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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In April staff at a 7-Eleven in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, finally confronted a 70-year-old man who'd made a daily habit of standing in the store for hours reading magazines without ever buying any. According to an Agence France-Presse dispatch, the man left when ordered out but soon returned, allegedly waving a chain saw and screaming "I'll cut you to pieces!" He left the saw, still running, outside the store and resumed reading until police arrived.

Compelling Explanations

Stacy Steel, who resigned in March as executive director of a Humane Society shelter in Oceanside, California, was arrested in April for allegedly having instructed employees to order her 3,600 tablets of the prescription painkiller Vicodin over a five-month period. According to the Associated Press, DEA investigators said Steel, 38, told them the pills were for her dog.

After 34-year-old Pov Srun pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of two teenage girls in Montgomery County, Maryland (he's accused of similar crimes in Pennsylvania), his wife, Cindy Michelle Srun, also 34, testified at a March sentencing hearing that because of her overbearing personality and numerous infidelities she was partly responsible for his actions. The judge gave him 35 years anyway.

At his trial on nine charges relating to indecent photographs of children, Simon Hamilton, a 35-year-old London attorney, testified in April that he hadn't derived any sexual gratification from taking "upskirt" photos of women and girls in public places but simply enjoyed the satisfaction of collecting and cataloging them: "Collecting is something my family is very prone to." Besides, Hamilton said, he'd given up this hobby in 2001--before most of the pictures he was accused of taking were shot--when he returned to the full-time practice of law and decided that "it was no longer an appropriate or convenient habit to indulge in." He was convicted on all counts.

While driving on Interstate 220 in Jackson, Mississippi, one afternoon in April, Mayor Frank Melton directed his police escort to pull over four school buses carrying students from nearby Callaway High so he could hug the kids and shake their hands. Melton, whose behavior was then already under investigation by the state attorney general, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger it was an impulse decision: "It's been such a stressful two weeks. . . . I wanted to touch them. That's all it was."

Can't Possibly Be True

In 2004 a female kitchen worker at a minimum-security juvenile detention center in Rensselaerville, New York, was raped, beaten, and kidnapped by a 16-year-old inmate, who held her at knifepoint and drove her around the county for six hours before she escaped. According to a story this March in the Albany Times Union, the woman--now 52 and, her doctor says, no longer able to work--received workers' compensation and other benefits for the incident, but she was denied a captivity benefit worth up to $100,000 because her union's insurance policy only covers kidnappings lasting eight hours or longer. The insurer was apparently ready to waive the duration requirement, but for unexplained reasons the union's executive board wouldn't approve the waiver.

In April the city of Espanola, New Mexico, agreed to pay $221,000 into an education fund for Jerry Trujillo to settle a lawsuit filed by his family over a 2004 incident. After being sent to his elementary school counselor's office for misbehaving, Jerry, then eight years old, allegedly threw a tantrum and refused to return to class. The school called the police, who handcuffed the child and took him to the city jail; he was issued a citation for disorderly conduct (saying he was "out of control"), dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and detained in a holding cell (while adult inmates nearby taunted him) until his parents could arrive.

Just Helping Out

In March 31-year-old Eugene Rutledge of Oakland, California, was charged with 16 robberies of fast-food restaurants and grocery stores, including four at the same Taco Bell; police said employees there got so used to it they would open the register as soon as they saw Rutledge approaching. And in April a clerk at a Denver Walgreens resisted an attempted holdup, leading to a struggle. According to police the robber had turned to flee empty-handed when the clerk reflexively tried to stop him by flinging the first thing he could grab, which was the cash drawer; the robber scooped up several handfuls of bills before getting away.

Law School Special

At an April hearing in Sydney, Australia, Paul Chappell told the court he intended to plead not guilty at his upcoming trial for rape. The incident in question took place last October after Chappell went home with a woman he'd met that night. According to the woman, he was "pretty drunk" and she was unwilling to have sex with him. He left her bedroom to use the bathroom, but in attempting to return, he said, he mistakenly went into a different darkened bedroom, got into bed with the woman's housemate, and, believing her to be the person he'd been with moments earlier, began having sex with her. The housemate told police she assumed the man who woke her up and initiated sex was her boyfriend, whom she'd last seen sleeping on the living room couch; horrified to discover a complete stranger when she later turned on the light, she started screaming and chased him out of the apartment.

Latest Cutting-Edge Research

In March scientists in Aarhus, Denmark, released the results of a three-year study showing ecstasy causes depression in pigs.

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

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