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News of the Weird

Lead Story

• America What a Country! In 2007, after a stay in the United States distinguished mainly by his acquisition of a long police record, illegal immigrant Cecil Harvey, 55, was deported to his native Barbados. However, according to records revealed by the New York Post in May, Harvey received, in late 2009, one last remembrance of America: $145,000 from the city of New York in settlement of his lawsuit over having once been held at Rikers Island jail for about a month longer than the law permitted.


Betty Lou Lynn, 83, was mugged and had her wallet stolen in her new hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., in April. Lynn is the actress who played Barney Fife’s best girl, Thelma Lou, in the Andy Griffith TV show and had lived in Los Angeles until she became alarmed at the city’s crime rate. She decided in 2007 to move to the quieter, peaceful Mount Airy, which was Griffith’s birthplace and the model for the TV town of Mayberry.

• Gary Null filed a lawsuit in New York City in April against the maker of a nutrition supplement called Ultimate Power Meal, alleging that he had suffered constant pain, kidney damage and internal bleeding from the product’s recommended daily regimen. Ultimate Power Meal is one of the “health” supplements packaged under the label of ... Gary Null, a nationally prominent pitchman for homeopathic remedies. Null is suing the manufacturer who supplies the product on which Null affixes his Ultimate Power Meal label. (According to consumer advisers at, Null is “one of the nation’s leading promoters of dubious treatment for serious disease.”)

• According to court records cited by The Washington Post in April, Rene Fernandez, 45, will plead guilty to one count of a DUI-caused injury in connection with a 2009 traffic accident in Montgomery County, Md., that severely injured a retired county judge and his wife, both in their 80s. Fernandez and the judge, Edwin Collier, had met previously, in 1998, when Judge Collier pronounced sentence on Fernandez for DUI. At that time, Judge Collier released Fernandez on probation, even though Fernandez had been arrested for DUI twice in the previous three months.

Compelling Explanations

• Paula Wolf, 41, was arrested in Stevens Point, Wis., and charged with hitting four pedestrians at random with projectiles on April 21. In Wolf’s car, police found a blow gun, a slingshot and a bucket of rocks, and after questioning, Wolf told police that she just “liked to hear people say ‘ouch.’”

• Lame: (1) The reason career criminal Kevin Polwart gave for his brief February escape from New Zealand’s Auckland Prison was to demonstrate that he posed no threat to society on the outside (and thus that he should be parolled). (Instead, authorities added nine months to his sentence.) (2) A judge in Scotland went lenient on George McIntosh, 53, who had been convicted of embezzling the equivalent of about $87,000 from two pro golfing organizations. McIntosh claimed that his medication for Parkinson’s disease had made him “compulsive(ly)” generous so that he needed to embezzle money in order to buy gifts for his friends.

The Litigious Society

• In April, George Black’s lawsuit to be compensated for his injuries was permitted to proceed to trial, following an Ontario Superior Court decision. Black was playing third base (the “hot corner”) in a softball game in Hamilton when he lost track of a line drive in the sun. The ball hit him in the head, smashing his glasses into his face and causing serious trauma to his eye. Black figures his injury is the fault of the owner of the softball field for failing to put up any kind of shade to block the late afternoon sun.

• Melanie Shaker filed a lawsuit recently against the Fases Salon in Chicago for her 2008 injuries, which she incurred when she fell through the salon’s front window and badly slashed herself. She fell after losing her balance while attempting to kick her husband during a quarrel along Sheffield Avenue following dinner (and, of course, drinks). Shaker suffered deep cuts to her arm, back and feet, which she now says was the salon’s fault in that they had neglected to use “safety glass” in their front window, which would not have shattered into glass shards.

• Jo Ann Fonzone’s four-year quest to divorce the rock singer David Lee Roth (of Van Halen) continues, according to a May report in the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. Roth, through his publicist, denied any connection whatsoever to Fonzone, who has filed nearly two dozen lawsuits against various people who she claims have done her wrong, including Hollywood executive Cary Woods and MTV CEO Judy McGrath, who each has been accused of trying to steal Fonzone’s identity. Judges have noted that Fonzone’s claims are unaccompanied by any “evidence” (such as a marriage license to Roth, or even photographs of the “couple” together), and most judges who have heard her claims regard the lawsuits as “frivolous.” Said a court records chief of Fonzone’s prolific filings, “When (the clerks) see her, they all want to run.” Fonzone actually has a law degree, from Western State University in Fullerton, Calif.

I Demand My Rights

• In April, warehouse workers at the Copenhagen, Denmark, brewery that makes Carlsberg beer went on strike after the company cut back on its allowance of providing up to three free beers per shift, which workers thought made their mundane jobs easier to take. As of April 1, only one beer per shift was provided, and only at lunch. (The previous “right” belonged also to delivery drivers, according to a Reuters report, but it was not clear how that right squared with drunk-driving laws.)

Least Competent Criminals

• Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) John Campana, 18, was detained by police after they found him with several pieces of expensive jewelry in Gainesville, Fla. As they were questioning him about where he got the jewelry, Campana (according to the police report) started shaking and sweating, and then fainted. (He was charged several days later with burglary.) (2) Jason Robinson, 22, was arrested at a Burger King in Pine Bluff, Ark., in May after robbing the restaurant manager at gunpoint. As the manager handed over the day’s proceeds, Robinson set his gun down on a counter to grab the money. Not surprisingly, the manager picked up the gun and shot Robinson in the leg.

People With Issues

• Recurring Theme: Police in Austin, Texas, executing a search warrant in May, discovered an elaborate, three-story tunnel complex extending as far as 35 feet underground, beneath the home of Jose Del Rio, 70, which he apparently dug over at least a two-year period. Police also found 19 guns, plus ammunition, batteries and compressed gas (which presented a serious safety hazard). The property showed signs of caving in and posed a threat to adjacent property, as well. Police noted that Del Rio (who neighbors said “kept to himself”) was cooperative during the search although he offered no particular explanation for the tunnels.

A News of the Weird Classic (April 1994)

• The New York Daily News reported in April (1994) on a cellblock fight between prominent New York mass murderers Colin Ferguson and Joel Rifkin while they were awaiting trials at the Nassau County jail. (They were later convicted.) Reportedly, Ferguson was using a telephone and told Rifkin to be quiet. According to the Daily News source, Ferguson told Rifkin, “I wiped out six devils (white people), and you only killed women.” Rifkin allegedly responded, “Yeah, but I had more victims.” Ferguson then allegedly punched Rifkin in the mouth.

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