Lead Stories

David D’Amato, a 39-year-old high school guidance counselor in West Hempstead, New York, was convicted in April of disabling E-mail at three universities to avenge himself against male students who had tried to break off their association with him. Over the years D’Amato had paid hundreds of dollars to each of the students for videotapes of them being tied up and tickled. Known in his on-line community as “territickle,” D’Amato was not charged with sex crimes because the students were clothed at all times.

In March, Larry Causey pleaded guilty to holding up the U.S. post office in West Monroe, Louisiana, a crime he committed apparently for the sole purpose of receiving treatment for his cancer. Federal law and the laws of most states require that prisoners be furnished with adequate medical care; after being jailed Causey was immediately prescribed three drugs and scheduled for a colonoscopy.

Researchers at Northwestern University reported recently that they have developed a light-seeking machine operated solely by signals from the extracted brain of a lamprey (an eellike fish), which they have preserved in an oxygenated saline solution. They hope to use the technology to develop sophisticated prostheses….And the Office of Naval Research reported in April that the marines are developing a four-pound aerial vehicle that can be assembled anywhere and launched from a handheld ground station. The size of a hawk, it cruises quietly at 45 miles an hour while transmitting video images, traveling up to six miles before returning to the station.

People Different From Us

Pro boxer Davey Hilton, 37, was convicted in March of having sexually assaulted two 12-year-old girls. A Montreal judge rejected his argument that the girls must be lying because they failed to mention the rubber band he fastens around his scrotum whenever he’s preparing to have sex. Hilton testified that since 1983 he has suffered from a “wandering testicle,” which tends to migrate into his abdomen when he has an erection.

Government in Action

“Children are legally responsible for parents in state facilities,” said an official in Sussex County, New Jersey, after Michael and Chrissy McMickle, ages 21 and 18 respectively, were billed for part of the cost of their father’s mental treatment, in accordance with state law. The father has been hospitalized, again in accordance with state law, after completing a prison sentence for sex offenses committed against Chrissy and Michael when they were children.

Bernard Landry, a leading candidate to be Quebec’s next premier, proposed in February that the province spend about $11 million (U.S.) to remedy a shortage of clowns and other circus performers turned out by Quebec’s National Circus School. The school currently produces eight to ten graduates a year, who are quickly placed in circuses around the world, and Landry would like to increase the number to 25 to better serve Quebec’s own Cirque du Soleil and to “maintain and enhance our leadership position” in clown training.

Ben Sciortino, a county commissioner in Wichita, Kansas, argued at a February 21 meeting that the county ought not to buy Scott paper towels for $8.06 per thousand when another brand was available for $3.67. Commissioners Betsy Gwin and Tim Norton responded by sloshing some water on the table and testing the absorbency of each towel; the Scott towel reportedly picked up at least twice as much water, and Sciortino quickly withdrew his objection.

According to the New York Post, in late March the AIDS support office of New York City rented 20 rooms in the four-star Hotel Sofitel, costing $329 each, to shelter homeless AIDS patients, to the annoyance of paying guests. The office budgets $180,000 a week to shelter about 200 such patients and was unable to find vacancies elsewhere.

The New Health-Care Crises

Missouri State Hospital in Fulton opened an entire 20-room, 11-guard wing last year for one patient, 23-year-old Angela Coffel, who had just finished a five-year sentence for molesting two teenage boys but must be hospitalized as a sexual predator until doctors release her….And according to a February report in the Indian Express, the government-run Saint Mary’s hospital in the town of Mussoorie hasn’t had a patient for three years but continues to pay the full staff to report to work every day. Located on a steep incline, the hospital has no ambulance, and access on foot is treacherous, especially to sick patients.

Least Competent People

Since September 2000, Pittsburgh has lost 214 parking meters, each of which sets the city back $350. This crime wave is perplexing: according to the city’s parking director, meters average $8.46 a day in change. To open one a thief would need to use either a sledgehammer or a crowbar (or a blowtorch to melt the glass dome), and two meters might yield about the same amount of money as the hourly wage of a city employee who empties the meters using a key.

Thinning the Herd

A 22-year-old man who told his friend he needed “something to do” climbed from balcony to balcony at a London high-rise in January until he lost his grip and fell seven floors to his death….In Zebulon, North Carolina, a 48-year-old man was asphyxiated as a 36-year-old man held him down; the two were fighting over who was “the baddest.”…And a 41-year-old man last seen alive on December 1, 2000, was found dead on March 2 in the chimney of the Magna Tool Corporation building in Racine, Wisconsin. Authorities believe that he got stuck in the chimney during a burglary attempt.

In the Last Month

A 747 bound for China had to land in Anchorage, Alaska, after a pair of 22-year-old twin sisters began screaming obscenities at one another and wrestled, punched, and choked a pilot and flight attendants who tried to calm them….Vorarlberg province in Austria has decreed that from now on, cattle that die in its picturesque Alpine pastures must be removed by helicopter rather than blown up with explosives where they lie….Brian Harvey, juror in a shooting trial in Canton, Ohio, claimed that he had to have a few drinks during his lunch break because the testimony made him so queasy; he was jailed for contempt of court….And according to Israeli authorities, when Miss Israel appears at the Miss Universe pageant this month in Puerto Rico, she will wear a bulletproof diamond-and-pearl evening gown designed by Galit Levi.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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