Lead Stories

The fashion house Alberta Ferretti recently introduced pieces made from hamster pelts, including a reversible patchwork coat of fur, camel, and leather (about $6,000) and a skirt suit ($6,300). The London Ferretti store told the Express newspaper in late October that it had sold 11 of its 12 suit jackets.

Four weeks after admonishing the government for its treatment of scientist Wen Ho Lee, U.S. District judge James A. Parker scolded federal prosecutors for demanding a harsh sentence against a convicted New Mexico perjurer, pointing out that the prosecutors’ boss, President Clinton, had asked for leniency for his own false testimony in the Paula Jones case. The New Mexico perjurer, Ruben Renteria Sr., 49, was convicted of lying about consenting to be searched, for which Judge Parker imposed a 15-month sentence rather than the five years the government wanted. President Clinton received no jail sentence but was fined $90,000 and is fighting to keep his Arkansas law license.

They Bought Air Freshener by the Truckload

In Akron, Ohio, Ralph Carlone, 48, was charged with corpse abuse in July for failing to report his parents’ deaths (his mother’s two weeks before and his father’s 11 years earlier) and continuing to live with their bodies inside the home he had shared with them. In September a judge in Phoenix acquitted Frank A. Martinez, 71, of killing his wife in 1987; Martinez had kept her body in their trailer home until 1998, when his suicide attempt brought police, who found the corpse. Martinez’s neighbors had long complained of the smell, but he convinced them that a dead cat had been buried underneath the trailer.

Compelling Explanations

The Reverend Marvin Munyon of the Family Research Forum told parents at a September seminar at the Eau Claire Gospel Center in Madison, Wisconsin, how to administer the corporal punishment demanded in the Bible: “You spank them right here on the gluteus maximus, which God made for that purpose.” Spanking should begin by age two, he said, and used properly, it will build self-esteem because it shows children they are loved.

A strip club in Hove, England, applied for a license variance in September, asking for exemption from a rule prohibiting customers from touching dancers because it discriminates against customers who are blind. Dancers were said to approve of the exemption, if limited to actual blind people.

In September the Florida court of appeals denied lawyer Philip G. Butler’s challenge to his bribery conviction. Butler had represented himself at trial and lost, then appealed, claiming that he had failed to adequately inform himself that acting as his own lawyer was foolish.

Crises in the Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in July that an employee fired for his “obsessive” belief in the possibility of cold fusion–which most physicists believe is impossible–can sue the employer for religious discrimination. As long as an employee has a seriously held conviction that he regards as “religious,” he is protected under federal law. The petitioner, Paul A. LaViolette, worked at the U.S. Patent Office.

Darius McCollum, 35, was profiled in the New York Times in August after his 19th arrest for impersonating a city transit worker. Said McCollum: “I am not insane. I [just] like the activity. I like the noise. I like the people who work there.” Said one official, “What this guy does is kind of wacky, but he is very much on the ball.” McCollum spends a lot of time talking to bus and train employees at all levels and is well versed in transit procedures and techniques. Said McCollum: “To tell you the truth, I wish they would just [hire me]. It would be a lot easier.”

In August the New Hampshire supreme court OK’d worker compensation payments to a state employee for work-related depression, even though the employee was depressed because she’d received bad performance reviews. The state appeals board acknowledged that Gail Sirviris-Allen had been justifiably cited for inaccurate work and a bad attitude.

Driving While Otherwise Occupied

Lucrecia Ortuno, 30, was charged in August with injuring her eight-month-old son in a car crash in Houston; according to police reports, she was breast-feeding him while driving. Kenneth Herron, 40, was charged with manslaughter in August in Little Rock after his car crossed the center line and collided with another car; according to police, Herron was steering with his knees while preparing his crack cocaine. And a 27-year-old woman was killed on a highway near Atlanta in August; according to witnesses, she lost control of her car while applying makeup.


Three months ago News of the Weird referred to laws in Alabama, Texas, and Georgia (until May, Louisiana was on the list) that banned the sale of sex toys. In October the U.S. court of appeals upheld the constitutionality of Alabama’s law, and in August the Austin Chronicle reported that Texas sex shops are getting around that state’s law by selling dildos as “anatomically correct condom education models.” And in Georgia at press time, there was a license-revocation action pending against Lucy’s Love Shop for violating that state’s version of the law.

Least Competent Criminals

Federal grand juror Mark Vincent Hinckley, 37, part of a panel that had voted to indict an alleged Denver drug dealer, was arrested in August after he went to the dealer’s office and attempted to sell him information about the government’s case for $50,000. Hinckley had apparently forgotten the basis for the evidence he’d heard: the government had bugged the alleged dealer’s office. The dealer’s indictment had to be dismissed because of Hinckley’s misconduct, but Hinckley himself was indicted a few days later.

In the Last Month

In Taipei three martial-arts masters pulled a truck containing 80 people 12 inches using ropes attached to their penises. In Victoria, British Columbia, a divorce-court judge awarded the family home to a former couple’s two kids (ages 11 and 13), allowing the mother three weeks and the father one week of visitation a month. Two female prisoners and their boyfriends were arrested for partying at the South Dakota governor’s mansion, where the women had work-release jobs on the kitchen staff, while the family was away.

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): Shawn Belschwender.