Lead Stories

The starvation death of a 49-year-old woman in Scotland in September was the third among the followers of Australian Ellen Greve, who preaches “liberation from the drudgery of food and drink” to Westerners, in part to tap the “spirituality” of third world hunger. Greve claims 5,000 disciples and charges more than $2,000 (U.S.) per ticket to her seminars.

In August, Bob Thompson, who had just sold his road-building firm in Belleville, Michigan, for $422 million, dished out $128 million in bonuses to its 550 workers, with managers and salaried workers receiving an annuity worth at least $1 million. Thompson said the gift was warranted because the company’s success is “dependent on people.” Said one worker to Thompson, “There’s nobody else in this world who would have done what you did.”

American Kangaroo Courts

Sixteen people are still imprisoned as a result of inconsistent and heavily coached testimony from children who say they were molested at day-care centers in Massachusetts and North Carolina and by a ring of sexual abusers in Wenatchee, Washington, though appeals court decisions in August and September brought to nine the number of people who’ve been released. Former Wenatchee police detective Robert Perez defends his arrests–which began with allegations by his then ten-year-old foster daughter that dozens of adults had had sex with dozens of children all over town every week for nearly six years–even though he has admitted to harassing his daughter after she tried to change her story.

Bright Ideas

In a courtroom in Stettler, Alberta, in June, police describing their arrest of David Zurfluh, 18, for DUI said Zurfluh ripped a large swath of cloth from his undershorts and stuffed it in his mouth, hoping, Zurfluh later said, to absorb the alcohol in his breath before taking a Breathalyzer test. Zurfluh had the last laugh when the judge dismissed the charge after officers admitted that the reading was not above the legal limit.

A May police report in the Messenger of Madisonville, Kentucky, recounted an incident on a rural road: a man would drive one truck 100 yards, stop, walk back to a second truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the first one, stop, walk back to the first truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the second one, and so on. According to police, the man’s brother had passed out in one of the trucks, so the man was driving both home.

Cliches Come to Life

Carol Champion, upon being given a special award by the London Tourist Board in July for outstanding work as a rest-room attendant, said at a special ceremony, “I just want to thank my manager, Richard, the cleaning staff, the maintenance men, my customers, and everybody who knows me. I could not have achieved this without them.”

Pest-control specialists cited in the syndicated newspaper feature Earth Week in June said that last year’s El Ni–o storms caused a huge rat infestation in southern California, especially around Beverly Hills. In the middle of a drought, the annual July Rain Day festival in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, was hit by rain for the 105th time in 126 years. And after a judge in Edmonton, Alberta, forbade a 40-year-old sex offender in July to keep pornographic magazines at home, the man admitted he had some but said he was only reading the articles.

Unclear on the Concept

In July the Dallas Better Business Bureau began charging consumers $9.50 per call for the privilege of having their complaints of being ripped off by local businesses listened to.

In April in Riverside, California, Allen Randolph Payne, 40, was sentenced to 1,113 years in prison for molesting his three daughters through most of their adolescence. Not only did the mother, Carol Payne, side with her husband at the trial, but one daughter said she once chased her around the house with a baseball bat and a gun after finding her in bed with Allen.

In March a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Italy issued a press release that suggested increasing the world food supply by breeding more rabbits but expressed concern that governments had a “lack of training” in doing so.

The F Word

In August, David Hellpern, a magistrate of Dubbo, Australia, dismissed charges against an aboriginal man for shouting “Fuck off!” to a police officer, calling the F word “extremely commonplace now” and having “lost most of its punch.” But in August in Colorado Springs, a state liquor-control agent removed 29 signs containing the word from Leonard Carlo’s tavern, such as one that read “No Fucking Tap Beer.” In October the ACLU obtained a temporary restraining order against the liquor agency, arguing that the word was part of the bar’s “image and character.” Carlo, who named his dog “Fuck You,” uses the word frequently, though he told a female reporter for the Denver Rocky Mountain News that he hoped he hadn’t offended her.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several cases of animals’ DNA being crucial to criminal cases, including pets’ blood and fur in human murder cases and prime-rib DNA in a cattle-rustling case. In July the Wall Street Journal reported that Canadian authorities will introduce a test in November to make it easier to stop tree theft, a $50 million-a-year crime industry, by comparing the genetic material from stumps with that of recently cut logs.

Least Competent Criminals

Cops making it look easy: Jason L. Miller, 19, with a warrant outstanding, was arrested in Elgin, Illinois, in May after an officer recognized him when he showed up for a police ride-along program. And Kent Mayes, 42, was arrested in De Ridder, Louisiana, in August when he flagged down a passing car and offered to sell drugs to the occupants, even though they were narcotics officers wearing badges and guns; one of them had arrested Mayes several times in the past.

In the Last Month

Angry that a neighbor’s grass trimmings had flown into his yard, a man in Herndon, Virginia, pounded the neighbor with a nail-studded board. A murder trial in Ottawa, Ontario, was postponed when the defendant was called for jury duty that day and accidentally placed in the pool for his own trial. A convicted man in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, received additional jail time for contempt of court after he slit his throat in front of the judge. The wound required 100 stitches. In New York City a drug runner sued the U.S. Customs Department for forcing the surgical removal of seven heroin bags he had swallowed instead of waiting for them to pass naturally. A Boston traffic agency handed out leaflets during rush hour to explain rerouting problems but stopped when motorists slowing down for the leaflets caused a backup several miles long.

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.