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Lead Stories

Life imitates lawyer jokes: Because of overcrowding at the Chilliwack, British Columbia, courthouse, the location for jury selection in a January manslaughter case was changed to a local community center, but because of other court business taking place there the hearing had to be held in the center’s men’s room. Said prosecutor Henry Waldock, “When you start holding hearings in a bathroom, I fear it may diminish the respect for the justice system in the eyes of the public.” And since November in Miami, the gargoyles on the 24th floor of the Dade County courthouse have been suffering a swallows-at-Capistrano-like invasion of several thousand migrating vultures.

In January KZZC-FM radio in Tipton, California, ended 18 consecutive months of being an all-“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” station, during which it played various versions of the song all day, seven days a week (except when it played the Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” for one weekend). The station had been up for sale, and the owners only needed to keep the frequency occupied, but negotiations dragged on much longer than expected.

Compelling Explanations

David Schames, a founder of the Association of Coupon Professionals, explaining to columnist Martin Sloane in November why so many American companies have switched from overseas processors to prison-labor processors: “Employee stability is always an issue overseas, but most of the inmates [working for coupon companies] are serving long terms.”

In November in Palm Harbor, Florida, Patricia Locke beat a DUI rap by claiming that she appeared disoriented while driving because her silicone breast implant had ruptured and poisoned her nervous system.

In December in West Plains, Missouri, therapist William D. Cone, 71, went on trial on 19 counts of sexual assault allegedly committed against a 37-year-old female patient. According to the patient, Cone’s “re-parenting” theory of counseling required him to play the role of her mother and to suckle her to compensate for her not having been breast-fed.

A state appellate division court in Albany, New York, ruled in January that a trial judge was correct in denying the request of accused rapist Edward Hendrix Jr. to enter into evidence the size of his penis. Hendrix said that size was an important consideration to the issue of whether the woman consented to sex; the trial court said it was irrelevant.

Darlie Routier, recently convicted in Kerrville, Texas, of murdering her five-year-old son, professing her innocence on TV: “If I had [killed him], I would be the first person to stand up and say, ‘Oh, my gosh!'”

In October a University of New Hampshire student wrote a letter to the school newspaper in which he blamed his recent drunken driving on a local police crackdown on underage drinking. Because he has to drive to another city to drink, the student wrote, “[I] can expect to be doing a lot more drunk driving.”

Smooth Reactions

In November in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, comedy club audience member Judy K. Strough, seething at insults to her home state of Arkansas made by comedian Al Romero, walked onstage and slugged him. Two weeks earlier comedian Timothy Ward filed a lawsuit in New York City against Prince Rainier of Monaco, who Ward says slapped him during a 1995 show in which he made fun of the prince’s son’s bald spot.

In December in Ohio, Bowling Green State University instructor Patrick Stearns, 32, was suspended after allegedly punching a 25-year-old student who showed up late for his class. And in January the Medical Board of California issued a public reprimand against Dr. Edward A. Thistlewaite of San Marino for slapping a nine-year-old boy he was treating for attention deficit disorder.

In October in Leonia, New Jersey, Maria Graef became so enraged that her next-door neighbor’s sprinkler was forming a puddle in her yard that she rammed his garage with her car and then barricaded herself in her home for 20 hours in a standoff with police. After attempting several schemes to get her out, police turned on Graef’s own sprinkler, which upset her so much that she came running out of the house in her nightgown and was arrested.

Undignified Deaths

Weight problems: In January in Lansing, Michigan, security officer Canute Findsen, 43, was shot to death by fellow officer Virginia Rich, 51, who was also shot to death by Findsen just before he died. Police believe Rich was upset by Findsen’s comments about her being overweight. And in January in Providence, Rhode Island, Ricardo Guerrero killed himself rather than face prison for shooting and wounding Johanny Urbaez at a nightclub. According to police, Urbaez had triggered the incident by referring to Guerrero as “fatso.”


In June 1996 News of the Weird reported that the federal government had indicted the sellers of the Quadro Tracker, a box with a car-radio-antenna-like device that was sold for as much as $8,000 to school officials and small-town law enforcement officers as a divining rod to find illegal drugs. The FBI showed that the Tracker was a useless piece of plastic (it had also been sold to golfers as a device to help them find lost balls). In January, after a fraud trial in Beaumont, Texas, the sellers were found not guilty.

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.