The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Friday, December 28, 2007

Yo querio police work

AUBURN, Calif. - A three-pound Chihuahua mix named Tink helped police put a fugitive in the clink.

The dog's Christmas Day adventure began when four suspects who were fleeing police crashed a stolen minivan into a hillside in this Sierra foothill town east of Sacramento, and one of them fled.
Tink, a Pomeranian and Chihuahua mix, found him hiding under a neighbor's motor home and chased him into the woods, said Wendy Anderson. The dog belongs to her son.
Her son and husband directed a law enforcement helicopter to where the 20-year-old man was hiding.
"The Chihuahua gave him up," California Highway Patrol officer Jeff Herbert said.
The three other suspects, including the driver, were juveniles from the San Francisco Bay area, Herbert said. The suspect who fled was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication and resisting arrest.
The driver was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft, felony evading, driving without a license and resisting arrest, Herbert said. The other two suspects were released to their parents.

Now that's a furry situation

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. - Sam Haskins didn't ask for a fur coat for Christmas. But he got six of them.
Haskins, the new owner of a hardware store, made an unexpected discovery early this month when he started poking around the basement: a climate-controlled vault containing six fur coats, about a dozen suits and some dresses and hats, apparently untouched since the late 1970s.
"The fans were spinning and the furs were spotless," said Haskins. "Everything inside was very nice and clean. The fan was set on 65 degrees and that is exactly what the thermometer read. Everyone wants to know who has been paying the electricity bill."
Haskins, 56, bought J&H Hardware in May and the building — a three-story structure on the village square — in September. In surveying the basement, he figured there might be usable space hidden behind a wall that had hinges on it.
With son Jeremy Haskins, 27, he rented an electric hammer and then a jackhammer and eventually bored through 18 inches of brick and mortar, four inches of wallboard and then a cement wall to find the room once used by Royal Furriers, a business that closed in the late 1970s.
Haskins said he had no idea what the coats are worth, but planned to have them appraised.
It was unclear whether anyone could step forward to claim a long-lost coat — or whether anyone who did would be on the hook for 30 years of storage fees.

You know you're an idiot when...

SYDNEY, Australia - It wasn't Santa Claus but a would-be burglar that rescue workers found stuck up a chimney in central Australia on Friday.
Staff at the Gapview Hotel in Alice Springs heard a man groaning when they arrived for work in the hotel bar, and called the fire department.
The man had been stuck inside the chimney for about 10 hours with his knees jammed tightly into his chest, said local fire station officer Mark James. "He was like a grub in a cocoon when we found him," James said. "He was really wedged in there."
Firefighters and ambulance officers spent 90 minutes trying to free the man before finally removing part of the chimney with jackhammers.
"Imagine being in the tightest ball you can (make) and being in that position for 10 hours," James said. "He was pretty embarrassed and ashamed, so he didn't say much when we got him out. He was obviously feeling sore and sorry for himself."
The man's identity was not immediately released, and it was not clear if he would be charged with any offense.

The Mustang will be rolling down the mountain when this idiot pushes it off

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A man pushed his Ford Mustang down a mountain as part of a scheme to claim it was stolen, authorities said.

Richard Way Jr., 28, pushed the car down an embankment along Wopsy Mountain in Blair County last year, then reported it had been stolen from the parking lot of a hot dog restaurant, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office said.
Way, of Claysburg, was arraigned last week on charges of filing false police reports, theft and insurance fraud.
A cousin, Travis Knox, told police he saw Way remove stereo equipment from the Mustang and was asked to help push the car off a cliff, according to the arrest affidavit. Knox said he refused to help, and told investigators that Way confessed the crime to him a few days later.
Reached at his home, Way declined comment and said a lawyer would speak on his behalf later.

Hello Kitty - for men!

TOKYO - Hello Kitty is no sexist.

The cute cuddly white cat from Japan's Sanrio Co., usually seen on toys and jewelry for girls and young women, will soon don T-shirts, bags, watches and other products targeting young men, company spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu said Friday.
"We think Hello Kitty is accepted by young men as a design statement in fashion," he said.
The feline for-men products will go on sale in Japan next month, and will be sold soon in the U.S. and other Asian nations, according to Sanrio.
The usual bubble-headed shape of Hello Kitty was slightly changed for a more rugged, cool look to appeal to men in their teens and early 20s.
For example, a picture of the cat on a $36 black T-shirt has the words, "hello kitty," instead of the usual dots for the eyes and nose.
Hello Kitty is one of mascot-obsessed Japan's biggest "character" hits, decorating everything from a humble eraser to a $48,000 diamond necklace.
The planned products mark the first time Sanrio is developing Hello Kitty items especially for males, Tohmatsu said.
But Sanrio had tried a "limited edition" collaboration in men's clothing with designers in Tokyo's chic Harajuku section earlier this year, and they proved popular, he said.
"Young men these days grew up with character goods," said Tohmatsu. "That generation feels no embarrassment about wearing Hello Kitty."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You should see the football refs

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian referee took out his gun and fired warning shots in the air after a local soccer match turned unruly following the suspension of a player, a newspaper said Tuesday.

The referee, who was also a policeman, ran to his patrol car to get his gun after players mobbed him for showing the red-card to one of them, the New Straits Times said.

"We are investigating as to whether the policeman was justified in taking out his firearm and discharging it, and also why he had it with him during the match," it quoted Hussin Ismail, police chief in the southern Johor state, as saying.

The policemen was taken into custody for suspected misuse of firearms.

Five players, aged between 23 and 40, were also being held for questioning and could be charged for rioting, the paper said.

Cops have yet to nutcrack this case

DUBLIN, Ohio - Thieves ruined Christmas for one woman this year by stealing the pair of 6-foot-tall nutcracker statues from in front of her house.

"We didn't know anyone could be so mean," Stacie Hoyles said. "It's terrible to say, but this just took my whole Christmas spirit away."

The 100-pound statues, which Hoyles and her husband, Craig Hoyles, nicknamed Mr. Nut and Mr. Cracker, were taken Dec. 7 while the couple slept. The couple found Mr. Nut's torso at a roadside about a mile away the next day, and Dublin police found other splintered parts nearby.

Officers said it appeared the statue had been dragged through the streets by a car.

The other statue was found in a field, partially burned with several parts missing.

A neighbor said she heard teenagers stop near her home the night of the theft, according to a police report.

The couple bought the statues for $500 four years ago, but Stacie Hoyles said the only replacements she could find were being sold online for $1,500.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Salvation Army is cleaning up

PENSACOLA, Fla. - A platinum coin estimated to be worth more than $1,000 couldn't fit in a Salvation Army kettle, so the donor handed it over to the bell ringer.

An unidentified person donated the coin Friday outside a Belk department store.

