NewsQuirks 662

Curses, Foiled Again

A thief crashed his car through the front doors of the High Plains National Bank in Wiggins, Colo., then tried to rob an automated teller machine in the entryway. Police said the thief pried open the ATM but fled empty-handed because the machine was so new that it had no cash and hadn't even been plugged in yet.

British police quickly identified Robert William Bate, 22, as one of three men who broke into a London home. The homeowner, who interrupted the men, reported that one of them had no legs and had to be carried away by an accomplice. The description led police to Bate, who admitted taking part in the attempted burglary but avoided jail time by promising the court that he was giving up his life of crime.

Richard Cooper, 40, of Tonbridge, England, placed a tape recorder under a table in his estranged wife's apartment, hoping to obtain evidence of her affair with another man. The tape was still running when he returned to the apartment and strangled the woman. The tape, which was used against Cooper at his trial, recorded the struggle while he killed her, including his shouting a phrase from a popular TV game show: "You are the weakest link. Good-bye."

Raging Ways

Police in Lowell, Mass., charged Karen Morgan, 38, with attacking Alice Tooks, 51, because Tooks had 13 items in a grocery store checkout lane with a 12-item limit. Tooks said that after Morgan complained and swore at her, she was walking home when a car pulled up with Morgan in the passenger seat. The two women exchanged words. "Then," Tooks told the Lowell Sun, "she got out of the car and commenced a whooping on me." After claiming that Morgan punched, kneed and kicked her in the head, Tooks wrote down the car's license number and notified police.

A jury in Galveston, Texas, convicted Thomas Ray Mitchell, 54, of shooting his girlfriend because he thought she was about to say "New Jersey." Defense attorney Maria Luisa Mercado said that Mitchell suffers from several psychiatric conditions that include a violent reaction to the words "New Jersey," "Wisconsin," "Snickers" and "Mars." During the trial, Mitchell covered his ears when he thought the words were about to be spoken, and witnesses used flashcards with the words written on them to avoid speaking them.

When Anita Peggins ordered 10 junior bacon cheeseburgers and a chicken sandwich at a Wendy's drive-through in Franklin County, Va., she started to pull away but stopped after noticing that she hadn't received the chicken sandwich. The next customer, Claude Webster, got his order but didn't have enough room to pass Peggins. He honked his horn at her, and the two exchanged words, whereupon Webster pulled a .22-caliber revolver out of his glove compartment and held it up. "I said, 'Do you want to get shot?'" Webster admitted at his trial, where he was fined and ordered to turn over his gun. He was also placed on administrative leave from his job as Franklin County's director of public safety.

Karaoke bars in the Philippines have been removing Frank Sinatra's hit song "My Way" from play lists because so many fights have inexplicably erupted when the song is sung. In a Feb. 18 incident, police arrested a 21-year-old student who reportedly ambushed two men outside a Manila karaoke parlor after they sarcastically applauded his off-key rendition. One man died from gunshot wounds, and the other was injured.

Cheese Central

The National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the grand opening of the Rat Resource and Research Center at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Center spokesperson Joyce McDonald described the facility, which is funded by a $6.7 million grant, as a place where researchers can buy a variety of inbred, hybrid and genetically modified lab rats that private companies do not offer. Two of the models in stock, for instance, are a rat whose brain has been chemically damaged to simulate human Parkinson's disease and rats bred to become obese on normal diets.

Bumper Cars

After shooting a woman in New Jersey, a man drove to New York City, where he plowed his car into 19 pedestrians in Manhattan during a 20-block hit-and-run spree. He then abandoned the car and disappeared into a crowded subway station. Two days later, the suspect hijacked a car at gunpoint, returned to the city and ran down seven more pedestrians. Police said the driver sped away, then abandoned his car and again ran into a subway station. After identifying the owner of the first car as Ronald J. Popadich, 39, investigators confronted him and said that he confessed to the shooting and the pedestrian attacks.

Sheriff's deputies in Pasco County, Fla., arrested Barry Colbert, 38, for letting his 7-year-old son take the family car for a drive while he sat next to him. The boy ran a stop sign and hit another car. Colbert explained that he let the first-grader drive as a reward for being good. Deputies reported that they smelled alcohol on Colbert and discovered that his license was suspended. "I'm not irresponsible," he insisted. "I just had a few beers."

Chicken Little Was Right

Cindy Herrera, 22, died and her sister Sophia Ramirez, 19, was injured while shopping in a Chicago warehouse when dozens of vertically stacked carpet rolls fell on them. Police Sgt. John Valenti said it took 40 minutes to uncover the women and that up to 10 officers were needed to move each roll. "It was like being buried alive in carpeting," Valenti told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We had to move over 200 rolls of carpets just to get to the people."

After a Los Angeles police patrol car arrived at a downtown office building to investigate an alarm, the officers were startled when Robert Tompkins, 29, landed on the hood of their vehicle, having parachuted from the 36-story building. They said that Tompkins, who was uninjured, was apparently a thrill-seeker, who had broken into the building.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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