Lead Stories

Michael Anthony Horne filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio in May for wrongful arrest last year. He had pulled off the road to nap, attracting the attention of a passing patrolman who searched Horne’s car and found a container holding Horne’s grandmother’s ashes. A field test on the ashes indicated the presence of methamphetamines. Horne was in jail for 30 days until he made bail, and the case cost him his job, his car, his apartment, and his military reserve status. Two subsequent drug tests on the ashes were negative, but the tests used up almost all of the remains.

In May the Food and Drug Administration voted to continue the approval process for human skin-replacement patches made by Organogenesis Inc. of Canton, Massachusetts. To grow the patches, the company cultivates residue from circumcisions. One snipped foreskin can eventually produce 200,000 three-inch disks of skin. The Economist called this use of foreskin “the most profitable…since David presented Saul with a sack load” to gain the throne of Israel.

Cradle of democracy: In May actor Jose Estrada was elected president in one of the Philippines’ quietest elections ever: only 45 people were killed in campaign-related incidents. Former first lady Imelda Marcos dropped out of the race in April, but got back in, she said, to prevent several of her supporters from killing themselves. Among the losers was Mario Lagazpi, who claimed that he was God and that he had taken a leave of absence from heaven to help the country.

Opera Conductor Imitates Chevy Chase

In June James Conlon, the music director of the Paris Opera, accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his baton while he was in Cincinnati rehearsing Stravinsky’s The Nightingale for a festival. He returned to work two hours later.

Dangerous Workplaces: the Restaurant

In May Jose Grimal, 46, a soup cook at the San Francisco Hilton Hotel, was charged with biting off the end of a supervisor’s finger during a fight over access to a storeroom. And in Durham, North Carolina, waiter Joseph Drummond, 27, was charged with assault in April for allegedly stabbing a fellow waiter who had taken a hot potato off of one of Drummond’s trays. Also in April restaurant cook Harold Jack Sutton, 70, was finally arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee, on a 22-year-old murder charge. Sutter had allegedly killed a fellow cook in a carving-knife duel in the parking lot of a Delaware restaurant.

U.S. Congressmen Are Better at This

In March a handwriting expert said British Columbia legislator Paul Reitsma was the author of a letter to the editor of the Parksville Morning Sun praising Reitsma’s performance. The next day Reitsma admitted he had written it but that he had done so on someone else’s behalf. When confronted by charges that he had written nine similar letters, he said “to the best of my knowledge” he hadn’t written any others. The day after that he admitted to having written all nine amid charges that he had written several dozen more.

At Least He’s Not Making Regulations

Recently a TV station in Washington, D.C., aired a story on Government Printing Office bureaucrat J. Emory Crandall’s complaint that his bosses had refused to give him more than three days’ work in the last eight years, despite his $90,000 salary. The station videotaped Crandall at work reading, napping, and playing computer games. In May U.S. representative Scott Klug of Wisconsin, who was a reporter at the station before being elected to Congress, demanded an explanation.

Questionable Judgments

In April Darren Kennedy, 30, pleaded no contest in Denver to several misdemeanors for streaking across Coors Field during a Colorado Rockies baseball game. Kennedy told the judge he thought it would be a good way to meet women.

In December the Reverend Joyce Mines of Saint Stephen’s Pentecostal Church in York, Virginia, drew criticism for distributing leaflets that she said were meant to save souls and increase her church’s membership. The flyers were aimed at girls and young women and asked, “Did your grandma have ways like a whore? Did your mother have ways like a whore? Do you have ways like a whore? Are you now raising a whore?” Mines said no offense was intended.

People who would be free today if they had kept lower profiles: If you’re smoking marijuana and have outstanding arrest warrants, you shouldn’t say “come in” when someone knocks on the door, as two men in Lanagan, Missouri, did in March. At the door was a former police officer campaigning door-to-door for mayor. If you’re carrying heroin and marijuana, you shouldn’t cause a disturbance by spitting on the front window of a bar, as did Ruben F. Adams, 20, in Montpelier, Vermont, in May. If you’re on probation requiring you to abstain from alcohol for a DUI that caused a death, you shouldn’t pop into a local bar and shout, “I’m here to get drunk,” as Jennifer Hardin of Raleigh, North Carolina, did in March, because the prosecutor who convicted you might be in the next booth.

People who didn’t take the precaution of removing child pornography from the hard drive before taking their computers in for repair, according to arrest records: David Asimov, 46, son of writer Isaac Asimov, in Santa Rosa, California, in March; former radio DJ Richard Kull, 31, in Leighton, Pennsylvania, in February; and flamboyant British rock star Gary Glitter, 54, in London in March.

Earlier this year Baptist minister Robert Jeffress of Wichita Falls, Texas, wrote a $54 check to the city library to purchase all the copies of the book Heather Has Two Mommies and another children’s book on living with homosexual parents, intending to pull them from circulation. However, the subsequent publicity caused so many library patrons to request the books that the library is going to order several new copies to satisfy demand.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Saratoga Springs, New York, arrested Tracey L. Wilcox, 18, in May and charged him with possession of a counterfeit $50 bill. According to police, a cashier tried to talk Wilcox out of trying to pass it, but Wilcox

insisted he take it, despite the fact that the bill bore a picture of Andrew Jackson, whose portrait graces the $20 bill, instead of Ulysses S. Grant’s visage.

Recurring Themes

Latest unusual DUI cases: Justin Carbaugh, 27, was jailed in April for driving drunk in his tractor-mower down Route 116 near York, Pennsylvania. Robert Rowland, 42, was charged with DUI on horseback in Calloway County, Kentucky, in January. And Ricky Hall, 35, was charged with driving his team of two camels while drunk in January in Oodnadatta, Australia.

Thinning the Herd

In March in Fullerton, California, a man in his early 20s accidentally shot himself to death while pistol-whipping the manager of a computer store he was robbing. And in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in June, a 32-year-old man fell to his death from a 64-foot water tower on which he had just finished painting the slogan “No Fear.”

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 by Shawn Belshwender.