Lead Stories

Highway patrol officers in Spearfish, South Dakota, arrested a 17-year-old boy in February and charged him with stealing a car in his hometown of Madison, South Dakota. According to police reports in the Madison Daily Leader, the troopers were finishing up a meal at a Perkins restaurant when the boy, who had been sitting in an adjacent booth, suddenly approached them, lay spread-eagled on the floor, and said, “Please don’t shoot me…the car is in the parking lot.”

In February prosecutors in Union City, New Jersey, began looking into the dental practice of Kevin P. Ward, 42, after a five-year-old boy emerged from a routine office visit with a broken leg. The boy told his mother that Ward had hurt him after the boy kicked him because of pain. In January, Ward was sued by the parents of an eight-year-old girl who suffered a broken wrist while having a tooth pulled in 1996.

Latest Adventures in Democracy

In December, Ernesto Alvear, 74, told reporters in Valparaiso, Chile, he would never again try to vote after being ruled ineligible for the third time in ten years because records indicated he was dead. Islam Karimov was reelected president of Uzbekistan in January; opponent Abdulkhafiz Dzhalalov got 4 percent, not including his own vote, which was for Karimov. And Mary Fung Koehler, 65, lost for mayor of Lake Forest Park, Washington, in November, despite predicting victory after interpreting the movements of a pendulum. During her campaign Koehler admitted to short-term memory loss from an auto accident, but said, “You can’t tell because my IQ is so much higher than the average person’s.”

Unclear on the Concept

According to international police statistics, South Africa has the world’s highest incidence of reported rape. In draft legislation circulated in January, the South African Law Commission proposed to criminalize “any act which causes [any] penetration to any extent whatsoever.” According to a researcher, that would cover “simulat[ing] sexual penetration by putting your finger in a guy’s nose,” which “some people have told us [is] a serious problem.”

Malone College in Canton, Ohio, announced in October that it would offer an eight-week exercise-and-fitness class entirely on-line. Instructor Charles Grimes said he was confident that he could detect whether students were really doing the exercises through on-line chats and by requiring students to keep journals.

In December in Eugene, Oregon, Eric E. Wray, 35, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting the teenage boy who had been living with him. According to the prosecutor, Wray had sexually abused the boy for years and had grown jealous that he had acquired friends, including girls, and one day came after the boy with a pistol. Said Wray at sentencing, referring to the pistol incident, “[The boy] makes it seem like I am a criminal. It was one day in my entire life.”

Bright Ideas

Lee Ming-chi, 31, was sentenced to five years in prison in Hong Kong in December for two taxicab robberies totaling about $220 (U.S.). Lee had taken pity on one victim and given him back about $12, but wary of leaving fingerprints, he removed the money from the stash with his teeth and dropped it in the cabbie’s hand. Police matched the DNA from the saliva on the money with DNA from Lee’s blood.

Shawn Phillips, a police officer in East Penn Township, Pennsylvania, was charged in December with conspiracy to commit assault after a Little League pitcher said that Phillips (known around town as “Officer Phil”) had paid him $2 to hit a batter with a ball in a game last May. The pitcher complied and was paid, but so far Phillips has been silent about a motive.

In Boston chemical engineer Glenn Elion was sentenced to nearly four years in prison in February on a federal charge that he defrauded investors of $3.8 million by claiming to have duplicated the genetic code of spider silk. According to the prosecutor, Elion needed the money because he had just been ripped off for at least $700,000 in a scam in which someone claims he found millions in U.S. currency that has been ruined by indelible ink applied by the Nigerian government, but that he knows an expensive process to remove the ink and will split the proceeds with whoever funds the cleaning.

Love schemes: Police in New Albany, Indiana, said that Charles E. Adams, 28, convinced buddy Clifton “Scooter” Foster in January to stab him so that Adams could see if his ex-girlfriend would visit him in the hospital. (Adams survived.) Frederick Alex Hunchak, 35, pleaded guilty in Wynyard, Saskatchewan, in January to puncturing the tires of three cars driven by women; he said he had hoped to find true love by “rescuing” them. And an Arizona State student let football player J.R. Redmond use her cell phone, then convinced him that it was an NCAA rules violation unless they got married. (They did, but annulment was scheduled for March.)

Getting Dangerous Felons off the Streets

In February a judge in Mohave County, Arizona, sentenced Deborah Lynn Quinn, 39, to a year in prison for violating probation on a marijuana-selling charge. Quinn has no arms, no right leg, a partial left leg, and is almost totally dependent on others for care. Also in February, a federal judge in Atlanta sentenced quadriplegic Louis E. Covar Jr., 51, to seven years in prison for violating the probation he had received on a charge of possessing marijuana. (Their incarcerations are estimated to cost about five times as much as those of able-bodied prisoners.)

Recurring Themes

More evidence that cigarettes are bad for you: In Cleveland, Charlene Smiley, 44, was charged in February with fatally stabbing a 40-year-old woman in a dispute over smoking in Smiley’s boyfriend’s house. And Michael Raines, 20, was charged with fatally shooting a 41-year-old man in Benton, Tennessee, in October because the man would not return the cigarette lighter Raines had loaned him.

Least Competent Criminals

February negative-cash-flow robberies: In Albuquerque an unidentified man asked for change for a $10 bill to get a juice bar clerk to open the register, then announced a robbery; the clerk locked the register instead and the man fled, leaving his $10 behind. The same thing happened at a convenience store in Spokane, Washington, but the robber only asked for change for a quarter, which he left behind when the clerk told a phone caller he was being robbed.

In the Last Month

A new law requires Mongolia’s citizens, most of whom have only one name, to adopt surnames to differentiate themselves, but more than half have chosen Borjigon, Genghis Khan’s family name. A British Airways plane that made an emergency landing in Manchester because of smoke in the cabin was carrying four women in the final class of a six-week course on overcoming their fear of flying. Charges were filed against a Norwalk, Connecticut, woman for giving her kids, ages five and seven, a hammer and a screwdriver in their school bags to use on bullies. A group of sexually frustrated women in Kandara, Kenya, stormed a police station, demanding either that the taverns their husbands hang out in be shut down or that the cops themselves service the women. The Swaziland parliament’s speaker of the house resigned under pressure, two months after he was caught stealing manure from ruling King Mswati III.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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