Lead Story

Citing complaints from restaurant patrons, the health department in Springfield, Missouri, issued a letter in September saying that resident Debby Rose is no longer permitted to bring along her monkey, a bonnet macaque named Richard, when she dines out. According to Rose, Richard helps her combat severe anxiety and thus should be allowed to accompany her under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but a local health inspector said she’d been advised by an ADA hotline that since Richard performed no specific task for Rose, he was not a service monkey but a therapy monkey and so wasn’t exempt from state food regulations. However, a Justice Department spokesperson told the Springfield News-Leader that though emotional-support animals aren’t specifically mentioned in the ADA, they are in fact covered.

Romance: No Picnic

In June near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Mark Papkey’s plan to propose to Holly Barnes on a hot-air balloon went awry when the balloon drifted off course into a state forest and ran out of fuel. The pilot landed safely in a clearing, but darkness fell before they could make their way back to civilization; Papkey wound up popping the question while the three of them spent the night under a tree. And in Rome, Georgia, in July, Adam Sutton’s plan involved flying with Erika Brussee in a small chartered plane over a group of their family members holding a tarp with his proposal painted on it. She had just seen the sign and he was getting out the ring when the plane crashed; Sutton had to drag the unconscious pilot from the burning wreck. (Both women said yes.)

In September Kandi Blakney, wearing her wedding dress, went with her fiance to the courthouse in Wichita, Kansas, to get a marriage license; entering Blakney’s name in the computer, the clerk found two outstanding warrants for probation violations, and she was arrested on $200,000 bond.

Police Jargon

Police chief Anthony Scott of Holyoke, Massachusetts, describing (as quoted by WWLP TV) the culmination of a domestic disturbance in August in which Yesenia Ortiz defended herself against an alleged attack by Victor Cruz: “She grabbed another knife and stabbed him in the winky, and at that time he decided it was time to leave.”

Anger Management

Police in Easton, Connecticut, said that while preparing food at a wedding in July 60-year-old chef George Llorens punched a colleague in the face and head because her appetizers were cold. And in August, according to authorities in Decatur, Alabama, a daylong dispute between neighbors over a cigarette butt flicked on a lawn finally erupted into a vicious brawl that sent three people to the hospital; a man suffered several broken bones and one woman allegedly stabbed another twice with a pen.

Least Competent Criminals

New charges were filed in August against 29-year-old Donta Thomas, already serving time at the state prison in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Officials say Thomas was operating a heroin and cocaine ring on the outside via phone calls to three relatives in which he provided explicit instruction in the mechanics of buying and selling drugs, including negotiating prices, arranging pickups, and setting aside money for future purchases. Calls made by inmates at Fayette are periodically interrupted by an automated announcement that the call is being recorded; according to authorities, Thomas and his alleged associates would stop talking when the message began to play, then resume planning drug deals once it was over.

Least Competent People

Firefighters in Kingman, Arizona, responded to a call from 58-year-old Jeffrey Cullen in August but on arriving at his house didn’t see the fire he’d described. According to a department spokesperson, Cullen said that really he wanted them to rescue a cat from a tree but knew they wouldn’t come unless he reported a fire. When they told him to call animal control, he allegedly went inside, came out with a handgun, and started shooting, sending the firefighters and a 12-year-old bystander scrambling for safety. (No one was hurt; Cullen was charged with aggravated assault.)

Undignified Deaths

In August five villagers in the Indian state of Gujarat were killed while attempting to save an injured pigeon that had fallen into a dry well. Also in August, a father and son were digging a new overflow pit for an outdoor toilet in Uzbekistan’s Surkhondarya Province when the walls collapsed, submerging them in sewage. Five neighbors lowered themselves in to rescue them but were overcome by accumulated gases; all seven people died.

No Longer Weird: A Look Back

Continuing a review of frequently recurring stories that have been retired from circulation: Unsurprisingly, stories involving criminals tend to accumulate on the NLW list, and in recent years retirees have included the one in which criminals leave a trail of footprints in snow (or sometimes a trail of stolen money, etc) leading from the crime scene to their residence. Also: criminals record their crime on video for amusement, to the eventual delight of investigators and prosecutors; surveillance camera gets plenty of incriminating footage as criminal tries to disable it; and criminal bites police dog.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader,

11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weirdnewstips@yahoo.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd

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