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News Of The Weird

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Lead Stories

Life imitates Monty Python: The Salem (Massachusetts) Evening News reported in March that Carmen LaBrecque, 51, had to outrun a rabid skunk for 15 minutes before an animal control officer arrived to shoot it. Unable to slow down enough even to open her front door and get inside, La Brecque circled her yard 12 times with the skunk snapping at her heels. On one pass by her front door, LaBrecque's elderly mother handed her a cell phone, which LaBrecque used to call 911.

Family values: In March the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a local woman and her husband are searching for a surrogate mother to inseminate with their deceased son's sperm so that they can fulfill their longing to be grandparents. And earlier that month, a newspaper in Milan reported that a 35-year-old woman was three months pregnant with the fetuses of two couples whose children she agreed to bear because of a shortage of surrogate mothers. She said blood tests after birth would determine which baby is which. The Vatican and Italy's health minister announced they were appalled.

In March, while the U.S. diplomatic mission in Albania was evacuating personnel for safety reasons, the Washington Post reported that the State Department sent a cable to the diplomats in Tirana reminding them of the department's "(evacuation) policy for safeguarding of sterling silver flatware (cutlery)."

News of the Judgment-Impaired

In February England's Children's Society began its advertising campaign intended to enlighten people that child sex abuse could occur in anyone's town and not just in notorious sex-tourist spots in the Far East. The organization sponsored billboards that read, "Why travel 6,000 miles to have sex with children when you can do it in [the English town of] Bournemouth?" When questioned by a reporter, a society spokesman expressed pride in the campaign and said it would be extended to Manchester and Leeds.

In January motorist John Tanayo, 30, was stopped in New York City after he failed to signal a right turn in front of a police cruiser. A search of his car turned up 573 pounds of cocaine worth about $5 million.

In Whitewater, Wisconsin, a 38-year-old apartment building manager was arrested in January and charged with surreptitiously videotaping a female tenant with a hidden camera. The 20-year-old tenant became suspicious when the manager installed a smoke detector in the ceiling of her shower.

In January the Robles family placed an ad in a newspaper in the town of Leon, Guanajuato, north of Mexico City, to the attention of robbers who had been breaking into their house. In exasperation the family begged the robbers to stay away, announcing that they had nothing left except the TV, the VCR, and the refrigerator.

In November in Washington, D.C., Antwan Hudson, in jail on drug charges, and Kingsley Ellis, a Texas credit card fraud suspect, apparently each thought the other was in less trouble and agreed to a scheme to swap identities for an upcoming court appearance. Ellis was shocked to learn in court that Hudson was wanted on several more drug charges as well as for threatening his wife. Hudson was even more shocked to find that Ellis was facing deportation to Jamaica and thus blew the whistle on the scheme.

In a Virginia case reported in the December Mental Health Law News, Susanna Van de Castle was awarded $350,000 against her psychiatrist husband, Robert, for malpractice. According to the lawsuit, after diagnosing her as suffering from multiple personality disorder, he married her, continuing the therapy while seeking deals for a book and a movie about her, in addition to staging public lectures (charging admission) showcasing her as his subject.

In November insurance agency owner Raquel Cantu Garza of Brownsville, Texas, was charged with impeding IRS agents who had come to seize her business on a tax matter. According to the prosecutor, Garza instructed the two employees on duty to leave and lock the agents inside. When one agent pounded on the door to get out, a Garza employee allegedly said, "Call a locksmith," and walked away.

In October Jason Heck of Guthrie, Oklahoma, tried to kill a millipede with a shot from his .22-caliber rifle, but the bullet ricocheted off a rock and hit pal Antonio Martinez in the head, fracturing his skull. And in October Martyn Eskins of Elyria, Ohio, decided to use a propane torch instead of a broom to clean out cobwebs in his basement, causing a fire that burned the first and second floors of his house.

On New Year's Eve in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Derrick Demones Gunn was sentenced to one to five years in prison for attempting to escape from a halfway house one day before his original sentence was up. Also in Kalamazoo, a 16-year-old girl was arrested early New Year's morning for erratic driving in a car she allegedly stole from Patricia Conlon, unaware that the next day Conlon would begin a term as county juvenile court judge.

In October Heber C. Frias, 20, on the lam from a first-degree murder charge in Florida, saw his freedom come to an end in an Arlington, Virginia, 7-Eleven when he deliberately stole a candy bar right in front of a clerk. The clerk called police, who apprehended Frias just outside the store.

Perseverance

In March Shulamit Dezhin, 82, passed her driver's test in Ashdod, Israel, after 35 failures. She said she originally wanted to learn to drive so she could get to Tel Aviv to visit her parents, who are now dead. And in February Sue Evans-Jones, 45, of Yate, England, passed her driver's test after only three failures. However, she had taken 1,800 lessons over 27 years with ten instructors, most of whom had told her she was such a bad driver that she should not even attempt the exam. Her policeman husband explained that the slightest thought of crashing causes her to flail wildly at the brakes and steering wheel.

Update

North Carolina state representative Henry Aldridge made News of the Weird in 1995 when he denounced state funding for abortions for rape victims as unnecessary on the grounds that a woman who is "truly raped" won't get pregnant because "the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work." In March 1996 North Carolina house speaker Harold Brubaker appointed Aldridge cochair of the Committee on Human Resources, which oversees abortion funding.

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 by Shawn Belschwender.

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