"The man who donated the coin tried to put it in the kettle, but it wouldn't fit," Salvation Army spokeswoman Yvonne Warthen said. "So he just handed it to the bell ringer. It just shows how honest our bell ringers are."

The coin's face value is $100, but the Salvation Army had it appraised, and initial estimates put its value at about $1,300. The coin is from 2006 and is stamped with an image of the Statue of Liberty.

The Salvation Army has also received at least eight gold coins in its kettles this year. One, a one-ounce South African Krugerrand worth about $800, turned up earlier this month in Washington. And gold coins have turned up all the way back to 1982, the group said.

Salvation Army officials also have reported getting an Indian head gold coin in Barre, Vt., one-ounce American Eagle coins in Prescott, Ariz., and Fargo, N.D., and a Lady Liberty coin in Grand Island, Neb., among other unusual coins.

Two oinks means dangerous wind chills

STEELE, N.D. - Paul Smokov doesn't need radar or other high-tech equipment to forecast a major snowstorm on the prairie. He consults pig spleens.

"It looks like a normal year with no major storms," said the 84-year-old Smokov, peering at two of the brown, glistening, foot-long organs on his kitchen counter like a Gypsy gazing into a crystal ball. "That's what the spleens tell me."

Smokov and his wife, Betty, raise cattle on their 1,750-acre ranch north of this town of about 760 people. He is happy to share his forecast with his neighbors or anyone else willing to rely on the reading of animals' innards.

If the spleen is wide where it attaches to the pig's stomach and then narrows, it means winter weather will come early with a mild spring, Smokov said. A narrow-to-wider spleen usually means harsh weather in the spring, he said.

The spleens obtained by Smokov this year are pretty uniform in thickness, which means no drastic changes.

Janice Stillman, editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac in Dublin, N.H., said she had heard of at least one other pig spleen weather prognosticator — Gus Wickstrom of Saskatchewan — but he died earlier this year.

"It's folklore and a dying art, obviously," she said.

Smokov's Ukrainian parents brought their knowledge of pig spleen forecasting with them when they came to the U.S. a century ago. As for listening to forecasts on the radio — electricity didn't reach Smokov's ranch until 1949.

"The spleens are 85 percent correct, according to my figures," he said. As for the weathermen, "Those guys aren't any better."

At the National Weather Service office in Bismarck, meteorologist Vic Jensen relies on Doppler radar and other sophisticated scientific instruments. But he is charitable toward folk methods such as Smokov's.

"I can't discount some of these kinds of theories," Jensen said. "It's just another way for people to forecast what's going to happen."

The weather service's three-month outloook is typically at least 60 percent accurate, Jensen said. Forecasters are calling for a normal winter for North Dakota. That matches Smokov's gut feeling.

A Christmas weddin'

WATERFORD, Wis. - Some people get surprise birthday parties. Ilda Ruth Southey gets surprise weddings.

Twice in her life Southey was surprised with a wedding ceremony on Christmas Eve, both times to Francis Southey.

Her future husband planned their original wedding for Christmas Eve 1942 while he was stationed in Sherman, Texas, awaiting orders to ship off to Europe during World War II.

"I didn't know I was getting married, I just went to spend Christmas with him and I got down there, he had the wedding all arranged," said Ruth Southey, 85, who lives at the Waterford Senior Living facility.

On Monday, staff at the senior facility arranged the same surprise for their 65th anniversary. The couple renewed their vows in front of three generations of teary-eyed family and friends.

At the ceremony, Francis Southey, 90, reminisced about how the first wedding almost didn't happen.

"She said that she wasn't going to marry me," he said. "She said she didn't wanted to get married. She wanted a wedding, a big wedding, but I didn't have any money."

To Ruth Southey, her 65th anniversary is a milestone she always sensed would come.

"As my mother always said, when you are married, you are married for life and that's what we did," Ruth said. "It's just life, that's what it is. Just life."

Chet lives!

ASHLAND, Ore. - Even in death, Chet Fitch is a card.

Fitch, known for his sense of humor, died in October at age 88 but gave his friends and family a start recently: Christmas cards, 34 of them, began arriving — written in his hand with a return address of "Heaven."

The greeting read: "I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't (tarry) there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.

"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"

A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said, "All I could think was, 'You little stinker.'"

"It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet, always wanting to get the last laugh."

The mailing was a joke Fitch worked on for two decades with his barber, Patty Dean, 57. She told the Ashland Daily Tidings this week that he kept updating the mailing list and giving her extra money when postal rates went up. This fall, she said, Fitch looked up to her from the chair.

"You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards," he told her. "I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

He died a week later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Football v. State

NEW ORLEANS - Justice can wait until after the LSU game. A state judge near the home of the Tigers has agreed to postpone a trial scheduled to start on the same day LSU plays Ohio State in the BCS national championship game.

Stephen Babcock, an attorney defending Imperial Casualty Insurance Co. in a lawsuit over a car crash, requested the delay because he has tickets to the Jan. 7 game at the Superdome in New Orleans. He and other LSU fans have rented out the second floor of a Bourbon Street bar for a pre-game tailgate party.

In his written request for a new trial date, Babcock refers to Ohio State as "Slowhio" ("due to their perceived lack of speed on both sides of the ball") and notes that Allstate, sponsors of the Sugar Bowl, are not a party in the insurance case.

"All counsel to this matter unequivocally agree that the presence of LSU in the aforementioned contest of pigskin skill unquestionably constitutes good grounds therefor," Babcock wrote. "In fact we have been unable through much imagination and hypothetical scenarios to think of a better reason."

Babcock, whose law office is in Baton Rouge, said lawyers for the plaintiff in the case also have tickets to the game.

"We might disagree on the merits of the case, but everyone was in agreement on this, for sure," he said during an interview Friday.

That includes West Baton Rouge Parish District Judge Alvin Batiste, who agreed Thursday to postpone the trial but didn't immediately set a new date. Babcock said he doesn't know if Batiste is an LSU fan, "but most people around here are."

Louisiana already has a legal precedent for football trumping a trial date. In January, a judge agreed to postpone a trial due to a conflict with last season's NFC championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.

That's just wrong

BREMERTON, Wash. - Art Conrad has an issue with the commercialism of Christmas, and his protest has gone way beyond just shunning the malls or turning off his television. The Bremerton resident nailed Santa Claus to a 15-foot crucifix in front of his house.

"Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be," Conrad said. "Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff."

A photo of the crucified Santa adorns his Christmas cards, with the message "Santa died for your MasterCard."

The display is also Conrad's way of poking fun at political correctness. He believes people don't express their feelings because they're afraid of what other people might think.

His neighbors found the will to express their feelings this past week. Some were offended but many were just curious.

Jake Tally walked by on Friday and chuckled, but didn't pretend to understand the message.

"I don't really know what to think. I know it's about God but Santa has nothing to do with it," he told the Kitsap Sun newspaper.

