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In February Cambridge University researcher Fiona Hunter, who studied penguins' mating habits for five years, reported that some females apparently allow male strangers to mate with them in exchange for a few of the stones the birds use to make nests, providing what Hunter believes is the first observed example of nonhuman prostitution. According to Hunter, all of the acts were done behind the back of the female's regular mate, and in a few instances penguin johns gave the females additional stones as a sort of tip afterward.

In March Lesli Szabo's $1.7 million lawsuit against a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, for not making her 1993 childbirth pain-free went to trial. Physicians say the amount of anesthesia required to make childbirth painless can endanger the child, but Szabo said she expected to be comfortable enough to be able to read or knit during her delivery. She admitted to having had previous run-ins with physicians, explaining, "When I'm in pain, the [words] that come out of my mouth would curl your hair." After five days the parties reached an undisclosed settlement.

David Samarzia, 44, who won $650,000 in damages from the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minnesota, for being molested as a kid by former pastor Daniel Reeb, told reporters in February that since the church didn't have the money, he most likely would take it over as payment and turn it into a center to help other sex-abuse victims.

Family Values

Following the August death of 122-year-old Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, the Guinness Book of Records named Canadian Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur, 116, the world's oldest person. In an interview with the Associated Press, Meilleur said her hobby was finding a girlfriend for her 81-year-old son at the nursing home where they both reside.

In November Howard and Jean Garber of Anaheim Hills, California, announced that this spring they will have a grandchild though its mother, their daughter Julie, passed away last year at age 28 from leukemia. Julie had harvested 12 eggs before undergoing radiation treatment, and after her death her parents selected a father and surrogate mother, who announced on Thanksgiving that the woman was pregnant.

While locked up in Texas's Kerr County jail in November, burglar Bill Wells, 40, met up with burglar Corey Hillger, 22, for the first time in about 22 years. Hillger is Wells's son. And in October near New Orleans, sheriff's deputies say George Francois, 72 and drunk, slammed his car into a vehicle driven by another drunk driver, his son, Roland Francois, 35. Both were hospitalized.

In January in Union Township, New Jersey, Phyllis Klingebiel, who said she had always had a "close and loving relationship" with her adult son, Michael, filed a lawsuit against him after he refused to share the winnings from a lottery ticket that paid $2 million. According to Phyllis, the two had pooled $20 a month each for tickets for more than ten years, and Michael had called her after the winning ticket was announced to tell her that "we" had won. The next day he called his mom back to say that the winning ticket happened to be one that he had bought on his own.

I Don't Think So

At his trial in Fort Worth, Texas, in January, William Lee Monroe, 28, admitted he stole a gas stove from an apartment but denied responsibility for the resulting ruptured gas line, explosion, and fire that sent two people to the hospital and injured three others. According to his lawyer, Monroe is too dumb to know that an open gas line is dangerous. "Stupid is as stupid does," said the lawyer. The jury said Monroe was guilty anyway.

In October Arthur Downey was arrested on drug charges in Phoenix, Arizona, along with an eight-year-old boy who was detained as Downey's runner. Two days later Downey (whose age was not revealed but who is at least in his 20s) told the Arizona Republic that actually the boy was the boss and he, Downey, the runner.

In January John Kieser, 45, was convicted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of carrying a weapon on an airplane. While a passenger on a US Airways flight in August 1997, Kieser uttered the word "hijack," a big no-no in air travel, but protested later that he was just saying "Hi, Jack" to someone who had addressed him. A search of his carry-on bag revealed a flare gun and 17 flares.

In November the police chief of New Haven, Connecticut, in a report explaining why $23,000 was missing from the police evidence room following an investigation into illegal gambling, said that the money must have accident-ally fallen into a garbage can and been thrown out. And Wells Fargo armored-car drivers David Faircloth and Steven Stepp reported that $209,000 missing from their truck in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in December must have accidentally fallen out the back door and that they don't know what happened to it.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

According to a December report in PC Week on a recent computer convention, the exhibitor Prescient Systems installed its new video surveillance software, called Gotcha, to record the construction of its convention booth, intending to use the tape as a sales tool. The night following the installation, two guards, unaware that the software was operating, broke into the booth and stole two boxes of Pentium chips. They were arrested the next day.

People who should have kept a lower profile: Daniel Thorn of Saint John, New Brunswick, on the lam for parole violation, was arrested at a Toronto Blue Jays game in September when he happened to take a seat a few feet away from his parole officer. And Steve Graves of Phoenix, Arizona, behind in child-support payments, inadvertently revealed his whereabouts to his wife when he got his picture in the newspaper in November for handing in $23,000 that he found on the street. And Neil Ramirez, also behind with child support and moonlighting as a store Santa Claus in December in Brooklyn, New York, found his unwitting toddler daughter climbing into his lap. The kid recognized him and yelled, "Daddy is Santa!" at which point the ex-wife grabbed some legal paperwork from her purse and crammed it into Ramirez's Santa suit.

Smooth Reactions

In December a 24-year-old woman was charged with battery in Beloit, Wisconsin, for allegedly hitting her husband with a plant stand, sending him to the hospital for six stitches. According to police, the couple had been married for two months and fought frequently about sex. That night, she was angry that he had retired for the evening after only four episodes.

Still more recent rages. "Rejected her marriage proposal rage": Amy J. Weir was arrested in Vancouver, Washington, in December, suspected of killing her reluctant boyfriend, cutting up his body, and flushing some of the parts down a toilet. "Relatives staying too long rage": Jonathan M. Charest, 31, of Rochester, New Hampshire, allegedly carved open his guest-bedroom door with a chain saw to stop one of the frequent loud arguments between visiting in-laws, in January. Road rage variation: in December Jerry Russo, 51, of Howell Township, New Jersey, allegedly ran a car off the road whose occupants had been laughing at him for picking his nose while driving.

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 Belshwender.

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