Questionable judgment: In September a Tennessee appeals court rejected a woman's challenge to a ruling that she said endangers her 12-year-old son. The court decided that the child's father could continue unsupervised visitation. "There is not one whisper of anything improper in [the father-son] relationship," the judges reassured the woman, "except for 'butt-facing' incidents," in which one participant is held down and another participant squats down with his bare bottom on the other's face.
According to a Times of London report in October, 45 people, mainly celebrities and prominent business executives, have had microchips surgically implanted in their bodies so police can track them by satellite if they are kidnapped. The chip is made of organic and synthetic fibers that are powered by the body's own neurophysiological energy.
In October Baltimore ninth-grader Jamie Schoonover, who is a practicing Wiccan, was suspended from school for a day when a classmate said Schoonover hexed her. Schoonover's mother, Colleen Harper, said not to worry, as her daughter was too young to hex effectively. (Before her recent hormone therapy, Harper was Schoonover's father.)
House of Lords Babylon
In September the tenth Lord Hardwicke, Joseph Phillip Sebastian Yorke, was suspended by Britain's House of Lords after it was reported that he tried to sell cocaine to a journalist. Several days before that, Lord Dunleath reported in a speech to the house that he had discovered that photos of naked young men had been posted on the lords' Web site.
Most Dangerous Politicians
David Kirk Anderson, county assessor of Albuquerque, New Mexico, told reporters in September that he would serve out his term rather than resign. He had just been arrested for roughing up his girlfriend, which was the sixth domestic-abuse charge filed against him since 1992. And the Washington Post reported in October that D.C. city council candidate Mark Thompson was serving two years' probation for domestic assault, having been accused by his wife in 1996 of beating her several dozen times while she was pregnant and bloodying her lip three weeks after he attended that year's Million Man March, which was aimed in part at reducing domestic violence.
Most Visible Politicians
In September lawyer Paula Sage, 39, running for judge in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, offered a $50,000 reward for evidence leading to the person who had distributed photos of her baring her breasts at a party in 1990. And in August Councilwoman Marlane Carr, 68, of Eleanor, West Virginia, was accused by two police officers of sexual harassment after she pulled up her sweater to flash them. Carr said the officers were retaliating for her public criticism of their job performance.
Police in New York City arrested seven people in October whom they believe are members of a gang of burglars that has been plaguing the area for at least 15 years. However, the gang appeared to be nearing retirement: four of the seven are in their 50s, and one was arrested at his nursing home.
In October in Vero Beach, Florida, accused murderer Patrick McIntyre, 26, claimed in a court motion that he was tricked into confessing and demanded that his statement be stricken. McIntyre confessed to his mother, Molly, a Vero Beach police officer at the time. She failed to give him a Miranda warning, but said it wasn't required because she was talking to him as his mother. Molly also claimed she was eligible for the $5,000 reward for turning him in.
In August the former chief of police of Palmerston, Ontario, Barry Moyle, received a suspended sentence on a charge of assaulting his sister Shelley. Moyle now works as an Elvis impersonator and Shelley works as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.
In June Valerie Nordstrom, 40, was convicted of improper driving and fined $35 after a Virginia state trooper stopped her for putting on makeup while driving in rush-hour traffic on a rain-slicked highway. The trooper said he followed her for a mile and a half while she was "stretched forward" so she could see her face in the rearview mirror.
Attachai Deesaraphan, 24, and two accomplices were arrested in June after robbing a restaurant in Bangkok. According to victims, Attachai shouted, "This is the IMF [International Monetary Fund] era. Give us your money now, and we'll pay it back later." Patrons burst out laughing and resumed watching a World Cup match on TV. Attachai then fired three shots into the ceiling to show he was serious and completed the robbery.
Least Competent Criminal
Officials at a jail in Saluda, Virginia, said Denova Surles Rowe, 22, called several days after her boyfriend's arrest in August to tell them that the prosecutor had dropped the charges. Amused jailers said they would have to see the order on the prosecutor's letterhead. Two hours later they received a fax riddled with spelling and grammatical errors written on an ordinary cover sheet with "York County Commonwealth Office" scrawled across the top. The fax sender ID showed the phone number of a local office-supply store. Rowe was tracked down and arrested several days later.
News of the Weird has reported several times on lucky victims of point-blank gunfire who were saved when the bullets were stopped by a Bible in the hand or a stack of coupons in the target's pocket, or deflected off keys or a golf ball in a pocket. In September Steve Mackins, 41, was shot in the stomach by an unidentified man who pulled Mackins's truck over on a rural road near Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Doctors determined that the .25-caliber bullet had bounced off his belt buckle.
Least Justifiable Parenting
In Lima, Ohio, in July, Jason Phipps, 22, pleaded guilty to smothering his eight-month-old daughter because she was crying while he was trying to watch Garth Brooks on TV. In September Anthony Smith, 35, of Brooklyn, was arrested and charged with drowning his daughter, 9, in the bathtub because she was taking too much time shampooing her hair. And in Houston in September, David Andrew Douglas, 49, was convicted of strangling his granddaughter, 3, for licking the icing off his cupcake.
Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago Reader 60611.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration by Shawn Belshwender.