September 21, 2007 

Lead Story

Urban sprawl, meet agriculture: The East Valley Herald of Mesa, Arizona, reported in July on Phoenix-area home owners who paid an extra $80,000 to developers for the view from their back patio only to find they get a particularly good look at sites 300 feet away where manure is dumped all summer before being spread on nearby cornfields. Also in July, the city attorney in Hugo, Minnesota (about a half hour from downtown Minneapolis), decided it wouldn't be possible to enforce a citation issued earlier to farmer Karyl Hylle; after receiving 21 complaints from a neighbor, sheriff's deputies had ticketed Hylle's 900-pound steer, Wally, for "excessive mooing." And according to an August dispatch in the Telegraph about French city dwellers fleeing to the country, the mayor of the village of Cesny-aux-Vignes, in Normandy, has issued a decree preemptively forbidding any complaints about farmyard noises.

Can't Possibly Be True

In April and again in June, a parent of two players on the baseball team at Bellaire High School in Bellaire, Texas, requested that the school provide him with the statistics it compiled for the team's 2007 season, but the school district refused, arguing that the stats were protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. When in July U.S. education department officials said this wasn't so, the district promised it would release the stats promptly, but a month later the parent still hadn't seen any. And in July the Washington Post recounted the case of Bryan Hilferty of Alexandria, Virginia, a lieutenant colonel in the army and an occasional umpire at his son's Little League games, who contacted a local league office this summer in hopes of obtaining an official rule book. A league official informed him that in part to avoid litigation the league makes its rules available only on a need-to-know basis, and Hilferty (who, it so happens, has clearance to see military secrets for his work at the Pentagon) didn't qualify for access.

Government in Action

Though in recent years the FCC has made a priority of identifying and punishing what it perceives to be indecency in broadcasting, the system it uses to process applications for call letters involves no screening but is entirely automated--which explains why a long list of newly issued call letters released in July included the letters apparently requested by the owners of a prospective TV station in Maui: KUNT. (After a columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin pointed this out, a spokesperson for the applicant insisted the request had been a mistake and said they'd file for new letters.)

News That Sounds Like a Joke

According to an August article in the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten, Norway's correctional services department reported that last year 20 percent of those who received prison sentences following criminal convictions simply failed to show up at prison to begin serving their time. Among convicts sentenced to terms of six months or longer, the no-show rate was even worse, at nearly 25 percent. A big part of the problem, the article suggested, was that until a recently passed law takes effect, failing to report to prison isn't actually illegal.

Fetishes on Parade

New ones: Verle Dills, 60, was arrested in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in July and charged with multiple counts of indecent exposure; according to a police spokesperson, officers searching Dills's garage found film and video footage of him "engaged in masturbation and sex acts with traffic signs near his home." Also in July, 45-year-old Jeff Doland of Uniontown, Ohio, was arrested in Florida following a chat-room sting operation. State and federal agents said Doland had described an interest in "dunking," or holding people's heads underwater until they lose consciousness, then letting them up (he reportedly said he especially "liked watching the bubbles"); he allegedly traveled to Miami believing he'd arranged to pay a woman there $550 for the opportunity to dunk her 9- and 12-year-old daughters.

Recurring Themes

Adding two more names to a long, gruesome list: Steve Warrichaiet, 40, was charged with multiple felonies in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in July after he allegedly struck two people while driving drunk, then drove nearly a mile home and parked in his garage with the body of one of his victims still lodged in the windshield. And in August, 54-year-old Tony Martinez reportedly pulled out of a parking lot in Perris, California, and into the path of a speeding motorcycle. Highway patrol officers said Martinez first drove home, then proceeded to a fire station, where emergency personnel pronounced the motorcyclist, still stuck halfway through the rear window, dead on arrival.

Least Competent Criminals

In August a security guard followed 19-year-old Jazmine Roberts out of the Neiman Marcus in White Plains, New York, and accused her of having stolen a pair of jeans worth $250. According to the subsequent police report, the guard was able to apprehend her only after a struggle in which the enraged and seemingly misinformed Roberts pulled the guard's hair, bit her, and repeatedly yelled, "It's too late! I already left the store!"

The Classic Middle Name

Arrested recently and charged with murder: Earl Wayne Reynolds (Spotsylvania, Virginia, August), Donald Wayne Booth (Austin, Texas, August), Dustin Wayne Nall (Arlington, Texas, August), Christopher Wayne Hudson (Melbourne, Australia, June), Earl Wayne Flowers (Taylorsville, North Carolina, April), Randall Wayne Mays (Payne Springs, Texas, May). Suspected of murder and still at large at press time: David Wayne French (Portland, Oregon, May). Sentenced to life in prison for murder: Randy Wayne Seal (Palatka, Florida, June), Patrick Wayne Schroeder (Pawnee City, Nebraska, August).

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

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