Lead Story

On November 14 the subject of “Midlands Most Wanted,” a weekly feature in the State (Columbia, South Carolina) providing information on fugitives sought by local authorities, was Rodney Dane Higginbotham, 40, wanted for criminal domestic violence: “Police said Higginbotham argued with his wife because she had not cooked anything. When she began cooking, he started making spaghetti while eating crackers and squeeze cheese. They argued, and he squeezed cheese on the kitchen floor. She squeezed the cheese on his truck, and he squeezed the cheese in her hair before fleeing in his truck. The wife said she washed her hair before the officer arrived to take her complaint.”

Can’t Possibly Be True

Until the policy was changed in October, the 18 school cafeterias in the North Penn School District, northwest of Philadelphia, had for years been washing and reusing their disposable plastic cutlery, though students had long expressed disgust at having to eat with utensils covered in bite marks. Diners will now be issued a fresh set of cutlery at each meal, though officials estimated that the old system saved about $15,000 a year.

Life imitates Dead Ringers? In Seattle in November, obstetrician-gynecologist Charles Momah, 49, was convicted on two counts of rape and two other sexual-crime charges against four of his former patients. Momah (whose lawyer said he plans to appeal) still faces dozens of civil suits from other former patients, many of whom allege that he not only raped and molested them but allowed his identical twin brother, general practitioner Dennis Momah, to do the same (and to perform various medical procedures on them) while pretending to be Charles. Witnesses claim that the appearance and behavior of the doctor they believed to be Charles was suspiciously inconsistent: sometimes he was friendly and talkative, sometimes confused-seeming and nearly silent; sometimes he spoke fluent English with a stutter, sometimes broken English; sometimes he walked with a limp, sometimes not; sometimes there were scars on his face, sometimes not; at times he would appear to gain or lose as much as 70 pounds within a week. The state health department, however, was unable to find evidence that Dennis had practiced medicine while impersonating Charles.

Unclear on the Concept

At the October trial of software developer Brian Schellenberger in Raleigh, North Carolina, an FBI agent testified that the defendant had told investigators he’d been greatly inspired in 2002 by a workplace motivational poster reading “Achieve Your Dreams.” In his case, this meant getting “rid of the obsolete idea of morality” and going beyond the mere collecting of pornography to create child pornography of his own. The agent also testified that Schellenberger attempted to hire a South Carolina man to come to his house while he was away and torture and kill his wife; payment was to be 20 CDs containing Schellenberger’s entire porn collection. Schellenberger, now 43, was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

In October in Evansville, Indiana, 63-year-old Terrence L. Mackey was sentenced to 29 years in prison for a May bank robbery, but not before he blamed his involvement on the federal corrections officials who’d denied his request to be jailed near his mother’s home in Florida when he was locked up for a 1982 parole violation. As to the charge that he shot at police as he fled the bank robbery, he claimed self-defense: “The police were shooting at me.”

Least Competent People

In Fargo, North Dakota, in September, 26-year-old Justin Fraase contacted the police and gave them what he said was evidence that a protection order against him should be lifted: a hidden-camera videotape of him having sex with the woman who’d obtained the order. On viewing the half-hour tape, however, authorities had a different take on it–the woman, they concluded, had struggled against Fraase and seemed to want no part of the encounter–and charged him with two felonies for sexual assault and a third for violating the protection order. Police speculated that Fraase hadn’t actually watched the tape himself before handing it over.

In October at a garbage dump in Sooke, British Columbia, Jim Porcellato tried to climb into a Bobcat construction vehicle to shut it off but accidentally stepped on the lever that raises the vehicle’s bucket. As he was straddling the bucket at the time, it hoisted him up by his other leg (putting all his weight on the lever) and was stopped in its upward movement only by his head, pinned between the bucket and the frame. After about 30 seconds a dump employee ran over and rescued him; according to the Sooke News Mirror, the pressure broke off many of Porcellato’s front teeth, and he later received “hundreds of stitches in his face.”

Readers’ Choice(s)

Least dignified deaths: The body of a 36-year-old woman was found stuck halfway through a rear window of a house in Saint Louis in October. Police said they believed she had been trying to burglarize the house but became wedged in the window and was asphyxiated; in her struggle her pants somehow fell off. And in Frederica, Delaware, a 42-year-old woman hanged herself from a tree on the night of October 27; though her body was spotted by neighbors and passersby early the next morning, the Wilmington News Journal reported, authorities weren’t notified for several hours because everyone thought it was a Halloween decoration.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.