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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

In March Doug and Veronica Wright celebrated their first wedding anniversary on the bridge between the U.S. and Canada at Niagara Falls because it's the only place they can meet. American Doug is barred from Canada because of a criminal record that includes an illegal entry into that country; Canadian Veronica is barred from the U.S. because of a 1997 drug conviction. The couple's six-month-old son lives with her and also visits with Doug on the bridge.

The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reported in April on the disorganization of the prosecutor's office in Crawford County, Missouri, which has resulted in several defendants being released and improved chances that four accused killers of a 32-year-old woman will be acquitted. The chief prosecutor has a heart condition that limits his ability to work, but he won't resign because he needs the health insurance. His only assistant, John Raaf, gave a bizarre performance at the murder case's preliminary hearing in March, in which he loudly solicited legal advice from other lawyers in the courtroom and then "rolled around on the courtroom floor, writhing and pawing at the air" to dramatize the victim's last seconds. Following the hearing, Raaf was taken to a mental hospital for evaluation.

In April a camera shop employee in Royal Oak, Michigan, reported to police that someone had dropped off a roll of film containing shots of naked women and an underage boy. Police confiscated the photos and questioned the man who had dropped them off. Shortly afterward, a 23-year-old dwarf showed up at the police station with identification papers and proved he was the "boy" in the photos. Police dropped the matter.

The Rhythm of the Falling Rain

In Phoenix in March, James Joseph Zanzot, 37, was sentenced to four years in prison for repeatedly audio- and videotaping women urinating in rest rooms. Zanzot called the sentence "unjust," asserting that his behavior was "immoral" but "not illegal" and "only repulsive." Prosecutors said he had already served time for the same crimes. Once he agreed to undergo therapy but wound up installing a video camera in the therapist's rest room. Zanzot pointed out that state law only prohibits intercepting "oral communication" and that he was not interested in conversation but only the sound of urination.

Enough Filthy Water and You'll Live Forever

In April in Haridwar, India, about ten million people jumped into the Ganges river to purify themselves at the climax of the Kumbh Mela celebration, which is held every 12 years. Hindus continue to believe in the river's purifying properties even though area sewer systems flush 300 million gallons into it each day.

Derailed on the Fast Track

In March Madison West filed a $10 million lawsuit against the schools in Guilford County, North Carolina, for allowing her son Stephen Edwards to take an elective course in physics when it was too difficult for him, and then not allowing him to drop it when he realized he couldn't pass. West claims that the F on Stephen's transcript will hurt his chances of getting into Appalachian State University.

Giving "Parental Supervision" a Bad Name

In April a police report in California's Martinez Record described a one-car accident in the town. A man driving with his young son was playing a game in which he held his breath to make his face turn red or blue. However, he held his breath too long and passed out, driving the car off the road. Neither the man nor his son required medical attention.

Love-Honor-Cherish Rage

In December Manuel Borrego Jr., 32, and his new wife, Kimberly, were en route from Kenosha, where they had just gotten married, to Joliet, when they began arguing over the volume of the radio. When Manuel stopped the car to walk around for a few minutes after a screaming match, Kimberly jumped behind the wheel and allegedly tried to run him over. And in March in Port Jervis, New York, one of the shortest marriages on record ended when, according to police, Luis Deleg, 27, stabbed his bride of ten hours to death at the reception because he thought she was flirting too much.

Injudicious Judges

In April Nebraska's judicial qualification commission recommended that Omaha judge Richard "Deacon" Jones be fired for his behavior, which included lying, using epithets against females in the courthouse, and performing duties after he had been suspended. Other charges against him involved signing official court papers with names like "A. Hitler" and "Snow White," setting absurd bail requirements ("13 cents," "a zillion pengos"), personally and closely supervising a young male probationer's urine test, and setting off a firecracker in the office of a judge with whom he had been feuding.

In February a Canadian House of Commons committee asked the director of the national parole board why a convicted armed robber, Michael Hector, had been granted early parole in 1996 and had thus been free to embark on a murder and robbery spree the next year. According to the director, none of the four board members thought Hector was a dangerous man because they didn't realize armed robbery was a violent crime.

In March a court in British Columbia ordered a 46-year-old millwright on Vancouver Island to give up two-thirds of his wages every month in order to satisfy a judgment of about $30,000. He was ordered to pay the damages for taking a baseball bat and smacking the man who had molested his 15-year-old daughter.

In April Judge Ralph H. Baldwin resigned after three months on the job in Lakewood, Washington, in the wake of a court clerk's accusation that he invited a lawyer and two jurors who had just completed a DUI case back into the jury room, where the foursome put away a 12-pack of beer. Court investigators reported that the judge also said, "Bet you've never met a judge like me before."

In January an appeals court in Sao Paulo, Brazil, granted lifetime workers'-compensation payments to Valdir Martins Pozza after a grindstone broke a tendon in one of his little fingers. The original judge had turned down Pozza's claim, writing, "The [pinkie] serves little use [and] tends to disappear with the evolution of the human species."

Keep Your Mind on the Road

In April a 27-year-old driver in La Ciotat, France, took her eyes off the road for a moment to attend to a beeping virtual pet on her keychain and accidentally plowed into a line of bicyclists, killing one. And in April near Bristol, England, rock drummer Cozy Powell, 50, was killed when he crashed his car as he talked on a cellular phone to his girlfriend, whom he was on his way to visit.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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