NewsQuirks 608

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Columbus, Ohio, reported a man walked into the National City Bank and handed a teller a note that read, "Give me all your money. I have a gun." When assistant bank manager Kathy Ross explained the bank was only for loan applications and didn't have any cash, the robber insisted she open all of the drawers, then fled when he saw they indeed contained no money. "He obviously didn't do his research," bank employee Tom Louters said.

Federal agents arrested four men they said posed as military personnel and ordered industrial gold products from the Boston-based precious metals firm Stern-Leach Co. to be delivered to a nonexistent NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory address in Pasadena, Calif. The faxed order form aroused suspicion because it misspelled the rank of the military contact as "Sargent." The contact person also asked that the gold be shipped by United Parcel Service instead of armored car.

When Guns Are Outlawed

When two Turkish motorists got into an argument over the right of way at an intersection in the town of Kayseri, the state-run news agency Anatolian reported one of the men pulled out an engraved souvenir sword he had in his car. While waving it for dramatic effect, Unal Topaloglu accidentally cut the other driver on the hand, sending him to the hospital.

Three masked men, armed with iron bars, rushed into a Tesco supermarket in Birmingham, England, demanding cash and cigarettes. The staff responded by pelting the robbers with fruit, vegetables and canned goods, forcing them to retreat with just $16 worth of cigarettes.

Mensa Reject of the Week

When a woman ordered $2.12 worth of food at a Dairy Queen drive-through in Danville, Ky., and paid with a phony $200 bill, the cashier mistook it for a real $100 bill and handed back $97.88 in change. The Danville Advocate-Messenger noted the cartoon-like bill features a portrait of President George W. Bush and a drawing of the White House with an oil well and derrick pumping oil on the lawn, and yard signs reading, "Rooms not for rent" and "We like broccoli." Noting the culprit could not be charged with counterfeiting since the bill is so clearly a fake, Detective Bob Williamson said the cashier probably assumed it was a real bill because "it's got the green color."

Road Rage

While investigating a burglary at the home of long-distance truck driver Dana Turner, 40, police in Galesburg, Ill., found photos of children engaged in sex acts. When investigators confronted Turner, he told them the photos make him angry with adults who portray young children that way. He explained he takes the pictures with him on long hauls not for sexual gratification but to look at and arouse his anger so that he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel.

Missing the Point

The human resources department at the University of Alberta in Edmonton acquired a Braille poster that it posted for blind students outside its main office. The poster is inside a display case with a glass front.

Dominatrix Airways

In an effort to curb "air rage," Swissair authorized its flight attendants to slap passengers that become sexually aggressive. The airline also equipped its planes with plastic handcuffs to restrain unruly passengers.


Police in Antioch, Calif., said Donald Gene Cruise Jr., 43, shot his 17-year-old son after the two argued over whether the family dog should be covered with a blanket at night.

When Dumitru Toderasu, 69, of Canfataresti, in Romania's Vaslui County, discovered that his wife had sold their family cow to pay for a divorce, he poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire. Niculina Toderasu, 68, managed to smother the flames before her husband was seriously injured.

Lifelong friends Joshua Slack, 33, and Darrell K. Walker, 30, got together at a Jeffersonville, Ky., motel to drink and smoke marijuana, but, according to Jeffersonville Chief of Detectives Charlie Thompson, the party ended when Walker accused Slack of poisoning his drink. Thompson said Walker grew so angry that he grabbed his 9mm handgun and shot Slack dead.

Gimme Shelter

A security guard who was hired to protect a small, abandoned inner-city hospital in Los Angeles was found to be renting out as many as 20 of the rooms, charging $300 to $400 a month. One tenant told the Los Angeles Times that most of the rooms had telephones and cable television, and children used the blood-caked operating room as a playroom.

After Rafael Pantoja, 41, was evicted from a rented home in an affluent neighborhood in White Plains, N.Y., he sold the house to an unsuspecting couple, according to police who arrested him. Investigators told the Journal News that Pantoja vacated the three-bedroom house as owner David Barnea ordered, but when Barnea left town on business, Pantoja took a couple there, represented himself as the owner and agreed to sell the property for $170,000. He collected a $30,000 down payment, and the couple moved in. When Barnea returned from his trip, police reported, "the couple found out they'd been conned."

Finders Keepers

A federal judge ruled that Helen Chappell, 77, of Kansas City, Mo., could keep $82,000 that was found in the gas tank of a car she bought at a federal auction for $5,400. Chappell and her son Jeffrey bought the 1965 Volkswagen Golf "as is," but it quickly developed a fuel problem. A mechanic found the cash floating in the tank. The government seized the money, claiming it was profits from illegal drug trafficking. U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey said the government could have kept the money if it had found it before selling the car, and she said it should have. First, the gas gauge was malfunctioning. Second, Laughrey said, since the late 1960s, "when ŒEasy Rider' was aired, the government was on notice that drug dealers use gas tanks to hide their contraband."

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