News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JULY 18, 2004


Two child prodigies from India made the news in June. A boy named Bharanidharan, 13, backed by several adult disciples, declared himself a Hindu holy man and founded a monastery in Salem in Tamil Nadu state, until his parents had him abducted and brought back home. (A judge released the boy back to his ashram and will later conduct a hearing on his rights.) And Akrit Jaswal, 11, acclaimed as a genius by Indian and international organizations, recently spent two months at the Tata Cancer Institute in Mumbai, working with researchers on cancer and AIDS, and at the recommendation of doctors, Akrit's parents sold most of their belongings to finance a research lab for him in New Delhi.

Bright Ideas

Kenny Borger survived a one-car crash in upstate New York on May 1, but his passenger was killed, and Borger decided to surreptitiously bring the body home to Hamilton, N.J., in the damaged car and then figure out what to do next. What he decided on was to commandeer a backhoe one night from a previous employer, scoop up the body, drive it about five miles out of town, dig a 13-foot-deep hole with the backhoe, and bury the body. He was later arrested and charged with tampering with evidence. Said Mercer County prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., describing Borger's plan, "I couldn't make this stuff up."

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Clermont, Fla., police 911 dispatcher Lorraine Stanton was fired in May as the result of bad performance reviews, not even counting an incident on her last weekend. A woman called to report a street gathering that included a man wanted by police, but according to the 911 tape, Stanton was not helpful: "OK, that person would have to come to the police station, and we would have to check. When they come in, they'd have to bring ID." When the caller asked why a wanted man might voluntarily turn himself in, Stanton replied, "Ma'am, that's the only way we can check."

-- The mother of accused serial killer Maury Travis filed a lawsuit against the prison in May for her son's alleged suicide, claiming among other things that the architects who designed the cellblock made it unusually difficult for guards to peek in on inmates on a "suicide watch," such as her son. However, Travis' "suicide" actually revealed a remarkably focused man: According to news reports, Travis is said to have hanged himself with a bedsheet, but with a pillowcase over his head, toilet paper in his nostrils, a washcloth in his mouth, and his hands tied behind him.

-- Officials investigating an explosion inside Villa Hermosa prison in Cali, Colombia, in May (which killed three inmates and wounded 15) concluded, using the process of elimination, that the only way the grenade could have gotten into the facility was to have been smuggled in by a certain, unnamed female visitor earlier that day. According to a Reuters News Service dispatch, authorities concluded that she must have hidden the grenade in a body cavity because that's the only place guards are not allowed to search.

-- In May, the Columbus (Ohio) City Council approved a building permit for the Faith Christian Center ("On Fire for God") to construct a 52,000-square-foot commercial complex centered on an indoor skateboard park, and including a restaurant, arcade and pro shop, named Godz Xtreme Power Park.

-- A March Wall Street Journal story reported on the growing number of churches that have introduced services aimed at improving the lives, and chances for salvation, of parishioners' pets (at least in part under the belief that some former worshipers would return to church if it were more "relevant," such as by offering prayers for protection from fleas). In some places, clergy accompany parishioners to pet euthanizations, or hold "bark mitzvahs," or dispense Holy Communion to dogs.

Unclear on the Concept

-- In April, Rocky Sanchez, 36, a former civic award-winner in El Monte, Calif., was sentenced to 1,002 years in prison on 41 felony counts, including the rape and torture of his wife, with the long sentence reflecting the fact that any one of the counts was Sanchez's sentence-enhancing "third strike." Under California law, however, if his wife had died during the attack, Sanchez might have received only about 50 years. (That's because he would be subject instead to the capital murder statute and might have gotten life without parole, but then again, he might have gotten the death penalty.)

-- In Denver in May, a 13-year-old girl, who was sometimes taunted by classmates because she has a small right arm and leg from cerebral palsy, was threatened with a knife and had her hair set on fire by a seventh-grade boy, but after the incident was reported, officials at Martin Luther King Middle School sent her home for the rest of the school year (for her protection, they said) while the boy remained in class. (The school's interim principal admitted several days later that her staff had botched the investigation.)

Creme de la Weird

China Daily reported in May that businessman Hu Xilm, who claims that a housefly in the food 10 years ago ruined a big business deal for him, has since spent thousands of dollars on an obsession to eliminate as many flies as he can; with help from a team of volunteers he recruited, he claims to have killed 8 million. And in May, white supremacist Ms. Karleana Zuber was arrested in Kootenai County, Idaho, and charged with spitting in a state trooper's face; Zuber was isolated from the other inmates for her protection because in her not-too-distant past, before surgery, she was a male white supremacist.

Second Thoughts

Serena Prasad, 22, got into a fight with her boyfriend in Turlock, Calif., on May 2 and allegedly stabbed him several times in the chest, but seeing that he was injured, put him into her car and headed for the hospital. According to a police account, while she was stopped en route at a traffic light, she realized that her boyfriend had not had enough yet, and she walked around to the passenger side, stabbed him again in the shoulder with a steak knife, and kicked him in the head, but police happened by, and she was arrested on a charge of attempted murder.

Readers' Choice

In June, the Oklahoma attorney general petitioned the state Supreme Court to remove District Judge Donald D. Thompson of Sapulpa based on recurring complaints that he used, during trials and other proceedings, under his robe, a pump device for enhancing masturbation, in view of court personnel, who complained of the "whooshing" noise the gadget made. And in St. Paul, Minn., a 43-year-old woman was arrested for an incident in which she bit her new boyfriend's tongue too hard during a kiss, slicing off a portion and, police believe, inadvertently swallowing it. (She told police she has had issues with men in the past and might have panicked.)

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