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News Quirks 06.22.05


Published June 22, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Two men tried to rob a 45-year-old woman in Hong Kong, but when she resisted, they hit her over the head with their gun. The weapon, which turned out to be a plastic toy, "broke into pieces," Chief Inspector Wong Tsan-tim said, adding, "The two robbers fled empty-handed towards a hillside."

- Members of a police narcotics task force in DeRidder, Louisiana, spotted a station wagon with two teenagers, who attracted the officers' attention by shouting obscenities at them. The officers stopped the car and noticed a stolen sign from an area church in the back seat. When a search turned up a small amount of marijuana in the passenger compartment, task force members arrested the youths.

Questionable Judgment

State police in Foreman, Arkansas, reported that Jeff Foran, 38, was hospitalized after he jumped out of a car. Trooper First Class Jamie Gravier said that the driver of the car, Jerry Glenn Nelson, 44, told him "Foran was smoking a cigarette when it blew out the window, and Foran jumped out the window to retrieve the cigarette. Nelson said he was driving between 55 and 60 mph when Foran jumped out." Noting that Foran suffered facial injuries and abrasions from hitting and sliding on the pavement, Gravier observed, "If anything could make him stop smoking, this should be it."

- Benjamin Jordan Hylands, 17, told a New Zealand court that he was bored when he used a cigarette lighter to burn the plastic ties securing a shipping container at Ashburton on South Island. After he and two younger friends forced open the door, peas poured out, trapping one of the youths up to his chest. Rescuers had to use a forklift to free the boy.

Senior Moments

A 79-year-old woman in Port Richey, Florida, bought 11 organs in 18 months from a music-store manager who convinced the woman that she would play better if she had a more expensive instrument. The woman began buying and trading organs after taking lessons at the Fletcher Music Center. Pasco County Sheriff's detectives said that store manager Scott Lewis Heyder, 36, encouraged her to buy an organ for about $1650. Within days, Heyder recommended trading up to an organ costing nearly twice that. Weeks later, the woman had traded up twice to an organ costing nearly $5000. Her family pleaded with Heyder to stop, explaining that she had Alzheimer's disease, but within the next year, he had sold her more organs, including four in one day. Detectives said the woman spent about $25,000 on organs but ended up with one worth only half that. Heyder was charged with felony exploitation of the elderly.

- Meanwhile, a 79-year-old woman suffering from memory loss in Jacksonville, Florida, paid more than $90,000 to a landscaper for yard work. Police, who charged David Brian Phillips, 26, with felony exploitation of the elderly, said that the victim agreed to pay Phillips $80 a month to cut her lawn and trim hedges, but he kept showing up every few weeks and charged her for work he hadn't done. "I just paid him," the woman told police. "At that time, I didn't have anyone else to do my work."

Placebo Pricks?

Fake acupuncture is as effective as the real thing, according to German researchers. Their study involved 302 patients with migraine, who were treated over an eight-week period. Doctors treated some of the patients using acupuncture to place needles at selected pressure points on the skin, while others had needles stuck in them randomly. Klaus Linde, of the Centre for Complementary Medicine at Munich's Technische University, said that in both cases, half the patients reported a 50 percent reduction in the number of days they had headaches.

Domino Effect

Tim Brender, 45, was cleaning up the basement of his rented townhouse in Madison, Wisconsin, when he pushed a table back and knocked over a can of spray paint. The can fell on a hammer, which punctured the can, sending paint everywhere. The Capital Times reported that the paint sprayed far enough to reach the pilot light of the water heater, resulting in a flash fire that caused Brender to suffer second- and third-degree burns. Meanwhile, the ensuing fire destroyed all of Brender's and his family's belongings, including furniture and kitchen appliances. "You couldn't set up this scenario to happen," Lani Brender, Tim's wife, said. "It's still very surreal to us."

Criminal with a Conscience

After a woman in Kremlin, Oklahoma, reported the theft of a television, stereo and VCR, she called police a few days later to report that someone had broken into her house again while she was away. This time, she said, the burglar returned the electronics gear, restored the wiring and even repaired a doorjamb damaged in the original break-in. Undersheriff Jerry Niles labeled the incident "spooky."

Trophy-Wife Follies

A British woman found out that her husband was a bigamist when he bragged about his second bride on the Friends Reunited website. Anne Wallace, 45, of Manchester had refused to grant Carl Wallace, 45, her husband of 20 years, a "quickie" divorce, forcing him to wait the statutory separation period of five years, which would have ended in July 2006. Meanwhile, Carl went ahead and married Selena McDonnell, 21 years his junior, after announcing their nuptials on the website by updating his entry at his old school, Spurley Hey High. A mutual acquaintance told Anne Wallace, who notified the police. Wallace received a 16-week suspended sentence after pleading guilty in Bolton Crown Court to bigamy and falsely declaring that he was a bachelor when he applied for his marriage license to McDonnell.