Lead Stories

Jose Lopezes in the operating room: In May Jose Maria Lopez, 33, had a six-inch footlike growth amputated from his left ankle at Whittier Hospital Medical Center in Whittier, California. And a few days earlier, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, surgeons removed a small bottle from the rectum of a Jose Lopez, 43. He said he’d gotten drunk and passed out and had no idea how the bottle got there.

Professor and cybernetics expert Kevin Warwick of England’s Reading University told the Times of London in May that several firms had approached him about surgically implanting transponder microchips in their workers as a way of keeping track of their hours and whereabouts. Last year Warwick put a chip into his own forearm to demonstrate the technology, which will be introduced in England beginning in 2001 to keep track of pets and might, he said, be used to keep track of people who are granted licenses to carry firearms.

No more inhumane punishment: In May Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that officials at the Maricopa County jails would start playing audiotapes of classic novels (like Little Women) at lights-out every night. The novels replace the previous bedtime fare, which ran for four years: a videotaped lecture series by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Ironies

An April Tampa Tribune story followed up on the young men who won the annual diving competition during Tarpon Springs’ Epiphany festival, in which the men recovered a submerged cross. One died in a car accident, one suffered a severe spinal injury, one was arrested on burglary charges, and this year, according to police, two former winners and a third diver were charged with attempted murder for bashing two people’s skulls with shovels because they were driving too slowly.

In Montreal in December convicted serial killer Allan Legere announced through his lawyer that he had increased the amount of damages he was seeking in his lawsuit against the prison for its failure to stop other inmates from beating him up. Legere is serving life for five murders, including the rape and torture killings of three women and the beating death of a Catholic priest. One witness against Legere said she once remarked to him, “You like to torture,” whereupon Legere allegedly responded, “Yes, I do.”

In his election campaign of 1998, Fred Morgan, the new Republican leader in the Oklahoma house of representatives, personally embraced the party’s proposal for reforming motor vehicle regulations, including cracking down on residents who drive with out-of-state license plates. In December Morgan admitted that his car had Arkansas tags but said he would register it in Oklahoma as soon as his late mother’s probate was settled. And in February Katrina Clark, the director of housing-code enforcement for the city of Boston, was evicted from her apartment for failure to pay more than $3,500 in rent and for reneging on her repayment plan.

In March a brawl started at a recreation-league softball game in Granada Hills, California, after an umpire changed a call from safe to out. Four off-duty Los Angeles police officers on one of the teams were roughed up with bats. One officer ran to his car, retrieved his weapon, and held the other team at bay until on-duty officers arrived.

Ester Maria Pena, 58, was convicted and fined $100 in Frederick County, Maryland, in March for an incident last year in which police chased her at high speeds for four miles and arrested her at gunpoint. According to the officers, Pena had sped off after they tried to pull her over for driving too slowly.

Inexplicable

In March the London newspaper the Sun reported that a folder containing about 70 pages of medical records of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family was found lying on the side of a road near the town of Ayr in southwest Scotland.

In January, following his transfer from a maximum-security prison to a minimum-security facility in British Columbia, convicted murderer Colin Thatcher persuaded warden Ron Wiebe to let him ship his horse to the prison so he could get in some riding. Wiebe told reporters the prison has in the past helped inmates prepare for careers in ranching after their release, but Thatcher, 60, is serving a life sentence for killing his ex-wife.

Prominent New York City chef (and TV cooking-show star) David Ruggerio pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in March for inflating at least 26 credit-card transactions at his Manhattan restaurant. According to the prosecutor, Ruggerio added tips of $221,000 to dinner tabs totaling $4,000, including one $30,000 tip on a $1,000 check.

Recurring Themes

The classic middle name, continued: Executed for murder in Florence, Arizona, in May: Robert Wayne Vickers. Convicted of murder in Frederick, Maryland, in March: Bruce Wayne Koenig. Convicted of murder in Lenexa, Kansas, in May: Rodney Wayne Henry. Confessed to murder in Fort Worth, Texas, in March: Arthur Wayne Goodman Jr. Sentenced for murder in Prattville, Alabama, in May: Timothy Wayne Barnett. Charged with murder in Birmingham, Alabama, in May: Percy Wayne Froman. Charged with murder in Houston in April: Bradley Wayne Cagle.

Reassurance for News of the Weird Readers

According to a report from New York’s Newsday in April, the judge in the trial of the New York City officers accused of brutalizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima permitted a juror to remain on the panel despite an objection by a defense lawyer that she had been seen reading the Weekly World News in the jury lounge; the headline was “Woman Pregnant With Mummy’s Baby.” After questioning the woman about whether she liked “weird stories,” the judge let the matter pass.

Undignified Deaths

In incidents one week apart in April, in Morristown, New Jersey, and Bloomfield Township, Michigan, construction workers became trapped in sand pits and quick-thinking coworkers attempted to pull them out with backhoes. But in both cases the backhoe operators accidentally decapitated the workers.

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.