News of the Weird
Zach Schultz of Denver recently put his health at risk by smoking—but this time, it cost him his car. Schultz tossed a lit cigarette out the window of his car while driving down Colorado Boulevard in July, but the cigarette blew back into the car and set fire to the back seat. Firefighters had to close several lanes to fight the blaze, which destroyed the car.
- Sensitive! (1) Police in St. Paul, Minn., were called to the 1300 block of Desoto Street in July by a 43-year-old man who demanded that a report be filed because he had found a slice of half-eaten pizza near his fence and thought it represented someone’s intent to “harass” him. (2) Police cited a 56-year-old man in Carlisle, Pa., in September after a complaint from neighbor Brian Taylor, 43, who swore that the man had flicked a toothpick onto the sidewalk in front of Taylor’s home just to “annoy” him.
- A nine-hour, 16-officer search of the home of alleged drug kingpin Michael Difalco, near Lakeland, Fla., in March, apparently was not exciting enough. Surveillance video (from Difalco's security system) released by police in September showed that some officers took the time to play a game of bowling on Difalco’s Nintendo Wii. The detectives, unaware of the camera, pumped their fists and shouted gleefully with every strike. Police supervisors acknowledged the unprofessional behavior, but said the search was still productive.
Fetishes on Parade
In September in Truro, England, David Truscott, 40, was sentenced to four months in jail for repeatedly trespassing on the farm of Clive Roth. Truscott, who would play in the farm’s manure-spreader while wearing only his underwear and rubber gloves, told the court that he had a sexual fetish for manure. Three weeks earlier, Gary Moody, 49, was charged in federal court in Portland, Maine, with lingering inside a pit toilet in the White Mountain National Forest. He admitted to having an “outhouse problem,” as the arresting officer described it. Moody was not caught in the act, but he was a prime suspect because he had pleaded no contest to a similar incident in 2005, and later confessed to the most recent incident.
Least Competent Criminals
Daniel Taylor Jr., 33, was arrested in Elizabethton, Tenn., in September following a domestic disturbance complaint against a neighbor. A sheriff's deputy had gone to Taylor's house by mistake, wrongly thinking it was the source of the complaint. Taylor immediately surrendered to the deputy anyway, and turned around to be handcuffed. When the deputy inquired as to why Taylor thought he should be arrested, Taylor said he assumed the deputy had come to arrest him for violating probation on earlier charges. So the deputy took Taylor to the station.
- Another Driver Poor at Multitasking: A German truck driver in his 30s crashed his 18-wheeler near Boras, Sweden, in September. Though he was not seriously hurt, the driver was pinned in the wreckage, unable to move. When rescuers and police first saw him, they noted that the trapped driver’s genitals were exposed and that his hand was clasped in the area of his genitals.
- Sylvester Jiles, 24, became the most recent former inmate to try to break back into prison (in Jiles’ case, he did it to seek "protection" from threats to his life on the outside). In August in Brevard County, Fla., Jiles was hospitalized for the heavy loss of blood that resulted from falling onto the razor wire inside the prison wall.
Government in Action
For three weeks in September, budget-conscious Mayor Sallie Peake of Wellford, S.C., barred the police from chasing suspects on foot, even for crimes in progress. The mayor said that several officers had been injured during foot chases, and that the subsequent insurance costs were too much for the city. (Facing heavy criticism, Peake rescinded the policy on Sept. 24.)
A News of the Weird Classic
"Anal-wart researcher" (visual inspection being the only way to detect anal cancer from the human papillomavirus) heads Popular Science magazine’s November 2004 list of the worst jobs in science. However, "worm parasitologist" can be just as challenging, especially for anyone studying the Dracunculus medinensis (which can settle in humans to a length of 3 feet and then must be removed carefully after its thousands of offspring burst through the skin). Other contenders: "tampon squeezer" for the study of vaginal infections; a Lyme-disease "tick attractor" (who must sing, to keep bears away, while trolling in the woods); and "monitors" at warm-climate landfills (where garbage has been reduced to steamy, liquid condensates).
2009 Chuck Shepherd