The spirit of Christmas

ORWIGSBURG, Pa. - Less than two weeks after a man put 30 $100 bills into a Salvation Army kettle, someone decided to do one better.

On Saturday morning, someone put 31 $100 bills in a Christmas card and dropped it into the tambourine held by Salvation Army volunteer Margaret L. Wetefsky at on Orwigsburg supermarket. The card had a note inside saying, "I want you to be known as the person who collected the largest donation. May God shine on you." It was signed, "Leo."

"I don't know his last name. I only know him to see him. He had given me money last year, five $100 bills for the last four years straight," Wetefsky said.

Adam W. Hench, captain of Salvation Army/Pottsville Corps, said the money would be used to help the poor heat their homes.

The previous big donation was made Dec. 10 at the Schuylkill Mall.

What will they think of next?

BAL HARBOUR, Fla. - A baby Jesus statue here is getting a Global Positioning System for Christmas. The statue, part of a nativity scene, will be equipped with the device after the previous statue went missing, even though it had been bolted down.

"I don't anticipate this will ever happen again," said Dina Cellini, who oversees the display, "but we may need to rely on technology to save our savior."

The Mary and Joseph statues will also be fitted with GPS devices, she said.

The devices are being bought using residents' contributions and Cellini's own money.

Cellini has also installed a Plexiglas screen in front of the display.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It just seems like 235 too many

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Animal control officers removed 237 dogs from the home of a 70-year-old woman who said she had been breeding the animals, officials said.

Kelli Copeland, manager of the city's Animal Care Services department, said it took about six hours Tuesday to gather up all the dogs, which were taken to a city kennel.

Most of the dogs were Pomeranians, but there were also Yorkshire terriers, two standard poodles and several other breeds. Copeland said they appeared to be suffering from the close quarters.

"They had plenty of food and plenty of water but were not living in healthy conditions," Copeland said. "Many were covered in feces and urine. I think she slowly accumulated them to where they were more than she could handle."

A workman who made a service call to the home notified the city about the dog situation. Copeland said the woman will likely face several citations from the city.

One of the dogs was euthanized because of its poor condition. The woman claimed that dog had recently wandered to the house.

Copeland said the city will seek custody of the dogs so they can be given to animal rescue groups.

"The homeowner is a very nice lady; I think she loved her dogs," Copeland said.

What say we turn the flash off, doc?

PHOENIX - A surgeon faces a disciplinary hearing for snapping a photo of a patient's tattooed genitals during an operation and showing it around to other doctors.

Mayo Clinic Hospital administrators said Dr. Adam Hansen, chief resident of general surgery, admitted taking the photo with his cell phone on Dec. 11. The tattoo on strip club owner Sean Dubowik's penis reads: "Hot Rod."

Dubowik, who had undergone a gallbladder operation, said he learned of the photo Monday when the Mayo Clinic called.

"I got a strange call after my surgery from a doctor who said there was a problem. He said Hansen was on the phone and would explain," he said.

Dubowik, 27, said Hansen told him he took the picture while inserting a catheter into his penis. A member of the surgical staff made an anonymous call about the photo to The Arizona Republic on Monday.

"He told me he didn't want me to read about it in the newspaper first," Dubowik said.

Hansen wasn't available for comment Tuesday and has been placed on administrative leave. He could face a range of punishment from probation to dismissal.

"Patient privacy is a serious matter, and photographing someone in this manner without a good reason is something we will investigate down to the last detail," said Dr. Joseph Sirven, education director for Mayo Clinic Arizona, the hospital's parent organization based in Scottsdale.

Dubowik said he got the tattoo on a bet and that "it was the most horrible thing I ever went though in my life."

He said he planned to contact an attorney.

"The longer I sit here the angrier I get," he said.

I want to party with this mamma

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - The mother of a 13-year-old boy has been arrested for supplying nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, used during her son's ditch parties at their Lake Elsinore home.

Maria Antonia Mendez was arrested for providing the gas used by the teens to get high. Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Evan Petersen says the teens skipped school and hung out at the home.

Police began investigating the case after a school officer noticed repeated absences of a group of students. Canisters of nitrous oxide were found by deputies serving a search warrant Monday evening.

Investigators say the teenagers filled balloons with the gas and inhaled it.

The sergeant says the 28-year-old mother also participated in the nitrous parties. She was booked for investigation of multiple counts of child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

If you have to go to jail, go to jail in the Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A man being held in a Dutch police cell on suspicion of growing cannabis got an unintended treat in his lunch — a piece of hashish-laced cake, a spokesman said Thursday.

"It was an accident," said Alwin Don, police spokesman in the southern province of Zeeland.

The cake had been seized by police in an unrelated investigation and stored in a refrigerator — close to lunch packets served to suspects being held in cells at the police station in Goes, 110 miles south of Amsterdam.

"Clearly it looked a lot like the other lunch packets," Don said of the cake, which was served with a cup of coffee on Sunday.

"Officers returned to the cell a half hour later and the suspect told them: 'I think you've given me something you weren't supposed to,' " Don said.

The man had only nibbled at the cake and a doctor who was called to examine him said he suffered no ill effects.

"It was pure coincidence that this man got the cake," Don said. "What was in the cake had nothing to do with his case."

And a happy Hanukkah while we're at it

AMERICAN FORK, Utah - Merry Christmas to you, Mary Christmas. That's what the former Mary Young is hearing this holiday season, after she married Brian Christmas earlier this year.

"It was meant to be," Mary Christmas told the Daily Herald of Provo. "God has a sense of humor. What are the chances that it would ever happen?"

She has found, however, that she is not alone. Mary Christmas has been working at for three years and discovered there are as many as 100 other Mary Christmases in the United States.

The last name of Christmas has its origins in Wales, she said.

"It was given to people that were born on Christmas Day," she said. "Somewhere back there someone of my husband's ancestors was born on Christmas. It is not a super common name."

Christmas said her husband's grandmother, Joy Christmas, once was stopped at a counter at JCPenney, under suspicion for using a phony name.

The name brings compliments.

"For many people, it seems to make them happy. 'You are my favorite,' they tell me. 'I think of your name and it makes me happy,'" Christmas said.

Her husband, Brian, says the best part of her name is that he has Mary Christmas all year long, not just in December.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Japan gov't believes in UFOs

TOKYO - Japan's air force has never spotted a UFO, but the country's top government spokesman said Tuesday he "definitely" believes they exist.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura was speaking to reporters in response to demands lodged by an opposition lawmaker for an inquiry into "frequent reports of UFO sightings."

The government said in an official reply that it had "not confirmed sightings of unidentified flying objects believed to be from outer space."

Still, "I definitely believe they exist," Machimura said as reporters erupted in laughter.

