Monday, March 1, 2010

News of the Weird

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Timing Is Everything

Last April, Guido Boldini and his mother Constance Boldini pleaded guilty to soliciting a hit man to kill Guido's ex-girlfriend, Michelle Hudon, after a contentious child-custody battle in Keene, N.H. The "hit man" was, of course, an undercover cop, and the son and mother are now serving a combined 12 to 35 years in prison. Unknown to the Boldinis, Hudon had been diagnosed with cancer, and she died in September.

Least Competent Criminals

Didn't Think Ahead: (1) In December, two men tied up employees at a recycling company in Chicago with the intent to steal the ATM on the premises, which is normally used to pay people who bring in scrap metal. However, the two men fled empty-handed after realizing that they were not strong enough to carry the 250-pound machine out to their truck. (2) Lloyd Norris, 57, was arrested in Gwinnett County, Ga., in February and charged with mortgage fraud after he tried to buy a house with "cash" consisting of a nonsensical $225,000 "U.S. Treasury" promissory note, supposedly "certified" by Secretary Timothy Geithner. Norris had prepared $1 billion worth of the documents on his computer and apparently assumed that banks would not look too closely at them.

The Continuing Crisis

  • The Importance of the Dictionary: In January, the Menifee Union School District in Southern California removed all copies of Merriam-Webster's 10th-edition dictionary from the shelves of its elementary schools in response to a parent's complaint that the book contains a reference to "oral sex."
  • Worse Than Texting While Driving: (1) In England, Rachel Curtis, 23, was sentenced to 12 months in prison by Bristol Crown Court in October for leading police on a high-speed chase while injecting heroin. (2) In December, authorities in Scottsboro, Ala., arrested a man after a high-speed chase during which he allegedly had methamphetamine cooking in the front seat. (3) Long-haul trucker Thomas Wallace was charged with manslaughter in Buffalo, N.Y., in January after his rig struck a parked car and killed the occupant because Wallace was distracted while watching pornography on his laptop computer.

Bright Ideas

  • An official in Shijiazhuang, China, told Agence France-Presse in December that the city's new "women only" parking lot was designed to meet women’s "strong sense of color and different sense of distance." That is, the spaces are 3 feet wider than the city’s regular spaces and painted pink and purple. Also, female attendants have been trained to guide women into the parking spaces.
  • In January, sheriff’s deputies in Lenoir County, N.C., raided a suspected marijuana farm and learned that the entire growing operation was taking place underground. Sixty live plants were being cultivated inside an abandoned school bus that had been completely buried. The bus was accessible by a tunnel and had a garage built on top of it.

The Fragrance of Love

First, in Zwingle, Iowa, farmer Dick Kleis composed a birthday note to his wife by arranging more than 60 tons of manure in a pasture to spell out "Happy Birthday, Love You" in shorthand. Then, for Valentine's Day, farmer Bruce Andersland created a half-mile-wide, arrow-pierced heart from plowed manure at his farm near the town of Albert Lea, Minn. "Now I've got my valentine!" shouted wife Beth when she first viewed the aerial image.

Fine Points of the Law

A jury delivered a verdict of “not guilty” for Seattle-area resident Patricia Sylvester, on trial for vehicular assault in October. But Sylvester’s sense of relief quickly faded. After polling the jurors individually, the judge learned that the verdict was not unanimous, as required by law. He sent them back to deliberate further, and this time Sylvester was unanimously found "guilty" (although of a lesser charge).

Male Pride

(1) A 31-year-old man was stabbed in St. Cloud, Minn., in January. He told police that he and another man were approaching each other on a sidewalk, and when neither man gave way, the other man stabbed him. (2) Scott Elder, 22, was charged with shooting a 24-year-old man in Savannah, Ga., in October after an escalating argument that started when one of the two strangers sent a text message to a wrong number. One comment led to another, and the men agreed to meet in a downtown parking lot to settle things. (3) Lankward Harrington, 25, was walking past a gardener working on a lawn in Washington, D.C., in October 2006 when grass clippings blew onto his clothes. At his trial in October 2009, Harrington was convicted of murder for shooting the gardener four times in the face and body. Said Harrington, on the witness stand: “I take pride in my appearance. … He got grass on me.”

2010 Chuck Shepherd

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