Lead Story

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in June on the local “Silent Meeting Club,” which consists of several people who gather at various spots around town and make a point of not speaking to each other. Founder John Hudak said he was inspired by his observation that people often feel obligated to talk when they really have nothing to say, such as at parties, and wondered how nice it would be “to have a group of people where you wouldn’t have to talk.”

Compelling Explanations

Billy J. Sexton, now serving 75 years in prison in Oklahoma for murdering his first wife, recently filed a $60 million lawsuit against parole officials for subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment that caused him “mental trauma.” He is objecting to having been forced by parole officials to view photographs of his first wife’s mutilated body.

Ed Stevens, a school superintendent in Duncanville, Texas, resigned in July after a Dallas TV station taped him during work hours as he visited several adult bookstores and theaters–sometimes staying inside for several hours at a time. Stevens said he went to these places to investigate allegations that some of his colleagues were there.

Matthew Stong, a student at George Washington University, was arrested in June in Alexandria, Virginia, with 90 handguns jammed into three duffel bags. “It’s not like I am a criminal,” Stong told the Washington Post. “I scored 1,400 on my SAT.”

In July Loren Bellrichard, 46, was sentenced to four years in prison in Minneapolis for sending threatening letters through the mails. Prosecutors said Bellrichard had written hundreds of offensive letters to his enemies, including 125 to the sentencing judge. Bellrichard said he had to write the letters so he could be arrested and then start an investigation of the federal prison system. (He promised to share his findings with the government.)


In June the student-written newspaper at Parker Elementary School in Billerica, Massachusetts, printed the article “15 Ways to Kill Your Sister” (e.g., “Drop her off the top of a building”). The paper is supervised by a teacher with 20 years’ experience, who reportedly thought the story was very creative.

A Dallas grand jury decided in June not to indict on charges of aggravated assault the five police officers who arrested Roberto Longorio for firing a shotgun into his ex-girlfriend’s home. After chasing Longorio’s truck for 25 minutes, the officers fired at Longorio 116 times, hitting him with 9 shots.

Terry Dewayne Shutters, 28, admitted to police in February that he threw human feces on pedestrians from his station wagon in two drive-by incidents in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A police detective said Shutters “said he was drinking beer and just thought about doing it. He rode around for about 15 minutes looking for somebody to throw it on.” He said Shutters blamed his behavior on the fact that he once had feces thrown on him when he was young.

In January police tried to prevent the ceremonial opening of the religious festival of Saint Vincent near Manganeses de la Polvorosa, Spain, which calls for dropping a live goat from a church belfry. Even though the goat falls to a tarpaulin and walks away safely, animal-rights activists had obtained an injunction calling for a $5,000 fine per goat dropped. The 1,300 townspeople retaliated by attacking the police and journalists who had come to monitor the festival.

A man and woman living near Peshawar, Pakistan, were executed in June by the man’s father according to custom, because they lived together without benefit of marriage. A statement released by the local village council read, “The couple was executed so that nobody dare indulge in such activities in the future.”

The Florida Board of Medicine suspended the license of Dr. Suzanne Peoples in June after it found that Peoples believes all illness is caused by a microorganism that is treatable by vitamins and sessions with an “ion machine,” which looks like a hair dryer with a red light bulb on it.

The Weirdo-American Community

A man from Belvidere, Tennessee, was recently jailed on charges that he harassed his estranged wife. According to police in nearby Winchester, the man held his wife at knife point in her kitchen and forced her to remove her blouse and pour ketchup and mustard over herself.

Least Competent Person

In July Ron Vanname, 21, was sentenced to a week in jail in Fort Myers, Florida, after pleading no contest to making an obscene phone call. Vanname made the call to the local 911 number, not realizing that all calls to 911 automatically show the caller’s address. Squad cars surrounded him while he was still in the phone booth.

The Diminishing Value of Life

Thomas Hall, 57, was convicted of manslaughter in Nashville, Tennessee, in April in the 1991 shooting death of his brother Howard. The prosecutor said that Thomas, who had just mopped the kitchen floor, became upset when Howard tracked in mud from outside. Thomas yelled at Howard, then both men ran for their guns.

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