Lead Stories

In July a judge in Doncaster, England, released suspect Martin Kamara, 43, a black man who had been accused of threatening a financial adviser, because of police impropriety. Cops wanted to put Kamara in a lineup for identification, but because of recent racial incidents, no black men could be found who were willing to stand alongside Kamara. So Doncaster police hired a makeup artist to put black faces on seven white men. However, the artist forgot to make up the men’s hands.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered 71 mining companies in Idaho to submit copies of all of the paperwork they have produced in the last 117 years. EPA says it needs the information to help determine who is responsible for lead pollution in Idaho’s Silver Valley. The president of one firm said the order was so crazy that the EPA investigators “must not live on this planet.” Another pointed out that there are not enough copy machines in the region to handle the work.

A confidential report prepared for the Australian Foreign Ministry containing uninhibited appraisals of many South Pacific leaders was accidentally left on a table at a regional economic ministers meeting in Cairns, Australia, in July, and picked up by the press. The report described many of the leaders as inept or corrupt. And two weeks earlier, Austria’s foreign minister came under fire for name-calling at a breakfast meeting in the Netherlands. Minister Wolfgang Schuessel reportedly called one German official “a real pig,” the president of Belarus a “smelly Turk,” and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “an aging Bette Davis.”

Police Blotter

Four young men were arrested for trespassing and attempting to remove tires from a vehicle at a car-auction lot in Des Moines, Iowa, in May. Owner Dan Carney saw the men enter the lot late at night on his security camera and used his forklift to pick up the men’s getaway car and hide it inside a building. While the men were next door inquiring whether anyone had seen their car, police arrived to arrest them.

In March nighttime thieves stole two 300-pound solid brass doors worth $30,000 each from a side entrance of a Baltimore courthouse.

In June sheriff’s deputies in Loudon County, Tennessee, arrested Frederick Downing, 31, after he pawned a VCR with bird droppings on it; the VCR owner’s pet bird usually perched above it. Also in June, James D. Kennedy, 32, pleaded guilty in Lexington, Illinois, after being linked to a piece of stolen railroad machinery by freshly vomited spaghetti on the casing; police inquired at a local restaurant that had run a spaghetti special on the night of the burglary and received a description of Kennedy from workers.

Dallas police officer Raymond Dethloff Jr, 34, was suspended for 15 days in March for eating a McDonald’s chicken sandwich he took from a car at an accident scene. The 16-year-old girl to whom it belonged had been taken away in an ambulance with minor injuries.

A Chicago Tribune correspondent, writing from Caracas, Venezuela, in April reported on the recent carjacking of Rosa Clemente, who was en route with her grandmother to visit her ailing grandfather. The grandmother pleaded with the two robbers to at least swing by the hospital and drop the two women off, which they reluctantly did. The grandmother also got them to promise to return the car by Monday because the women needed it to get to the hospital. The men actually returned the car, but the women couldn’t use it for three months because police were holding it as evidence.

Fleeing on foot from cops in hot pursuit near Collinsville, Illinois, in June, murder suspect Ronald Hardwick, 24, ran into a field and attempted to hide. However, sheriff’s deputies noticed that a few cows had congregated in a certain area and were staring at a particular place. They soon spotted Hardwick.

Irene Luby, 75, was arrested in Barrington, Illinois, in April and charged with felony shoplifting. It was her 145th arrest since 1989 under as many as 60 aliases. This time, according to police, she had lifted a whole salami, two rolls of film, several packages of medicine, and a package of cheese from a Jewel/Osco supermarket. The last item was discovered in the police holding room when an officer said he heard a thump on the floor at Luby’s feet and looked down to see a package. “What was that?” he asked her. Luby responded, “Would you like some cheese?”

Robert Hayden, 30, was arrested in East Moline, Illinois, in February and charged with attempted robbery of a local motel. According to police, he walked into the lobby simulating a weapon in his hand and demanded money. Hayden, who is black, sheepishly aborted the robbery and fled when he realized the motel was black-owned and operated. Police caught him nearby.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

At a celebrity auction in May, Debbie Dacoba of Paw Paw, Michigan, bid $8,625 for a pair of Mr. Ed’s horseshoes and was so overcome with joy when she won that she had to retreat to the ladies’ room for 20 minutes until she stopped crying. Later she told a reporter that she would keep the horseshoes in plastic because specks of brown residue in the nail holes “could be manure, which I hope it is because then I have a piece of him.”

In June the Associated Press reported on Bernard Williams, 77, of Hannibal, Missouri, who has translated the Bible into rhyme. Williams’s goal was to make the scriptures more accessible to readers.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Jimmy Robert Jewell, 33, was arrested in May in Redondo Beach, California, and charged with indecent exposure after he flashed a female passerby from his van. The woman happened to be carrying a camera and snapped several photos of Jewell and of his license plate. Police tracked him down a short time later.


News of the Weird reported in 1996 on Oklahoma rapist Darron Bennalford Anderson, who had received a 2,200-year sentence in 1994, but appealed and won a new trial. Unfortunately for him, he was convicted again and given more than 9,000 additional years behind bars for a total of 11,250 years, including 4,000 years each for rape and sodomy, 1,750 years for kidnapping, 1,000 years for burglary and robbery, and 500 years for grand larceny. In July 1997, the state court of criminal appeals held that the grand larceny charge was double jeopardy on the robbery conviction and dismissed it, speeding Anderson’s release date up five centuries to the year 12,744 AD.

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.