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News of the Weird



Lead Story

Last month Roanoke Ballet Theatre (of Roanoke, Virginia) staged a work called NASCAR Ballet, in which 20 dancers in brightly colored unitards bearing the logos of the company's sponsors leaped around a racetrack set, accompanied by new age music, automotive noises, and a live sportscast. Other dancers portrayed crew members, tending to the racers during pit stops and carrying them off after crashes. Choreographer Jenefer Davies Mansfield hoped the piece would attract NASCAR fans attending a race in nearby Martinsville the weekend of the performances.

Fetishes on Parade

William Rhode III, 53, was arrested February 12 after he allegedly visited day care centers and a Catholic school in the New Jersey towns of Hardyston, Jefferson, and Pequannock to inquire about job openings. His outfit that day included a large diaper, plainly visible under a pair of pink tights. Rhode was apprehended shortly after being turned away from the prekindergarten building at Holy Spirit School in Pequannock and fleeing; police said the diaper was soiled by the time they caught up with him.

Compelling Explanations

At a trial that began in February in Torrance, California, the defense argued that Michael Marks was innocent of kidnapping and attempted murder by reason of insanity: Marks, 25, claimed that he was involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the crimes because PCP had spilled on his head from the motel-room balcony above him. (The jury didn't buy it.) Also in February Michael Cammarota, 57, of Long Island, asked a judge not to imprison him for defrauding 53 people in a bogus investment scheme but rather to send him to a mental institution to be treated for what he called his "addiction to money." (He got 4 to 12 years in jail.)

Not My Fault

In Cleveland in March, John Struna won his lawsuit against Harry Singh, a convenience store owner who sold him thousands of lottery tickets between 1997 and 2001. Several times a week Struna played an Ohio Lottery game that pays $100,000 for each ticket with the winning set of numbers; he regularly bought between 40 and 55 identical tickets per game at Singh's store, never noticing that the game's total payout was limited to $1 million. So when he picked the winning numbers in October 2001, he was surprised to discover that the 52 tickets he'd bought were worth not $5.2 million but $981,132 (someone else had bought a ticket with the same numbers). The complete rules were posted at the store--Singh says he gave Struna a copy to take with him--and at the Ohio Lottery Web site, and the rule about the $1 million cap was printed on every ticket. But Struna argued that Singh should have explained why it didn't make sense to buy more than ten tickets per game, and the jury agreed, awarding him $1.3 million.

Crimes of Obsessive Compulsion

Last month in Sheffield, England, Colin Sadd pleaded guilty to stealing five cars in 2002 and acknowledged having stolen 31 others. For years Sadd, 41--who has 155 prior convictions, most of them for car theft--has been going to auto dealers and making off with cars under the pretext of test-driving them. He drives each car around for a few hours, then washes and waxes it, carefully cleans its interior, and abandons it. And in February Debra Janan Goins was charged with theft in Mount Carmel, Tennessee; after stealing a purse, she wrote four checks from the checkbook she found inside, each time recording all the details of the illegal transaction in the check register.

Least Competent Criminals

Cardinal Rules, Broken: (1) Don't carry around the holdup note: In January police officers stopped Christopher Fields, 42, walking out of a bank in Hillsborough, North Carolina, after they'd gotten a call from the bank saying he'd been acting suspicious. When asked if he had a weapon, Fields opened his backpack, which contained in plain sight a note reading "I want $10,000 in $100 bills. Don't push no buttons, or I'll shot [sic] you." (2) If you're paying with counterfeit money, make that order to go: Anthony Lee Lamb, 20, and Alex Brava, 27, were arrested at a Subway in Berea, Kentucky, in March after buying a meal and then sitting down to eat it, thus giving the manager a chance to examine their $20 bill more carefully.

Thinning the Herd

In March a 21-year-old junior at the University of California at Berkeley became the latest drinking-contest fatality: he passed out and never awoke after a night spent downing shots of tequila, vodka, and whiskey in a game with friends. "[He] was a competitive guy," said his roommate. And a 20-year-old Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario) student plunged to his death in February during a contest to see who could spit the farthest off an 11th-floor balcony. He had taken a running start.

In the Last Month

A German Web site drew 1.5 million hits in two weeks after it began showing 24-hour live video footage of an extended family of wild boars. And investor-philanthropist Sam Walls, 64, had been favored to win the Republican primary for a state legislature seat representing a conservative district in east Texas, but about two weeks before the vote, photographs surfaced of him dressed as a woman, apparently taken at gatherings of cross-dressers. Walls lost.

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

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