News of the Weird

Week of May 6, 2001


-- West Hempstead, N.Y., high school guidance counselor David D'Amato, 39, was convicted in April of e-mail-disabling mischief against three universities, crimes motivated by revenge when certain male students at those schools tried to break off their association with D'Amato. Their relationships consisted of D'Amato's paying them each hundreds of dollars over the years for their making videotapes of themselves being tied up and tickled, for D'Amato's viewing pleasure. D'Amato, who was known as "territickle" in his online community, was not charged with sex crimes because the boys were at all times clothed and their activity limited to tickling.

-- Crime Pays: Federal and most states' laws require that prisoners be furnished adequate medical care, but Larry Causey has sought benefits of the laws more deliberately than most previous inmates. He pled guilty in March, after being arrested in his car outside the post office in West Monroe, La., which he had just held up, apparently for the sole purpose of being incarcerated so that he would get treatment for his cancer. Upon being jailed, Causey was immediately prescribed three drugs and scheduled for a colonoscopy.

-- Latest High Tech: Researchers at Northwestern University reported recently that they have developed a light-seeking machine that is operated solely by signals from the extracted brain of an eel-like lamprey, which is preserved in an oxygenated saline solution; the technology could be used to develop sophisticated prostheses. And the Office of Naval Research reported in April that the Marines are developing a 4-pound, hawk-sized, unmanned aerial vehicle that can be assembled and launched anywhere and cruise quietly for about 6 miles at 45 miles an hour to transmit video back to, and return to, a hand-held ground station.

People Different From Us

In March in Montreal, pro boxer Davey Hilton, 37, was convicted of sexually assaulting two girls (age 12 at the time), after having a judge reject his claim that the girls were lying. Hilton said that since 1983, he has suffered from a "wandering testicle," which tends to migrate into his abdomen when he has an erection, which he routinely contains by fastening a rubber band around his scrotum every time he is preparing to have sex (including masturbation); since neither girl ever mentioned the rubber band, he said, they must be lying about the encounters. However, Hilton has repeatedly claimed a foggy memory about the past, confessing that he spent much of that time period intoxicated.

Government in Action

-- In March, Sussex County (N.J.) officials billed Chrissy McMickle, 18, and her brother Michael, 21, for part of their father's mental hospitalization costs, as required by state law. However, the only reason the father is hospitalized is because another state law requires him to be committed upon completion of his sentence as a sexual offender, and the only victims of those sexual offenses were Chrissy and Michael, starting when each was age 5. Said a county official, "Children are legally responsible for parents in state facilities."

-- Maria Iguina-Medina spent much time in March lobbying to retain her municipal job in Middletown, Conn., from budget cuts, especially since the mayor is a woman and might be sympathic to Iguina-Medina's argument. Iguina-Medina certainly fears that she will not find comparable work in other cities, in that she is the city's official (part-time, $13,240 a year) "breast-feeding counselor."

-- Bernard Landry, a leading candidate to be Quebec's next premier, proposed in February that the province increase spending, by about $11 million (U.S.), to remedy a shortage of clowns and other circus performers turned out by Quebec's National Circus School. The current eight to 10 graduates a year are quickly placed in circuses around the world, and Landry would like to increase the number to 25 to better serve Quebec's own Cirque du Soleil and to "maintain and enhance our leadership position" in clown training.

-- At the Feb. 21 County Commission meeting in Wichita, Kan., Commissioner Ben Sciortino objected to the procurement of Scott paper towels at $8.06 per thousand when another brand was available at $3.67. However, commissioners Betsy Gwin and Tim Norton, who have perhaps seen too many TV commercials, knew immediately what to do: They sloshed down some water on the commissioners' table and tested the absorbency of each towel, with the Scott towel reportedly picking up at least twice as much water. Commissioner Sciortino quickly withdrew his objection.

-- New York City's AIDS support office budgets $180,000 a week to shelter about 200 homeless AIDS patients, and in late March, according to a report in the New York Post, the city's high hotel-occupancy rate forced the office to rent 20 rooms at the four-star Sofitel hotel, at $329 per room per night (which of course annoyed some of the paying guests in rooms adjacent to the AIDS patients).

The New Health-Care Crises

Missouri State Hospital in Fulton opened an entire 20-room, 11-guard wing last year for one patient, Angela Coffel, 23, who has just finished her five-year sentence for molesting two teen-age boys but must be hospitalized as a sexual predator until doctors release her. And the government's St. Mary's hospital in Mussoorie, India, located on a steep incline, has not had a patient for three years but continues to pay the full staff to report to work every day, according to a February report in the Indian Express; part of the problem is that the hospital has no ambulance and access on foot is treacherous, especially to sick patients.

Least Competent People

Several Pittsburgh neighborhoods have been plagued recently with parking-meter thefts (214 since September), which sets the city back $350 each in replacement cost but is otherwise thoroughly perplexing in that meters are both difficult to get into once stolen and low-yielding, as thefts go. According to the city's parking director, the thieves need either a sledgehammer or crowbar to open one, or a blowtorch to melt the glass dome (which would still leave much jiggling to do to free up the coins), and a day's average take per meter ranges from $1.14 to $15.78, meaning that stealing and opening two mid-range meters would net the thief about the same money as the hourly wage made by the city employee who collects from the meters with a key.

Thinning the Herd

A 22-year-old man, who told his friend he needed "something to do," climbed from balcony to balcony at a London highrise in January until he lost his grip and fell seven floors to his death. And a 48-year-old man was asphyxiated in Zebulon, N.C., as a 36-year-old man held him down in a fight over which of the two men "was the baddest." And the body of a 41-year-old man, who was last seen alive on Dec. 1, was found on March 2 in the chimney of Magna Tool Corp. in Racine, Wis.; authorities say he probably got stuck and died in a burglary attempt.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Feuding, obscenity-screaming twin sisters (age 22 and aspiring models from Michigan) forced the diversion of a China-bound 747 to Anchorage, Alaska, after they wrestled, punched and choked a pilot and flight attendants who tried to calm them. Vorarlberg province in Austria finally banned a longtime, inexpensive practice of cattle-carcass disposal on its picturesque Alpine pastures; from now on, any cattle that die must be helicoptered from the mountain instead of merely being blown up by explosives where they lie. Juror Brian Harvey was jailed for contempt of court after a lunch break, claiming the shooting trial testimony made him so queasy that he had to have a few drinks (Canton, Ohio). Israeli authorities announced that Miss Israel would wear a Galit Levi-designed, diamond-and-pearl, bulletproof evening gown at the Miss Universe pageant this month in Puerto Rico.

(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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