Lead Story

In response to hair-raising complaints by coworkers, Dallas County district judge David K. Brooks told a reporter in October that he considers his “eccentricity” a private matter not affecting his abilities as a judge. According to coworkers, Brooks had slammed his head and fists into the walls several times while alone in his office, and on one occasion he had ripped a sink out of a bathroom wall.

Weird Science

Joey Blackburn, 24, survived six gunshot wounds in the head during an argument at a party in Manchester, Tennessee, in November, wandering the streets for an hour before finding the hospital emergency room. Doctors said at least two of the bullets broke the skin and then traveled “around” the skull without penetrating it.

New Mexico state representative Ray Vargas, answering a DWI charge in November, said he suffers from candidiasis, a rare disease that causes him to brew alcohol internally. An expert consulted by Vargas said bacteria and yeast grow to excess in his stomach and cause ordinary carbohydrates to ferment. (The prosecutor told the judge it didn’t matter where Vargas got the alcohol. The judge agreed and found him guilty.)

Plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills are now offering silicon implants to enlarge men’s pectorals. An official of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons believes the operation is riskier than breast implants for females because the silicon is planted behind muscle.

A U.S. patent was recently issued to a Japanese inventor for a device used to observe “the condition of feces” by inserting a video-camera wire into the stool and dialing up the picture on a monitor.

A 40-year-old flight attendant, so worried about providing a urine sample for a drug test that she couldn’t perform, was told to drink water. She drank so much that her brain swelled, causing her to require hospitalization. She is only the eighth known contractor of “water intoxication” (excluding people with mental conditions), because it is difficult for a person to drink that much water. Her husband believes she drank three quarts. (She tested clean.)

Halitosis researchers at Tel Aviv University have scheduled the first world symposium on bad breath for April in Mexico. The organizers said bad breath afflicts more than 80 percent of the world’s adult population and remedies contribute $500 million yearly to the U.S. gross national product.

Creme de la Weird

In December in New Delhi, four men (aged 82, 71, 63, and 62) were acquitted of charges that they defrauded a government-run transport company by buying bogus motor parts. The alleged crime occurred in 1955, and the trial began in 1957. Hearings continued off and on for 33 years before Judge V.B. Gupta concluded that the government had failed to prove its case.

Police in Mint Hill, North Carolina (near Charlotte), recently released Timothy Belk, 34, from his confinement in a nine-by-ten-foot wire cage in the Shiloh True Light Church of Christ, where he had been held by church officials who apparently felt they were being compassionate because he was mentally ill. Belk was confined with permission of his mother, who claimed her son was comfortable, and of church leader Rommie Purser, who said “We did this out of love and concern for this young man” and called his release a case of unwarranted government intervention.

Houston casket salesman Richard Joseph Herrin, 44, was accused in November of dumping more than 60 cadavers in mass graves instead of burying or cremating them as he was supposed to. (He had contracted with Texas Chiropractic College to dispose of unusable bodies donated to it for research.) A local prosecutor said 19 cadavers were missing.

In October Kathy Owen and her sister told a reporter that during their search through files in the county courthouse in Lake Butler, Florida–they were trying to ascertain information on their mother’s murder, which had occurred when they were small girls–they came across an ordinary cardboard box marked “evidence” in which they found their mother’s skull in an unsealed plastic bag, kept in the box since 1974. When the sisters asked to remove the head for burial, clerk Margie F. Cason said she wouldn’t do it without a court order.

Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of Peter Sutcliffe (the “Yorkshire Ripper,” who killed 13 people), testified in December in a libel action against the British newspaper News of the World that the paper had referred to Peter unfairly. She said “Yorkshire” was correct because he lived there, but that “ripper” was unfair because he believed he killed his victims “humanely,” with a hammer to the back of their skulls.

Florence Blankenship, 51, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in December of the July 1988 murder of a 19-year-old man in York, Virginia. According to the psychiatric evaluation, she claims she shot the man because she had received a signal from bandleader Lawrence Welk.

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