News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF APRIL 21, 2002


-- University of Connecticut physics professor Ronald Mallett, 57, said in April that after years of study, he hopes to begin experiments this year leading to genuine time travel, involving probably no more than a neutron or two at first but laying the groundwork for transporting larger objects. Mallett believes his theory is solid (straight from Einstein's Theory of Relativity), but that amassing the amount of energy necessary even to move small objects may be impossible with current knowledge. Mallett said he's been thinking about time travel since age 10, when his father died, because he wanted to go back in time to warn his dad of the dangers of smoking.

-- According to a March Washington Post Magazine feature, a deaf Bethesda, Md., female couple recently gave birth to a child whom they had conceived by artificial insemination and specially designed to be born deaf. (They had used sperm from a man with a long family history of deafness.) The couple said they merely want their son to be like the rest of the family, including their older daughter. The boy is deaf in one ear, but the other ear may still develop hearing.

Creative Sentencing

To "create a condition of silent introspection" during probation, a federal judge sentenced recidivist petty criminal Edward Bello, 60, in December to refrain from watching television for 10 months (New York City). And after pleading guilty in February to stabbing a man, Leah Marie Fairbanks, 25, was sentenced to 14 months' probation, during which she was to read the Declaration of Independence and seven classic novels and to write reports on each; her co-defendant, sentenced by another judge, got eight years in prison (Duluth, Minn.). And Luther Crawford, 50, who has 12 kids by 11 different women, avoided prison in March (he was $33,000 behind in child payments) by agreeing to a judge's offer to refrain from all sexual intercourse until he is paid up (although he said a week later that he thought the agreement had been a joke) (Louisville, Ky.).

Compelling Explanations

-- Ian Cheeseman, 34, who pleaded guilty in October to multiple counts of sexual assault against girls in several Canadian cities, took the stand in February in Ottawa at his sentencing hearing and vehemently denied that he had gone so far as to actually rape any of his victims. "That's not my thing," he said, referring to intercourse. "Urophilia (drinking the urine of young girls) is my thing."

-- Marvin Martin II was convicted in February in Ottawa, Ohio, of shooting a 15-year-old boy to death following an incident with the boy's mother, despite Martin's insistence that the perp was not he but his clone (he says he was cloned three times while in the Army). And Edward Lawrence Frostbutter, 17, was arrested in January and charged with raping a classmate in a restroom stall at Calvert High School (Calvert County, Md.), despite his insistence that it was his alter ego "Sam" who had committed the crime; the victim was a friend of the accused, thus "knew" "Sam," and went into the stall voluntarily with Edward but said she was surprised when "Sam" showed up instead.

-- Jerome Heckenkamp, indicted for illegally hacking into computers at eBay, Lycos and other companies, challenged the charges at a court appearance in San Jose, Calif., in March by denying that he is the person named in the indictment, in that the document refers to a "HECKENKAMP" in all capital letters, whereas he capitalizes only the H. And two months earlier, Frederick R. James, 41, facing drug charges in East St. Louis, Ill., told the judge at a hearing that he owns a copyright on his name and that if the judge wants to utter it, he'll have to pay a royalty of $500,000 each time.

-- Auckland, New Zealand, police sergeant William Paul McKenzie told a judge in January that it was not his fault that he drove into a 43-year-old blind therapist in a crosswalk last year, knocking her down and breaking her leg. The victim was accompanied, as usual, by her guide dog, trained never to step into moving traffic, but according to the defense lawyer, since McKenzie looked both ways before accelerating, the problem must have been dog negligence.

-- Nice Tries: Michael William Rahmer, 26, arrested for purse-snatching in Reno, Nev., in January, told the police he was only trying to test police response time to a crime report (and that he was indeed impressed with how fast they caught him). And female leaders of Britain's large Unison trade union proposed in January that the organization join the cannabis-legalization movement, calling it a "women's issue," on the ground that smoking pot is a no-calorie way to lose weight.

Unclear on the Concept

In February, public school employee Maggie Wallace, 45, was sentenced to a year in jail; last Sept. 12, she had thought the kids needed a breather from the events the day before and so called in a bomb threat so the school would close (Johnstown, N.Y.). And Jose Portillo, 27, was charged in February with having sex with an underage girl, who was 12 at the time and then became pregnant; Portillo told police he thought she was 13 (Albuquerque).

People Different From Us

In February, prosecutors in Orleans County, Vt., finally got around to filing a murder charge against Jamie Ovitt for killing his ex-stepfather Duane Perry in April 2000. Allegedly, Ovitt shot Perry because he was mad that Perry was spreading the word around town (truthfully) that Jamie and his mother were fathered by the same man (a fellow named "Hebe" Ovitt). According to the prosecutor, the murder was not smooth: Ovitt's fatal bullet went right through Duane Perry and hit the ex-Mrs. Perry (who was helping Jamie), bloodying her knee, and after they buried Duane in a deep grave, they jumped into Duane's truck to get away, only to realize that the keys were still in Duane's pocket.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (51) The careless burglar who makes his getaway on foot, oblivious to the footprints he's leaving in the snow or mud, usually leading to his own nearby home or car, as was the case for two men who stole a boy's tooth-fairy money in March from a home in Portage, Ind. (52) And the playing of dreadfully unpopular music on loudspeakers as a way of dispersing unruly young people from public places, as the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., did to clear loiterers on Pacific Avenue in January.

Our Civilization in Decline

In April, the University of Minnesota Press published a treatise, "Harmful to Minors," whose thesis is that society should relax the restrictions on child-adult sex. Scotland introduced a systemwide experimental program in prisons giving methadone to inmates about to be released, to allow them to build up a tolerance so as not to overdose on heroin immediately upon hitting the street. In a divorce case set for court in June, the ex-wife of former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba is asking for more than $2.5 billion, equivalent to about three-fourths of the country's gross domestic product.

And, in the Last Month ...

The government of driver-lax Iran reported that on one day in late March, 122 people died and 2,000 were injured in more than 900 different traffic accidents. Britain's Susie Stephens, 36, a world authority on pedestrian safety, who was speaking at a biking/walking conference, was accidentally run over by a tour bus and killed as she crossed the street near her hotel (St. Louis). A 12-year-old girl bloodied the male flasher who confronted her in a hotel elevator, by grabbing his zipper and yanking it up quickly (Virginia Beach, Va.). A Univest bank accepted for deposit two $100 bills chewed up and swallowed by the depositor's dog and recovered only when the dog answered nature's call (Hatfield, Pa.).

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