News of the Weird 

Lead Story

The New York Daily News reported in April on a cell-block fight between suspected murderers Colin Ferguson and Joel Rifkin at the Nassau County jail. According to the paper's source, Ferguson was using a telephone and told Rifkin to be quiet. He also told Rifkin, "I wiped out six devils [white people], and you only killed women." Rifkin responded, "Yeah, but I had more victims." Ferguson then punched Rifkin in the mouth.


In West Palm Beach, Florida, in April nurses rushed 77-year-old Marion Bernhardt, who complained of burning sensations on her legs and abdomen, out of her intensive-care room at the Wellington Regional Hospital after she screamed "Good God!" The nurses had at first assured Bernhardt that the burning was due to her recent surgery, but then discovered dozens of fire ants crawling over the woman, her postop catheter, her mattress, and her sheets.

In March the Medical Board of California charged orthopedic surgeon Fereydoune Shirazi with improper behavior during a 1990 operation. Shirazi allegedly took an 11-minute rest-room break while an operation was in progress and forgot to turn off a machine called a nucleotome, which has tiny blades that cut inside a patient's spinal column.

In March a newspaper in the western Netherlands city of Alphen Aan de Rijn reported that ten people had recently fallen victim to a denture thief. A telephone caller would persuade a denture user to leave his dentures in a bag outside his door at night to be picked up, adjusted, and returned the next morning. So far none has been returned.

Hong Kong's leading newspaper reported in February that a Chinese TV crew that had just completed shooting a documentary on the first open-heart surgery ever performed at the Weifang Medical Institute in Shangdong would have to reshoot. Officials had belatedly realized that the patient was actually a boy who'd been admitted for a tonsillectomy.

Authorities in Hauppauge, New York, said in March that Scott McCraw, 37, probably committed suicide after an argument with his ex-girlfriend. Officials found McCraw's body, which showed snake bites, alongside the remains of his pet rattlesnake and believe McCraw took his life by letting the snake bite him.

In January government investigators in Vancouver, Washington, demanded that Daryl Hahm, 37, pay back welfare benefits that had been given to a 14-year-old girl they said he'd fathered. Daryl said his twin brother David was the real father. David said he'd had sex one time with the mother and Daryl then developed a relationship with her by posing as him, something he said Daryl did frequently with other people. (Genetic testing would not help determine who's the father.)

In February, minutes before a jury would have ruled against her claim, Joyce Caudle reached a settlement with the company that sold her the stationary exercise bicycle she claimed was responsible for a $200,000 injury in 1991. According to Caudle, who weighed 264 pounds at the time, the post on which the seat was mounted burst through the seat and ruptured her rectum and intestines.

Cries for Help

In August a judge in Knoxville, Tennessee committed Joseph Randall Davis, 33, for mental treatment after he was charged with burglary and DUI. While in custody, Davis had insisted that he was a cat, that he had to live in the woods, and that he had to wear gloves at all times because of his dangerous claws and because he believed his hands would fall off unless they were protected.

Lisa Layne, 33, serving time in the Trumbull County jail in Warren, Ohio, for destruction of property, was separated from other inmates in January because of her penchant, for what she said were religious reasons, for removing her clothes and spreading feces over her body.

Michael L. Kagan, 47, was convicted in San Francisco in February of manslaughter in the 1992 shooting death of local rock musician Philip Bury, leader of Buck Naked and the Bare Bottom Boys. According to testimony, Kagan killed Bury for abusing pigeons in Golden Gate Park early one morning. Kagan had been spending more than $1,000 a month feeding pigeons and had threatened several times to shoot people and dogs who bothered the pigeons.

Oklahoma District Judge Melinda Monnet, 33, was recently accused of mental incompetence by the state's supreme court chief justice and faces a trial in June that will decide whether she can keep her job. Among the charges: after divorcing her first husband, she allowed him to adopt her two months later. A classmate from law school said Monnet was "weird even back then."

The Weirdo-American Community

An October search of Max Weisberg's home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, turned up much evidence that police characterized as related to bookmaking, but authorities didn't file charges because Weisberg might be mentally incompetent. According to court records from his previous bookmaking arrests, Weisberg has an IQ of 80, but is a savant with numbers. A local pool-hall owner testified that Weisberg is "probably the greatest gambling mind in the world." Weisberg's attorney Ron Meshbesher said that one "can't get it through [Weisberg's] head that [bookmaking] is wrong."

Least Competent Priest

James J. Hogan, formerly the bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic diocese, told a courtroom in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, in March that he didn't believe it was necessary to discipline one of his priests, who'd been accused of rubbing his penis on the bottoms of young boys' feet. Said Hogan, "I did not recognize it as child molestation."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.


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