News of the Weird

Week of August 10, 2003


-- Largo, Fla., private school principal (and Disney fanatic) Dick Baker, 52, was under pressure in August to resign after revelations by the St. Petersburg Times that he took chosen middle-school-age girls (his "princesses") on dozens of overnighters to the Disney World resort, during which he supplied them with Disney-themed costumes and swimsuits (and wore his own Disney pajamas). One princess made 81 trips. Baker's friends and neighbors, and all the princesses, and most parents, support him, calling a recent police investigation (that was completed without charges) a witch hunt, but enough other people were puzzled by Baker's frequent hugging and tickling of the girls, plus his Disney obsession, to call for his resignation.

-- In June, Milwaukee police officer Robert Henry, 34, was awarded lifetime disability benefits because of work-related stress, which he said was caused by the department's decision to fire him for roughing up a misdemeanor suspect in a 2002 incident caught on videotape. (He was reinstated on appeal, but shortly after that filed for disability.) Henry, who had a total of four years' service, will receive $23,000 immediately, then $39,000 a year for 29 years, and then collect his standard pension.

People Different From Us

Police in Westerly, R.I., arrested Robert Brayman, 51, and his disciple Hobart Livingston in July and charged Brayman with commissioning Livingston to build a pipe bomb to kill a woman whom Brayman was stalking. According to police, Livingston believes Brayman has spiritual powers and submits himself nearly totally to Brayman, including having paid Brayman more than $13,000 over a three-year period for protection of actress Natalie Portman, whom Livingston believes is in danger from creature-implanted eggs that might otherwise hatch without Brayman's guardianship. Among the exercises Brayman uses to upgrade Livingston's avoidance of evil spirits: having Livingston try to dodge BB's fired by Brayman at a local cemetery.

Urban Legends Come to Life

According to an Associated Press dispatch, a bolt of lightning struck the steeple at the First Baptist Church in Forest, Ohio, on July 1 (damage: $20,000) just as a guest evangelist was beseeching God for a sign from above. And, though it's not quite the rocket ship of the urban legend, a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is being configured with a 39,000-horsepower jet engine by a team of retired aircraft mechanics in Pierce County, Wash., to challenge the world land-speed record, according to a June story in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune.

Latest Religious Messages

-- The family of the late Ben Martinez filed a lawsuit in June against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe (N.M.) because a priest had castigated lapsed-Catholic Martinez during his funeral, telling guests that the Lord "vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell." (The priest, Scott Mansfield, has since moved to another parish.) And Cheryl Bartges has not yet filed a lawsuit but did tell WABC-TV in New York City in July that her late father suffered grievously in the last hours before his death because a priest sent from the Diocese of Rockville Centre (N.Y.) to administer the last rites refused to do it, following an argument about the Catholic Church's culpability in the child-molesting scandals.

-- Popular Lutheran pastor Thorkild Grosbold was suspended in June from his church in Tarbaek, Denmark, after he declined to retract his statements to a newspaper that he doesn't believe in a "physical God," or an afterlife, but believes instead that God is only a constant moral force; Denmark is a highly secular nation, but church leaders say that pastors still must believe in an actual God. And Tulsa, Okla., Christian evangelist Carlton Pearson recently expanded his "Gospel of Inclusion" (providing for universal salvation) to make clear that even Satan would be admitted to heaven if he apologized; the resurrection of Jesus, Pearson says, shows that hell is only a temporary condition, not a place.

-- Smited: Kim Russell, 35, collapsed and died in a hotel room in Yeovil, Somerset, England, in December (probably of "sudden death syndrome," an inquest decided in July). She was in the room for a first-time rendezvous with the man with whom she had been carrying on an Internet-based romance and had been so excited to meet him that she had walked out on her husband and two children two days before Christmas.

Unclear on the Concept

-- Darrell Krumnow, 29, pleaded guilty in Waco, Texas, in March to taking so-called "upskirt" photographs of a 19-year-old female clerk at Richland Mall. Krumnow was done in because, unlike other upskirt photographers who have figured out that they need to be discreet, Krumnow used a flash, which caught everyone's attention.

-- In July, a judge in Sacramento, Calif., overruled a defense by two California Highway Patrol officers and decided that the lawsuit against them could proceed (by relatives of a man who accidentally fell down a gorge adjacent to Interstate 5 and who died because no one called for help). The officers had contended that, though they knew the man had fallen, law enforcement officers are under no duty to help if they had nothing to do with the original fall.

-- The Florida Legislature, faced with a mounting traffic accident rate caused by its increasingly older population but habitually unable to address the problem because of resistance by senior voters and their lobbyists, finally passed a law in May to improve highway safety. From now on, seniors' eyesight will be tested at every license renewal, but only for drivers age 80 and older.

The Classic Middle Name (all new)

Recently arrested for murder: Michael Wayne Sears, 54, Charlottesville, Va. (May); Dale Wayne Eaton, 58, Denver (April); Ricky Wayne Brown, 39, Manassas, Va. (wanted in Florida) (May). Sentenced for murder: Michael Wayne Fisher, Chester County, Pa. (March). Executed for murder: Allen Wayne Jenecka, 53, Huntsville, Texas (July); Bobby Wayne Swisher, 27, Jarratt, Va. (July).

Man's World

Australian biologist Mark Elgar, writing in Nature magazine, described the tiny male Zeus bug as having the idyllic, work-free life, with food, transportation (piggy-back) and unlimited sex being eagerly provided by the female Zeus (though Elgar said he is baffled at how the male got so lucky) (July). And Agence France-Presse reported from Seville, Spain, during a political forum just prior to the national elections, that a female campaign worker shouted to Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that "you have really nice ones" and "You may be short, but you've got them firmly attached" (May).

Undignified Deaths

A 23-year-old man who opened the passenger door of a pickup truck to urinate (even though the truck was zooming along Houston's Southwest Freeway at the time) fell out and was fatally run over (June). And Sonny Morris El, 32, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a collision that caused the death of a 25-year-old woman, who was sitting in his lap having sex with him while he drove (Monmouth, Ill., June). And driver Michael Lappin, 18, was set for trial after his arrest for fatally hitting another driver after losing control of his car because he was receiving oral sex from a woman as he drove (Green Bay, Wis., June).

Also, in the Last Month

A courthouse had to be closed for a week, as judges, lawyers and employees were attacked by an infestation of fleas (Henrietta, Texas). Two Harare, Zimbabwe, mortuary workers were charged with renting out corpses to motorists so they could go to the head of gas-station lines, since hearses get preferred treatment. A 30-year-old man was sentenced to probation for entering a funeral home's living nativity scene last Christmas and having sex with one of the sheep (Charleston, W.Va.).

(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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