In a written response issued Tuesday to opposition Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Ryuji Yamane, the government said the air force had often spotted "birds and other objects beside aircraft," but no UFOs.

Tokyo keeps a vigilant watch over Japanese airspace and is ready to scramble fighter jets to intercept suspicious airborne objects, the government reply said.

Change it up, man!

NEW YORK - A man held up two banks on a street near his home four times in the last week, including one of the banks twice in one day, before he was arrested on Tuesday apparently while on his way to make another illegal withdrawal, police said.

Orlando Taylor, 26, was facing multiple robbery charges, police said. The name of his attorney was not immediately available Tuesday evening, and a telephone at his Brooklyn address was disconnected.

The spree began at 10:30 a.m. Friday, when the bandit used a threatening note to rob an HSBC branch about 12 blocks from his home, police said. Using the same method the next day, he ripped off a Bank of America branch down the block, they said.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the robber hit Bank of America again, police said. After changing his clothes, he returned at about 2:20 p.m. and took more money, they said.

With uniformed and plainclothes officers swarming on Tuesday, Taylor was spotted headed toward the HSBC branch again and was arrested, police said.

Each robbery netted between $450 and $3,500.

Reunited and it feels so good

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. - Two South Florida sisters are catching up with their Russian cousin after 70 years apart. Ossie Rasher, 81, and Sophia Altfeld, 78, last saw their cousin Rosalie Berkovich, 80, in 1937 when the sisters fled to the United States with their parents.

The families lost track of each other until decades later, when Berkovich's relatives tracked down the two sisters using a family tree posted on

Berkovich flew from her home in Acton, Mass., for a reunion Friday night at Altfeld's home in Coconut Creek. They are also planning for a larger family reunion.

For now, the three are catching up by exchanging family photos and stories of life journeys.

Then he gave him the Rock Bottom

MONROVIA, Md. - A man subdued a deer that ran through the front picture window of his house. Martin "Pete" Castle wrestled the beast to the floor in the living room, and carried it out through the garage door, when Frederick County Animal Control officers took over.

"My couch is ruined," says Castle's wife, Robin. She had to clean blood off her computer, printer and coffee table.

Pete Castle was in the garage when the deer entered the house though a hole no bigger than a large steering wheel on Saturday morning.

The deer ran to the back of the house, Castle said, and it tried to escape through sliding glass doors.

The deer tore the curtains down, then jumped into a second picture window, but fell backward on the couch.

"That's when I went on her," Castle said. "I jumped on this deer."

Actually, Santa didn't mind

DANBURY, Conn. - Santa Claus says that a woman who sat on his lap was naughty, not nice. A Santa at the Danbury Fair mall said the woman groped him. "The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted," police Detective Lt. Thomas Michael said of the weekend complaint.

Sandrama Lamy, 33, of Danbury, was charged with sexual assault and breach of peace. She was released on a promise to appear in court on Jan. 3.

Police quickly found and identified Lamy because the woman was described as being on crutches, said Capt. Bob Myles.

A call seeking comment from Lamy was answered by a recording Tuesday morning. A woman later called back and said: "It's a false report and I don't have any idea."

Police did not give the name of the disconcerted Santa, but they said he is 65 and felt badly because children were waiting to see him. "He was apparently shocked and embarrassed by the whole incident," Myles said.

A man who teaches hundreds of prospective Santas a year — "Santa Tim" Connaghan, president of — said he's never heard of a similar incident, though it's not unusual for adults to want to pose with Santa.

"I've had some very nice ladies sit on my lap," said Connaghan, who did not train the Danbury Fair Santa. "Once in a while they'll say 'I hope Mrs. Claus isn't going to be upset.' You have to be discreet and kind and say 'Oh no, she'll be OK. You can sit here, but only for one photo.'"

Not the flat screen!!!

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A woman who was angry because her husband wanted her to turn up the heat pulled out a gun and shot their flat-screen TV while he cowered behind a pillow, Macomb County authorities say.

The 65-year-old man called 911 Sunday night from the basement of their Washington Township home, about 25 miles north of Detroit.

"My wife's got a gun. She's shooting at me," Joseph Grucz said in the recorded call.

He told the operator that Cheryl Grucz, 61, was angry because he wanted the heat turned up. She fired a round while he hid his head in a pillow, striking the plasma TV, then went upstairs, the Detroit Free Press said.

"She's all excited about it because she's so cheap," the husband said.

His wife, who had picked up another extension, told the operator she wanted to tell her side.

"I'm not going to hurt him. He has pushed me over the edge, that was all," Cheryl Grucz said, according to a recording obtained by WXYZ-TV. "He has had a stroke, and he's taking it all out on me."

"No I'm not," her husband said.

"Yes, he is," she told the dispatcher.

Cheryl Grucz was arraigned Monday in Romeo District Court on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, a charge with a top penalty of 10 years in prison. She also faces a felony firearms charge. Grucz was freed on $50,000 bond until a preliminary examination Jan. 15.

The judge also ordered her to enroll in a domestic violence program, WDIV-TV said.

I'd like to squeeze that Charmin

NEW YORK - Here comes the bride, all dressed in white ... two-ply, extra soft toilet paper. Lovebirds Jennifer Cannon and Doy Nichols of Lexington, Ky., plan to get hitched Wednesday in a public restroom. She'll be wearing a gown fashioned from glue, tape and Charmin Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong toilet tissue.

The intricately detailed dress was designed by Hanah Kim, winner of the 2007 Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest, sponsored by

The wedding ceremony, to be attended by family and friends, will take place in Times Square at the Charmin Restrooms — temporary, free public restrooms, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

How about Fred?

ROME - What's in a name? If the name is Friday, shame and ridicule, according to Italian judges who forbade a couple from naming their child like the character in "Robinson Crusoe."

"They thought that it recalled the figure of a savage, thus creating a sense of inferiority and failing to guarantee the boy the necessary decorum," the couple's lawyer, Paola Rossi, said Wednesday.

The couple are considering appealing the decision to Italy's highest court, she said.

Mara and Roberto Germano, whose son was born on Sept. 3, 2006, had the boy named and baptized Venerdi, Italian for Friday.

Even though the boy was not born on a Friday — it was Sunday — his parents liked the name, said Rossi.

"They wanted an unusual name, something original, and it did not seem like a shameful name," Rossi said in a telephone interview. "We think it calls to mind the day of the week rather than the novel's character."

Since city hall officials are obliged by law to report odd names, the matter ended up before judges in Genoa, the northern Italian city where the couple live.

Last month, an appeals court stated that Friday falls into the category of the "ridiculous or shameful" names that are barred by law, as it recalled the native servant in Daniel Defoe's novel.

The judges wrote that naming somebody Friday would bar him from "serene interpersonal relationships" and would turn the boy into the "laughing stock of his group," according to a report in La Repubblica this week.

