News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Anatomy Class in Court
• “This will be upsetting,” cautioned Justice Robert Graesser, addressing jurors in February in the Edmonton, Alberta, murder trial of Brad Barton. At issue was the cause of the victim’s having bled to death from her genitals, and the judge, ruling that jurors would benefit by inspecting the actual wound, admitted the vagina itself (not a photograph) into evidence. The organ had been removed for autopsy and preserved, and the chief medical examiner donned rubber gloves and pointed out to jurors how “clean” the wound was (suggesting a sharp object), rather than the rougher, “scraping” wound that would have been created in other ways, such as by impalement. (At press time, the trial was still in progress.)
News You Can Use
• Researchers from Cornell University, inspired by the book “World War Z,” recently computer-simulated the spread of a “zombie apocalypse”—and now advise the anxiety-prone to head for higher ground if infections break out, recommending Glacier National Park in Montana or, even better, Alaska. Using differential equations and “lattice-based” models, the statisticians demonstrated that infections would slow dramatically as fewer people became available to bite (but that, ultimately, we’re all doomed). The state most quickly wiped out? New Jersey.
Legislators’ War on Science
• Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore told a radio audience in February that she would soon introduce a bill reforming end-of-life procedures for terminally ill cancer patients, such as administering baking soda intravenously to “flush out” the cancer “fungus.” Before her election in 2013, she was CEO of Always There Personal Care of Nevada (which she describes as being “in the healthcare industry”). (Bonus: Fiore blames her accountant for the company’s reported $1 million in IRS tax liens; the accountant is her ex-husband.)
• In February, Idaho state Representative Vito Barbieri, at a hearing on a proposed bill to ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medications via remote telecommunication, asked expert witness Dr. Julie Madsen about one alternative he had in mind: Couldn’t a woman just swallow a small camera, he asked, and then have doctors “conduct” a remote gynecological exam on her? Dr. Madsen quickly reminded Rep. Barbieri that “swallowed” things do not end up in that part of a woman’s body.
• The international sportswear retailer Bjorn Borg (namesake of the Swedish tennis player) created a promotional video game (now also sold separately) that encourages not mayhem and murder, but the vanquishing of one’s opponents with love—and “lovingly” stripping them down so that they can be outfitted in Bjorn Borg fashions. Said a company official, a player’s mission is “to liberate haters by undressing them with your love guns and (then to) dress them in Bjorn Borg clothing.” (The game also features “teddy bear smoke grenades” and a shirtless man resembling Vladimir Putin astride a bear.)
• Mark Rothwell made the news in Portland, Oregon, in March 2010 when he prevented a bank robbery (and rescued the terrified Chase teller) by jumping the thief, knocking his gun away and holding him until police arrived. He was later awarded a coveted Portland police Civilian Medal for Heroism. However, on Feb. 19, 2015, according to an arrest report, Rothwell himself pulled a gun and robbed the Albina Community Bank in Portland, making off with $15,700.
• For Arthur Mondella, 57, a successful maraschino cherry supplier in Brooklyn, New York, the inspection by the district attorney’s office in February was to be routine, concerning possible pollution of local waters from discharges of cherry syrup. Mondella was cooperative until the investigator discovered odd shelving “attached” to a wall with magnets, revealing a “secret” room, and then the smell of marijuana—at which point Mondella calmly left the room and shot himself in the head. Ultimately, police found that the 75-year-old company was merely a side business to Mondella’s substantial marijuana-growing operation in the basement.
• Use What You Have: (1) Morrison Wilson, 58, was convicted of assault in Belfast (Northern Ireland) Magistrates Court in February for using his admittedly “big belly” to “bounce” an aggressive neighbor lady out of his garden in a dispute. The lady was injured as she fell backward. (2) In a March skirmish over a handicapped- parking space at a Walmart in Greenfield, Wisconsin, Ms. Kezia Perkins, 32, was charged with assaulting a 71-year-old woman by, said a witness, “chest-butt(ing) her,” knocking her to the ground. Said Perkins, “It’s not my fault (she) bounced off my big (chest).” (The euphemism “chest” was substituted by WITI-TV of Milwaukee.)
Our Next Delicate Generation
• (1) Several University of Iowa students requested, and received, special “exceptions from” or “assistance with” classwork, including exams, after complaining of stress and a “loss of focus” caused by the appearance of a Ku Klux Klan statue on campus in December. (2) As alleged de-facto policy at Avalon Elementary School in Orlando, Florida, officials last year prohibited toilet-flushing during the statewide Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It was thought, an official said, that the whooshing water sounds from nearby bathrooms would disturb the students (and send their scores, according to an Orlando Sentinel reporter, “spiraling down the drain”).
Cavalcade of Rednecks
• (1) A 37-year-old man and two female companions were charged in February with stealing tailgates from nine trucks in the Orlando area. (Their spree ended when, noticing that a club owner had offered a reward on Facebook for his branded tailgate, the three tried to sell it back to him but botched the transaction.) (2) The driver of an empty car-carrying truck pulled off the Bishop Ford Freeway near Calumet City, Illinois, in February after he heard a calamitous sound and felt the trailer shaking violently. It turns out Asa Cole, 23, speeding and following too closely, had inadvertently driven his pickup truck up the low-hanging tracks of the trailer and come to a stop only inches away from the cab. Said the carrier driver, “Is this ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ or something?” Cole was cited for several violations.
Least Competent Criminals
• Aleksander Tomaszewski, 33, was convicted of filing a false police report after a January incident in Lane County, Oregon, when he claimed police had beaten him up in his cell after his arrest for stalking and sexual abuse. Tomaszewski’s face evidenced a beating, but he was obviously unaware of the surveillance camera, which revealed that, over a four-minute period, Tomaszewski (alone in his cell) had punched himself in the face 45 times to create the “police” attack.
Recurring Theme: Armed & Clumsy
• More Americans who were unable to keep from accidentally shooting themselves: A Macon, Georgia, man checked into a hospital with a gunshot wound to his genitals (June). Another man wounded himself and another person with the same bullet; the round went through his hand and both legs of his female companion (Elkhart, Indiana, July). Peter Bonfiglio, 27, shot himself in the foot, but blamed a “robber”—the second time he had shot himself and then blamed a “robber” (Port Charlotte, Florida, June). And then there are those who will never shoot themselves again: a 79-year-old hunter in Indiana, Pennsylvania (December); the son, 49, of a former sheriff in Chattanooga, Tennessee (June); and a St. Joseph, Michigan, woman, 55 (who shot herself in the face in February while adjusting her bra holster).
A News of the Weird Classic (February 2010)
• A 27-year-old man was arrested for trespassing in January (2010) in Seattle’s Lusty Lady peep-show arcade, whose layout is a strippers’ dance stage surrounded by private viewing stalls for customers. According to police, the man, after ogling the dancers, energetically climbed from his stall, through a ceiling panel and navigated the overhead crawl space—which merely allowed him to continue staring at the strippers (but perhaps enriched the illicitness of his peeping).
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