News of the Weird

Week of August 19, 2001


-- A ruling last year by the Oregon Supreme Court is finally having a major negative impact on police, according to a July Los Angeles Times dispatch. The court had ruled that all lawyers, including prosecutors, must obey the state bar association's nearly absolute prohibitions against deceit, meaning that law enforcement cannot engage in "undercover" and "sting" operations (which involve tricking suspects). Already, one child-pornography investigation has been shut down because prosecutors could not administer a case in which police caught pedophiles by pretending online that they were underage.

-- Film turned up in July of tourist boat operations near Cape Jervis (near Adelaide), Australia, which ferried visitors so they could stand on a dead whale and watch great white sharks munch off the carcass; some tourists even posed for vacation photos petting the preoccupied sharks on the head (briefly). The local environmental minister said he was appalled and would ask for legislation "to protect people too stupid to protect themselves." (Obviously, News of the Weird is opposed to this type of legislation.)

-- The San Francisco Chronicle reported in July that the new dog catcher for San Mateo County will be paid $250,000 a year, more than twice what San Francisco's dog catcher receives and much more than Gov. Gray Davis or San Francisco mayor Willie Brown are paid. Said a county executive, "I hope we have the happiest and healthiest animals in the world because that's an awfully heavy price to pay."


In July, a man who has served time for fatal bombings was convicted of attempting to firebomb three Montreal coffee shops because the owner refused to give them French names. Protestors broke windows at the Tennessee capitol in Nashville in July, furious that legislators might adopt a state income tax. Three New Mexico regulators reported receiving death threats in May during the Public Regulation Commission's deliberations over whether to change the telephone area codes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.


-- The then-executive director of the Tampa, Fla., Make-a-Wish Foundation pleaded no contest in March to grand theft charges for misappropriating almost $20,000 that had been donated for dying children; she served three months in jail, and is now on house arrest, and with an order to repay $6,500. In June, she filed a lawsuit against the foundation demanding back pay and unused vacation and sick pay dating from the date of her firing in June 1999 and demanded a court order restoring her as the foundation's executive director. Her first name is Delores, and she uses the surname of her husband, the lawyer who filed her lawsuit, Jack W. Crooks.

-- Sherman P. Hawkins' impressive application for the vacant position of director of the Montana Department of Corrections was turned down in July by the governor, despite Hawkins' 28 years' experience in the department and his master's degree in administration. As the governor noted, however, Hawkins' 28 years were as "inmate," in that he is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife.

Latest Rights

-- Virginia Green, a patient in the August (Maine) Mental Health Institute and who was convicted of bludgeoning her 75-year-old mother to death in 1996, had filed a lawsuit alleging that the facility's 8 a.m. wakeup policy violated her rights and ordering that the institute be instructed to permit her to sleep until 11 a.m. (In June, the Maine Supreme Court turned her down.)

-- In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal reinstated DUI charges against Christopher Dominski, finding that his right to be notified that he can have an attorney present under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was not violated. According to court records, when a police officer asked if he would like to call an attorney, Dominski responded, "Yeah, whatever," which a trial court thought indicated ambiguity but which the appeals court said was a sufficiently serious question and answer.

-- In June, the city education commissioner of Berlin, Germany, publicly suggested that the pro soccer league bar players from spitting on the field and especially their increasingly popular habit of clearing a nostril by pressing a finger against the opposite nostril and blowing, saying such behavior sends the wrong message to kids. Several players immediately defended the right to blow: Said one, "We can't carry a packet of hankies on the pitch."

People With Issues

Strongsville, Ohio, lawyer Daniel Todt killed his wife and two children in June as the government closed in on him for what prosecutors described as a series of outlandish attempted frauds. The Todts (both lawyers) were a traditional, middle-class, community-involved family except for one thing: Todt believed that in the 1940s, Mr. Thor De Allah Kahn from the planet Atlantis met top Earth officials and left with them securities (to improve the planet's welfare, in one instance for reconstruction in the Philippines) in staggering amounts (e.g., $33 billion, $13 billion), which Todt very earnestly and naively tried to present to many banks in several countries for payment, even after U.S. Treasury officials warned him they were worthless. Todt had also painstakingly explained his theory in various venues (e.g., local bar association, the Securities and Exchange Commission), usually to open-mouthed silence.

Least Competent Criminals

Detroit police arrested five suspects in connection with the robbery of a McDonald's restaurant in June, shortly after they made their alleged getaway; they appeared to have rehearsed the robbery, but inside the car, one of the men discarded his bandana by tossing it out the window, where it inadvertently snagged on the radio antenna and acted as an identifying flag for police chasing the car. And Elizabeth McDonald, 24, pleaded no contest in June to robbing the VFW hall in Medina County, Ohio, where she used to work; she was wearing a mask, but it did not disguise her waist-length red hair, which was instantly recognizable by at least one former co-worker.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird loves stories about haggis, the Scottish meal that some people believe is the world's most disturbing formal dish (aesthetically, because of its gray color, and flavorfully, in that it typically is a pudding of sheep organs, suet and oatmeal, boiled in the animal's stomach). In May, police in Manchester, England, reported they were investigating an attack against the house of a Scottish woman, age 45 (and who has been living in England for 35 years), as a "hate crime," in that a haggis was thrown through her window. A police spokeswoman said the haggis had been "taken away for examination."

Also, in the Last Month ...

After an emergency airlift for treatment, a man survived his "attack" by an already-dead (but venom-retaining) timber rattlesnake that "bit" him while the clumsy man was mounting the carcass on a board (Quincy, Ill.). Iranian officials found a smuggler with 3.5 pounds of opium in his belly, said to beat the old world's record of 2.4 pounds (Kenarak, Iran). Nurses and doctors were among the 400 attending the unauthorized, drug-drenched, deafening rave party at Paris' Sainte Anne psychiatric hospital, whose patients were said to be oblivious of the commotion in that most had been heavily sedated for the night. A water heater at a shopping center video store exploded, rocketing itself through the roof, over a Taco Bell, and landing in a Pizza Hut parking lot in the next block (Burien, Wash.).

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

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