Lead Story

In March, following what was said to be the largest investigation of prostitution ever conducted in Orange County, authorities arrested five men and one woman who they say may have operated as many as 31 brothels in southern California. According to the district attorney’s office, the suspects kept costs down in part by providing patrons with plastic food wrap (which the alleged ringleader purchased in bulk) rather than condoms.

Government in Action

The Hindustani Times reported in April that newly revised performance-appraisal forms issued by India’s Ministry of Personnel would require female civil servants to disclose the date of their last menstrual period. (After several days of outraged complaints the government said it would review the new forms.)

Unclear on the Concept

In March, after receiving numerous noise complaints from neighbors, the Scandia Family Fun Center in Sacramento, California, instituted a new policy for its weeks-old main attraction, a 16-story, 65-mile-an-hour thrill ride called the Scandia Screamer: riders now must remain silent at all times or the ride will be stopped immediately. Said one 15-year-old patron, “It’s kind of a bummer.”

Good Points, Bad Points

The Daily Examiner of Huddersfield, England, reported in September that Alan Hutchinson, a 51-year-old dentist from nearby Batley, was soon to spend a month volunteering with a health-care charity in Ghana. In April, however, a UK regulatory council barred Hutchinson from dentistry after 28 years of practice, citing evidence that he routinely failed to wash his hands or wear gloves, he sometimes used dental tools to clean his ears and nails and replaced them on the tray unsterilized, and on more than one occasion his longtime nurse had caught him urinating in the sink.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, traditionally held to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, and the complex power-sharing arrangement that allows clergy, monks, and acolytes from six Christian denominations to coexist there with only the occasional fistfight. In April the UK’s Independent reported that as thousands of pilgrims arrived at the church for Easter observance, lavatory drain blockage had led to a pronounced odor of sewage in the building, but the three denominations–Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic–that control the church’s public toilets had not yet resolved Armenian Apostolic grievances that were keeping badly needed renovations on hold. Though the Armenians conceded they were obstructing larger renovation plans, they said the current problem could be fixed immediately if a fourth denomination, the Coptic Orthodox church of Egypt, weren’t denying emergency access to a critical section of plumbing until it’s granted permanent control of one of the toilet stalls.

More livestock hoarding: 47-year-old David Watts was arrested in March on animal cruelty charges for keeping 80 sheep as pets in his 2,200-square-foot house in downtown Apex, North Carolina. The existence of Watts’s flock was no secret–neighbors had been complaining about the smell and the flies for years, and sometimes he’d walk a sheep around the streets on a leash–but animal control officers said they’d only recently seen serious health problems on their regular visits to the house. It wasn’t until the sheep were found eating floral arrangements in a nearby cemetery that police finally stepped in.

Family Values

According to police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in March Fermin Rodriguez, 21, slashed his 17-year-old wife at least 20 times, cut off her hair, then handed the knife to their two-year-old son and told him, “Now you stab Mommy.” And in April a pawnshop manager in Gretna, Louisiana, told WDSU TV that a man at the store had asked to see an AK-47 assault rifle, then handed it to his toddler son and explained how to load and hold it. Surveillance footage shows the boy walking around the store with the gun, and reportedly the man kept repeating “Daddy’s going to buy you this chopper” and “Kill everybody, soldier” until the manager took the gun away. (The parish sheriff said the father apparently hadn’t broken any laws.)

Least Competent Criminals

Howard Fisher, 54, was arrested in March on DUI and drug-trafficking charges after he plowed into a parked South Carolina highway patrol cruiser on Interstate 95 near Santee (it was positioned to block off an accident site) in a car allegedly containing 43 pounds of marijuana. In the same month, three men were arrested for drug possession after they drove up to a tollbooth on New York City’s Triborough Bridge in a car allegedly containing $4,000 worth of cocaine and found they didn’t have $4.50 for the toll.

The Classic Middle Name

Arrested recently and awaiting trial for murder: Gary Wayne Ray Jr. (Oklahoma City, February), Lewis Wayne Fielder Jr. (Laurens, South Carolina, February), Robert Wayne Wyant (Charlottesville, Virginia, February). Charged with murder while serving time in another state for manslaughter: Larry Wayne Brigman (Saint Paul, Minnesota, February). Allegedly confessed to murder, as well as to dismembering and grilling the victim’s body: Timothy Wayne Shepherd (Houston, March). Sentenced to life in prison for murder: Jimmy Wayne Bass (Mobile, Alabama, February). Recaptured after escaping from prison while serving life for murder: Michael Wayne Brunner (La Grange, Kentucky, March).

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