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News of the Weird



Smoking: Bad for health

In February, the cigarette of a 46-year-old woman in Parkersburg, W. Va., accidentally set fire to her long hair, and she later died at the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Also in February, Dennis Crouch, 53, who had earlier chased his wife with a knife during an argument in Daytona Beach, Fla., resisted police when they arrived, provoking one officer to fire her Taser, which struck a cigarette lighter in Crouch's shirt pocket, setting fire to his upper body. (His burns weren't serious.)

Stupidity: best policy

Caught by police with illegal emergency lights on his car, Bradenton, Fla., restaurant manager Kenneth Holmes, 26, said at his February sentencing for impersonating a police officer that he did it "to get home quicker," that the flashers were "cool" and a "fantastic time-saver" that enabled him to drive through red lights.

And according to a February police report on the Arizona State University student newspaper's website, an 18-year-old student, arrested at Hayden Library for masturbating openly while watching Internet porn, explained to police, "To be honest, the Internet connection at my dorm isn't good enough."

courting disaster

Michael Oddenino, a lawyer in Arcadia, Calif., filed a lawsuit in March against the coach of his daughter's high school softball team for $3 million for her emotional distress from the coach's calling her a "2-year-old" and calling the players in general "idiots" for making insignificant mistakes. (A judge rejected it.)

And in Cardiff, Wales, in March, Sabrina Pace, 26, sued the manager of the car rental firm where she works because, following her breast-augmentation surgery, she couldn't get the manager to stop paying attention to her breasts.

Hoist by his own petard

Madison County, Ill., lawyer Gary Peel, 62, while battling an ex-wife over alimony, filed for bankruptcy to reduce her chances of getting anything. When she challenged his filing, he allegedly tried to blackmail her into silence. According to federal charges against him in March, he told his ex-wife that, unless she relented, he would shock her elderly parents by giving them decades-old nude photos of him with the ex-wife's younger sister. However, Peel perhaps forgot that the sister was allegedly only 16 when the photos were taken, and he has been charged with possessing child pornography.

no proof of possession

In March, Fredericton, New Brunswick, anti-abortion activist David Little, 60, resisting his upcoming trial for tax evasion, informed the judge that he would need an indefinite postponement because his wife and stepdaughter are possessed by Satan and require exorcism. He told the judge that some exorcisms work quickly, but that he knows of one that has lasted 16 years. The judge told him to bring in some evidence of the possession. Little has openly refused to pay taxes because some government money funds abortions.

Shania: Nothing But Trouble

Matt Brownlee, 33, with a long record as a drunk driver, was acquitted of criminal DUI charges in Ottawa, Ontario, after psychiatrists concluded that his latest accident was the result of a sincere belief that singer Shania Twain was helping him drive the car.

And following a hung jury in England's Winchester Crown Court in April, Linda West faces retrial in the 2005 death of her husband, which she said was accidental, in that her gun slipped while she was energetically performing a Shania Twain number ("Man! I Feel Like a Woman") in what she described as the couple's sex game.

holy without merit

Stan and Stella Hagarty began an Internet business recently as the Wholly Love shop from Bridgend, Wales, specializing in sex products for Christians "to enhance your sex life with your spouse," including Pure Arousal Super Stretch Rings, Silver Clitoral Charms and the Snail Trail Vibrating Tickler (but no pornography or bondage or anal-use items).

And convicted Iowa sex offender Scott Smith petitioned a judge in February not to make him wear the electronic ankle monitor as part of his five-year probation because his Brotherhood of Christ sect regards electricity as one cause of why people disobey God. (The judge's decision was not reported.)

Home sweet hole

The Seattle Times reported in February that Edith Macefield, 84, living in a tiny, run-down, 106-year-old house in an industrial neighborhood, across from a chemical plant, had rejected a final buyout offer from developers amounting to nearly $750,000. "I don't care about money," she said. "It's (been) my home (for 54 years now). ... What would I do with that kind of money anyway?" The developer has purchased the rest of the block and will build around her tiny lot, boxing her in with walls 60 feet high.

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