News of the Weird

Week of August 26, 2001


-- Curt Storey, 62, who lives near Pittsburgh, Pa., filed a wrongful-discharge lawsuit in August against Burns International Security Services, claiming he was fired from his job because he refused supervisors' demands that he cleanse his lunchbox and pickup truck of Confederate flag decals, orders that he calls illegal national-origin discrimination. Storey claims he is a "Confederate Southern American," even though he is a lifelong Pennsylvanian and even though courts have not recognized CSA as a protected class under anti-discrimination law.

-- Paul Morgan of Biloxi, Miss., has been busy the last few weeks lining up Web site viewers, at $20 each, to watch him slice off both his feet on Oct. 31 with a homemade guillotine. Morgan's feet are nonfunctional because of an automobile accident, and he wants hydraulically operated prostheses to make him more mobile, but this is the only way he knows to raise the $200,000 to buy them. Although traffic on is heavy, as of mid-August, Morgan had signed up only 10 viewers.

-- In August, Naples (Fla.) City Councilman Fred Tarrant demanded that local artist Ted Lay's "Famous Tongue Mona Al Monica" painting (side-by-side impressions of Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein, and Monica Lewinsky sticking their tongues out) be removed from its place at a Naples municipal art center because he thinks Lewinsky's "tongue" too much resembles a penis (which Lay denies). According to a Naples Daily News report, Tarrant is in fact blind but said various advisers have assured him that the tongue is a penis.

Feature: Good Ol' Boys Out of Control

In May in Stroudsburg, Pa., Noah Berryman, 19, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter; hours after earning his driver's license, Berryman was trying to get his car airborne on a hill (he launched 63 feet on the fourth attempt) when he hit a tree, killing the two friends riding with him. And in February, a 52-year-old man shot a 21-year-old man to death on I-75 in Tennessee as the men hauled 30 fighting roosters to a cockfight in Kentucky; the older man was angry that the younger man kept kicking the back of his seat. And in June, as Knox County (Tenn.) sheriff's deputies surrounded an auto parts store looking for suspect Charles "Cracker" Dunn, his brother, Melvin "Squirt" Dunn Jr., jumped on cars, waved his arms and defiantly challenged them, before they stormed the store and arrested him (but not Cracker, who wasn't there).

Unclear on the Concept

-- In July, according to police, an unidentified man stole an ax from a Home Depot in Oklahoma City and used it menacingly to rob a clerk and shortly thereafter did the same at two other stores, including a Wal-Mart. On interviewing witnesses, police learned that a Wal-Mart door greeter had seen the man enter carrying the ax, but his only impulse was to make sure that he did his job and placed a sticker on the ax so that when the man later tried to exit the store, he wouldn't be charged for it.

-- In May, a court in Edmonton, Alberta, sentenced William Piggott, 55, to 18 months' house arrest for three 1999 offenses in which prostitutes had turned him in for talking too dirty. According to court records, Piggott had merely asked the women if they would have sex with dogs.

The Litigious Society

-- In May, several months after the Escondido, Calif., library's resident cat attacked Richard R. Espinosa's 50-pound Labrador-mix assistance dog, Espinosa filed a $1.5 million claim against the city, alleging that he was in bad shape because of the dog's injuries. According to the legal papers, Espinosa suffers "significant lasting, extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress including, but not limited to, terror, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, mortification, chagrin, depression, panic, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of sleep (and) loss of full enjoyment of life as well as other physical and mental afflictions of pain (and) suffering."

-- In June, Mary Lee Sowder filed a lawsuit in Roanoke, Va., against the local PetsMart store for $100,000 for injuries to her knee that she suffered when she slipped and fell on "dog slobber," which was allegedly drooled upon the floor by the manager's own huge dog (of unspecified breed).

-- Kevin Mackle died at age 21 in 1998 when a Coke machine he was rocking in a dorm at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, fell on him. In July 2001, Mr. Mackle's family filed a lawsuit for about $660,000 (U.S.) for wrongful death against the machine's manufacturer and distributor, and Coca-Cola, and the university. The lawsuit claims that each defendant was negligent in not posting signs on the machine that college students should resist the temptation to rock it. According to the coroner's report, the late Mr. Mackle was well-known by his friends for securing free sodas by rocking the machine and was once again engaged in his craft when the fatal accident occurred.

People Different From Us

According to police reports in the Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.) in June, Clark Schneeberger, 44, heard that his father-in-law, Richard J. Kouns, was angry that his daughter and Schneeberger had fought several days before and was on his way over to defend his daughter's honor. Schneeberger prepared for the interfamily visit by strapping on body armor and equipping himself with a bayonet and brass knuckles. Kouns arrived swinging, and the two battled until Schneeberger subdued Kouns by biting off part of his nose (an attack that earned Schneeberger a grand jury indictment several days later).

Undignified Deaths

A 26-year-old SWAT police officer in Dallas was accidentally shot to death by a colleague in June as the two men showed trainees how to react to a gunman in a public place. And a 14-year-old girl died when the all-terrain vehicle in which she was riding smashed into a tractor-trailer; she was in the vehicle because she was visiting her father's workplace as part of Take Our Kids to Work Day (Welland, Ontario, November 2000, and for which a lawsuit was filed in May 2001). And the Alcoholics Anonymous chapter in Milwaukee still does not know who the man was who collapsed and died during a meeting on May 23 (because those attending meetings usually do so anonymously).

Tyranny of the Minority of One

In July, the University of South Florida agreed to pay $25,000 to a former art student to settle her 1999 lawsuit claiming that she felt sexually harassed by a class-discussion photograph of a naked white woman clinching a naked black man, despite the fact that that day's topic was controversial art and that all 250 students in the class had been warned of the nature of the class and advised they would not be penalized for missing it. (Shortly after the class, the woman's father complained, and the graduate assistant who supplied the photograph was transferred, which ignited a public protest by all the rest of the students in the class.)

Also, in the Last Month ...

Benjamin Sharpe, 47, charged with stabbing a friend, insisted he had to do it because his buddy had vowed to drive home, though inebriated (Aiken County, Ga.). A conference paper by British scientists concluded that female cockroaches lower their standards for a mate as their biological clock runs down (Manchester, England). Accused sex-assaulter Kevin Erwin was cleared by a jury, which found his torturing of his girlfriend consensual, that she for some reason had failed to use the "safe" words to get him to stop ("tomato" and "pepper") (Canton, Ohio). The Japanese firm Takara said it will soon market a "translator" that will interpret barking and other dog sounds, expressing them with a 200-word vocabulary (e.g., "happy," "annoyed," "frustrated").

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

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