According to the daily, the judges also said that, as a day of the week, Friday raises a sentiment of sadness and penitence, when not being associated with bad luck outright.

Rossi said the court, which upheld a previous ruling made in June, also ordered the boy to be named Gregorio after the saint on whose day he was born.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yeah, but he's dead, so...

PITTSBURGH - Richard Desrosiers never made it to Heinz Field to watch his beloved Steelers play football, but his widow helped him fulfill his dream in death.

Thanks to some help from sympathetic donors, Kathleen Desrosiers attended Sunday's game, bringing an urn with some of her late husband's ashes, as well as his ring and two pictures of him. He had died in March of a brain tumor.

"I couldn't take the tumor away. I couldn't take the pain away. I couldn't make him better. But I can do this," Kathleen Desrosiers, 60, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Though he lived in Exeter, N.H., Richard Desrosiers adopted the Steelers at an early age and followed them closely. He named his dog Steeler and his wardrobe, by his widow's estimate, was 95 percent Steelers gear.

Braving the biting cold and the Steelers' disappointing 29-22 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Desrosiers waved her new Terrible Towel, showed off her painted face and warmed her head with a Steelers hat.

She called it "an overwhelming experience."

"It's sad to think that he got here in death," she added. "But this is where he wanted to be. It was what he asked me to do. I got to be with him one last time while he did something he wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world."

Amy Litterini, a western Pennsylvania native who now lives in New Hampshire, was the couple's counselor during Desrosiers' yearlong battle with cancer. She arranged for the purchase of the two tickets to Sunday's game and raised money for Kathleen Desrosiers and one of her sons to spend a night in a Pittsburgh hotel.

Desrosiers was covered with a Steelers blanket when he died, and at his funeral, his two stepsons honored his memory by donning Steelers jerseys.

Just keep the $5 and leave me alone, eh?

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. - Happy holidays. Now pull over to the side of the road.

Motorists may be in for a surprise if they spot flashing red lights in their rearview mirrors in this Sacramento suburb during the holiday season.

Police are stopping law-abiding motorists and rewarding their good driving with $5 Starbucks gift cards.

A traffic officer came up with the idea to "promote the holiday spirit and enhance goodwill between the traffic unit and the motoring public," police Sgt. Tim Curran said.

Local businesses donated money to buy the gift cards.

"They raised a substantial amount of money," Curran said. "They'll be pulling over a lot of people."

And this is why they live in Fargo in the first place

FARGO, N.D. - A bank is giving its full-time employees $1,000 each and part-time employees $500 each. There's one condition — use it for people in need.

State Bank & Trust Chief Operating Officer Michael Solberg said each full-time employee will receive $1,000 and each part-time employee will receive $500, as part of a $502,000 "Pay it Forward" initiative.

"We're going to really see some huge impact on our community," Solberg said.

Employees were told not to use the money for themselves, their families or families of other bank employees. The bank asked each employee to document the good deed with a video camera. The deadline is June 30.

The employees were told they may choose an individual cause, pool their money for a larger project or collaborate with donors outside the bank. The privately owned bank has more than 500 employees, he said.

The bank made the announcement over the weekend.

In previous years, the Fargo-based bank has taken 5 percent of the company earnings and divided it up at holiday time among employees.

It's the thought that counts

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The Grinch who stole Christmas may have had a change of heart, unexpectedly returning Christmas goods stolen from the house of a New Zealand family, police said Tuesday.

But there was "not really a happy ending" to the saga, Senior Constable John Chambers told The Associated Press, with most of the stolen goods — which had been bought as Christmas gifts — likely to be thrown out because they had been badly damaged.

Stereo and DVD equipment, antiques and kitchen appliances were taken during a burglary late Saturday night at a property at Bannockburn, near the town of Cromwell on South Island.

Most of the $15,100 worth of goods were returned several hours later, wrapped in a sheet and left on the roadside outside the house.

The burglars returned again Monday to drop off two remote controls, which they left in the mailbox.

Trouble was, Chambers said, "90 percent of the goods are damaged," with a $3,800 LCD screen only fit for the local rubbish dump, along with most of the other returned items.

"It's a shame they didn't take more care of the equipment," Chambers said.

At the time of the burglary, the homeowner's 16-year-old son was the only person in the house, but had slept through it, Chambers said.

The teenager had left the front door unlocked and lights on as his father was due to arrive home early on Sunday. The family has insurance cover.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What's sad is that Ethel never talked to her cousins again

OBERLIN, Kan. - A postcard featuring a color drawing of Santa Claus and a young girl was mailed in 1914, but its journey was slower than Christmas. It just arrived in northwest Kansas.

The Christmas card was dated Dec. 23, 1914, and mailed to Ethel Martin of Oberlin, apparently from her cousins in Alma, Neb.

It's a mystery where it spent most of the last century, Oberlin Postmaster Steve Schultz said. "It's surprising that it never got thrown away," he said. "How someone found it, I don't know."

Ethel Martin is deceased, but Schultz said the post office wanted to get the card to a relative.

That's how the 93-year-old relic ended up with Bernice Martin, Ethel's sister-in-law. She said she believed the card had been found somewhere in Illinois.

"That's all we know," she said. "But it is kind of curious. We'd like to know how it got down there."

The card was placed inside another envelope with modern postage for the trip to Oberlin — the one-cent postage of the early 20th century wouldn't have covered it, Martin said.

"We don't know much about it," she said. "But wherever they kept it, it was in perfect shape."

Just like Santa drew it up

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - When Dutch police stopped a car for a broken headlight and noticed the driver was accompanied by a prostitute, they gave him a break — and let him pay the traffic fine in cash rather than sending the ticket to his home.

"In the spirit of Christmas ... the man was allowed to leave the police station euro50 ($75) poorer but with an easy heart," a statement by Utrecht police Friday said.

The 40-year-old man, whose identity wasn't released, acknowledged the woman was a street prostitute after being stopped Thursday evening, the statement said.

Regulated prostitution in brothels is legal here, while street prostitution is illegal.

The officer wrote the man a ticket for the headlight and said it would arrive in an official police envelope.

The man "wanted to pay immediately because otherwise his wife could have seen that he was ticketed on the Europalaan (a well known pickup strip) in Utrecht, with all the consequences that would bring," the statement said.

After the man begged for mercy, the officer relented and took him to a nearby station to pay cash, it said.

Utrecht police spokeswoman Ellen de Heer said the statement was intended to show that police aren't the unbending rule-followers they are often made out to be.

"We have some feeling for people's individual situations," she said.

Oh what a night

NEW YORK - Men are not discriminated against by "ladies' nights" at Manhattan nightclubs, just as people in their 20s do not suffer because some restaurants let children eat for free or have "early bird" specials for older customers, according to nightclub lawyers fighting a federal lawsuit.

