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In May a Denver judge sentenced Oliver Thomas Oster, 77, to serve 12 months in prison for four attempted bank robberies. Oster, who is said to resemble the nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo, is unable to walk, so he attempted the robberies from a car at the banks' drive-in windows. He also used a gun so rusted that the cylinder wouldn't turn; his lawyer said that was irrelevant, because Oster lacked the physical strength to pull the trigger.


Last July Texas A&M officials considered charges that chemistry professor John Bockris used unorthodox scientific methods and improperly circumvented school funding procedures for his work, in which he claims gold can be manufactured from other substances. In December Bockris expressed surprise at the charges, reminding a campus newspaper reporter that he's a professor and saying, "What professor would be doing bogus work?"

Delaware prison officials decided in July to allow condemned murderer Nelson Shelton to have a kidney removed at public expense so he can donate the organ to his mother. The state initially refused to pay but relented when Shelton threatened to appeal his sentence, which would cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In June Robert Dale Shepard, in jail in South Charleston, West Virginia, on robbery charges, escaped from a recreation yard by braiding dental floss into a rope that he used to scale a fence. To prevent such escapes the state of Maine prohibits inmates from having dental floss, but in July Portland inmate Michael Tuck, 31, filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the policy hinders his ability to fight tooth decay.

In February a federal court in California dismissed the complaint of Jogezai Kakar Khan against the director of the FBI and about two dozen other defendants Khan claimed had been harassing him. The other defendants included President Bush, French president Francois Mitterrand, the San Francisco Chronicle, some college professors, several street gangs in Hong Kong, the queen of England, "the drug cartel," H. Ross Perot, Paul Newman, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Dennis Hopper, Phil Donahue, "the founders of Israel," Oliver North, and a "humanoid alien extraterrestrial leader speaking Greek."

In June police in the Dutch town of Deventer arrested six women and a man they said had been robbing local supermarkets. The women would enter the market and disrobe down to their underpants to create a distraction while the man walked into the manager's office and grabbed money.

Michael Frazier, the "life-style" editor of the daily newspaper in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was charged in June with attempted murder of the husband of a woman he'd written about. According to police reports, Frazier and Lisa Whedbee began an affair shortly after he interviewed her. In a plot to kill John Whedbee, Frazier was to pose as a robber and stab John while Lisa stood by with a baseball bat and pretended to defend her husband. According to John, when Frazier seemed tentative Lisa yelled at him, "You've got to do it--just do it now!"

Mollie Brusstar, 48, was convicted in July embezzling the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where she'd been employed in administration. According to the prosecutor, Brusstar put imaginary employees on the rolls and issued their paychecks to her. She and her sister went to Utah and, posing as nuns, used the money to pay for dental work and cosmetic abdomen-reduction surgery. Brusstar's defense was that a monsignor had approved everything but couldn't testify, having committed suicide after being accused of molesting a parishioner.


In August in Concordia Sagittaria, Italy, a judge ordered Maria Bruna Bortolussi to keep her talking blackbird away from her neighbor Norina Miorin; Miorin testified that Bortolussi had taught the bird to say "Norina, I'm going to kill you." The two women had been feuding over a garden.

In Minot, North Dakota, in June a woman ran into a police station asking for protection from her husband, who was chasing her. She was told to be seated in the waiting area, but police couldn't immediately get to her case. They later found the couple facing off in the parking lot, each pointing a chain saw at the other.

Miracles of Science

Desmond Morris's latest documentary, The Human Animal: The Biology of Love, now on TV in England and scheduled to appear on U.S. cable TV in January, includes footage of a human orgasm--from inside the vagina. A tiny camera, similar to those used for exploring the colon, was placed inside Wendy Duffield, 31, and another was strapped to her husband's penis. The couple reportedly had sex about 60 times to ensure sufficient footage.

Least Competent Criminals

Last fall in Memphis, Tennessee, a Loomis armored truck guard was robbed by two men just as he was about to enter a supermarket to make a pickup. The gunmen fled with the large bag the guard was carrying, which contained only empty money bags.

Michael Gene McCrary, 37, was charged with attempted robbery of a barbershop last November in Saint Joseph, Missouri. He'd walked in, reportedly slightly inebriated and pretending to have a gun in his pocket, and said to barber Fred Robertson, "Set 'em up." When Robertson asked what he meant, McCrary replied, "You know what I mean." A customer walked outside and summoned police.

I Don't Think So

In a courtroom in Saint John's, Newfoundland, in August George Clarke denied that the bruises and cuts on his girlfriend's body were the result of a domestic assault. He said she got the back bruises one night when he was suicidal--he'd tied a noose ineptly to an overhead pipe and fell on top of her when she tried to stop him. The bruises and cuts on her arm were the consequence of his having to hold her arms tightly during sex because, he said, "Your Honor, I only got a small penis on me."

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


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