News of the Weird

Week of July 27, 2003


-- On the heels of a journal report on increased use since 1999 of posthumous sperm extraction (so the family line can be continued even after the father passes away) came a June report than an Israeli researcher had grown maturing ovarian tissue in the lab after extracting it from aborted fetuses. If Dr. Tal Biron-Shenton's work eventually makes way for fully developed eggs, it would mean that a baby could be born even though her mother never was.

-- In June, Reuters profiled Jerri Lyons, 55, of Sebastopol, Calif., who conducts seminars on the legalities and etiquette of do-it-yourself funerals, which are supposedly becoming more popular as alternatives to $5,000 funeral home services. According to one Lyons client, personally bathing and dressing a deceased friend made the loss easier to accept. Tip: Ice must be applied after about 24 hours (packages of frozen vegetables OK). A funeral-industry analyst said Lyons was not a threat; of more concern to the industry these days was, as Reuters put it, "a soft mortality rate due in part to a weak flu season."

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) "Man Gets Life Sentence for Spitting" (a Tulsa World report on the sentence of domestic abuser John Marquez, 36, who got one year for the assault and life for spitting on the arresting officer, Sapulpa, Okla., May). (2) "Male Infertility Can Be Passed on to Children" (a Reuters story on Cornell professor Gianpiero Palermo's work, which reports that sperm from a low-sperm-count man can be injected into an egg to create an embryo, but that the embryo will still possess the genetic defect that led to the father's low sperm count, July).

Family Values

-- According to a wrongful firing lawsuit filed in June by a former media relations assistant for the Sacramento Kings pro basketball team, star player Doug Christie is not permitted to speak to any female other than his wife, for any reason. The assistant said she was fired because she innocently passed along a telephone message to Christie in the course of her work, but that when Mrs. Christie found out, she pressured the organization to fire her and reaffirm the Christie family policy.

-- Child Care by Ultimatum: Norcross, Ga., police arrested parents Khalidan Tunkara, 28, and Olin Washington, 32, after one of whom, following a squabble in a parking lot, left their 9-month-old girl on the ground and drove away, intending to pressure the other parent to take the kid, but that parent then drove off, too (April). The same thing happened with parents Jennifer Jones, 21, and the father of her 3-week-old girl, in front of a beauty salon in Elgin, Ill., where police found the baby in the street (February). The same thing happened with parents Christy Leann Radacy, 23, and the father of her 2-year-old twin daughters in Lake Worth, Texas, where police found the girls lying on busy state road 199 (May).

-- Earlier this year in Mobile, Ala., Daina Sancho, 42, and Irwin Vincent ("I.V.") O'Rourke III, 14, were married after a several-months' courtship. Said the boy's approving father (of Sancho's infatuation), "If you've met the man of your dreams, why wait?" The couple live in Gonzales, La., but I.V. could not marry there until he turns 16; Alabama permits 14-year-olds to marry if they have their parents' permission.

-- On May 25 in the town of Baqubah, Iraq, Ms. Iman Salih Mutlak, 22, was gunned down by U.S. soldiers, who said she relentlessly charged at them, despite orders to halt, intending to explode the 10 grenades she was carrying. While some Iraqis treated her as a courageous martyr, her family in Zaqaniyah, Iraq, was disgusted with her, not because they are pro-American, but because she shamed them by leaving home without permission. Said her father, to an Associated Press reporter in May, "Had she returned home, I would have killed her myself and drunk her blood."

Compelling Explanations

-- The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said that the June test launch of an SM-3 rocket in Hawaii, which failed to hit the incoming missile it was programmed to shoot down, was not a failure but actually a success. Said MDA spokesman Chris Taylor, "(I)ntercept was not the primary objective," but rather, the gathering of "great engineering data" was. (A recent General Accounting Office report criticized the MDA for using "immature technology.")

-- Where the Fault Lies: Gilbert D. Walker, 43, arrested (and then released) in Panama City, Fla., after crazily breaking into a neighbor's house and chasing her with a dagger, said the problem was that he had drunk too much jasmine tea (July). And heroin-cocaine addict Amanda C. Hagan, 29, brought to a Norristown, Pa., hospital after an overdose, said it was the hospital's fault that she shot up again in her bed because it let in the visitor who resupplied her (June). And fired Rochester, N.Y., police officer Clint Jackson, 24, convicted of fondling eight women during traffic stops, said he was contemplating a lawsuit against the police department for inadequate training (July).

Least Competent Criminals

In June in the state penitentiary near Indiana, Pa., Raymond Davenport, 19, doing time for aggravated assault, told fellow inmates that he did not believe them when they told him that another inmate had recently gotten his hand stuck in a prison toilet. It was impossible, he said, and Watch this! -- he would show them. A short while later, guards had to call in civilian firefighters with an air chisel to free Davenport's arm.


Tyrone Henry, 30, appeared here in 2000 when arrested in Tucson, Ariz., for running a scheme in which female college students were paid $10 to "test" facial cream but which cream turned out to be Henry's sperm. He was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison, but is still (according to a June 2003 Tucson Weekly story) aggressively proclaiming that he violated no law. Argues Henry: The women were adults; there was no sexual contact; they were paid; Henry did not "expose" himself because the girls were blindfolded. Henry said he was just pursuing "the American dream" with his Web site selling men photos of women's sperm-adorned faces.

Our Civilization in Decline

-- In May at the 24 Hour Fitness Center in Englewood, Colo., a 55-year-old client died of a heart attack during a workout, but before the body could be properly removed, several club members continued their workouts less than 6 feet away. And Ukrainian scientists told the Agence France-Presse news service in April that worms that survived the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl (where radioactivity is still 100 times higher than normal) are more reproductively active than they were before the disaster.

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: (63) Genetic modification experiments using DNA from jellyfish to create some organism or other that lights up, such as an aquarium-pet zebrafish that glows yellow and green, created in Taiwan by the Taikong Corporation (June). (64) And the man with a police obsession who dresses as a cop and makes free-lance traffic stops with emergency flashers on his car, only to discover that the person he stopped is a real police officer, as happened when Clifford Holloway, 30, stopped off-duty officer Matthew Bandler in Kansas City, Mo. (June).

Also, in the Last Month

-- Becky Nyang, 26, was hospitalized while on holiday after being struck by lightning, attracted to her face by her tongue stud, leaving her with severe blisters about the mouth, face and feet (Corfu island, Greece). Mongolian sumo champion Asashoryu was disqualified during the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament when he inexplicably pulled a World Wrestling Entertainment move and took down his opponent by yanking his hair (Nagoya, Japan). And a 4-year-old girl was hit by a computer that came flying out of a 12th floor apartment window, flung by a father angry that his 12-year-old daughter wouldn't stay off the Internet (Seoul).

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

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

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