chinchilla, snake, lynx, rabbit, lamb, beaver, weasel and raccoon, in a variety of colors). (Said the owner of the company hired to sell the furs: "I don't know whether she hated animals or loved them. It's hard to tell.")

-- According to a December Wall Street Journal report, Commodity Futures Trading Commission judge Bruce Levine has heard nearly 180 cases of alleged broker fraud against investors (who bet on future prices of beef, soybeans, foreign currencies, etc.) in his eight years on the job, yet has ruled against the investor every single time that he was called on to render a decision. (Some cases were settled privately, but even then, according to some parties, Judge Levine often pressured the investor to accept a tiny percentage of his original claim.) The other CFTC judge decides for investors about half the time.

Recent Research

From Susan Smith, a professor of health and safety sciences, University of Tennessee (July): People who use sign language have up to five times greater risk of hand and wrist injuries than people who don't use sign language. From zoologists at the University of Kerala (India), writing in Current Science (July): After eight impotent gerbils had alcohol injected into their eyes to blind them, five of them began to copulate (possibly due to the release of melatonin).

The Continuing Crisis

-- An October New York Times dispatch from India highlighted the growing problem of intra-family frauds in which one member will claim a living relative's land or wealth by swearing to the government that the relative is dead. An advocacy group, the Association of Dead People, helps aggrieved citizens figure out just how to prove that they are indeed alive, which can be a difficult concept for India's bargelike bureaucracies to accept. The association's founder said he remained officially dead even after he ran for office, filed lawsuits and got arrested just to get his name on public records.

-- Protests: California environmental activist Dona Nieto ("La Tigresa") appeared topless at several logging sites in Humboldt and Mendocino counties in October in a demonstration ("Striptease for the Trees," featuring "nudist guerrilla poetry") to save giant redwood trees; loggers' reactions ranged from embarrassment to a defensive recital of Bible verses. And in October, when three neighborhood planning officials in the village of Barlestone, England, arrived at the house of Brian Statham to supervise the council-ordered clearing of his yard, Statham jumped in his forklift and systematically picked up the three men's cars and set them down on their sides.

-- In October, an appeals court in San Francisco became the first to test whether a relationship amounted to "dating" under California's new domestic-violence legislation that permits victims to collect judgments even if they aren't a cohabiting couple. The rejector, Joyce Oriola (who said she was stalked by Adam Thaler after she refused to go out with him), had to claim the couple were actually dating in order to qualify her for money damages. Thaler, the heartsick rejectee, logically had to claim that the two were just friends. (The court ruled they were not dating.)

-- After 100 employees took ill (dizziness and nausea) at the National Pen Corp. offices in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., in September (with 24 being sent to the hospital), white-suited hazardous-materials crews went over the building from top to bottom, looking for gas and chemical leaks, among other possibilities. The official cause, determined the next day by the San Diego Fire Department, was an excess of urinal cakes in a third-floor men's room.

-- In October, the prosecutor in a rape case in Lewis County, Wash., said he was thinking of subpoenaing Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit (via his Earthly channeler, spiritualist J.Z. Knight), who reportedly "heard" the defendants confess to the crime during a session at Knight's retreat in Yelm, Wash. However, Knight then told reporters that she had been "in a trance" during the session and therefore could not recall what the defendants and Ramtha had talked about.

-- In October, David B. Smith, the lawyer who formerly represented North Carolina death-row inmate Russell Tucker, admitted that he had sabotaged an earlier appeal because he had come to believe Tucker was guilty and deserved to die. (Tucker's execution date has been postponed, anyway, on other grounds.)

People With Really Bad Luck

Wayne A. Louden was profiled in the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle in September for his history of at least 37 traffic collisions in the last 10 years (23 of them serious, though none of any kind this year); he admits to some problems (bad vision, diabetes, depression). And in July in Ponta, Texas, Charles and Jennifer Smith and their three preschoolers purchased a new Dodge Intrepid, which was totaled in a collision the next day; on Aug. 11, fire destroyed their trailer home; then Jennifer drove over the family dog, whose leg is now in a cast; and in September, after the community banded together to get the Smiths a new trailer home, a storm totaled that one, too.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on husbands or wives who were victims of murder attempts by their spouses, yet who quickly forgave and asked the judge to forget the whole thing. In October 2000 in Denver, Tom Mason, 52, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for hiring a hit man in 1998 (really an undercover cop) to stage a fatal truck-crash murder of his wife (he had bought her a Hyundai Excel to reduce her chance of survival); the wife, who divorced Mason after that, remarried him in April 2000 and begged the judge not to send him to prison.

Least Justifiable Homicides

A 28-year-old man was shot to death by his first cousin during a dispute over how to paint the floor at a construction site (Banner, Ky., October). And one man was shot to death and his killer then beaten to death by relatives and in-laws at a Labor Day barbecue, all because of a request by one of the relatives that another man move his car (Marshall, Texas, September). And a 30-year-old man was shot to death at a bar by a fan of race car driver Dale Earnhart who was angry that the victim was wearing another driver's (Jeff Gordon) cap (Spencer, Ind., October).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Five police drug-squad members were reassigned pending allegations that they had searched a suspect's rectum, said a police spokeswoman, "manually and possibly with a pair of pliers" (New Orleans). A 9-year-old boy was charged with making more than 90 prank phone calls to 911 in one evening (Columbia, Tenn.). Mr. Derby Ray Herrick allegedly robbed a Firstar Bank, went home, found his apartment on fire (burning cigarette), and was identified that night by firefighters and bystanders after bank camera photos were released (Des Moines, Iowa). The first of a series of church-approved comic books on the life of Pope John Paul II was published, featuring little Karol Wojtyla skiing (yelling, "Outta my way!") and playing soccer (Rome).

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

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