Roy Den Hollander has sued clubs including Lotus and the China Club, saying he was discriminated against by ladies' nights, which offer women free or discounted admission and drinks.

Deborah Swindells Donovan, a lawyer for Lotus, called the lawsuit frivolous in papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

She wrote that if his "ill-conceived theory is applied to restaurants, then 'early bird' specials for the elderly or promotions allowing children to eat free would be discriminatory on the basis of age."

Vanessa R. Elliott, a lawyer representing the club AER Lounge, said in court papers Friday that nightclubs recognize that men might not want to visit the clubs if they fail to attract enough women.

"Under this theory, male customers may actually benefit from ladies' nights in other ways and be encouraged to attend the club on those nights," she wrote.

The price charged to men is not so burdensome that it amounts to denying them entry, Elliott argued.

In his lawsuit, Hollander said he sought to represent all men over age 21 who had entered one of the nightclubs since June 21, 2004, and been subjected to policies that provide discounts to women of the same age.

He asked a judge to conclude that the policies violated the Constitution and to assess minor damages against the clubs.

Sometimes it pays to have a little padding

WASHINGTON - A construction worker who fell about 40 feet down an elevator shaft is nearly unhurt, with no serious injuries. District of Columbia Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said the man, who's about 25 years old, was working on a house under construction in Southeast Washington Friday morning.

The worker, who Etter says weighs more than 300 pounds, was standing on a plywood platform in the elevator shaft at the top level of the house.

The board couldn't support his weight and the man fell 40 feet down the shaft before he crashed into the basement. He broke two more platforms on his way down.

The worker wasn't wearing safety equipment, Etter said.

"It is unbelievable that the guy first of all survived, and secondly survived with what appear to be minor injuries," Etter said.

He said it took a concerted effort on behalf of the fire department to secure the man and get him out of the basement. Etter said he suspects the man was OK because the platforms may have broken his fall.

The man has not been identified, and Etter said the hospital was probably not going to admit him.

They were all out of lavender

TROY, Ohio - Jail administrator Dee Sandy thought the sheriff was joking when he mentioned painting cellblocks pink. He wasn't.

Inmates at the Miami County Jail are putting color on the jail's once cream-colored walls after Sheriff Charles Cox entered the academic debate over the color pink's calming abilities.

After Sandy realized Cox was serious, she said she picked purple for the jail bars, which had been blue.

The jail, about 20 miles north of Dayton, houses up to 111 inmates, both men and women.

Researchers have documented the ability of certain colors to evoke emotional and physical responses, and many jails around the nation have been painted pink as a pacifying measure.

County jails in Arizona, Tennessee and Texas have had similar makeovers, but last year, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department abandoned pink for institutional gray. Jail officials there said the pink hue had no discernible effect on prisoners but annoyed the jail staff.

And the deer shall inherit the earth

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - When Jody Fabry descended the basement stairs to her seasonal home and saw broken glass on the floor, then spied what caused the mess, she didn't know who was more frightened — her, or the deer that was the culprit.

A young doe apparently got into the basement through a window, then couldn't get out. Fabry called officers to her home, but it was more difficult than it looked to remove the animal.

Officers eventually ended up chasing it around the basement until it jumped back out the way it came, then bounded off.

The deer, which Fabry guessed had been in the unoccupied home for a day, appeared to be unhurt.

Tigger is usually such a troublemaker, right?

SAN FRANCISCO - Officials in a Northern California school district might not think Tiggers are such wonderful things after agreeing to pay $95,000 in lawyers' fees to five families who sued the school over its dress code.

The parents went to court after a student was disciplined for wearing socks with the "Winnie the Pooh" cartoon character Tigger on the first day of school last year.

The district's superintendent said Thursday that the settlement money is for the plaintiffs' lawyers; the district is also on the hook to pay the lawyers it hired.

The settlement also says Redwood Middle School may no longer require students to wear only solid-color clothing.

And none of them will take out the garbage

MIAMI - The honeymoons are over for a 26-year-old woman who authorities say has at least 10 husbands.

Eunice Lopez has been charged with bigamy, accused of marrying 10 men between 2002 and 2006 without divorcing any of them, federal immigration authorities say. The Miami Herald reported Saturday that a records search by the newspaper found seven additional marriages under the bride's name and birth date.

Lopez arrived in South Florida from Cuba in 2002 and was a legal U.S. resident.

"I can tell you that none of the individuals she married had any type of residency," said Terry Chavez, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade office of the state attorney.

Prosecutors say she charged her husbands an unspecified amount to help them secure immigration status and continued asking the men for money long after the wedding, threatening to expose them if they didn't pay.

Chavez said the state attorney's office began investigating after being tipped off by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lopez was released on $18,000 bond. Her last known address was in Hialeah, just north of Miami. A telephone listing for her could not be located, and it was not known whether she had an attorney.

Actually, he was just trying to kill himself

HAZLETON, Pa. - Talk about taking the plunge. Jeanie Dulski and Jamy Knittle actually took two plunges on Friday: First, they got married at Hazleton Municipal Airport, then they went skydiving.

As Dulski explained it: "Getting married is scarier than jumping out of a plane."

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta performed the ceremony on the ground for Dulski and Knittle, both 30. About 45 minutes later, the bride and groom took a plane up to 10,000 feet and leaped out.

It was the second marriage but first skydive for Dulski, who made a tandem jump with an instructor. Knittle, who had skydived once before, jumped separately.

Barletta called it perhaps the most unusual wedding ceremony he has performed.

"I'm sure my wife would like to see me jump out of an airplane without a parachute," he joked.

And he'll be 89 when he gets his Masters

MILWAUKEE - A 50-year gap in his higher education didn't stop Clarence Garrett.

After returning to college in spring of 2006 as a full-time student, Garrett completed course work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was awarded his bachelor's degree at commencement ceremonies Sunday — at the age of 87.

"We are not sure if Clarence Garrett is the oldest to ever graduate from UWM, but we do know that there had not been a graduate for some time who was born when the president was Woodrow Wilson," Chancellor Carlos Santiago said.

On hand were Garrett's wife, Mary, his children and grandchildren.

He was chosen to lead the graduates from the College of Letters and Science into the U.S. Cellular Arena, and he earned a standing ovation when awarded his degree.

The Baltimore native served as a civilian at a U.S. Navy facility in Virginia before World War II. Once the war began, Garrett, who is black, served with the segregated Army in Europe.

He later settled in Milwaukee and took courses at the college that later became UWM, but he gave up college to raise a family.

"After all my children went to college ... I said, 'Why shouldn't I?'" Garrett said. "And I have loved it ever since."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mom always said not to dangle

ATLANTA - Emergency workers rescued a man who was trapped in his car after it went over the railing in a parking deck and dangled seven floors above the ground.

Steel cables on the side of the parking caught the car late Wednesday. But all four wheels appeared free of the parking deck in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood.

