News of the Weird

Week of February 13, 2005

LEAD STORY

Most Competent Criminal: Jeffrey "Roofman" Manchester, 33, was finally recaptured after six months of inspired police-dodging in Charlotte, N.C., after having smuggled himself out of a previously escape-proof prison nearby. According to a January profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Manchester (a handsome, athletic, personable man who got his nickname from a multistate series of ceiling-entry burglaries) built an ingenious home behind a cubbyhole at a Toys-R-Us, then at an abandoned Circuit City next door, outfitting both digs with various conveniences, such as a protective surveillance camera. The dashing Manchester volunteered at a church, befriending the pastor and dating a parishioner, who eventually helped police capture him. Said a police sergeant, "(W)e can learn a lot from him."

Male Flies and Male Monkeys Are Just Dogs

In articles in recent issues of Current Biology, researchers separately studying the dance fly and the rhesus macaque monkey concluded that males will be males. The male dance fly was found by a team from the University of Western Australia to sometimes present a female with worthless tokens for the opportunity to mate with her, but by the time she discovered their worth, he had already hit and run. A team from Duke University found that the male monkey will forgo his own rewards (juice) in exchange for being permitted to view pictures of female monkeys' bottoms.

America's Real Gun Problem (all new)

The following people accidentally shot themselves recently: Joey Lujan, 22, shot himself in the head trying to show that his gun wasn't loaded (Rialto, Calif., December). Abran Godoy, 20, shot himself while tucking his gun into his waistband after a robbery (King City, Calif., November). A 20-year-old man shot himself in a femoral artery while showing off for friends (Salt Lake City, November). Latie Whitley, 34, shot himself in the face while allegedly robbing a delicatessen (New York City, December). Jeffrey Wagner, 22, shot himself while tucking his gun into his waistband after showing it to a friend (Dayton, Ohio, January). Lance Cole, 24, won $2,500 in damages from the police after an officer kicked him in the groin two days after he had shot himself in the genitals (St. Louis, Mo., January).

News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) According to a January Associated Press dispatch, an outfit called Rent-a-Priest supplies independent Catholic clergy to perform mass and communion on board cruise ships, even though the reason some are independent is that they're no longer in good standing. (The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it has begun to screen out unqualified candidates for cruise line jobs.) (2) In a January CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, in answer to the question whether President Bush is a "uniter" or a "divider," exactly 49 percent of Americans said he was a uniter, and exactly 49 percent said he was a divider.

Compelling Explanations

-- Farmington Hills, Mich., elementary school teacher Nancy Seaman, 52, on trial for murdering her husband, said it was self-defense, even though a reported autopsy said he had been stabbed 21 times and struck with a hatchet 15 times. (She was convicted in December.) And University of Virginia student Andrew Alston, on trial for fatally stabbing a firefighter after a night of bar-hopping, said the victim had actually inadvertently stabbed himself during aikido horseplay (even though there were 18 stab wounds, spread among the heart, arms, back, shoulder and face). (Alston was convicted of manslaughter in November.)

-- Ms. Sandu Florenta, 18, a Romanian, was arrested for shoplifting at a Tesco store in Wrexham, Wales, in December with "four packs of frozen lamb, three fresh chickens, three packs of stock cubes, finger chillies, a packet of burgers, garlic, peppers, socks and underwear, plus almost five pounds of oranges and apples" in a special sack under her robes. She told police that not many stores in Romania have carts, and thus, this is how people shop.

-- Pro boxer Hector Macho Camacho Sr. was arrested in Gulfport, Miss., for a Christmastime incident in which he, feeling morose, broke into the computer store next to his office in order to get his computer (in the shop for repairs) so he could e-mail family members, and that meant climbing over a wall and onto ceiling panels, which gave way, sending Camacho crashing onto several computers. Said Macho, according to police: "I don't see myself looking too good." Later, describing his motivation for the break-in: "I guess I ran out of ideas."

-- Alan Johnson was arrested in Taunton, Mass., in November and charged with burning his girlfriend's 19-month-old boy with a cigarette lighter while baby-sitting. Johnson's explanation: The boy went into a seizure, and Johnson, recalling his lifeguard training, thought the solution was to raise the boy's body temperature to alleviate the seizure.

Fetishes on Parade

Recent Sexual Obsessions: (1) surgical masks (Norman Hutchins, 53, was convicted in Leeds, England, in January, of tricking hospitals into sending him masks for his collection). (2) underwater photos of strangers' legs and buttocks (U.S. Army Maj. James V. McGovern was convicted in January of taking numerous such photos at the swimming pool at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea).

Least Competent People

Kyle Hans, 24, drove his car through the front of a Target store in Fort Wayne, Ind., in January, down an aisle, where he told employees he had a gun and wanted to see his estranged wife so he could reconcile with her. When the employees informed Hans that his wife didn't work there anymore, he got frustrated and took one of them hostage, forcing the evacuation of the store and an eventual standoff with police. Officers talked Hans down, got the hostage freed and arrested him.

Recurring Themes

"I don't think I've done more than two days' work in three years," said the New York Liquor Authority's director of wholesale services, Patricia Freund, explaining to the New York Post in December that she is another example of how bureaucracies deal with "problem" workers who are hard to fire. Freund was exiled to an office with no work and no responsibilities (though continuing to draw her $82,000 salary), which she said was in retaliation for raising a stink about Gov. George Pataki's Christian prayer breakfasts and Jesus-laden mementoes, which she said was discriminatory toward Jewish employees, such as her.

Readers' Choice

Thinning the Herd: A 23-year-old woman, attempting a handstand on a hotel balcony railing in North Fort Myers, Fla., fell to her death but only after shouting to friends to "watch to see what I can still do" (January). And a 21-year-old student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln was killed when, not belted in, he was ejected from the back seat of an SUV in a crash; the student was prominent for his libertarian political views, including a defiant stand in the student newspaper against mandatory seatbelt laws. (He described himself as one of "a die-hard group of non-wearers out there who simply do not wish to buckle up.") (January).

Rodents in the News

In January, sanitation workers in Nairobi, Kenya, finally, after 10 years of complaints, cleaned up the Wakulima Market (the country's largest fruit and vegetable facility), dislodging an estimated 750 tons of garbage, 38 tons of human waste, and about 6,000 rats. Also in January, Cleveland paralegal Austin Aitken filed a lawsuit against the TV show "Fear Factor" for $2.5 million, claiming that the episode in which contestants ate dead rats made him ill, causing him to vomit, become dizzy, and hit his head as he ran from the room in disgust.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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