Lead Stories

In a sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against the University of Alabama, Dale Gray, 41, claimed that a female professor lured her into an affair, causing Gray severe emotional problems. At the trial in May, Gray–who has had her breasts removed, takes testosterone, and now sports a beard “to hide the little girl,” she said–disclosed that she had been married three times to men and once to a woman with whom she planned a “fantasy” child (a faked pregnancy that she said was common among lesbians) that she eventually “killed off,” and that she had a five-year sexual relationship with her mother.

In Torrance, California, armed with evidence that a drug dealer had been killed with a single gunshot during a robbery by two men, district attorney Todd D. Rubenstein obtained separate jury convictions in March for both men for firing the fatal shot. Both robbers’ guns had fired, but one missed, and ballistics tests as to which one it was were not conclusive. Rubenstein asserted confidently to one jury that Stephen Edmond Davis, 19, shot the man, and just as confidently told the other jury that the shooter wasn’t Davis but rather John Patrick Winkleman, 19.

In Santa Ana, California, Correen Zahnzinger, 24, filed a lawsuit in May against her husband of one year, Valerie Inga, 29, for pretending to be a man. “They did have a sexual relationship,” said Zahnzinger’s attorney, “but I’m not allowed to say how it was perpetrated.” And two weeks earlier in Arlington, Virginia, Margaret Hunter, 24, was awarded $264,000 in her lawsuit for fraud against her ex-husband, Holly Anne Groves, 26, who had posed as a man and married Hunter in 1996.

The Democratic Process

According to the 1997 platform of the Natural Law Party in Canada, which is based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, people should stop using the “inharmonious” south and west entrances to their homes and should instead use north and east entrances. Therefore, Canadians entering the United States should do so from Niagara Falls, whose entrance from the east is the only nonsouthward entrance into the country. The party proposes to eliminate the federal deficit by “eliminating problems” and to create an invincible national defense through yogic flying, which resembles hopping like a frog. The party got 84,000 votes in 1993.

In October Jay Urdahl, an incumbent running for county supervisor in Mason City, Iowa, was charged with criminal trespass while out campaigning. According to home owner Debbie Opheim, Urdahl just walked right into her house to meet her without the benefit of an invitation or a knock on the door. Said Opheim, who heard someone call out, “I ran down the stairs, and he was standing in my living room.” After Opheim ordered him out, she said, “He looked at me like I was insane.”

In March, arguing for the legalization of holiday fireworks in Arizona, state representative Richard Kyle denounced opponents who said sparklers were dangerous, saying, “I put them in my hair. I have stuck them in my clothes. They do not burn.” The measure did not pass.

North Providence, Rhode Island, council member Charles A. Lombardi was charged in April with misdemeanor vandalism. According to police, Lombardi egged a car owned by a relative of his political opponent, Mayor Ralph Mollis. Said Lombardi, “This is politics in North Providence.”

In a March New York Times story on vote-buying in Dodge County, Georgia, a spokesperson for the Georgia secretary of state tried to describe the depth of the problem, explaining, “We literally had people who said they had no idea that selling your vote was illegal. One guy said, ‘It’s my vote; I can do what I want with it.'”

Unclear on the Concept

In January the U.S. Postal Service in Miami issued bulletins announcing a $25,000 reward for the return of something stolen from a mail carrier but refused to say what it was, referring to the item only as a “device.” Said a postal inspector to a reporter, “I can’t tell you what it is. I can’t tell you what it’s used for.”

Former Prestonburg, Kentucky, school board member Wood R. Keesee, 59, filed a lawsuit in May against a female court clerk to whom he had allegedly loaned money in 1996. According to Keesee, under the terms of the $1,800 loan she was to have 18 sexual encounters with him, but he filed the lawsuit when she stopped after three.

In March a 15-year-old girl in Ardmore, Oklahoma, who reported that she was raped at her high school was briefly suspended for having sex at school despite the fact that her clothes were soaked in blood, as was the locker-room area where she said the rape occurred. And a week later an 18-year-old woman was threatened with eviction from San Francisco State University housing because she had illegally kept a hunting knife in her room. She had used the knife to chase off her alleged rapist.

Actor Woody Harrelson was among the recipients of the American Lung Association’s “Thumbs Up” motion-picture awards, presented at Oscar time in March to honor those films and characters who present an antismoking image. Harrelson was honored for his role in The People vs. Larry Flynt, in which his character discourages his wife from smoking. In the movie both Flynts are addicted to illegal drugs.

A leading TV news program in Colombia reported in January that Jimmy Pacheco had been kidnapped for a month from his home in Cucuta in a scheme to extract ransom money from friends and coworkers. To keep things low-key, Pacheco was permitted to return home every night so as not to alarm his family. The kidnappers would watch Pacheco’s house at night and snatch him again in the morning as he left for work.

Least Justifiable Homicides

In February Avi Kostner, 52, pleaded guilty in Newark, New Jersey, to the murders of his kids, ages 10 and 12, which he said he committed because he feared his ex-wife would not raise them as Jews. In arguing successfully against the death penalty, Kostner’s lawyer continually referred to Kostner in front of the jury as merely “less than perfect.” And in May Harry Charles Moore was executed in Oregon for the 1992 murders of his in-laws. Moore claimed he was afraid they would persuade his ex-wife and infant daughter to move to Las Vegas and possibly get involved in prostitution and drugs.

Dangerous Activities

In April authorities on North Carolina’s Figure Eight island said they suspected the cause of the fire that destroyed the vacation home of R.J. Reynolds president Andrew J. Schindler was a lighted cigarette butt. And after a New Year’s Day domestic argument in Campinas, 60 miles north of Sao Paulo, Brazil, police said Silas Leite da Silva was Bobbittized by his wife because, among other reasons, he would not stop smoking at home.

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.