To reach the car without dislodging it, emergency workers went to the parking deck's top floor — one floor above the car — and rappelled down the side of the building. Then, a firefighter broke out the car's passenger side window, secured a harness around the driver and pulled him to safety, Atlanta Fire Capt. Bill May said.

Police Lt. Bob England said the car's air bag deployed, but the man hit his head on the windshield, knocking him unconscious and keeping him still while rescuers on the scene studied the precarious situation.

"It looks like he sped up the ramp and went right through the wires," England said. "The wires did what the wires are supposed to do."

The man, whose name was not immediately released, was brought to a hospital.

One way to avoid an arrest

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - A woman suspected in a burglary found a convenient getaway: the squad car of the officers who arrested her.

McKenzie Schafer, 27, of Minneapolis, was arrested and handuffed Sunday by officers investigating the theft of a laptop from the North St. Paul Athletic Association building. Court papers saidwhen officers went back into the building after putting Schafer in the back of their squad, she got into the front and drove away.

She was later caught in front of a sandwich shop by officers in another squad car. Schafer told police she took the squad to help look for the men who burglarized the building.

She was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of burglary and one count of escaping from custody.

Romanian man still alive

TIMISOARA, Romania - A Romanian man had his bid to renew his identity papers rejected because official records said he had died more than eight years ago. Gheorghe Stirbu, 61, a retiree, went to authorities last week to have his identity card reissued because the old one had expired.

But the clerk said he couldn't issue new papers because the office had a death certificate showing that Stirbu himself had expired on March 3, 1999, from breathing difficulties, and been buried the same month.

"When I saw it I couldn't believe it," Stirbu said Thursday. "How can someone who is fully alive be declared dead?"

Stirbu said he was not ill at the time, nor does the death certificate appear to be a case of mistaken identity.

Stirbu's daughter Iuliana Mocanu said the shock of hearing that he was officially dead could have killed him.

"At first I laughed because I though it was a joke and then I realized how serious it was," she said. "He could have had a heart attack. He didn't sleep for days when he found out the news."

Stirbu has prepared papers to prove he is still alive.

"We have had mistakes in the past," said Vasile Tarciatu, the head of bureau that issues identity papers. "But not something so serious showing someone had died."

Always look in the pockets

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - A judge has granted a man convicted of armed robbery a new trial because the jury that found him guilty in October also found a wad of cash in his coat during the trial that police and prosecutors overlooked.

A money roll totaling $1,300, a rubber glove and a bandage apparently went unnoticed by police, prosecutors and the defense until jurors detected them while examining the garment during deliberations in October.

Circuit Judge Theresa M. Adams granted the defense motion Wednesday for a new trial in Frederick at what was to have been Moses M. Streete's sentencing hearing. She ordered Streete held without bail.

"You would think with all the law enforcement people that had been involved with the case that everything would have been gone over with a fine-toothed comb — and then that fine-toothed comb would have had another fine-toothed comb going over it," said Christine Bowersox, one of the jurors in Streete's trial.

Frederick County State's Attorney J. Charles Smith said Thursday that Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Kemp had checked the coat pockets before the trial and found no money. He said it must have been in hidden pockets or in holes in the pockets of the charcoal gray parka.

Defense attorney Scott L. Rolle said he had seen the coat before the trial but hadn't gone through the pockets.

Gregory Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, which had custody of the coat, declined to comment because a new trial is pending.

Although the overlooked evidence resulted in a new trial for Streete, the cash and glove, had they been offered as evidence, would have helped prosecutors more than Streete because his defense relied partly on the absence of any cash or fingerprints.

Rolle said he planned to fight the admissibility of the new evidence.

Thank heavens for the print media

LEWISTON, Idaho - Police didn't have to look far to find a man suspected of stealing a woman's wallet — just an inch down the page. On the front page of its Thursday edition, The Lewiston Tribune ran a photo of a man in a blue and black checkered coat standing in a convenience store.

The photo was taken from the store's surveillance video, which reportedly shows the man slipping the wallet in his coat pocket and walking away. The picture of the possible purloiner ran along with a story explaining that a woman had forgotten her wallet at the store, and that police were now trying to identify the man in the video.

Also on the front page ran a festive photo of a holiday scene taken by the newspaper's photographer, Kyle Mills. That photo showed a man — in a blue and black coat — painting decorative Christmas greetings on storefront windows. The caption identified the man as Michael Millhouse of Millhouse Signs in Lewiston.

Some sharp-eyed copy editors at the newspaper first noticed the matching photos as they were laying out the newspaper Wednesday night and wondered if they showed the same man, managing editor Paul Emerson said Thursday.

"They were pointing it out and laughing about it," Emerson said.

A newspaper employee called the nearby Clarkston, Wash., police department early the next morning to report their suspicions.

Police Chief Joel Hastings said that after picking up a copy of the paper, Officer Jeremy Maguire contacted Millhouse and asked about the wallet. Millhouse was subsequently arrested and charged with felony second-degree theft. He is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, Asotin County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Nichols said, and he was released from custody after posting $5,000 bond.

Nichols said Thursday that it wasn't a simple case of finders, keepers.

"We've got a signed, written confession from him where he says, 'What I did was wrong, it was stupid,' blah, blah blah," Nichols said.

Police also located the wallet, which still contained the owner Jami Johnson's driver's license and three credit cards. But Johnson says $600 in cash — money from her paycheck that she planned to use for Christmas — was missing.

If convicted, Millhouse could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

The only phone listing for M. Millhouse in the region is an unlisted number, and The Associated Press could not reach Millhouse for comment.

Well, kiss my grits

CINCINNATI - Today's crime tip: don't steal police officers' tips. Police arrested Vincent Balough, 46, on on charges of theft and obstructing official business.

Police said Balough took a $12 tip two Cincinnati police officers left after eating at a restaurant downtown.

Balough was jailed Wednesday night pending a court hearing.

That's what you get for telling everybody about your magic leg

HYDERABAD, India - Two men attacked an 80-year-old, self-proclaimed holy man in southern India and chopped off his right leg, apparently believing it had magical powers, police said Thursday.

Yanadi Kondaiah, who claimed that those who touched his leg would be cured of illness or have wishes granted, was hospitalized in serious condition after the attack Tuesday, said R. Ravindranath Reddy, a senior police officer.

"We are looking for the miscreants as well as the leg," Reddy told The Associated Press by telephone from the Chittoor district, a remote area 340 miles south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

"This seems to be a case of superstition. The two people might have taken away the leg hoping to benefit from its magical powers," said Pendakanti Dastgiri, the police officer handling the case.

Superstitions, belief in magic and the occult remain widespread in much of rural India.

Kondaiah told police that two men offered him a drink as thanks for previously helping them with his magical touch.

