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News of the Weird


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In September Larry Michael Key dashed out the door of a Redmond, Washington, courtroom upon being sentenced to 60 days in jail for violating the terms of previous drunken-driving sentences. Judge Will O'Roarty leaped from the bench, and with his judicial robe flapping behind him, pursued Key out of the building, down the street, and into a supermarket, where a clerk and police captured him. O'Roarty brought Key back to the courtroom and tacked on nine more months.


The Los Angeles Times reported that the Novel Cafe in Santa Monica recently featured Kopi Luwak, a Sumatran coffee reputed to be the most expensive in the world, at $130 per pound. Why so expensive? According to the cafe's owners, a certain kangaroolike Sumatran animal eats only the "ripest, best" coffee beans; after it excretes the beans, the natives wash and process them into Kopi Luwak.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in October that the mummified remains of an Australian aborigine who died in 1884 would soon be sent home. The owners of a Cleveland funeral home that closed in August had forgotten about the body, which was stored in the basement. The man, Tambo Tambo, had come to Cleveland to throw boomerangs in a show, but died of pneumonia; none of his colleagues had claimed the body.

In October in Austin, Texas, landlord John Mattingly Jr., 26, served an eviction notice in court on his grandmother, Dorothy Webb, 85, for nonpayment of rent. Said she, "I guess I'm not dying fast enough [for him]."

California attorney general Dan Lungren proposed in October that the state measure the pain-killing attributes of cyanide gas to demonstrate that the gas chamber is not "cruel and unusual" punishment, as the American Civil Liberties Union contended in a recent lawsuit. Lungren proposed that the state put rats in pain by "colon balloon distension"--inserting balloons in the anuses of 60 rats and inflating them until the rats squeal--and then administering cyanide at different doses to see if the pain subsides.

In February a squirrel apparently fell into a small vent on the roof of Kim Richardson's home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and got into the plumbing pipes. Richardson reported that she discovered the animal when she sat down on the toilet and felt something scratching her derriere. She "almost died," she said later. The squirrel had drowned by the time help arrived.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In October in Lexington, North Carolina, Efram George Colson, 23, allegedly stole some cigarettes from a store and ran away. His escape route led him onto the Lexington Senior High School grounds, where the football team was practicing. He was tackled by about 30 players and held for police. And in September in Manchester, New Hampshire, a thief snatched a purse just as a girls' high school cross-country team out for a training run happened by. The girls chased him until he got scared and dropped it.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in October, Larry McKee, 42, was arrested and charged with robbing a convenience store. The robber had been in the back room and wasn't aware that a camera crew from WBRZ TV was taping a feature on crime in the front of the store. The tape clearly shows the robber running through the store and out the front door.

In October Milwaukee police at the scene of a robbery in which two young men in ski masks had held up a video store questioned two young men sitting at a nearby bus stop who had ski masks in their pockets. They admitted they'd been on their way to rob the video store, but said that when they arrived two other men in ski masks were already robbing it. Police concluded they were telling the truth because their ski masks didn't match the description of the real robbers' ski masks. Police also said the two might not have known that the penalty for "conspiracy to commit robbery" is almost as stiff as the penalty for robbery.

When an Air Force practice bomb fell out of the sky in October and nearly hit Darrell Jones, 41, of Columbia, South Carolina, he became a local news celebrity. But Jones also owes his ex-wife more than $26,000 in child support, and she hadn't known his whereabouts until his face popped up on television and in newspapers.

The Weirdo-American Community

In October in Los Angeles, Humberto Amaya, 32, at first bragged to customers and staff at the Guatemalteca Market that he'd just killed a man. When they failed to take him seriously, he became angry, went home, and returned with a freshly severed head, which he began waving around the market and then set down next to the pastry case, to the horror of onlookers. Police believe that Amaya killed the man when he tried to steal Amaya's stereo. They also believe that Amaya, a tailor, stitched the body's stomach to its chest so that it would fit into a garbage can.

Least Competent People

Long-standing calls for reform of New Jersey's county medical-examiner system were renewed in October when the New York Times reported that examiners in Cumberland and Ocean counties had recently erred in making cause-of-death reports. In the Cumberland case the county medical examiner, Dr. Larry Mapow, failed to see a bullet lodged in a man's skull and attributed death to a blow by a blunt instrument. Mapow did see a second bullet in the man's brain and removed it, but he noted it without attributing any significance to it.

I Don't Think So

In July the police chief of Manila, Colorado, Generoso Necesito, told reporters the reason more than $25,000 worth of marijuana and cocaine was missing from the police evidence room was that rats and cockroaches had eaten it.

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

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