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News of the Weird

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In October, Linda Pugach of New York City bailed her husband, Burton, 69, out of jail after he was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill his mistress of five years. In 1959, Linda was blinded in both eyes by a lye attack arranged by Burton after she spurned his marriage proposal. He was released from prison in 1974 and went on a TV-show campaign to win her heart; a few months later, she married him. Asked by a reporter for her reaction to Burton's current paramour, Linda responded, "Did you call Hillary and ask her how she feels?"

According to an Associated Press report, a nighttime Swedish TV talk show in September showed a woman being given a gynecological exam onstage before a studio audience. The host, Lotta Aschberg, said she personally was "fascinated."

A New York Times report on the first day's rescue operations for TWA Flight 800 in July mentioned a man in an army uniform who showed up at the crash site command center and helped direct helicopter traffic. The man was there for about 12 hours before authorities realized they had no idea who he was. Though officials agreed that the man had done a fine job, he was escorted from the area. In October, the man, David Williams, pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized practice of a profession and was sentenced to six months in prison. Previously he had impersonated a physician--diagnosing Medicare patients for a private firm and teaching physician seminars; in both cases, employers were pleased with his work.

Compelling Explanations

In September an Indonesian prison guard stood trial on charges that he helped an inmate escape. The guard testified that the inmate gave him about $400 but denied it was a bribe. He said he was good at his job and "only took the money as a tip."

A Winnipeg, Manitoba, court ordered Dean Eric Wride, who was accused of killing his wife, to undergo routine psychiatric tests in September, despite his lawyer's protest that such pretrial treatment might actually cure him and thus hurt his insanity defense.

Ohio University professor Dwight Pugh was officially reprimanded in October for filling out his own course evaluations for six consecutive quarters. (He rated himself very high.) When confronted with the charges, Pugh said his work was all part of an experiment to test the evaluation process.

In September pro football player Mark Carrier told a reporter for the Greensboro News Record in North Carolina that the presence of evangelist Billy Graham at the Carolina Panthers' stadium during a practice session was inspirational. "Even after we battle on the football field and beat each other's heads in," said Carrier, "we come together and thank God for just being able to do that."

The Romanian soccer federation fined the junior team Athletic Bucharest about $16,000 in October for grossly violating rules by walking out of a recent game before it was over. The players, who were losing 16-0 at the time, said they left only because fans were screaming that if they gave up two more goals in the final two minutes, the fans would charge onto the field and strip the players naked.

Chutzpah

After being arrested for murder in central Georgia in 1992, Melissa Leslie Burgeson and her boyfriend were briefly left unsupervised in a police car. The two discussed the crime, including how they should have done it differently. A hidden tape recorder captured the discussion, which was introduced against Burgeson in her trial. She challenged its use, claiming that an arrestee has a constitutional expectation of privacy sitting in the back seat of a police car. In September the Georgia Supreme Court disagreed. (The boyfriend is on death row for the murder.)

Arturo Sanchez, a former Texas transit-commission chairman who had been convicted of sexually harassing an employee, filed a counterclaim in June against the employee to recover some of the money she stands to gain in a civil lawsuit against the transit agency itself. The San Antonio Express-News reported in June that Sanchez figures the woman needs his testimony about how the agency was lax in its sexual harassment policy, and he figures his help is worth part of her winnings.

Unclear on the Concept

In April a 48-year-old woman from Mill Valley, California, survived a suicide plunge in her car off a seaside cliff in Sonoma County. Witnesses said she was traveling 45 miles per hour and fell 350 feet but emerged with only minor injuries, probably because she had neglected to unfasten her seatbelt before hitting the accelerator.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (9) the miscreant funeral home that either neglects or mixes up bodies, as the Lanford-Pollard Funeral Home of Spartanburg, South Carolina, allegedly did in September--dressing one body with another man's suit, glasses, and teeth. And (10) the disgruntled customer who calls the police to report being sold either bogus or very weak illegal drugs, as did Linda Marie Davis, 41, in August in Houston. (Unfortunately for Davis, it was weak, not bogus, crack cocaine, and she was arrested for possession.)

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 Belshwender.

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