News of the Weird

Week of April 20, 2003


-- Two American Legion posts and two other veterans' groups in Pleasanton, Calif., sponsored a class on dowsing in March to study whether domestic terrorists could be identified by pointing sticks at suspicious people to see if the sticks move. One of the veterans' leaders (who vouched that "the government" and oil and mining companies regularly use dowsing) told the local Tri-Valley Herald, "You can't wait for the FBI and police to come up with solutions when you have the bad guys living among us." Following the 9-11 attacks, some Pleasanton veterans received training in so-called "remote (psychic) viewing" and are now reportedly bringing local families up to speed on their missing-in-action relatives from past wars.

-- In March, London's Daily Telegraph reported that North Korea's Kim Jong Il is so terrified of triplet babies that the government places them all in special orphanages. Quoting diplomats who have visited North Korea, the Telegraph said Kim might feel threatened because the number 3 in Korean mythology is associated with rapid rises to power. However, a North Korean official told the United Nations Human Rights Commission that Kim is actually helping the triplets by raising them in better circumstances than the parents could (because of the country's dire economy).

The Things People Believe

Brian J. Samdahl, 41, charged with stabbing a stranger 15 times at a Wal-Mart, told police he thought the problem was that his government-implanted computer chip was broken (Bridgeview, Ill., February). And Jesus Santana, charged with marijuana possession, told the arresting officers, "I guess God got y'all to get me," since Santana had been rolling his joints using pages torn from a Bible (Athens, Ala., February). And William Veach, charged with scamming friends and family members in a securities scheme, insisted that he truly believed (albeit erroneously) that, as per his sales pitch, he had indeed sold a high-tech keyboard idea to Microsoft for $17 million (Provo, Utah, March).

Not My Fault

-- A jury concluded in February that Lonnie W. Hinton Jr., father of a 2-year-old girl who was severely injured when she fell into a swimming pool at an apartment complex in Hollywood, Fla., was responsible for only 1 percent of the incident, with the complex responsible for 99 percent because the gate to the pool area was broken. According to trial testimony, the faulty gate was fairly common knowledge among the residents, and Hinton had left the girl alone near the gate while he took barbecued food upstairs to the family's apartment. Far from being censured for his lax parenting, Hinton and his wife were awarded $10 million for their own pain and suffering resulting from the girl's injuries.

-- The town council in Enfield, Conn., was criticized in December for letting its insurance company pay settlements in two incidents last year to softball players who claimed they hurt themselves sliding into bases in city parks. Mark Brengi said he tore ligaments sliding into third base and settled for $45,000, and one week later, his brother Scott broke an ankle sliding into second base on the same field and settled for $90,000. Said one Enfield taxpayer (and former pro baseball player), "You're supposed to slide before you hit the base."

-- A jury awarded $51.1 million from the New York City budget in March to Darryl Barnes, who was paralyzed by an off-duty police officer's gunshot after he refused to drop his gun. (Barnes, a member of the "Five-Percenters" anti-police group, claimed he was shot in cold blood.)

Can't Possibly Be True

-- A house cat named Princess survived after being stabbed in the head with a knife whose blade penetrated the skull down to the frontal sinus (Green Township, Ohio, February). And another cat, Fila, taken out of a family home in Yuba City, Calif., in December by a daughter who wanted Fila to live with her in Sacramento, escaped and made the 60-mile trip back to Yuba City five days later, winding up on the parents' doorstep. It was not known if Fila took one of the three roads from Sacramento to Yuba City (state roads 99/70 or 65, or Rio Linda Boulevard) or just walked across farms.

-- BBC News reported that officials at a prison in Sombor, Serbia, shot to death two guard dogs, execution style, in February after concluding that they had been lax recently in failing to bark when five inmates were escaping.

People Different From Us

Michael J. Corbett and his wife, Sharon, were arrested in Beckley, W.Va., in March and charged with peddling copies of 53 different obscene videos on the Internet. The Corbetts' specialty: nude women answering nature's call. According to Justice Department and Postal Service investigators, customers bought 100 or more tapes a week (such as "Outdoor Pooping Paradise" or tapes using the Corbetts' inventive "bowl cam") at around $50 each.

People Who Shouldn't Have Matches

Luis Chavez, 33, was arrested in Cypress, Calif., in February after he allegedly set off aerial fireworks in his condominium bedroom (motive unknown), leading to a $135,000 fire. And Patricia Martin burned down her Kings Mountain, N.C., house in February after she lit a piece of paper, then extinguished the flame, to create smoke to get rid of a nest of spiders in the house but failed to completely extinguish it. And a Massapequa, N.Y., high school student inadvertently set a fire that gutted the second story of the family home in January after he, in frustration, tried to burn some school papers on which he had done badly (and tossed them out a window, but an ember blew back in).

Least Justifiable Homicides

Jeffrey Lee Daniels, 27, confessed to killing a 58-year-old male acquaintance who had paid him $10 just to let him sleep next to Daniels but who then, to Daniels's apparent horror, touched him "in the area of his butt," according to a police officer (Barstow, Calif., December). And Robert Carnathan, 54, was charged with the beating death of a 79-year-old man in a fight over collecting lost balls on a golf course; it was Carnathan's regular turf, but the victim wanted one ball for his grandson (Quincy, Mass., November).

The Classic Middle Name (all-new)

Arrested for murder: Randy Wayne Richards, 40, Courtenay, British Columbia, February; Curtis Wayne Pope, 40, Fort Worth, Texas, February (arrested in Watertown, N.Y.); Ralph Wayne Grimes, 26, Russell Springs, Ky., November; Joseph Wayne Cook, 30, Wilmington, N.C., January. Convicted of murder: David Wayne Pallister, 18, South Shields, England, November. One previously reported arrestee, Mark Wayne Lomax, 33, made history in March by actually getting convicted of "felony murder" even though his offense was causing a traffic death while intoxicated, which is usually treated merely as manslaughter (Houston, March).

Readers' Choice

Jerry Thomason, 41, was charged with aggravated assault in San Antonio, Texas, in April after police found his 45-year-old wife at home with a heavy chain and padlock around her neck. According to a witness, Thomason said he loves his wife and so regularly chained her at home to keep her from leaving.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 6-year-old boy was permanently expelled from elementary school (after 18 months of failed discipline) as being too unruly and dangerous (but who, at home, is an angel, according to his dad) (Ashton, England). Officials of the prestigious Crufts dog show began an investigation of whether its current Supreme Champion (the Pekingese, Danny, which beat out 20,000 challengers) had had an illegal facelift (London). Florida family welfare officials finally put their foot down and suspended a woman who had become the fourth child protection investigator recently dating or marrying accused or convicted criminals (this one a convicted killer and accused child-support dodger) (Largo, Fla.).

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