Lead Story

In June two tug-of-war games, played four days apart, ended in tragedy. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a 21-year-old man’s hand was severed after a hard tug from the other team at a company picnic, and in Frankfurt, Germany, two Boy Scouts were killed and five other people seriously injured after the rope snapped.

Questionable Judgments

According to a March issue of the Medical Post, parents following the recommended procedures for abdominal-colic therapy placed their baby in a child’s car seat on top of a running washing machine to let the heat and vibration settle him down. However, the vibrations pushed the baby off the machine and onto the floor, where he suffered a seizure.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, in February, Andrew Hofer, 26, gave his brother’s name when police asked for identification. Hofer, who was trying to evade the police because he’d failed to pay a fine, didn’t know that a warrant for more serious charges was outstanding on his brother. Said Hofer’s lawyer, “This is the only time . . . I’ve heard of a person giving the police the name of somebody who’s in more trouble than they are.” (Well, in Peterborough, Ontario, last June, Anthony Duco, who had some unpaid traffic fines, gave police the name of his brother, who was wanted for sexual assault.)

James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Michigan, was killed in March as he was trying to repair a truck. Burns was hanging underneath the truck while a friend drove it on a highway so that Burns could locate the source of a troubling noise. Burns’s clothes caught on something, however, and his friend found him “wrapped in the drive shaft.”

The Church of England advertised for Easter this year without references, in pictures or words, to the cross. An official of the church-run Advertising Network said, “The cross carries too much cultural baggage.”

In June 1994, Robert Clinton Robinette turned down a plea bargain in Gainesville, Florida, that would have sent him to prison for four years on prostitution and child-sex charges. He then fired the attorney who recommended he take the deal, and paid a $50,000 retainer to a new attorney. On a subsequent plea bargain on those charges, in April 1995, the best Robinette was offered was a sentence of ten years in prison. He accepted.

In February in Wesley Chapel, Florida, Joseph C. Aaron, 20, was hit in the leg with pieces of a bullet he had fired at the exhaust pipe of his car. When he could not find a drill to bore a hole in the pipe while repairing it, he tried to shoot a hole in it.

In January at a show in Paris on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo released a line of fashions resembling the striped uniforms worn by Holocaust victims. One item had numbers on the back, another had boot marks, and yet another was modeled by a woman who looked emaciated and had short cropped hair. Two weeks later, after protests, Kawakubo withdrew the line.

In March in San Fernando, California, Guy Dean Bouck was charged with the 1987 murder of his wife. Police had kept the investigation open, figuring Bouck would slip up and supply them with more evidence. In the eight years since the murder Bouck had bitterly contested the disposition of his wife’s estate, which caused a civil-court judge to rule that Bouck was most likely the killer and thus was not entitled to any of the property. He had also raped the woman who’d provided him with his 1987 alibi (a crime for which he is currently imprisoned).

In February Regina Louise Vaughan, 20, was charged with statutory rape after she applied for public assistance and named as the father of her child a 13-year-old boy for whom she regularly baby-sat in Portage des Sioux, Missouri.

People in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

In May at a high school track meet in Akron, Ohio, the father of an athlete was hospitalized after unknowingly wandering onto the shot-put range. Spectators were yelling at him to leave the area, and when he turned to try to hear them he was hit in the head by a 16-pound shot.

In May someone stole $3,500 from the car of Kyle Stone, the operator of a ticket agency in Providence, Rhode Island. The next morning Stone dropped by his bank to withdraw cash and spotted Steven Lewis, the man he had allegedly seen emerging from his car the night before. Lewis was arrested at the bank in the process of depositing $3,500.

In January Donald Bruesewitz, 64, filed a lawsuit against Merle Hay Mall and the city of Urbandale, Iowa, over what he called his false arrest five months earlier. Two boys in a rest room had reported Bruesewitz to mall security, saying he was a pervert. Bruesewitz had informed the officers that his prostate condition requires him to massage his genitals before urinating.

Least Competent Person

Robert Ricketts, a 19-year-old student in Bowling Green, Ohio, had his head bloodied in May when he was struck by a Conrail train. He told police he was trying to see how close to the moving train he could place his head without getting hit.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Shawn Belschwender.