News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled in November that a judge could not take away a man's gun permit just because the man was suffering from a delusional disorder and believes that he has been injected with deadly chemicals and that a computer chip was planted in his head. State law, said the court, allows the denial of a permit only if a person has been taken through a full incompetency adjudication. The man, Timothy Wagner, came to the attention of authorities when he entered a store in Anchorage dripping wet because, he said, he was trying to soak the chemicals out of his body. He had a loaded .357 handgun (fully licensed) with him.

-- Trial got under way in January in which residents of Anniston, Ala., are suing for compensation for Monsanto's (and its corporate successor, Solutia Inc.) routinely having dumped deadly PCBs into the ground and local rivers for 15 years after it knew, from the company's own research, that the pollution was so deadly that fish in the rivers died bloody deaths 10 seconds after initial exposure to the water. According to documents from a chemical-safety organization and published in The Washington Post, Monsanto and its executives actively hid the dangers from its factory's neighbors while also dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. (Monsanto no longer produces chemicals but does make genetically engineered food, which, it assures consumers and the government, is totally safe for human consumption.)

Names in the News

Sentenced to 70 years in prison for armed carjacking in Kansas City, Mo., in December: Mr. Montea Mitchell (whose actual birth name, before social workers got it legally changed, was Murder Mitchell, named because an uncle was murdered around the time of little Murder's birth). Booked for aggravated assault and burglary in Salt Lake City, on New Year's Day: Mr. Joe Snot, 31. Arrested for robbery in Ottawa, Ontario, in November: Mr. Emmanuel Innocent (and, for aggravated assault in Kingsport, Tenn., in October: Mr. Innocent Safari Nzamubereka). Sentenced in December to at least 60 years in prison for the first-degree murder of a waitress in Washington, D.C.: Gene Satan Downing, 19.

The Litigious Society

-- In January, the brother of one of the seven people killed in October when a deranged man attacked the driver of a Greyhound bus in Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Greyhound and the driver. Apparently, the brother believes that the company should have hired a driver who could safely drive 60 mph while fending off a knife-wielding psychopath (or else trained drivers better to do that).

-- In October, a judge in Rio de Janeiro turned down a defamation lawsuit brought by the daughters of the late Brazilian soccer player Manuel dos Santos ("Garrincha") against a biographer who had written that Garrincha was a "sex machine" with a penis nearly 10 inches long. The daughters had thought the disclosure was an insult to the memory of their father, who died in 1983, but Judge Joao Wehbi Dib concluded that, contrary to defamation, most Brazilian men would view such a reputation with great pride.

-- The family of Paul Waymant filed lawsuits for more than $1 million in October in Salt Lake City against the searchers who failed to find Waymant's 2-year-old son before he froze to death on a hunting trip in October 2000. Waymant had left the boy alone in his truck for a few minutes, which allowed the boy to get out and wander off, and he eventually froze to death. Waymant was convicted for leaving the boy unattended, but in July 2001, rather than serve his 30-day sentence, Waymant committed suicide. Now, Waymant's family believes this tragic chain of events was all the fault of inept county search-and-rescue teams and their dogs, who did not find the boy in time.

-- Lynn Rubin sued the school district in Union City, Calif., in November for $1.5 million because his son Jawaan was improperly assigned to his high school's junior varsity basketball team after failing a tryout for the varsity. Rubin said the family had already made logistical plans to accommodate the varsity practice schedule and that he, as Jawaan's father, was not consulted by the coach before Jawaan was sent back to the JV.

-- According to witnesses, Kevin Rodriguez, 11, choked to death in January 2000 in his Broward County, Fla., school cafeteria after a hey-watch-this exhibition in which he shoved a large part of a hot dog into his mouth. In December 2001, Rodriguez's family filed a lawsuit against the school board because cafeteria and other personnel were not able to save Kevin's life and because hot dogs are too dangerous to serve 11-year-old kids.

Cute Couple

Albuquerque Metro judge Barbara Brown was temporarily suspended in November after she and an ex-boyfriend were charged by police with throwing rocks at a Cash Mart check-cashing store that had refused to grant Judge Brown a loan, on the ground that she hadn't yet paid off a previous loan. The ex-boyfriend, Richard "Dickie" Hone, who in post-charge interviews with Albuquerque Journal reporters, implied that the charges would eventually amount to nothing because he would lean on the clients of his sports and entertainment agency, including Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson and others familiar with his humanitarian work, such as Nelson Mandela, boxing's Don King, former energy secretary Bill Richardson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. (Journal reporters contacted several of those people, but no one recognized Hone.)

Least Competent People

Bob Bowling, 32, shot himself in the thigh on Jan. 7 while practicing his quick draw on a snowman (Willard, Ky.). And Paul D. Dimoff was accidentally shot in the chest at 2 a.m. on New Year's Day by the shotgun he had rigged as a booby trap to fire at burglars (McVeytown, Pa.). And Juan Manuel Lopez, 25, trying to make a point of his manliness (in front of a would-be girlfriend) by firing his gun at the floor of her apartment in September, accidentally shot himself in the foot (St. George, Utah).

Recurring Themes

James Clyde Shields, 35, became the latest person in custody to escape by driving off in a law-enforcement patrol car despite having been handcuffed with his arms behind him. Shields had been arrested on drug-manufacturing charges near Vancouver, Wash., in August, and was momentarily left in the back seat of the locked (but engine-running) car. He pulled his hands underneath him to be in front of him, opened the Plexiglas shield, squeezed into the front seat, got behind the wheel, and led a chase up Interstate 5 before crashing into a pole. Said a sheriff's sergeant, of Shields' limberness, "I know I couldn't do (that)."

Our Civilization in Decline

A North Vancouver, British Columbia, herbalist introduced four owner-friendly perfumes for dogs, marketing them as scents that both owner and dog could wear when they are out and about together (December). A jury in Miami awarded a 79-year-old woman $20.9 million in an auto crash case, despite the defendant's lawyer's argument that she should get only a fraction of that because her life expectancy is so short (and even shorter, due to his client's negligence behind the wheel) (December). Hospital authorities in Australia told the Sydney Daily Telegraph in December that a (now-deceased) 15-year-old terminally ill boy, who had decided that his one dying wish was to experience sexual intercourse, got his wish via a hospital-arranged prostitute, but that the boy's parents, and church leaders, were outraged.

And, in the Last Month ...

It took emergency workers 45 minutes with hydraulic spreaders, but they finally freed a 2-year-old boy's head from a bongo drum (Fitchburg, Mass.). The mayor of Rio de Janeiro pressured prosecutors to send TV meteorologist Luiz Carlos Austin to jail for incorrectly predicting rainstorms over New Year's (and possibly panicking already-flood-weary residents). The owner of a single-engine plane watched helplessly as it, with engine revving yet no one on board, burst loose of its moorings and made a perfect takeoff and brief flight, before crashing (Sonoma County, Calif.). A 63-year-old woman, watching a supposedly helpful video demonstrating the open-heart surgery she was preparing for, got scared and suffered a heart attack (Workington, England).

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