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News Quirks 12.13.06


Published December 13, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again When three men tried to kidnap a teenager in Wichita, Kan., in a dispute over stereo speakers, one of the assailants stuck his gun in his waistband, only to have it fire accidentally, shooting him in the left testicle. Police said cringing from the pain caused the gun to fire again, hitting the 23-year-old man in the leg.

-- Car dealer Greg "Lumpy" Lambert told police in Knoxville, Tenn., that a man posing as a customer pulled a .25-caliber handgun from his pocket and demanded money. Lambert, a prominent member of the National Rifle Association who has offered free rifles with car purchases in the past, responded by producing his .380-caliber pistol. "I told him to drop his weapon, and he said he didn't want trouble," Lambert told the Knoxville News Sentinel, which reported that suspect Kane Stackhouse, 19, fled but was in such a hurry that he left behind the driver's license he had shown to take a test drive.

Adding It Up

-- D.C. Superior Court Judge Wendell P. Gardner Jr. dismissed a juror in a high-profile murder trial after her fellow jurors complained that she invoked numerology during deliberations. The Washington Post reported that jurors told the judge the woman spoke of the significance of everything from dates of birth to the pronunciation of names and the color of people's clothing. "She was always straying from whatever we were talking about," one juror said. In addition, the woman declared that she was the savior, there to force a mistrial.

Appliance Follies Admitting he lacked parenting skills, Derrick Hardy, 21, told authorities in Prince Edward Island province that he put his girlfriend's 10-month-old daughter in a freezer to cool her down because she had a fever. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that the mother found the girl crammed into the freezer alongside ice cubes and hamburger meat and the door closed, although Hardy insisted he left it open. The child spent several days in the hospital recovering from first- and second-degree freezer burns.

Accidents Will Happen Brandi Rose, 21, was driving in Evergreen Park, Ill., when she got into an argument with passenger Britnii Sutton, 23. The women got out of the car and started fighting in the street when a passing car struck and killed them, then continued without stopping, according to police, who said in a statement, "The driver may have been looking at the car and didn't see anyone in the street."

-- An hour after a commuter train hit and killed a woman in Matawan, N.J., authorities said that a train sent to pick up the train's 200 stranded passengers struck and killed one of them. Investigators believe John D'Agostino, 49, was either dragged by the train when its doors closed on his backpack or freed himself and fell under the moving train.

Stupidity Pays

-- A federal jury awarded $24.2 million to two men who were severely burned by a 12,500-volt electrical wire when they trespassed on railroad property and climbed atop a rail car in Lancaster, Pa., to see the view. Jeffrey Klein and Brett Birdwell, who were both 17 at the time of the incident, sued Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp., arguing that the companies should have placed warning signs alerting people to the wires.

Up in Smoke Eager to reduce long lines at Hong Kong's busy crematoriums, health officials proposed using "eco-coffins" made of corrugated cardboard. The switch from wood to cardboard would shave 90 minutes off the cremation time and produce less toxic gas during combustion, according to Carrie Yau, permanent secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, who explained, "The eco-coffin coincides with the Asian philosophy of integration between man and nature."

-- Managers of Denmark's 33 crematoriums asked the government to allow them to redistribute the heat generated by the gas-fired ovens, nearly 1000 degrees C, to benefit the living. "Instead of just letting the heat out the window, we can use it to warm up church buildings," Allan Vest, president of the national crematorium trade association, told the daily newspaper Nyhedsavisen. "Maybe we could even sell some of it."

Vehicular Follies Fifteen-year-old Ritchie Calvin Davis stole a bus that was parked awaiting sale at an auction in Orlando, Fla., and, according to authorities, drove it along a public transit route, picked up passengers and collected fares. Passengers and sheriff's deputies noted that Davis, who was already on probation for taking a tour bus and driving passengers, drove the bus at normal speeds and made all the appropriate stops on the route until a passenger who was suspicious of his youthful looks called 911. "I drove that bus better than most of the . . . drivers could," Davis said. "There isn't a scratch on it."

-- After a taxi driver in Santiago, Chile, was held up several times, he decided to make his cab so conspicuous that nobody would dare try to rob him again. He covered the cab's entire interior with black and white spotted cowhides, including the steering wheel and ceiling, then added stuffed toy cows and a horn that moos. "The effect was immediate," Juan Geraldo, 46, said. "They haven't robbed me since."

Perfect Tenant Austrian police said that the body of a 93-year-old man may have been in his Vienna apartment three or four years before it was discovered. Lt. Col. Georg Rabensteiner explained that no one apparently noticed the man had died because his neighbors said he was a recluse and didn't think it unusual that junk mail was piling up outside his door, and his bank automatically paid his rent with money automatically deposited from his pension fund. The landlord only discovered the body after he raised the rent but didn't receive more money and went to the man's apartment to find out why.