Lead Story

In July Costa Rica’s supreme court ruled that the country’s hit-and-run driving law, which punishes a driver for fleeing after causing an accident, was unconstitutional. The court said that criminals are legally allowed to leave the scene of a crime because of their right not to incriminate themselves, and that hit-and-run drivers, like murderers, are protected from punishment for taking off after their crime. A driver involved in an accident who was not at fault may still be required to stop.


A 1994 survey by the American Association of University Professors found that Long Island’s Nassau Community College paid the highest salaries of any two-year college in the country. The New York Times reported in June 1995 that one of the school’s arts professors, who taught just two ceramics classes during the spring semester, makes $107,000 a year.

After filing a missing persons report in April on his wife, Leasa, Bruce Jensen, 39, learned that Leasa was really a feminine-looking man named Felix Urioste, 34, who had convinced Jensen to marry him in 1991 after a single sexual encounter during which Urioste remained clothed. Jensen, a devout Mormon, said to the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, “There’s no way to describe this feeling” of learning he’d been married to a man for almost four years.

In February William J. Stoecker, 37, was named in a 49-count bank-fraud indictment. According to prosecutors, Stoecker, a former welder with only a high school education, somehow talked several bankers into lending him a total of $400 million.


According to a March Wall Street Journal story, the eyeglass industry in Germany is experiencing a vicious trade war in which smashing competitors’ windows and other forms of vandalism are becoming common. When optician Siegmund Reiss opened shop in a new building, he discovered that during construction saboteurs had stashed rotting meat within the walls to drive away grand-opening customers.

Woodring Fryer was charged in April with disturbing the peace in Henderson, Kentucky, after installing a bullhorn next to the wall he shared with his neighbor Charles Kissinger and playing reveille as part of an ongoing feud about their competing ham-radio signals. Also in April in Crystal River, Florida, Ron Ripple, 67, who was denied a county permit to put a mobile home on his property because neighbors said it would lower property values, turned the tract of land into a perfectly legal pig farm.

In December accused murderer Lewis Elwood Jordan urinated on his attorney, Jake Waldrop, with whom he’d been feuding, as Waldrop stood before Atlanta federal judge Robert Vining Jr. After the judge instructed Waldrop to resume his argument, Waldrop said, “I have made my point, judge, in writing. I guess Mr. Jordan has made his point–not verbally–by urinating on my leg.”

At the annual Battle of the Oranges festival in Ivrea, Italy, in February, first-aid officials reported that they treated more than 250 people for bruises after they were pelted too hard with fruit.

Eeeh-uuuh, Gross!

Theron Dunaway won the wood-class boat competition at the seventh annual Spittoon Regatta at a tavern called the Brick in Roslyn, Washington, in March. Entrants race their miniature vessels (made of wood, soap, paper, matchbooks, etc) in the trickling water in the bar’s spitting trough. The regatta is mostly fun, according to the race administrator, but, he said, “A couple of years ago, some guys from Boeing brought in a flashy, self-propelled boat they designed. It sank.”

In May a team from the state of Washington’s department of ecology specializing in toxic spills was called to a site near the town of Toutle to examine a mysterious mound of greenish goo that had alarmed, baffled, and sickened investigators for three months. The team determined the mound was merely a rotting pile of disposable diapers.

In February, according to police in El Paso, Texas, James Patrick Bradley, 47, murdered his artist wife, Susy, and dismembered her body. Then he allegedly spray painted the body parts and left them at various locations around town and in southern New Mexico. Police, who had no leads on her identification, released a photo of her severed head to local TV stations to broadcast, and some of the woman’s friends called to identify her.

In July in New York City, John Bryant, 73, was waiting to be treated at the Harlem Hospital Center for a gunshot wound to the forehead. While talking to his son, he began gently massaging the wound and pulled the bullet out with his fingers.

About 50 people filed a lawsuit in June against Paradise Memorial Park in Santa Fe Springs, California, alleging that the bodies of their loved ones had been moved or buried with others without their permission. One man claimed that the double plot he’d purchased for his mother and brother was also occupied by nine other bodies. And in April authorities in Vermont revoked the funeral-home license of Larry H. Titemore of Saint Johnsbury, accusing him of mishandling almost every burial he’d supervised in six years, ranging from failure to store bodies properly to failure to embalm to switching bodies to cheaper coffins.

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