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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In June the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., featured a show on minimalism, including such ordinary objects as a package wrapped in brown paper and string, entitled Package, by Christo. According to the Washington Post, when gallery technician Glenn Perry was installing some of the exhibits with the aid of his tool cart "several patrons and critics" gathered around the cart and studied it as if it were an exhibit.

Couldn't Possibly Be True

Minutes after funeral services for a 25-year-old man ended in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in June, his body caught fire inside the closed coffin, causing smoke to pour out of the cracks. Investigators said embalming fluids spontaneously combusted.

In Kissimmee, Florida, in May, William Nelson was shot twice point-blank by a man with a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver. One shot went through his shoulder; the other hit him "square in the forehead and just stopped," according to police officer Jim Lakey. Nelson's only major problem was that his "ears were ringing."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission's May report on sports injuries said 1,455 people were sent to emergency rooms in 1992 with injuries suffered while playing Ping-Pong.

Daniel Czubko, 32, went on the lam in late July after police in Bakersfield, California, began seeking him on charges that he'd stalked his estranged wife. According to police, Czubko secretly moved into a two-and-a-half-a-foot-high crawl space under the floor of Mrs. Czubko's new home on about July 23 and stayed for a week. When he left he called her and described exactly what she'd been wearing and doing.

In a story about Elvis Week '94 in Memphis in August the Commercial Appeal newspaper reported on what it called the two most bizarre items of Elvis memorabilia, both of which belong to Joni Mabe of Athens, Georgia. One is a toenail she claims was Elvis's, which she picked out of a carpet in the Jungle Room during her 1983 visit to Graceland. The other is a wart that was removed from Elvis's right wrist in 1957 and stored in formaldehyde, which she said she purchased from the operating surgeon's estate in 1990.

William Powell, 35, was convicted of assault in Detroit in June after a court found that he intentionally pulled his pregnant 33-year-old girlfriend partway through the window of his van as he sped down the street, rammed her body against a telephone pole, then kicked her after he stopped the van. The woman, who lost the baby as well as an arm and a leg, testified in support of Powell, saying the incident was her fault.

Police in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, filed armed-robbery charges against John P. Wuchko, 28, in July. According to police, Wuchko left no fingerprints at the scene because he wore surgical gloves, but they recovered one of the gloves nearby and found Wuchko's print on the inside of one of the fingers.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In July four undocumented aliens in Las Vegas were deported to Mexico after being turned in by the customer for whom they were installing carpet. The customer was Arthur Strapp, head of the local office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Said Strapp, "Out of 900,000 people in Las Vegas, they picked my house." And in March a Haitian woman who'd just landed illegally in Saint Croix was arrested when she hailed what she thought was a taxicab; it turned out to be an official INS car.

In May a gang of bandits burst into a bakery in Rio de Janeiro just as it was being robbed by another gang. The first gang had just taken a cash box containing about $45, which the second gang demanded at gunpoint. A hail of gunfire erupted, and the first gang escaped with the money.

In January a man attempted to escape from a prison in Lancaster, California, by hiding in a garbage truck, the method also chosen in February by an inmate in Immokalee, Florida. Neither man managed to get out of the truck before he was compacted. The California man survived, but the Florida man, who was serving a life sentence for kidnapping, was found dead and badly mangled in the landfill where the truck had deposited him.

Cries for Help

Last fall the California Bar Association finally disciplined Berkeley attorney Morgan Doyle for a string of incidents dating back eight years; among them: In 1985 he fired a shotgun from the roof of his apartment building to celebrate what he called the exploration of the west and the arrival of a battleship in the San Francisco harbor. And in 1991, after the owner of a restaurant refused to yield to repeated requests for free croissants, Doyle threw food around the room and threatened the man and his wife. The Bar Association, noting that none of the incidents involved "moral turpitude," suspended Doyle for 30 days.

Least Competent Criminal

Danny Kelley, 17, was charged in August for burglarizing a home near San Antonio, Texas. Last year the 400-pound Kelley was arrested for another home burglary, during which he also raided the refrigerator, after police traced a trail of discarded ice cream wrappers from the house to Kelley's.

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

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