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News of the Weird 5/19/11

By Chuck Sheppard

Tonya McDowell, 33, an off-and-on homeless person in Bridgeport, Conn., was arrested in April by police in nearby Norwalk and charged with felony theft—of $15,686 worth of “services” from the city. McDowell’s crime was enrolling her 6-year-old son in Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School when she actually “resided” (as much as a sporadically “homeless” person can “reside”) in Bridgeport. McDowell has also “resided” at times in a Norwalk shelter, but was crashing at a friend’s apartment in Bridgeport when she registered her son. The head of the Norwalk Board of Education acknowledged that the usual consequence for an unqualified student is merely dismissal from school.

The Continuing Crisis In March, jurors in New Orleans convicted Isaiah Doyle of a 2005 murder and were listening to evidence in the penalty phase of the trial when Doyle decided to take the witness stand (as defendants sometimes do in a desperate attempt to avoid the death penalty). However, Doyle said to the jurors, “If I had an AK-47, I’d kill every last one of y’all with no remorse.” (The jury recommended the needle.)

Why Unions Are Unpopular: The police officers’ union in Scranton, Pa., filed a state unfair labor practice complaint in April against Chief Dan Duffy because he arrested a man whom he caught violating a warrant and possessing marijuana. According to the union contract, only union members can “apprehend and arrest” lawbreakers, and since the chief is “management,” he should have called an officer to make the arrest. The union president suggested that, with layoffs threatened, the chief doesn’t need to be taking work away from officers.

Cavalcade of Rednecks (1) Shelly Waddell, 36, was cited by police in February in Waterville, Maine, after “a couple of” drivers reported seeing two children riding on the roof of the van she was driving early one morning. Waddell told police she was in fact delivering newspapers to customers, but denied that the kids were on the roof. (2) At the Niceville, Fla., Christmas parade on Dec. 4, a municipal employee was arrested when he stepped up onto a city truck that was part of the parade and challenged the driver (who apparently was a colleague). The employee accused the driver of “taking (my) overtime” hours for the previous two years and ordered him out of the truck so he could “whip your ass.” (The employee was charged with disorderly intoxication.)

Bright Ideas Louis “Shovelhead” Garrett is an artist, a mannequin collector and a quilter in the eastern Missouri town of Louisiana, with a specialty in sewing quilts from women’s panties, according to a report in the Hannibal Courier-Post. After showing his latest quilt at a women’s luncheon in Hannibal in March, he told the newspaper of his high standards: “No polyester. I don’t want those cheap, dollar-store, not-sexy, farm-girl panties. I want classy—silk or nylon.”

Oops! Arifinito (he goes by one name), a member of the Indonesian parliament, resigned in April after a news photographer in the gallery zoomed in on the tablet computer he was watching to capture him surfing Internet pornography sites. Arifinito’s conservative Islamic Prosperous Justice Party campaigned for a tough anti-pornography bill in 2008 (which the photographer’s video shows Arifinito likely violating).

Wheeee! (1) In March, in Pierce County, Wash., a sewer worker, 37, came loose from a safety line and slid about 3,000 feet through a 6-foot-diameter sewer pipe at the Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. He “could have drowned,” according to one rescuer, but he was taken to a hospital with “minor injuries.” (2) Firefighters in Gilbert, Ariz., rescued Eugene Gimzelberg, 32, in March after he had climbed down a 40-foot sewer hole—naked. Gimzelberg said he had smoked PCP and marijuana and consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms. He was hospitalized in critical condition.

Chutzpah! Jacob Barnett, 12, an Asperger’s-syndrome-fueled math genius who maxed out on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and is now enrolled at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), told an Indianapolis Star reporter in March that his next project is about proving the Big Bang theory all wrong. But if not the Big Bang, asked the reporter, how do we exist? Said Jacob, “I’m still working on it.” “I have an idea, but … I’m still working out the details.” (Hint: Jacob’s major point of skepticism is that the Big Bang doesn’t account neatly for carbon.) Said his (biological) mother, Kristine Barnett, 36: “I flunked math. I know this did not come from me.”

Overreaching: (1) In April, Texas state Rep. John Davis of Houston proposed a tax break — aimed at buyers of yachts valued at more than a quarter-million dollars. Davis promised more yacht sales and, through a ripple effect, more jobs if Texas capped the sales tax on yachts at the amount due on a $250,000 vessel—a break of almost $16,000 on a $500,000 boat. (2) Adam Yarbrough, 22, ticketed by a female police officer in Indianapolis in March after he was observed swerving in and out of traffic on an Interstate highway, allegedly compounded the problem first by offering the cop “five dollars” to “get rid of this ticket” and then by “(H)ow about I give you a kiss?” Felony bribery charges were filed. (Bonus fact: Yarbrough was riding a moped.)