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Eldon Helget, a manager at a Menards building-supply store in Minneapolis, was fired in June because he was planning to build a new house outfitted with ramps that would ease travel for his wheelchair-bound daughter who has spina bifida. Helget violated the Menards company rule that a manager cannot build or add to his own house because such construction would tempt him to steal supplies from the store.

Compulsions on Parade

Police in Glendale, California, sought a man calling himself "Jim Wells," who got "dozens" of women to mutilate their old shoes by promising them on the phone that they would receive new ones. He said he was conducting a survey for a shoe company.

James Fentress, 23, was arrested for taking an ambulance for a joyride in Oklahoma City in May. Fentress, who was dressed as an ambulance-company driver, was apprehended when he stopped in a parking lot to show some kids how the siren works.

When sheriff's deputies in Albuquerque, New Mexico, arrived to evict Rick "Reptile" Little, 30, from his home in June due to a rent dispute, they found 140 snakes (at least 40 of them venomous), along with owls, toads, rabbits, salamanders, moles, lizards, turtles, tarantulas, scorpions, dogs, cats, and fish. Deputies said the stench was unbearable.

A man in Burlingame, California, complained to police in May that his neighbor was tossing buckets of urine onto his patio. The neighbor told police that it was a religious brew made of flowers, leaves, rosemary, water, and ammonia, but the man said, "I don't care what the old lady showed you. I know she's throwing out urine."

A man remained at large in Lakewood, Colorado, in April after scaring a 39-year-old woman in an apartment parking lot. She said the man was wearing a rubber gorilla mask, a gorilla suit above the waist, and a shoulder-length black wig. She said the man had his sweatpants down and beckoned to her saying, "Help me out. I'll get off faster." Said police sergeant Al Padilla, "It would be interesting to find out why he wore the gorilla suit."

Among the latest underwear thieves: Police in Saint Joseph, Missouri, caught a 14-year-old runaway boy in March who had broken into several homes and stolen guns and brassieres. In November in Lincoln, Nebraska, police arrested Randy S. Boone, 37, ending a three-year reign of at least 23 burglaries in which only underwear was taken. At least six mobile homes in a Seattle suburb were burglarized in January and February; the only items reported missing were women's lingerie. A 19-year-old man was arrested after the first report, but the burglaries continued.

Saint Louis was plagued last winter by an early-morning jogger who threw girls to the ground on their way to school and sucked their toes.

Names From Hell

A 50-year-old man named Alexandra Bizzario was charged in West Haven, Connecticut, in March with offering to pay the tuition ($26,000) of a Yale University student if she would spank him. (He had lured her to his home to fill out grant applications but later told police that he had no grant authority.)

Prosecutors in Waverly, Tennessee, attempting in November to build murder cases against two prison escapees, changed their minds and decided not to call to the stand the prison barber, an informant who would testify against the two. Weighing against the barber's credibility: his name is Ugga de Boogidie and he's been sentenced to 1,964 years.

James Dogg, 42, was charged with assault in Mandan, North Dakota, in May for beating up his girlfriend's mother, 86-year-old Regina Lafromboise, who had been joking about Dogg's name and making barking sounds.

Creme de la Weird

Agence France Presse reported in March that Michael Balama, 45, a farmer and father of nine children, has turned up in a tree in Pankshin, Nigeria. He had disappeared two weeks earlier from a nearby tree, in which he had been living for five years. He said he wanted to come down but couldn't because "some people are holding me." Balama's wife said, "What I miss about Michael is that we can no longer make love together and produce more children." Balama's wife and neighbors prepare food for him, and he climbs down to the tree's lower branches to retrieve it.

Least Competent Person

In January the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the rape conviction in Morgan v. State. Morgan had argued for a mistrial because of a bad decision he made at trial: without the judge's permission he had shown his unerect penis to the jury--in order to "prove" that he was therefore incapable of the erection necessary to commit rape.

The Diminishing Value of Life

In May, Robert Moore, 75, was found guilty of attempted murder for shooting his neighbor Patrick Dial, 38, because Dial's children had been picking daffodils in Moore's yard near Painesville, Ohio.

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

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