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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Eclipse Enterprises of San Francisco announced plans to release a trading card series in May called True Crime, featuring 110 famous criminals and crime fighters, with photos on the front and biographies on the back. Fifty-four of the collectible cards feature mass murderers.

Cliches Come to Life

In November 65-year-old Donald DeGreve suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in Winter Haven, Florida. As his body lay on the 16th green, covered with a sheet, while course officials tried to contact his wife and funeral home personnel, a steady stream of DeGreve's friends, playing in the Swiss Village Mobile Home Park league, passed from the 15th to the 17th tee to continue their games. "Life goes on," said one man, "so we had to keep going."

Undercover Oakland, California, police officer Derrick Norfleet, 28, was awarded $60,000 in damages by a jury in November for police brutality. Fellow officers had tried to arrest Norfleet in a 1988 drug incident, believing him to be a civilian suspect.

With many of its leaders still in jail from their 1980s fund-raising effort--robbing armored cars--the white supremacist Aryan Nations recently began a new money-making operation. The group now sells mail-order candies to people on a private membership list through a firm in Hayden, Idaho, called Intermountain FARE. The best-selling selection, which costs $8.50 plus postage and handling, is the Royal Nut Mix.

UCLA psychiatry professor emeritus Kenneth Marx Colby has created a computer software package called "Overcoming Depression," which dispenses psychotherapy and costs $199 (about the same as two or three hours with a live psychotherapist). In a study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, patients who used the program for six weeks made the same progress as those who went to a live psychotherapist for six weeks.

In January a 20-year-old man in Salt Lake City staved off an attack by a nine-year-old boy wielding a large knife and threatening to kill him. The man stayed out of harm's way by placing his hand on the boy's forehead, thus keeping the boy's knife-swinging arm out of striking distance. The boy finally ran away, but the man, assisted by the police, caught him and returned him to his mother.

In January Texas judge Royal Hart ordered defendant J.B. Fiveash Jr. to wear a plastic bag over his head in court and to speak with his attorney only from behind a glass partition. Fiveash, facing assault charges, had spit on his lawyer during a conference the day before (when the lawyer declined to file an insanity petition for him). He said, "I just followed my natural urge."

Schemes

Richard Jenkins, 52, died of a heart attack in Redwood City, California, last May, leaving five wives (three of them current) to battle over his $1 million estate. He married Nerva in 1956, Kili in 1971, Paulina in 1979, Petrona in 1980, and Laura in 1990. Only Petrona sought a divorce. He told Laura, with whom he stayed two or three days a week, that he had to spend the other days with his teenage son; the forwarding telephone number he gave Laura rang into an answering machine in a locked bedroom of the house he shared with Paulina.

Robert Chapman, 28, was arrested in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, in October and charged with reckless endangerment. According to police, Chapman occasionally cruised the Pennsylvania Turnpike looking for cars driven by attractive women. He would drive up behind them and shoot out a tire with his .22-caliber pistol, then stop and offer assistance, hoping to strike up a relationship.

Car thieves in Changwa, Taiwan, have been using homing pigeons for assistance recently. They steal a car, leave a ransom note and a pigeon, and then wait from their hideout for the pigeon to arrive bearing the ransom money. Police so far have been unable to follow the pigeons.

Least Competent Person

An 18-year-old man who robbed the Zip Trip convenience store in Hutchinson, Kansas, in October was unable to open the electronic cash register, so he decided to take it with him. But in attempting to slash the power cord to the cash register, he cut himself in the face with his knife. He panicked as he was leaving the store, dropped the cash register, decided to abandon it, and was finally trapped in an alley by a woman driving by the store.

Creme de la Weird

Van Patterson, 23, was convicted in November in Painesville, Ohio, of being the notorious "BVD bandit" who broke into homes, fondled men as they slept, and cut off their underwear for souvenirs. His defense lawyer, apparently hoping to defuse imminent evidence against his client, said, "There are perhaps some things [among the evidence that] you will find bizarre." One man testified that during a fight with his wife one night, she had threatened "to castrate him" and had suggested that he sleep on the sofa. Apparently Patterson broke into their home during the night and slashed the man's underwear, leaving the man convinced his wife had attempted to carry out her threat until coworkers told him about the BVD bandit.

The Diminishing Value of Life

Oron Carlton, 65, was accused by Dallas police in December of the fatal shooting of Ray Perez Johnson, 51. Apparently a cat jumped onto their dining table at breakfast and the men got into a fight over whether or not it was unsanitary to have a cat on the table, and eventually Carlton allegedly shot Johnson.

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

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