News of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

ChangeOregonians believe in: The voters of Sodaville (pop. 290) electedThomas Brady Harrington, 33, mayor in November, notwithstanding hiscriminal rap sheet showing robbery, eluding a police officer, felon inpossession of a gun and other crimes (with his electoral successperhaps due to voters’ confusing him with his father, a respected townelder). And the voters of Silverton (pop. 7,400) elected as mayor StuRasmussen, 60, an openly transgendered, longtime resident whopreviously served as mayor while a man but who now sports breasts anddresses exclusively as a woman (especially miniskirts andcleavage-enhancing tops). Actually, Rasmussen still describes himselfas a man and lives with his longtime girlfriend, but explained hisswitch as just his particular “mid-life crisis.”

Compelling explanations

•“I’m really sorry…. I thought he was just tired,” said Lynne Stewart,who was arrested in West Melbourne, Fla. in October and charged withstealing items from a 56-year-old, unconscious man who in fact had justsuffered a fatal heart attack during sex with Stewart. She blamed herlarceny on a cocaine binge that impaired her judgment such that(according to a police commander) she had sex with 20 men that weekend.(However, she was not charged with prostitution. Said the commander,“No, she just likes sex.”)

• Lame:

(1)A woman being interviewed for jury duty on a murder case in Bronx (NY)Supreme Court in October asked to be excused for the reason that shewas once murdered, herself, by her husband (but had somehow beenrevived by a doctor). (She was dismissed from the jury, but on othergrounds.)

(2)In a recent report of DUI excuses in the Swedish newspaper NerikesAllehanda, a 56-year-old woman had asserted that, though she had beendrinking, her driving was not affected because she had remembered tokeep one eye closed so as not to be seeing double.


•Hummer H2 driver Yvonne Sinclair, 29, was convicted of gross vehicularmanslaughter in November in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. from a 2006 crashthat killed two people and in which her intoxication was a majorfactor. Sinclair had bought the Hummer from proceeds of a lawsuitsettlement over the 2003 death of her boyfriend, who was killed by adrunk driver. • Strange justice:

(1)The Saudi Arabia delegation to the United Nations sponsored aconference on religious tolerance in November. (Not only does thekingdom employ a police force “on the prevention of vice and thepromotion of virtue,” but it is accused of widespread internaldiscrimination against disfavored Islamic sects.)

(2)Janice Warder, a former Texas judge and now the incoming districtattorney for Texas’ Cooke County, was accused in March by a Dallasjudge of having improperly withheld evidence in a 1986 case to secure amurder conviction. (The Dallas judge ordered a new trial.)

•Patricia Howard filed a lawsuit against her USA Environmental employerin 2006 (just recently unsealed by a judge) for subjecting her todangerous work during 2003-2005. The workplace was in Iraq and involveddetonating surplus munitions to prevent their falling into insurgents’hands, but that was not the “danger” she feared. Rather, the munitionswere located in abandoned football-field-sized warehouses that had longbeen home to pigeons. Foot-high piles of feces had dried andturned to powder, and Howard charged that the company’s respirationprotection was nearly useless, subjecting workers to Hantavirus andother diseases.


•Veteran Massachusetts thief Robert Aldrich applied for compensationbecause his latest arrest happened to have been illegal, and a statelaw permits recovery for lost income during wrongful incarceration.However, in November, a Suffolk County judge turned him down as she wasunable to find any “income” that Aldrich might have earned during hissix wrongful months in jail except from more burglaries or forhomeimprovement money that Aldrich admitted he earned “off the books”so as to evade taxes. • “I would like an apology,” explainedMichael Wax, who was ejected in July from the Borgata Hotel and Casinoin Atlantic City because of customers’ complaints about his body odor.“There’s no question I stink. … I do have an odor. I’ve been playingfor 17 hours,” said the 440-pound man. Nonetheless, Wax filed acomplaint with the Casino Control Commission, claiming that he shouldnot have been so rudely treated in front of other patrons.

Creme de la weird

Ms.Hang Mioku, 48, is winding down her 20-year obsession with cosmeticsurgery, having been at one time bulked up with enough silicone in herface to earn the nickname “the standing fan” because her head was solarge compared to her legs. Hang moved from South Korea to Japan forbetter access to surgery and said she had convinced herself that eachprocedure in her odyssey only made her more beautiful than the last.When finally no surgeon would treat her, she began injecting cookingoil. Finally, she was talked into face-reduction surgery (removal of260 grams of foreign substance from her head and neck) but, accordingto a November report in London’s Daily Telegraph, she remainsgrotesquely misshapen.


Oneof the items in a November seized-contraband auction by the DenverPolice Department was a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass that was ultimatelybought for $350 by a 19-year-old woman, but which is still evidence inan active murder investigation. Police eventually took back the car,which has bullet holes and a bloody interior and containedblood-stained clothing. Furthermore, a second shooting victim who wasin the car survived and was among the bidders at the auction. Hedropped out, but did later sell the winning bidder his spare key to thecar for $40.


Thequasi-religious “philosophical” group Summum has been on News of theWeird’s radar since 1988, when leader “Corky” Ra and his small band inUtah began offering to mummify household pets for $7,000, or createstatues of them for $18,000 (though the price is considerably highertoday), with an eye toward future mummification of humans, asillustrative of its core precept that “the soul moves forward” eventhough the body is memorialized. In November, the US SupremeCourt heard arguments that a city park in Pleasant Grove, Utah mustallow Summum to place a monument with “The Seven Aphorisms” next to theexisting monument of the Ten Commandments. (Summum’s Aphorisms shore upthe soul-movement belief by recognizing, for example, such propertiesas psychokinesis and the constant vibration of bodies.) The court isexpected to rule later this term.

The Jesus and Virgin Mary Tour

Recentpublic appearances: Arkansas City, Kan.; September (Jesus on theceiling of the One Stop Body Shoppe weight-loss clinic). Pittsburg,Texas; August (Jesus on the body of a moth). Goshen, Ind.; July (Jesusin the facial fur of the family cat). High Ridge, Mo.; July (Jesus on aCheeto). Arlington, Texas; September (Mary on a grape). Pompano Beach,Fla.; November (Jesus on a slice of French toast). Gulf Shores, Ala.;September (Jesus in the drywall of a home under construction).

A News of the Weird classic

ANew York Times dispatch from India highlighted the growing problem ofintra-family frauds in which one member claims a living relative’s landor wealth by swearing to the government that the relative is dead.According to the Times, the “deceased” had finally begun to fight back.An advocacy group, the Association of Dead People, helps aggrievedcitizens figure out how to prove that they are alive, which can bedifficult, given India’s slow-moving bureaucracies. The association’sfounder said that he personally had tried to authenticate his existenceby public actions such as running for office, filing lawsuits andgetting arrested, but that he nonetheless remained officially dead.

Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.