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News of the Weird



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In September in Belleville, Illinois, James Dowdy, 23, was sentenced to three years in prison after being arrested carrying a bag of stolen socks. At the time he was on probation for another sock theft; he's never been accused of stealing anything except socks.

The Animal Kingdom

Central Park Zoo revealed in June that it had paid an animal behaviorist $25,000 for psychotherapy for Gus, a nine-year-old polar bear that was involved in various repetitive behaviors the zoo director said pointed to a mild neurosis. The behaviorist recommended creating games to make Gus's life less monotonous.

On a sanctuary island off the coast of Mauritius, England's Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust runs breeding programs for seriously endangered species, including the extremely rare Mauritius kestrel falcon and the equally rare Mauritius pink pigeon. In October the trust announced that one of the falcons had swooped down and eaten one of the pigeons.

Animal inheritances: In January Anna Morgan of Seattle left an estate valued at $500,000 to Tinker, her 11-year-old Turkish Angora cat; Morgan's apartment will be maintained and a live-in caretaker hired for Tinker. And in August in Santa Ana, California, the executor of LaVerne Wheeler's $2.1 million estate announced that Wheeler's two brothers would receive only $25,000 each, much to their chagrin, but that the Santa Ana Police Department's K-9 corps would receive $612,000.

Just Can't Stop Myself

After a 1993 vandalism episode Robert D. Pollard Jr. wrote his community an "apology from the heart," which was published in the Winston-Salem Journal. Writing that he was "really and truly sorry," he went on for several paragraphs about the "great change" in his life because of Jesus, who "has really shown me that he is the only way out." The Journal published the letter on March 7, 1994. Elsewhere in that edition was a news story reporting that on March 6 police had charged Pollard with punching his wife in the face.

In October in Jacksonville, Florida, Wesley "Pop" Honeywood, 94, was given a seven-year prison sentence on a charge of aggravated assault for pulling a gun on a man who'd yelled at him. Honeywood has been charged with 46 crimes in his life. For the last few years prosecutors and judges have been lenient with him because of his age; when he was 92 he was given probation after being charged with having sex with a seven-year-old girl. Honeywood's lawyer said her client preferred jail to a nursing home.

Betty Lou Blair, 48, was arrested in October after holding Knoxville, Tennessee, police at bay with a shotgun for more than hour. Over the last 12 years Blair has been arrested 425 times, mostly for behavior induced by alcohol consumption, including disturbing the peace, indecent exposure, and urinating in public.

Perversions on Parade

Within a three-month period this year the heads of both Arkansas State University and the Arkansas School for the Blind left their jobs because of scandals. In April ASU president John Mangieri was fired after his two secretaries testified that they'd seen him masturbating in his office. (Mangieri denied the charge and produced three doctors' letters stating that a medical condition had destroyed his sex drive.) And in June ASB superintendent Leonard Ogburn resigned after allegedly spanking a female teacher as part of a job evaluation.

At the annual Living in Leather convention in Toronto in October, Canadian entrepreneur Cam Ferry unveiled a "portable dungeon" ($1,450 Canadian) that he planned to sell in his local S-and-M store, Binding Leather. Its four-by-eight-foot base holds four detachable posts and two stocks, with snug holes for head, hands, and feet. In the center is a seesaw.

In September police in Tucson, Arizona, arrested a 41-year-old man who, according to a witness, appeared to be trying to coax horses from the University of Arizona Agricultural Center toward him with food, which he was holding near his exposed penis as if to invite oral sex. Police had warned the man in June about similar behavior. Also in September, in Warren, Ohio, a 31-year-old employee of the county's Sanitary Engineering Department was suspended for five days for sexually fondling a dog while on duty.

The Weirdo-American Community

According to the prosecutor, a 22-year-old Cincinnati woman who accused a bus driver in June of raping her actually consented to the sex, or at least two of her ten multiple personalities did. The woman told police that all ten, including a four-year-old and a ninja warrior, witnessed the attack, and the bus driver's lawyer was granted up to three opportunities in pretrial depositions to meet as many of the personalities as he could. And in Prince William County, Virginia, Edward B. Kelly, 44, is scheduled for trial in February (in the same court where the Bobbitt cases were heard) for binding and raping a woman he met in a therapy group for people with multiple personalities. Kelly said the sex was consensual between one of his personalities and one of the woman's.


In October I reported that two men had been arrested in Tavares, Florida, in the back of a van in a public park, that they were charged with committing an unnatural and lascivious act, and that their explanation was that they were merely examining and discussing the penile implant one of them had just gotten. I reported the story under the caption "I Don't Think So." But in November a jury believed their story and acquitted the men.

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/Shawn Belschwender.

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