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Robert E. Bell Jr., head psychiatrist of the Florida prison system, was arrested in May and charged with breaking into his former girlfriend's home and threatening to stab her to death if she did not return the chocolate syrup, tuna fish, and cigarettes he thought she had stolen from him.

Least Competent People

A 20-year-old convenience store clerk was stabbed to death by a robber in Lewiston, Maine, last fall while police, who had been tipped off to the robbery, staked out the front of the store. They failed to observe the robber's entrance through the back door.

In January an Ontario, California, police officer gathered evidence for an arrest by buying heroin from two people selling from the back window of a motel room. All the undercover officers in his unit had gone home for the evening, so he tried making the buy dressed in full uniform. He was successful because the sellers' peephole allowed them a view only of the buyer's face.

During a prostitution sting operation in March in Chattanooga, Tennessee, three men were arrested for propositioning a female undercover officer, despite the fact that (apparently because of department restrictions on sting operations) the officer was wearing a department-issue hat with three-inch-high letters reading "POLICE" on it.

In October Minnesota murderer and prison escapee Eugene Steichen was recaptured in Saint Paul because he couldn't resist calling in to a radio quiz game (called "Dead or Not Dead"). Two cousins recognized his voice and turned him in. Said Steichen, "I just wasn't thinking. I said, 'Ah, nobody's gonna hear me.'" Steichen had shown equally questionable judgment when he planned his escape after having served all but five months of a ten-year sentence.

Cecelio Rodriguez, 30, and Armando Milian, 33, were arrested in Miami in April as police caught them red-handed attempting to break into the Cash Mar Pawnshop. The police were summoned by a wailing burglar alarm, but the burglars said they failed to hear it over the noise from the portable generator and the power saw they had brought to cut through the pawnshop's steel door.

A cashier at the Song Mountain ski resort in New York reported in February that someone had passed a counterfeit $50 bill that was merely a $5 bill with the corners from a $50 bill pasted over the edges.

The Texas Court of Appeals last year turned down Billy Ray Ford's appeal of his conviction for robbery for a series of reasons, one of which was his answer to a question posed by the judge at his trial. When asked whether he had had any contact out in the hallway with witnesses against him, he answered yes. When the judge asked which witnesses, Ford replied, "The ones that I robbed."

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

More than a dozen cars were pulled last summer from a pond in Anna, Texas, a local spot for dumping cars for insurance fraud. Most of the cars had been reported stolen but had keys in the ignition and bricks fastened to accelerators. The insurance industry believes 46 percent of car thefts nationally are fraud cases.

The Gaslights Record Store in Melbourne, Australia, holds an annual "Nude Day" in which any nude customer wins one free record. Seventy records were given away last fall.

New on the market is "Jog-a-Dog," a treadmill that allows dogs to run in place in the privacy of their own homes. Models start at $1,395.

Etamet, a manufacturer in Saint Gall, Switzerland, has come up with Speedy Spaghetti, a vending machine that produces a plateful of al dente spaghetti within 50 seconds after the customer puts money in.

The Post Ranch Inn, a resort in Monterey County, California, will soon offer accommodations that include a tree house with a minibar,TV, VCR, fireplace, and hot tub, to rent for $350 per night.

Natalie Manor of Merrimack, New Hampshire, has written Karkicks, an exercise program for the person "who doesn't have enough hours in the day" and who might find time to exercise while driving. Manor's two-tape program provides body toning and stress reduction and, she says, allows safe driving.

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

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