News of the Weird

Week of September 16, 2001

-- Two women undergoing C-section births at Evanston (Ill.) Hospital on July 31 received the necrotizing fasciitis ("flesh-eating") bacteria when a surgeon passed gas in the operating room. The Chicago Tribune reported only that the bacteria were present in a surgeon's intestines and not in a throat culture, and probably entered the patients through the air, but Chicago's Channel 5 News' experts carried out the logic and named flatus as the culprit. (The two women, their babies, and the surgeon have been treated and are out of danger.)

-- Prosecutors and six Tampa-area juries have found Oscar Ray Bolin to be a vicious murderer, but in August, the state Supreme Court ruled, for the sixth time, that he's entitled to a new trial, that damaging testimony from his ex-wife ought not to have been used against him. The court said Bolin had not waived his privilege not to have his wife's words used against him (even though he wrote police a six-page letter reading in part, "If there's anything that you really want to know about, then you'll haft (sic) to ask Cheryl Jo (the ex-wife), because she knew just about everything that I was ever a part of (and) she knew about all 3 of these homicide (sic) which I'm charged with"). (The wife died before the trials, but her videotaped interview was played in court.)

-- Several insurance companies in France have begun offering policies to compensate parents of kids who get bullied in the schoolyard, according to an August Associated Press report. No company yet covers stolen lunch money, but eyeglasses that get slapped off a kid's face and trendy designer clothes that inspire muggings are covered.

One Born Every Minute

Recent Scams: Two inmates at Cook County (Ill.) jail managed to swindle as many as 12 people ($9,000 from one woman) by calling them at random, collect (even though a message broke in automatically every 60 seconds identifying the call as coming from jail), and promising to cleanse the callees' nonexistent criminal records for a fee. (The men were indicted in July.) And a former Atlantic City, N.J., man sued boardwalk fortune-teller Sole Mio Balaam Nicola after he had given her $200,000 over a 13-year period, closed his real-estate business, left his wife and moved from the area, all in order to comply with various curse-avoidance behaviors she sold him. (The lawsuit was settled in May).

Not My Fault

-- In June in Seattle, federal judge Marsha J. Pechman reinstated sexual-assault convict William Bergen Greene's main defense (which had been rejected by a Washington state judge): that he did not attack his female mental health counselor in 1994 but rather one of his other personalities (a 4-year-old boy, "Tyrone") did. Judge Pechman said the trial judge was insufficiently respectful of the science of multiple-personality disorders, and she was persuaded to that opinion by Greene, himself, who argued his own appeal.

-- High Court Judge Griffith Williams ruled in July that Christina Coles, 21, of Kent, England, was entitled to compensation (amount to be determined) to help raise her daughter Rebecca, now 3, to be paid by the driver of a car that hit Coles' car in 1995. Coles apparently demonstrated that Rebecca would never have been born except that the collision caused Coles a memory loss, which contributed to why Coles forgot to take her birth-control pills. Furthermore, Judge Williams issued the ruling even though he found that Coles was 75 percent at fault for the original collision.

-- In June, a jury in Broward County, Fla., found that a 28-year-old man who was speeding and whose blood-alcohol reading was twice the presumed-impaired limit was nonetheless only 10 percent responsible for the single-car accident that killed him. The man's car ran off an access ramp on Florida's Turnpike and smashed into a metal pole because, the jury determined, the 10-inch drop-off on the left lane caused the car to swerve (which was 45 percent each the fault of the state and the construction company). (The amount of damages due his family were to be determined later.)

I Don't Think So

-- Actor Bethany Halliday filed a lawsuit in May against the British opera company D'Oyly Carte because it allegedly pulled back an offer it had made to her earlier to play a blushing teen-age virgin in "The Pirates of Penzance." D'Oyly Carte said that whatever interest it had in Halliday at one time no longer existed when she showed up pregnant and would be three months from delivery when the show opened. (The character she was to play is so sheltered that she screams in fright every time she sees a man.)

-- The Arizona Fish and Game Commission told new resident Wallace Burford in June that they were declining his formal request to compensate him $328.21 because one of the state's 250,000 wild coyotes had eaten his cat. Burford's suggestion was also rejected: that the commission feed wild coyotes so they aren't so hungry for cats all the time.

People With Issues

Stephen T. Harris, 39, was arrested in July and charged with public indecency for apparently deliberately (according to the surveillance camera at Lowes Home Improvement in Plainville, Conn.) unzipping his pants and slightly wetting the back of the pants leg of a man who was shopping at the store. After doing it once and not being noticed by the man, Harris apparently returned and did it twice more. No motive was given in the police report, nor was there evidence the men knew each other.

Least Competent Criminals

Trevor Blair Roszell, 35, pleaded guilty in Edmonton, Alberta, in August to impersonating a police officer. The person he had tried to impress with several items of police paraphernalia was, it turned out, herself an undercover officer who was at the time portraying a prostitute. Furthermore, "Officer" Roszell then tried to convince the woman to give him a freebie since he, too, was on the job.

Update

Earlier this year, News of the Weird reported the astounding "fact" that, according to federal lawsuits filed in San Francisco, at least three business executives (of the 88 victims) in the Alaska Air 261 crash in January 2000 had secret mistresses in rural Mexico or Guatemala, with whom they had fathered children (and whose "great aunts" or other distant relatives had filed wrongful-death lawsuits against Alaska Air). However, in court-ordered mediation in July, Miami lawyers Edgar Miller and David Russell were ordered to pay $225,000 to the estate of one of the executives because a judge found the San Francisco claims to be bogus. Miller and Russell claim they were duped by the "relatives," but the mediating judge said they played a larger role.

Also, in the Last Month ...

The Athens, Greece, daily newspaper Adesmeytos, noting that so many people had left town for a national holiday, reported to readers that there was absolutely no news worthy of putting on the front page of its Aug. 13 edition. High school physics teacher Jim Schmitt is undergoing rabies vaccination after a bat flew into his mouth briefly during an early-morning run on Aug. 23 (Eau Claire, Wis.). A California prisoner on a highway work detail was using a Port-a-Potty (on wheels) when a truck driver inadvertently drove off with it to another site and had pulled it along for a while at 40 mph before anyone heard the inmate's screams (Morro Bay, Calif.). "Folk artist" Stephen Huneck opened a dog-themed church ("all creeds, all breeds, no dogma") to honor canines' spiritual and utilitarian service to humanity (St. Johnsbury, Vt.).

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

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

More like News of the Weird