Lead Story

Among recent suggestions being tried out by municipal governments to stop teenage “cruising” in public places at night was one reported by the New York Times in August: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is considering installing low-pressure-sodium street lamps because they make the Caucasian complexion look “sickly” and make acne look grotesque.

Least Competent People

Jackie Lynn Adams, 19, was charged with burglary in November after he allegedly broke into a home in Monterey, Tennessee, and stole a VCR. Apparently to build up his nerve, Adams had pulled into three driveways in the neighborhood before the break-in, which drew the neighbors’ attention, and the house he finally chose belonged to the local police chief. The chief owned two VCRs, one of which was broken. Adams took the broken one, then had to have it fixed so he could sell it. The chief got his VCR back in better shape than when it was stolen.

In January William L. Swearingen pleaded guilty to attempted bribery of state lottery officials in Baton Rouge. He’d written a letter, complete with his name and address and 17 numbers he normally plays, and suggested that if he could win two drawings, he would give most of the money in the second drawing back to the officials. He wrote that he was tired of being poor and wanted to spend more time with his family: “I would like to win so that I could have about $375,000 each year to live on after state and federal taxes.”

Ten days after last January’s earthquake in Northridge, California, two 18-year-old men robbed a bank there. However, one of the hundreds of roving bands of police looter-prevention patrols had spotted the two men in ski masks as they entered the bank and was waiting for them when they exited.

Apparently unaware that tellers place chemical dye packs in holdup money bags, Michael David Harris, 39, was arrested in August outside a NationsBank in Washington, D.C., after he was spotted by a passerby with smoke coming out of his pants, where he’d stuffed the money bag he’d just been handed. Several pedestrians pointed to the alley where Harris had fled to get the bag out of his pants.

Among the instances in which men planning domestic crimes botched at least one crucial detail: In April in Oakland, California, Darren West wore a gorilla mask in an assault on his wife, but he apparently forgot that he was wearing a T-shirt, shoes, and wristwatch that were easily identifiable; his wife testified against him. And in May in Fairfax County, Virginia, Linda Prior identified her husband as the masked man who tried to abduct her; she’d recognized his clothing and noticed that during the incident the family dogs wagged their tails instead of barking.

In June the supreme court of Canada turned down the appeal of an Edmonton therapist who’d been convicted for tricking a mother into allowing her 15-year-old daughter to submit to sex with him for four years. The girl was having behavioral problems, which the doctor diagnosed as caused by what he called a “gamma profile.” The doctor’s long therapy process included binding the girl and engaging in a variety of sadomasochistic sex acts with her. When she complained to her mother, the mother reassured her by saying, “He’s saving you from your gamma profile.”

The winner of a “worst photograph” award sponsored by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in April in York, England, was Tom Pemberton, 74, who submitted a blurred photo of his left ear, taken when he accidentally aimed the camera backward.

Last spring police in Rupert, Idaho, and Weatherford, Texas, handled cases in which men who broke into a church intending to burglarize or vandalize it left behind copies of their faces that they made on the office photocopier. Said Rupert police officer Val Maxwell, “I wish more people would leave pictures for us at the scene.”


Theora Simmons, 37, was arrested in February and charged with stealing vehicles and office furniture from a Claremore, Oklahoma, General Motors dealership. According to police, Simmons took the firm’s pictures off the walls and left Post-it notes in their place that read, “You have nice taste.”

In May Arnold Walker, 40, who police said was caught red-handed in Des Moines, Iowa, after robbing a supermarket manager and breaking a whiskey bottle over his head, blamed his trouble on the manager. Said Walker, “He brought it all on himself trying to be a hero for two bottles of booze.”

In a March Associated Press interview Colin Ferguson, the African American man accused in last December’s Long Island Rail Road massacre, in which six white people were shot to death and 19 wounded, denied that he’s a racist. “[Racism] destroys the very fiber of your being, any kind of hate based on race,” he said. “We can always absorb disagreement without inflicting wounds on anyone.”

Creme de la Weird

The China News reported in July that a patient at the Chutung Provincial Hospital who’d complained of an eye infection was found to have 30 fleas and 40 flea eggs lodged in her eyelashes. Said hospital official Tang Wei-jen, “The fleas were skin-colored and were not easily detected. They were deep in her eyelashes.”

I Don’t Think So

Donald Stewart Boyne, 61, and Kenneth Allen Bentley, 39, were arrested in Tavares, Florida, in August and charged with lewd and lascivious behavior after someone complained that they were having sex in a van in a public park. According to police, the men denied the charges, and Boyne explained that he’d gotten in the van merely to show Bentley how his new penile-implant pump worked.

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