After he passed out drunk, the men chopped off the leg below the knee with a sickle and left him to die, said Dastgiri, adding that passing villagers found him and took him to a hospital.

Man shoots self in butt

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - A Scottsdale man inadvertently shot himself in the buttocks Thursday morning. Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said Daniel Leatherman, 26, heard a disturbance outside his apartment and saw a man he knew fighting with a cab driver.

Leatherman told police that the man, Cody Nunn, 25, had assaulted him in the past, so he grabbed his gun and went outside.

Leatherman told police that he accidentally dropped the gun while hiding it behind his back and shot himself in the derriere.

Nunn and Leatherman's friends took him to a local hospital. When police arrived, Clark said Nunn was drunk and disruptive. He was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

Towing away the fuzz

GRESHAM, Ore. - A tow truck driver upset over a recent ticket tried to tow a police cruiser, authorities said.

The 32-year-old man was arrested after he hooked his truck to the marked police vehicle while an officer was responding to a domestic disturbance call, police said.

Authorities said the driver released the cruiser when another officer ordered him to. He later locked the doors of his truck and refused to cooperate, police said.

The driver then called the police station, "apparently unsatisfied with the police response he had generated when he tried to tow a marked police vehicle," according to a police report.

The manager of the tow company was summoned and eventually coaxed the driver into surrendering.

The driver was charged with unlawful use of a vehicle, obstructing governmental administration, interfering with a peace officer and criminal mischief.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How about some for me Santa?

RUTLAND, Vt. - Summer Lambert had made an early-morning stop at the local Wal-Mart store when a strange man walked up and handed her an envelop. It contained a Christmas card and $50 in cash.

It was just one such encounter reported by staff and customers of local businesses this holiday shopping season. A "Mystery Santa" has been approaching perfect strangers and handing out the cards and cash.

The incidents follow receipt of a card and letter by the local newspaper in which the anonymous sender said he plans to hand out $600 in cash this holiday season.

The man said his goal is to "open a heart or two" this holiday season.

Boom goes the Christmas tree

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A suspected drunken driver slammed her Lincoln into Santa Barbara's 50-foot Christmas tree. The Lincoln was heavily damaged, but the State Street tree emerged from Friday's crash unscathed and continues to spread holiday cheer.

Police Lt. Paul McCaffrey said Linda Teague Goggin, 66, apparently mistook the lights of the tree for lights strung between buildings. She drove the 1993 Lincoln through a ring of traffic cones and crashed into the tree's metal stand.

Investigators said Goggin faces drunken driving charges.

The lack of plumber's crack gave them away

APPLETON, Wis. - A police officer didn't buy the story offered by two men who were seen in the early morning hours, walking out from behind a local restaurant that was burglarized the night before.

The officer found they had some interesting gear with them — channel-lock pliers, a screwdriver, other tools and a flashlight.

No problem, they told the officer, explaining they were going to help a friend fix a toilet.

But the officer said they couldn't give a last name, phone number or address for the friend.

According to police, the officer also found a large crowbar stuck in a snow bank and footprints in the snow leading to back doors of several businesses.

The two men, one 19 and the other 18, wound up booked into Outagamie County Jail on Wednesday for possession of tools that could be used for burglary.

I want to party with this guy

BERLIN - A man nearly died from alcohol poisoning after quaffing a liter (two pints) of vodka at an airport security check instead of handing it over to comply with new carry-on rules, police said Wednesday.

The incident occurred at the Nuremberg airport on Tuesday, where the 64-year-old man was switching planes on his way home to Dresden from a holiday in Egypt.

New airport rules prohibit passengers from carrying larger quantities of liquid onto planes, and he was told at a security check he would have to either throw out the bottle of vodka or pay a fee to have his carry-on bag checked as cargo.

Instead, he chugged the bottle down — and was quickly unable to stand or otherwise function, police said.

A doctor called to the scene determined he had possibly life-threatening alcohol poisoning, and he was sent to a Nuremberg clinic for treatment.

The man, whose name was not released, is expected to be able to complete his journey home in a few days.

Why can't this happen here?

VALLEY VIEW, Ohio - An Ohio mayor will marry couples for free — but perhaps the bride and groom might consider a donation to his campaign fund?

Mayor Randall Westfall's e-mail reference to donations landed him in trouble Tuesday, when state Auditor Mary Taylor referred the matter to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

"Ceremony is at No Charge," the suburban Cleveland mayor said in a 2006 e-mail, "however, sometimes people choose to donate to my campaign (no more than $50)."

Taylor cited Westfall for two violations of state law: Soliciting a donation for village work and failing to turn over such donations to the village.

Westfall said he's never gotten or sought a dime from weddings for himself, his campaign or the village. He said the donation mention described a common response from couples when they hear marriages are done without charge.

These guys rock!

ROXBURY, Conn. - Karaoke can be scary, but threatening? A school custodian's impromptu after-hours karaoke performance prompted a police response when a teacher thought she was being threatened over the loudspeaker.

State police say the teacher at Booth Free School barricaded herself inside a classroom Wednesday when she mistook someone singing a Guns N' Roses song over the public address system for a threat.

She was working after hours and thought no one else was in the building. Then she heard someone say over the loudspeaker that she was going to die.

Six troopers and three police dogs showed up and found three teenagers, one of them a custodian at the school, who had been playing with the public address system.

Police say one of them sang "Welcome to the Jungle" into the microphone. The song contains the lyrics "You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die."

The teenagers were cuffed for about 15 minutes while police investigated. They didn't realize anyone else was in the school at the time. No charges will be filed, said state police Sgt. Brian Ness.

And the toilet situation was less than stellar

BOSTON - Passengers on a bus traveling from New York to Boston claim the driver kept the bus on a layover for an extra half hour and would not let them leave because he was upset about a complaint over his driving.
The Peter Pan Bus Lines driver said he was miffed because a rider called the company dispatcher to complain that he had been swerving during the first leg of Sunday's trip, the passengers said.
"Since you aggravated me, I'm going to aggravate you," the driver told passengers, according to Brian Moore, 21, an Emerson College junior who posted an account of the incident on his personal blog.
The driver ignored apologies on behalf of the unknown rider who offended him, according to Moore's blog post. He also refused to allow passengers to smoke or buy snacks, repeating that this was punishment.
"He explained it to us over and over," said Leigh Schuelke, 23, an event planner from Cambridge who was traveling with her husband. "He seemed to be enjoying, just like sticking it to us."
After the half hour ended, the driver raced down the turnpike, flying through toll booths, Schuelke said.
Christopher Crean, director of safety and security for the company, said the driver was suspended and the incident was being investigated. He declined to release the driver's name, but said he was in his early 30s and had three years on the job.
"If any of this came even close to happening, the driver could in some cases be subject to termination," Crean said. "It's definitely become an issue. And the more I dig, the less I like."