Lead Story

Jose Luis Astoreka, 34, won the annual nut cracking contest in Kortezubi, Spain, in July, by cracking 30 walnuts between his buttocks in less than a minute. His brother, Juan Ramon, came in second and attributed the brothers’ skill to a “peculiar physical characteristic” in the family.

Compelling Explanations

James Darby, 81, was arrested in Sebring, Florida, in May for the fifth time in three years on cocaine trafficking charges. He told the police chief he needed to supplement his social security income.

A New York appeals court overturned the drug conviction of Bienvenido Taveras because a search of Taveras’s pockets was unconstitutional. A body search without a warrant is allowed only if the arresting officer suspects a weapon; the arresting officer in this case testified that Taveras had a “huge lump” in the groin area of his pants that “looked hard” and “could have been a weapon.”

In October in Elmore, Vermont, Robert Percy went on trial for rape a second time after a 1982 conviction was overturned. This time Percy used an insanity defense, claiming he had a flashback to his service in Vietnam and mistakenly thought he was raping a Vietnamese woman.

Lawrence Smith, convicted in June of dealing stolen cars in a sting operation in Hartford, Connecticut, defended himself at trial by claiming that he knew the buyers were police officers all along and thought that selling the cars to them was the best way of getting the cars to their proper owners.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services began in October to publish a monthly list of the “worst” excuses received for nonpayment of child support. Among the winners: “I can’t afford to pay child support; I’ve got to pay my cable TV bill.” “We only had sex one time; I couldn’t be the father.” “I will not allow my ex-wife to get rich on my money” ($25 a week).


In May, Los Angeles Philharmonic bassist Barry Lieberman was suspended without pay for assaulting colleague Jack Cousin as they were leaving the stage after a performance. Lieberman alleged that their ongoing dispute justified his shoving his bass into the back of Cousin’s legs to trip him.

At the October wedding of Sandra and Carmine Cenatiempo in Milford, Connecticut, the father of the bride and other members of the wedding party brawled with the owner of the reception hall and several of his employees about the disposition of three leftover cases of wine. By the time police halted the free-for-all, the cases of wine had been smashed to pieces, along with various wedding gifts.

In October two men, fathers of players on a girls’ soccer team in Denton, Texas, became frustrated at the opposing goalie’s skill and demanded that the girl (age 10) “prove” her gender to game officials. (The men were suspended as spectators for the rest of the season.)

Smooth Reactions

In July Charles Keller, 55, was convicted of having wounded his Philadelphia neighbor in a shooting the year before. Enraged when the victim’s wife, Victoria Troutman, snipped some weeds from Keller’s yard, Keller told her he would sit on his porch with a gun and wait for her husband to come home to settle the matter. At 11:45 PM, Mr. Troutman arrived. Keller yelled, “I’m waiting for you,” and fired at him.

Newton McWilliams, who defeated his boss, Kenneth Boyer, in the Democratic primary for commissioner of Grant County, Oklahoma, in August, was fired by Boyer two days later. Boyer denied malice, even though he allegedly told McWilliams it was “time to pay the piper” when he fired him.

In October ex-paratrooper Ieuan Bullivant, whose train had stopped because a 23-year-old woman was on a bridge in London threatening to jump onto the tracks below, got weary of the delay after 40 minutes and yelled at the woman, “Either jump or get down.” When police did not stop him, he walked up to the woman and pushed her off. She fell 20 feet, suffering various fractures. Said Bullivant, “Nobody seemed to be doing anything. I’ve been jumping out of aeroplanes all my life. I thought I was doing the bloody right thing.”

Denver police charged a 16-year-old girl with stabbing her 14-year-old brother in April. Apparently she had accused him of taking her cookies, and the boy had responded to the accusation by throwing his shoes at the girl and then punching her. Their mother said she then “tried to separate them” by beating both of them with a vacuum cleaner hose before the girl took a knife to her brother.

Earlier this year, a 39-year-old woman in Salinas, California, after an argument with her husband over the appropriate length of her hair, grabbed a .38 revolver and fired repeatedly into his vegetable garden, destroying his prized tomato plants.

Jose Luis Guia, a 16-year-old employee at Rigsby Upholstery in San Antonio, was charged with murder in April. Guia reportedly shot his boss to death because he was angry that his boss ordered him to straighten the fabric on work Guia did the day before.

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