In Largo, Fla., private school principal (and Disney fanatic) Dick Baker, 52, was under pressure in August to resign after revelations by the St. Petersburg Times that he took chosen middle-school-age girls (his "princesses") on dozens of overnighters to the Disney World resort, during which he supplied them with Disney-themed costumes and swimsuits (and wore his own Disney pajamas). One princess made 81 trips. Baker's friends and neighbors, and all the princesses, and most parents, support him, calling a recent police investigation (that was completed without charges) a witch hunt, but enough other people were puzzled by Baker's frequent hugging and tickling of the girls, plus his Disney obsession, to call for his resignation.
Dollars to donuts
In June, Milwaukee police officer Robert Henry, 34, was awarded lifetime disability benefits because of work-related stress, which he said was caused by the department's decision to fire him for roughing up a misdemeanor suspect in a 2002 incident caught on videotape. (He was reinstated on appeal, but shortly after that filed for disability.) Henry, who had a total of four years' service, will receive $23,000 immediately, then $39,000 a year for 29 years, and then collect his standard pension.
Cult of personality
Police in Westerly, R.I., arrested Robert Brayman, 51, and his disciple Hobart Livingston in July and charged Brayman with commissioning Livingston to build a pipe bomb to kill a woman whom Brayman was stalking.
According to police, Livingston believes Brayman has spiritual powers and submits himself nearly totally to Brayman, including having paid Brayman more than $13,000 over a three-year period for protection of actress Natalie Portman, whom Livingston believes is in danger from creature-implanted eggs that might otherwise hatch without Brayman's guardianship.
Among the exercises Brayman uses to upgrade Livingston's avoidance of evil spirits is having Livingston try to dodge BB's fired by Brayman at a local cemetery.
Devil may care
Christian evangelist Carlton Pearson of Tulsa, Okla., recently expanded his "Gospel of Inclusion" (providing for universal salvation) to make clear that even Satan would be admitted to heaven if he apologized; the resurrection of Jesus, Pearson says, shows that hell is only a temporary condition, not a place.
In June, the family of the late Ben Martinez filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe (N.M.) because a priest had castigated lapsed-Catholic Martinez during his funeral, telling guests that the Lord "vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell." (The priest, Scott Mansfield, has since moved to another parish.)
And according to an Associated Press dispatch, a bolt of lightning struck the steeple at the First Baptist Church in Forest, Ohio, on July 1 -- causing $20,000 worth of damage -- just as a guest evangelist was beseeching God for a sign from above.
Kim Russell, 35, collapsed and died in a hotel room in Yeovil, Somerset, England, in December, probably of "sudden death syndrome," an inquest decided. She was in the room for a first-time rendezvous with the man with whom she had been carrying on an Internet-based romance and had been so excited to meet him that she had walked out on her husband and two children two days before Christmas.
Darrell Krumnow, 29, pleaded guilty in Waco, Texas, in March to taking so-called "upskirt" photographs of a 19-year-old female clerk at Richland Mall. Krumnow was done in because, unlike other upskirt photographers who have figured out that they need to be discreet, Krumnow used a flash, which caught everyone's attention.
Driven to distraction
In June, a 23-year-old man who opened the passenger door of a pickup truck to urinate (though the truck was zooming along Houston's Southwest Freeway at the time) fell out and was fatally run over.
Sonny Morris El, 32, of Monmouth, Ill., was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison for causing a crash that killed a 25-year-old woman -- who was sitting in his lap having sex with him while he drove.
In Green Bay, Wis., in June, driver Michael Lappin, 18, was set for trial after his arrest for fatally hitting another driver after losing control of his car. He had been receiving oral sex from a woman as he drove at the time of the accident.
A 30-year-old man in Charleston, W.Va., was sentenced to probation for entering a funeral home's living nativity scene last Christmas and having sex with one of the sheep.
In July, a judge in Sacramento, Calif., overruled a defense by two California Highway Patrol officers and decided that the lawsuit against them could proceed (by relatives of a man who accidentally fell down a gorge adjacent to Interstate 5 and who died because no one called for help). The officers had contended that, though they knew the man had fallen, law enforcement officers are under no duty to help if they had nothing to do with the original fall.