Lead Story

In February the defense minister of Sweden acknowledged that the Russian “submarine intrusions” into Sweden’s waters that had preoccupied the military for the last three years were actually only frolicking minks. The minister blamed the error on hydrophonic equipment installed in 1992. On a brighter note, according to a January report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, Sweden’s military has developed a prototype of an igloo that sustains only minimal damage when shelled by 155mm artillery. The construction material–ice–is cheap and abundant. The igloos would lack metal, making the structures (which could be used as offices, hospitals, and helicopter bases) invisible to the sensors that guide “smart bombs.”

Police Blotter

In November in Orlando, Florida, a surveillance camera photographed a man robbing a bank. According to police interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel, he appeared to be wearing a fake-glasses-and-nose disguise. But when witnesses said the large nose was the man’s own, the Sentinel published his photo. Many people called the crime tips hot line and identified him as Chuck Newman. Police went to his home on December 8 and, after a brief chase, arrested him.

Dominic McDonnell and Cathy Snelson were married in London in July, just weeks after they had met while being detained during a raid on a local bar. They had chatted for two hours while sitting on the floor with their hands tied behind their backs. After police let them go, they began dating.

Among the unconventional weapons used in recent robberies: a spray bottle of toilet cleaner, which was pointed at a shopkeeper in Norwich, Ontario, in December; a manhole cover, which was brandished by a mugger who robbed a Chicago man of $75 in February; a golf ball that a youth threw, knocking the victim off a bicycle in December in Evansville, Illinois; and a pitchfork, which a man wielded while robbing a market in Greensboro, North Carolina, in October.

Among the unconventional weapons would-be victims used to foil theft attempts: a large spatula and oven scrub brush were used to abort a robbery in a pizzeria in Dayton, Ohio, in December, and a can of Raid was used by a homeowner in Stark County, Ohio, in December to momentarily blind a burglar.

In July FBI agents in Seattle arrested Johnny Madison Williams Jr. and his wife, Carolyn, on bank robbery and gun charges. According to the FBI, the couple documented each robbery by writing down the date, day, location, amount taken, and running total after each of 56 robberies, which netted a total of nearly $900,000 in eight years. Between jobs the couple lived in Los Osos, California.

In June Roy Gordon, 22, was arrested in Antioch, California, after allegedly pulling a gun on a man and ordering him to try to fix Gordon’s truck. And in September in Houston David Lynn Justice, 21, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for kidnapping two women, forcing them to buy him Twinkies and No-Doz, and then making them accompany him as he drove around looking at residential Christmas decorations.

Thieves with unusual needs: two men in Loveland, Colorado, were accused of stealing five hedgehogs from a pet store in January; two men in Yuba City, California, tried to steal a hot barbecue grill from a county probation office picnic last April; a 43-year-old man in Wilmington, North Carolina, was charged in September with digging up and taking 1,500 Venus’s-flytraps; a 42-year-old man was charged in October with stealing six slabs of the sidewalk at Forest Avenue and Shehy Street in Youngstown, Ohio; and a serial doorbell thief hit houses in Long Hill Township, New Jersey, in May.


In November 1973 prosecutor William Lawler obtained a burglary conviction in Madison County, Indiana, against 18-year-old Rodney Cummings. Cummings served three years of probation and eventually became a police officer and lawyer. In the November 1994 election, he knocked Lawler out of his job in a close race.

Twins Lorraine and Levinia Christmas, driving to deliver Christmas presents to each other in December, collided near Flitcham, England. Neither was seriously injured.

Teri Ungar accepted Bob Bornack’s billboard marriage proposal–Teri, Please Marry Me! Love, Bob–in October in Wood Dale, Illinois. The billboard company reported that 10 other women named “Teri” who were dating men named Bob inquired as to whether the message was for them–including one Teri who was dating two men named Bob.

According to police, Cliff Brown shot his estranged wife in the head three times and then took his own life in a quiet neighborhood in Georgetown, Texas, in December. In 1989 the couple that previously owned the Browns’ house apparently suffered a similar tragedy: the wife was shot to death and the husband–the only suspect–killed himself days later.

Least Competent Criminal

A 31-year-old woman was arrested in Antioch, California, in February after walking into the police station with a bag of methamphetamine and saying she wanted it tested because she thought her boyfriend had added hallucinogens to it.

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/Shawn Belschwender.