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Friday, June 10, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Ironies

  • Erie County (N.Y.) jail officials suspended guards Lawrence Mule, a 26-year veteran, and James Conlin, a 29-year veteran, after they scuffled at the County Correctional Facility on April 21, reportedly over a bag of chips. An inmate had to break up the fight.
  • In March in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, an anti-terrorism drill was scheduled in order to practice community coordination after an attack by a hypothetical white supremacist group angry about illegal immigration. But the drill had to be canceled. The sheriff said callers claiming to be white supremacists were angry at being picked on as "terrorists" and had threatened a school in Treynor, Iowa, with an attack that closely resembled the kind of imagined attack that would have taken place in the simulated drill.


Least Competent Criminals

People Who Didn't Think It Through: (1) In Okeechobee, Fla., Joseph Price, 61, left the PNC Bank empty-handed on May 6 despite having passed the teller a note demanding a "sack full of cash." It turns out that he hadn't brought a sack with him, and the teller said she didn't have one, either. He was arrested seven minutes after leaving the bank. (2) Joseph Brice, 21, of Clarkston, Wash., was indicted in May on one count of having manufactured a bomb in 2010. Brice inadvertently called attention to himself by ordering his bomb components under the name of (Oklahoma City bomber) "Timothy McVeigh."

Compelling Explanations

  • In May, Dalia Dippolito, 30, of Boynton Beach, Fla., was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill her husband. During her defense trial, her lawyer told the jury that it was all a fake scheme to pitch a reality-TV show about one spouse's ordering a hit on the other (and that her husband, Michael, had originally come up with the idea). As Dippolito's plan unfolded, her boyfriend alerted police, who set up a sting and witnessed Dippolito dictating exactly what she wanted done. (In fact, the sting itself was captured on video for the "Cops" TV show.) Dippolito's husband denied any involvement, and the jury appeared not to give her story any credence.
  • The Sergeants Benevolent Association, fighting back in April against corruption charges (specifically, that its NYPD officers often "fix" traffic tickets for celebrities, high officials and selected "friends"), claimed in a recorded message reported in The New York Times that such fixes are merely "courtesy," not corruption.



Stop That Racket

Ellenbeth Wachs, 48, was arrested in Lakeland, Fla., in May on a complaint that she had "simulated" a sex act in front of a minor. In a March incident, Wachs, after receiving treatment for her multiple sclerosis, was awakened at 8:30 a.m. by her neighbor's 10-year-old boy, who was playing a clamorous basketball game near Wachs' window. After asking the boy to be quiet (a request he refused), Wachs allegedly began moaning out the window (while remaining out of sight), "Oh, John! Oh! John!" over and over at increased shrillness as if in the throes of orgasm. The boy stopped playing basketball, but the incident did not prove to be a teaching moment. The boy's father, Otto Lehman, called the police and filed for an order of protection against Wachs.

Finding Religion: Two Strategies

(1) To hype attendance for Easter services this year, Lindenwald Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ohio, raffled off $1,000 on Easter Sunday. Under similar circumstances last year, attendance more than doubled, to 1,137. (2) A month earlier, Pastor John Goodman of the Houston Unity Baptist Church tried a different approach, calling on parishioners to cede their income-tax refunds to the church. He warned that anyone who failed to come to the aid of the church is a "devil" and could be refused communion.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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