In April, alleged Mafia boss Vincenzo Curcio broke out of the high-security Vallette prison in Turin, Italy, by patiently sawing through the bars with dental floss. (Bars made of abnormally soft iron had been installed when the prison was built in the 1970s.) And in March, Texas inmate Antonio Lara used a makeshift, dental-floss-like substance to saw his way out of his cell at the Coffield facility near Palestine, Texas, as part of an alleged plot to kill rival Roland Rios in another cell.
According to Manassas, Va., police, Dennis Sullivan, 23, was arrested in January for the robbery of what he thought was an armored car. In reality, it was a laundry truck that was delivering towels and mops to a Bowl America facility. Said a police officer, "`Sullivan, holding a sawed-off shotgun`, ran up to the `driver` and said, 'Give it up.' The `driver` said, 'What?'" Sullivan grabbed a bag and ran, but soon realized he was holding a sackful of mop heads. By the time police spotted him running for his getaway car, he was no longer dangerous: His shotgun, which he had been holding snugly against his arm underneath his long-sleeved shirt, had become tangled in the shirt and could not be aimed.
A loon by any other name
In May, a 19-year-old mentally ill patient managed to walk away from the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs; local authorities warned that he was potentially dangerous. Twelve hours later, the patient, Terry Crazy, was picked up along Interstate 90. According to hospital spokeswoman Connie Worl, "Mr. Crazy was brought back ... without incident."
At an April meeting in Cairo, Egypt, a University of Cologne archaeologist said that nearly all of the prehistoric sites along the Nile valley have been spoiled by land and building projects, and that tourists are now destroying Egypt's Western Desert sites. One of the tourists' most ruinous tactics, he said, is their habit of pouring water over 9,000-year-old paintings in order to make their features easier to view.
In February, voters in Holland, Mich., rejected a ballot initiative that would have restricted Internet access on local public-library computers in order to protect minors from pornography. The initiative was led by Irvin Bos, 59, who told reporters that he became a pornography foe at age 12, when he found a sexually explicit book on the side of a road and sneaked looks at it in the family barn. Within six months, lightning had hit the barn, demolishing it. Said Bos, "I just knew `that my pornography` had caused that barn to burn down."
Widow of opportunity
Disabled Springfield, Mass., police officer Charles Peck, 55, asked the city council last year for higher benefits, based on a 1982 squad-car crash that ended his career. Peck was hurt so severely that he was declared dead at the scene, only to be resuscitated at the hospital. His latest petition demands benefits equal to his full salary, which is an amount available only to surviving spouses of deceased officers. Peck thus appears to claim that his 1982 pronouncement of death effectively makes him his own survivor. At press time, the Springfield city council had not made its decision.
Those who help themselves
Dennis Ferrer, 56, was arrested in Chalmette, La., in March and charged with stealing from the donation box at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church. Found on his person were three thin rods whose ends were coated with a sticky substance, as well as $381 in cash. Ferrer said he was not stealing the money, but freeing it from a church run by "communists."
Leaving work at the office
Dr. David Mark Stier, 42, pled guilty in Charlotte, N.C., in March to having sex with an underage teen-ager. Though a pediatrician, Stier actually "had no idea `of` the age of this child," his lawyer said. And in Alexandria, Va., in February, Dr. Jonathan L. Weinstein, 32, was sentenced to a year in prison for possession of child pornography. According to his lawyer, Weinstein receives no personal pleasure from the illicit materials, but is merely a pack rat who tends to accumulate things; the attorney said Weinstein's collection includes "Froot Loops that date from 1995," "chocolate pudding from 1983," "guitar strings" and "his teen-aged T-shirts."
Communication for couples
In April, Ontario Justice Peter Harris dismissed prostitution charges against a woman who told him that she had merely been hitchhiking at night, which Harris called too "innocuous" an activity to permit a conviction. Though the woman had been asked, "How much?" by an undercover police officer and had answered, "Forty dollars," Judge Harris said she might have been referring to the amount she would pay for a ride.
Do you, Bonnie, take Clyde ...
Prospective bride and groom Dorrell Mainer, 38, and Kevin Rainey, 41, were arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., and charged with attempting on June 7 to rob a Chase Manhattan Bank (a robbery they had to abort when a teller took too long in getting them the money). The couple had scheduled a huge wedding for June 10, inviting out-of-town guests to an affair they had intended to pay for with a tax refund. But when the IRS denied the refund, according to police, the couple decided that thievery was the best way for them to pay the caterers and avoid disappointing their relatives.