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News of the Weird 

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In May an eight-month-old lion was found in the basement of a vacant house in Detroit. The next week another lion was waiting inside the Beulah Baptist Church in Calabash, North Carolina, when a church member unlocked the door to let an organ repairman in. Two weeks later a tiger escaped from a van in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And a week after that, a lion turned up in Erie, Pennsylvania, near a fast-food restaurant. All were captured.

Least Competent Criminals

Sheriff's deputies arrested Michael Foster, 21, and a companion, 17, in April near Cudahy, Wisconsin, and charged them with the theft of a large electronic dart-game machine from a bar. When the heavy machine in the back of their pickup truck caused it to sink into the mud in the tavern's parking lot, one of the boys called the sheriff to ask for a tow. Said sheriff's lieutenant Jim Paape, "They didn't put a real lot of thought into this."

Kansas City, Missouri, police reported that two music store break-ins over Memorial Day weekend netted the thieves nearly 1,000 empty CD boxes. The stores are among a growing number that remove the CDs for safekeeping while displaying the boxes.

In April a Penn State University woman complained to local police in State College, Pennsylvania, that she had been ripped off. She said she had given a fellow student her $1,200 stereo to take an exam for her, but that he had flunked it and now wouldn't return the stereo.

Todd A. Hummel, 23, was arrested in March, shortly after a Best Western motel in Cherokee, Iowa, was robbed. The desk clerk had no trouble identifying Hummel; only minutes before the robbery he had checked into the motel as a guest, giving his real name and home address.

In March in Houston Humallah Mendenhall, 18, seeking a Crime Stoppers cash reward, told police that David Clyde Spencer, 18, had murdered a convenience store clerk a few days before. Evidently Mendenhall failed to realize that Spencer would turn him in too. After he was arrested, Spencer told police that Mendenhall had allegedly driven the getaway car and had allegedly committed another murder two months earlier.

In January in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a 16-year-old boy was accused by a younger boy in juvenile court of stealing a Penn State University athletic jacket. The 16-year-old happened to have worn the jacket to court that day, and the name of the younger boy was printed on the inside of a sleeve.

Accused drug dealer Alfred Acree bolted from police in Charles City, Virginia, one night in April and took off into thick woods. However, police tracked him down easily because he was wearing new L.A. Gear athletic shoes outfitted with small, battery-operated lights that light up each time the heel is pressed. Said sheriff's investigator Anthony Anderson, "Every time he took a step we knew exactly where he was."

In April two teenage boys were arrested for robbing a gas station in Toledo, Ohio. Investigating officers found the boys by following a trail of money running from behind the station to a nearby trailer park. Police obtained a warrant to search the trailer of the uncooperative owner and found the two boys, their guns, stolen cigarettes and beer, and the rest of the cash.

Police in Cedarbury, Wisconsin, arrested a 24-year-old man in September and charged him with robbing a Hardee's restaurant. He had made two crucial mistakes. First, he had parked his getaway car in the middle of the drive-through lane facing the wrong direction, alerting passersby. Then, before entering the Hardee's, he had used the men's room in the gas station next door and left his car keys in the rest room. Police arrived before he could retrieve them.


In April in Edinburg, Texas, district judge Fidencio M. Guerra Jr. ruled that newspapers covering the trial of a truck driver accused of causing an accident could not publish stories about the trial unless they used Guerra's name in each one. Judge Guerra told reporters in court, "If you want to test me on it, go right ahead, but it'll be the last time you're allowed in this courtroom." In May the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to overturn Guerra's order, but in the interim numerous stories had been published without Guerra's name, without retribution.

Creme de la Weird

According to the Jerusalem Report newspaper, a despondent Israeli named Danny Abu, 43, wandered around a West Bank village for several hours on April 19 hoping he would become the target of a terrorist attack. Still alive after several hours, he went into a shop in the village of Dir al-Utzon and asked specifically that local representatives of the Black September terrorists be summoned to come attack him. Villagers turned him over to the Israeli army.

Jay Carsey vanished in March in El Paso, Texas, leaving only cryptic notes to his wife and colleagues at El Paso Community College. He had similarly vanished in 1982 while serving as president of Charles County Community College in Maryland, but resurfaced several years later and remarried.

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

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