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In May, Anchorage public defender Leslie Hiebert argued that just because Kenneth Padgett had covered the face of his dead mother in duct tape, sealed her corpse underneath a kitchen counter in her trailer home, rented the trailer to a friend (without mentioning what was under the counter), and tried to leave the state didn't mean that he'd killed her. Hiebert told a jury that Padgett's mother had died of natural causes and that Padgett, who didn't want to report the death for fear authorities would learn he was wanted for violating parole in Texas, decided "she would not have a problem" with her body being disposed of that way. (Padgett was convicted of murder.)

People Different From Us

Among the cast of characters in a Martinez, California, trial that was nearing conclusion at press time: Glenn Taylor Helzer, a former stockbroker who pleaded guilty to several murders, extortion, and kidnapping as part of a plan to hasten Christ's return; his brother Justin, who's been convicted of the crimes but says he was insane and under Glenn's control; their roommate Dawn Godman, who pleaded guilty too and testified about (among other things) Glenn's plot to train Brazilian orphans to assassinate elders of the Mormon church, allowing him to take over as its sole true prophet; self-professed "good witch" Debra McClanahan, who said the Helzers and Godman borrowed some carpet cleaner from her late one night, then got her to help with their alibi; and Keri Mendoza, a former girlfriend of Glenn's who wasn't charged with any crime but testified reluctantly for the state (she said Glenn had given her the confidence to eventually become Playboy's Miss September 2000).

Not My Fault

An arbitrator in Sydney, Australia, ruled in April that the state education department must compensate high school teacher Jeff Sinclair for "psychological injury" he suffered when he was reassigned and then fired for having a romantic relationship with a student. The affair began at least three years ago, when he was 50 (and married) and she was 16. Sinclair, now divorced and living with the student, was awarded the equivalent of $19,500 in lost wages plus $220 monthly until he finds a new job. The state is appealing the decision.

Compelling Explanations

In Toronto in May, Angel Jones, 27, was convicted of aggravated assault for biting off his girlfriend's nose in a rage. He argued it was an accident: her nose was in his mouth but came off only because medication had made her skin fragile. And 24-year-old Maurice Williams of Muncie, Indiana, was charged with perjury last month for repeatedly denying his identity after being arrested for a misdemeanor. When a judge pointed out that he had Williams tattooed on his back, he said, "I can't see what's on my back. If there's some tattoos on my back, somebody's been bothering me when I'm asleep." Williams claimed he had a sleep disorder that would make such a thing possible.

Norman Tebbit of Britain's House of Lords suggested to a radio interviewer in May that homosexuality in the UK is "intimately connected" to the rise in obesity, because the breakdown of the family means fewer home-cooked meals and more fast food. Also in May, Florida state legislative candidate Ed Heeney told a Palm Beach political meeting that homosexuality has made it less convenient for him to play pool, because "the lesbian community is buying restaurants and bars."

Questionable Judgments

In February Bill Mattingly, superintendent of Streator High School (Streator, Illinois), apologized for calling senior Wes Hood into his office to discuss basketball. Allegedly Mattingly told Hood, a black player on the school team, that he should pass the ball more often "to the white kids." (Hood's white teammates included Mattingly's son.) And in March, Andy Schmeltzer, baseball coach at Hirschi High School (Wichita Falls, Texas), was placed on leave after he hit a desk with a bat for emphasis while asking a teacher to change some players' grades.

The Classic Middle Name (all new)

Arrested recently and charged with murder: Estell Wayne Buck (Monroe, Ohio, June), David Wayne Marsh (Hagerstown, Maryland, March), Jonathan Wayne Larrabee (Wakpala, South Dakota, March), Jerald Wayne Harvel II (Skiatook, Oklahoma, February), and Robert Wayne McMillion (Broward County, Florida, December). Arrested on suspicion of murder: John Wayne Warrener (Thornton, Colorado, June). Convicted of murder: Mark Wayne Hauseur (Joshua Tree, California, April). Pleaded guilty to murder: Charles Wayne Green (Newport, Arkansas, May). Death sentence upheld: Robert Wayne Lambert (Sapulpa, Oklahoma, May).

Undignified Deaths

A 46-year-old South African soldier, part of a peacekeeping force in Burundi, was killed in January when a tree fell over onto the portable toilet he was using. And in June a 45-year-old television cameraman was struck and killed by a car at an Omaha, Nebraska, intersection; he was working on a story about how dangerous the intersection is.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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