News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



At 10 p.m. on Oct. 19, Ralph Parker, 93, in his Chevrolet Malibu, eased up to a tollbooth on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, Fla., inattentive to the fact that there was a dead body lodged in his windshield (the result of a collision about three miles away). According to police, Parker was off by about 10 miles when asked where he was and by two months on the date, and he thought the body had just fallen from the sky. Parker's son, 66, said he was aware his father had been deteriorating mentally, yet Parker's driver's license was renewed last year through his age 99, based on Florida's lax renewal policy (toughened for the state's 54,000 age-80-and-up drivers only by a vision test). (By contrast, for example, Florida requires 16 hours' training every two years for its licensed cosmetologists.)

Compelling Explanations

-- Actor Robert Blake, testifying in October at the wrongful-death trial against him brought by the family of his ex-wife Bonnie Lee Bakley, said the reason why he had traces of gunshot residue on his hand after the murder was because he regularly plays with cap guns, according to a report in the New York Post. "Without sounding like I'm pretty weird, I missed my childhood. (F)or me, (toy soldiers and) cap guns bring it all back. If (that) makes me nuts, then label me."

-- Neelesh Phadnis, 24, acting as his own lawyer, earned himself a conviction in Seattle in October for killing his parents, in large part (according to a Seattle Times story) because of his defense that the crimes were committed by, first, a gang of 400-pound Samoans, later augmented during his testimony to include their girlfriends, two whites, two blacks, a Native American and a transsexual, and later still, to be described as more than 30 armed Samoans. (They were all slow runners, too, for Phadnis said he outran them all to escape, despite being seriously wounded. When he finally summoned the police, he told the arriving officers that he was too tired and hungry to talk about his parents' bodies and that they should "go home.")

The Litigious Society

-- Chicago lawyer Stephen Diamond has filed about 100 lawsuits since 2002 against companies for failing to charge him sales tax on items he bought, earning himself about $500,000 in settlements and judgments, according to an October Wall Street Journal report. Diamond has exploited a law in Illinois that allows citizens to receive part of the proceeds from certain law violations, including from companies that might be authorized to collect sales tax on Internet purchases but have chosen not to because the law is not completely settled. (Tennessee and Virginia, which have similar laws, have amended them to prevent lawsuits like Diamond's.)

-- Park Hyatt hotel maid Louise Kelsey, 58, testified in August in Melbourne, Australia, that she was kissed against her will in 2001 by a hotel guest (an Uruguayan soccer player in town for a World Cup match) and suffered a post-traumatic stress disorder that led to her being declared legally blind in 2002. Though a doctor for the defense derided it as "the most powerful kiss in history," the hotel's insurer agreed to its liability in October and said it would negotiate the money amount.

-- Lee Ka-wai filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong's Small Claims Tribunal in September against the Rolex Corp., claiming intense psychological trauma from a rash she developed on her wrist after wearing the company's US$3,800 Oyster Perpetual watch. Lee blames the rash on the label on the back of the watch, which Rolex says everyone knows must be removed after purchase but which Lee left on out of fear that removal would void the warranty.

Latest Rights

-- In September, to preserve "respect and dignity" for newborns, the neonatal unit of Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, England, officially banned visitors' "cooing" at infants. Said hospital official Debbie Lawson, "Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me." To illustrate the rule, officials displayed a doll holding a sign reading: "What makes you think I want to be looked at?"

-- Australian Rights: (1) Mr. Jirra Collings Ware was awarded the equivalent of about US$7,300 from his employer by the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney, Australia, in October after he was fired for being repeatedly drunk at work (even once urinating into a trash can). Ware says he has Attention Deficit Disorder and that his employer, OAMPS Insurance Brokers, should have done more to accommodate the illness. (2) On the complaint of imprisoned rapist Simon Jacob Smith, 25, police in Melbourne, Australia, agreed in October henceforth to protect prisoners' privacy by not publicly releasing their mug shots without giving them a chance to appeal in court. (The new policy does not apply to photos of escapees or to those relating to solving crimes.)

Creme de la Weird

Animal control officers raided a house in Torrance, Calif., in October on reports that birds were being improperly kept there and ultimately found about 300, of which about 120 were dead. Gerard Enright, 61, was arrested when police caught him in the act of performing a tumorectomy on his No. 1 pigeon, Twister, that he had sedated with vodka. Enright is not a surgeon but said he had watched his veterinarian closely enough to know what he was doing.

Best Recent Headlines About Toenails

(1) "Woman Charged $1,133 to Clip Toenail" (a September Associated Press report on a class-action lawsuit against Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle for allegedly excessive fees, including a test-preparatory toenail clipping). (2) "Man Sues Over Leg Amputation After Ingrown Toenail" (a September story on the WOAI-TV-radio Web site in San Antonio, Texas, reporting a farmer's lawsuit against Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Waco, Texas, claiming that he contracted the flesh-eating bacteria after ingrown-toenail surgery).

Bright Ideas

-- A well-to-do couple (the husband owns a surveying company) were convicted in Manchester (England) Crown Court in October of creating an elaborate scheme to avoid two camera-detected speeding tickets and were fined the equivalent of about $20,000, almost 200 times the cost of the tickets. Stewart and Cathryn Bromley had offered an alibi, explaining that the driver of their car was a (fictitious) Bulgarian friend, and Cathryn made up a postcard "from" the man "to" the Bromleys that incriminated him, and then actually traveled 1,400 miles to Bulgaria to mail it with an authentic postmark.

-- More Schemes: (1) Robert and Viki Warren were sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively, in September in Charlotte, N.C., for fraudulently collecting more than $9 million in federal crop insurance payouts by having their employees saturate a tomato field with ice cubes and then beat the plants to make them appear weather-damaged. (2) Britain's Ann Summers lingerie store chain said in October that it has begun to install customer-activated peepholes in changing rooms so that women could show off for their companions (some of whom previously regarded accompanying a woman shopping for clothes as boring).

Least Justifiable Homicides

Archie W. Roth, 68, was indicted for murder in Yorktown, Va., in May for killing his wife; he said he was angry because the couple had been living in the home for "several years" but still hadn't unpacked. And Mark Raggiunti, 42, of Sharpsburg, Pa., pleaded guilty in July to killing his father after the father (who was blind) had yelled at him for leaving a light on. And Christopher Offord, 30, was sentenced to death in August in Panama City, Fla., for killing his wife because she had been nagging him to cuddle after they had sex, contrary to his desire to watch sports on TV.

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