Lead Stories

Rosamaria Machado-Wilson, former manager of an audio lab in Panama City, Florida, filed a lawsuit against her employer in July, claiming she was fired for not embracing Christianity. Machado-Wilson claims the company forced her to be baptized and to attend prayer meetings, and that she sometimes encountered prostrate employees praying in tongues in the office. She says the experience caused her to compulsively read the Bible and to refuse conjugal sex.

In Columbus, Ohio, in July, convicted child-pornography importer Timothy Rowles, 29, got his prison sentence increased from one year to two after he wrote to the judge asking that his explicit magazines be returned to him, saying they did not violate “community standards.” “I’m part of the community,” he wrote, “and if what I have doesn’t bother me, why should it matter?”

In July tourists driving a pickup truck with California plates camped out in a Peruvian historical-landmark area and defaced huge, 1,500-year-old Indian drawings called the Nazca lines with their tire tracks. The stretch of desert 250 miles south of Lima is not well guarded but is ringed with concrete markers; some experts believe that it will take decades for the tracks to completely disappear.

Least Justified Road Rages

A 41-year-old man was arrested in Conneaut, Ohio, in May and charged with shooting two volunteer firefighters. The victims were assisting an ambulance crew with an injured, elderly woman; apparently the man became impatient when the ambulance driver took too much time backing out of a driveway. And in April army major Odie Butler stood for 45 minutes protecting a critically wounded woman whose van had overturned on a highway in Alexandria, Virginia, during rush hour. Butler said many commuters not only refused to call for help, but shouted abuse and gave him the finger because the accident had blocked a lane of traffic.

Cliches Come to Life

In May four girls ages 11 and 12 beat up New York City sixth-grade teacher Aishah Ahmad, 44, when she declined to switch the classroom TV from educational programming to The Jerry Springer Show. A month earlier Joseph Calore, a high school student in Stratford, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against his school because a teacher kept the talk show on during an exam. According to Calore, a fight on the show provoked another student to punch Calore and break his jaw.

The Church of Stevie Nicks

In July Ronald Anacelteo, 38, was ordered by a court in Los Angeles to stay away from singer Stevie Nicks, whom Anacelteo thought could make him straight. According to a law enforcement officer, Anacelteo “is a self-proclaimed homosexual” who believes that Nicks can “heal” his homosexuality and “find [him] a woman to marry.”

The Lowest of the Low

In June retired Missouri Highway Patrol investigator Jack Merritt told reporters he had destroyed the photograph he took in 1994 of Christian County sheriff Steve Whitney touching a murder victim’s breast during an autopsy. The man charged with the murder is in court, where his attorney is questioning autopsy procedures. And Mark Calebs, 31, was arrested in July in London, Kentucky, and charged with breaking into a funeral home and taking the underpants from the body of a nine-year-old girl who had died of cancer.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In July a federal judge in Brooklyn rejected a prosecutor’s request to stop Latin Kings gang leader Antonio Fernandez from selling Amway products. Fernandez, out on bail on drug charges, is restricted to his home except under certain conditions, and the prosecutor believed Fernandez would use the sales route to conduct gang business. Fernandez’s lawyer said the Amway business was a good opportunity and could lead Fernandez into Tupperware, Mary Kay, and Avon.

The French company Neyret announced plans earlier this year to market “exciting” underwear, beginning with a bra that gives off a scent of pink grapefruit, apple, watermelon, black currant, or apricot when stretched taut or caressed.

In February the Kloser brewery in Nuezelle, Germany, announced it would soon begin selling dark beer concentrate for bubble baths and eczema treatment. Yeast left in the beer is said to soothe the skin. Said owner Helmut Fritsche, “You can bathe in it or drink it. Whoever wants to can do both.”

For people with way too much money: The New York Times reported in April that Burberrys had introduced six new styles of trench coats for dogs at prices ranging from $65 to $575. A July New York Times feature pictured a Gucci dog bowl at $750, in black or clear. And in late 1997 Gucci introduced its nipple ring, $790 for crystal or $6,300 for diamond.

Businessman Denis Braun told the San Diego Union-Tribune in June of his proposal to finance a new downtown baseball stadium for the Padres by selling space inside the outfield wall for about 70,000 cremation urns at about $2,500 a slot.

Least Competent Criminals

Suspected drug dealer Dwayne Brown, 24, and two friends allegedly hatched a plot to help Brown escape from a jail in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in February. Brown was to lower a rope made out of blankets from an 18th-floor jail window, the friends would tie a gun to it, and Brown would use it to threaten a judge at his next court date. Searches at the jail and at the courthouse would have uncovered the weapon, but guards overheard the whole plan when the friends visited Brown in jail.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on husbands who superglued their wives’ genitals closed in retaliation for alleged extramarital affairs. In April Richard McDonald, 32, was arrested in Rock Island, Illinois, for gluing his girlfriend’s genitals closed. And in Easthampton, Massachusetts, in July, Kim M. Bonafilia, 34, was charged with assaulting her ex-boyfriend with a baseball bat and attempting to superglue his penis to his leg after he allegedly admitted he was interested in her only for sex.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

In June Terrence C. O’Neal, 48, who police say had just robbed a pharmacy in Westerville, Ohio, collapsed and died in his getaway car (driven by an accomplice) during a ten-minute police chase.

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.