In November, the town of Bolinas, California (population 418), voted nearly three to one against the California Department of Transportation's erecting signs to help travelers find the town. (Bolinas is on the ocean, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.) State officials believe that residents have stolen all such signs the department has erected over the last 20 years.
When a 25-year-old man named Caldwell was shot by passersby in Sacramento on October 7, his friends jumped in a car to chase the attackers but gave up a few minutes later and returned to the scene of the shooting. The driver accidentally ran over Caldwell, who was still lying on the ground, and dragged him 80 feet before realizing what he had done.
In October, Duluth carpenter Lance Grangruth accidentally shot a nail from a nail gun an inch and a half into his skull, tacking his cap to his head. Said Grangruth, "I didn't actually feel it go in. I tried to take my hat off, and it wouldn't come off."
Moments before the start of the September statewide meeting of a North Carolina task force on improving its students' SAT scores, officials discovered that the banner behind the stage read, "Excellance [sic] in Secondary Education."
In October, Jim Lawrence and Bradley Sayeau fell through a third-floor window during a kick-boxing match at a martial-arts club in North Bay, Ontario, and landed on a pedestrian, who was the least seriously injured of the three.
A 34-year-old woman was critically injured in November in Kansas City when her husband, picking her up in a romantic gesture, stumbled, lost his grip because of the fur coat she was wearing, and caused her to tumble over a hotel railing and fall eight floors onto a restaurant table in the hotel's lobby.
Paul Caliguiri was arrested in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania, for burglary in September. While in the house, he had telephoned his father to request that he meet him later and had accidentally triggered the telephone answering machine, which recorded the father's number (in tones).
A 60-year-old woman on a life-support system died in Hammond, Indiana, in September when the local electric company mistakenly cut off the power to her home instead of that of her delinquent neighbor.
In June, when Philadelphia judge Lisa Richette gave a sentence of probation only to Harry Garfinkle, 78, who had killed his constantly nagging wife of 56 years, she said, "It's important that you not torture yourself. Try to go along enjoying your life." Garfinkle replied, "Thanks a million, Your Honor."
Thomas Berglund, a judge in Rock Island, Illinois, ordered a 34-year-old man to serve 12 months' probation after the man was caught having sex with a farmer's goat in August. Berglund also ordered the man "to have no contact with the victim." Several days later, the prosecutor had to issue a clarification that the victim was the farmer, not the goat.
In Houston, Ronald Joseph Thomas, 37, convicted of tampering with his electric meter (costing the power company $1,000 in lost revenue and slightly damaging the meter), was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The New York Court of Appeals rejected an appeal in October from the family of a tennis umpire killed in a 1983 tournament. Richard Wertheim, 60, died when he collapsed in pain onto the hard court surface, fracturing his skull, after he had been hit in the groin by a ball hit by Stefan Edberg. The family had sued the U.S. Tennis Association for $2.2 million.
Ernest Coveley, 37, was sentenced in November to seven years in prison in London for 16 armed robberies, 14 of which were committed with a cucumber wrapped in foil to resemble a gun. (In the other two, he had used an iron bar because he said he could not afford a cucumber.) After each of the 14 robberies, Coveley said, he ate his weapon in a sandwich.
In October a jury in Bennington, Vermont, awarded Mark Vince, a passenger in a car driven by Willard Stuart, $950,000 for injuries suffered when Stuart drove their car off a bridge in 1984, resulting in Vince's paralysis. The verdict was returned not against Stuart but against his great-aunt, Luella Wilson, 91--who had given Stuart the money to buy the car knowing that he had no license and that he occasionally used drugs--for negligence. Wilson, who stands to lose her home and her life savings, said, "He used to be my favorite nephew."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.