Lead Stories

Earlier this month in Pleasanton, California, four veterans groups (including two American Legion posts) hosted a class on dowsing, hoping to determine whether divining rods–forked sticks traditionally used to locate underground water sources–could identify domestic terrorists. A spokesperson for the veterans, who claims to know “for a fact” that oil and mining companies use dowsing, told the local Tri-Valley Herald, “You can’t wait for the FBI and police to come up with solutions when you have the bad guys living among us.”

In March the Daily Telegraph of London reported that the North Korean government of Kim Jong Il is seizing all babies born as triplets and placing them in state-run orphanages. The number three is considered auspicious in North Korea, and diplomats who’ve visited the country suspect Kim fears a triplet will rise to power and topple his regime. The North Korean government has told the UN that the orphanages are actually part of a welfare program, but triplets born to wealthy high-ranking officials are seized as well.

The Things People Believe

In February in Bridgeview, Illinois, Brian J. Samdahl allegedly used a can opener to stab a stranger 15 times at a Wal-Mart, then explained to police that his government-implanted computer chip was malfunctioning. In February in Athens, Alabama, Jesus Santana (charged with marijuana possession) told arresting officers that “God got y’all to get me”–Santana had been using pages torn from a Bible as rolling papers for joints. And in March in Provo, Utah, William Veach (charged with securities fraud) insisted that when he scammed friends and family with a phony investment opportunity, he truly believed–due to his bipolar disorder–that he’d sold an experimental keyboard design to Microsoft for $17 million.

Not My Fault

In December the town council of Enfield, Connecticut, drew fire for letting the town’s insurance company pay a total of $135,000 to two softball players who claimed they’d hurt themselves sliding into bases in city parks–especially because the two are brothers, and the alleged injuries occurred on the same field a week apart. (The brothers claimed that the bases should’ve broken away from their anchors.) Said one Enfield taxpayer (a former minor-league baseball player), “You’re supposed to slide before you hit the base.”

In March a New York City jury awarded $51.1 million to Darryl Barnes, who was paralyzed by an off-duty police officer’s bullet in 1988 when he refused to drop his submachine gun. The prosecution claimed that Barnes had been a member of the Five Percenters, a Nation of Islam splinter group that allegedly advocates killing cops; Barnes denied the membership and insisted he’d already thrown down his weapon when he was shot. However, he admitted to pointing it at the officer first.

Can’t Possibly Be True

In February in Green Township, Ohio, a house cat named Princess survived a stab wound from an eight-inch knife, which pierced the top of her skull and reached her frontal sinus. But two guard dogs at a prison in Sombor, Serbia, were not so lucky: the BBC reported in February that jail officials shot the animals to death because they’d failed to bark when five inmates tunneled out under a wall.

People Different From Us

In March in Lewisburg, West Virginia, Michael Corbett and his wife, Sharon, were charged with using U.S. mail to distribute obscene material–specifically, copies of 53 different videos of women answering nature’s call, often filmed with a “bowl cam” of the Corbetts’ own design. According to investigators, the Corbetts routinely sold more than 100 videos a week (with titles such as Outdoor Pooping Paradise) for around $50 a pop.

Least Justifiable Homicides

In December in Barstow, California, 27-year-old Jeffrey Lee Daniels confessed to killing a 58-year-old male acquaintance who’d paid ten dollars to sleep naked next to Daniels; according to police, Daniels “went off on” the victim after the older man touched him “in the area of his butt.” And in November in Wollaston, Massachusetts, 54-year-old Robert Carnathan allegedly beat a 79-year-old man to death in a fight over lost balls on a golf course; according to witnesses, Carnathan sells the balls for five dollars a dozen, and he thought the victim was intruding on his turf.

Readers’ Choice

Earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas, 41-year-old Jerry Thomason was charged with aggravated assault and unlawful restraint after police found his 45-year-old wife chained by her neck to his car, which was parked near their house. Earlier that day Thomason had told a witness that he uses the chain to keep his wife from running off, but once in custody he told officers that he loves her and wants to take care of her.

In the Last Month

Officials of the prestigious Crufts dog show in Birmingham, England, began an investigation to determine whether the current champion (a Pekingese nickamed Danny, who beat out 20,000 challengers) has had an illegal face-lift. And in Largo, Florida, family welfare officials suspended a child protection investigator who’d become the fourth such worker in recent months to get romantically involved with an accused or convicted criminal–she was dating a convicted killer (and alleged deadbeat dad).

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