News of the Weird

Apr. 6, 2010
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Justice, Texas-Style

In March, juries in Smith County and Matagorda County sentenced Henry Wooten and Melvin Johnson III to 35 years and 60 years in prison, respectively, for possessing small amounts of drugs. Though small, under Texas law the amounts were still large enough to allow jurors to infer intent to distribute. Wooten, 54, had 4.6 ounces of marijuana (which brings the same penalty as having 5 pounds) and Johnson had 1.3 grams of crack cocaine (about half the weight of a U.S. dime). To top it all off, Wooten's prosecutor had asked the jury for a sentence of 99 years.

Least Competent Police

  • Embarrassing: (1) In March, while on duty during the opening day of the jail at the new Adair County Judicial Center in Columbia, Ky., sheriff's deputy Charles Wright accidentally locked himself in a cell and then tried to shoot open the lock. He was fired. (2) A Collier County, Fla., sheriff's deputy suffered a broken ankle when he and a colleague accidentally locked wheels while patrolling in Naples on their Segways.
  • It wasn't pretty, but sheriff's deputies in Montcalm County, Mich., got their man on March 3. Mark McCuaig, in court on an earlier traffic charge, became unruly and escaped from two different sets of officers (despite being Tasered). Another court officer tried to stop him outside, but McCuaig again got loose (despite being Maced). He locked himself inside a van as officers surrounded it. Authorities broke a window on the van and Tasered McCuaig again, yet they couldn't stop him from driving off. After a high-speed chase, state troopers disabled the escape vehicle’s tires with "stop sticks" but couldn't apprehend McCuaig before he reached his home, where he barricaded himself. Officers surrounded the house, and four of them (plus a police dog) entered, but McCuaig escaped and got into another vehicle. Finally, after another chase, he was forced off the road, Tasered a third time and subdued.


  • In February, the entertainment manager at Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, announced a contest seeking foul-smelling urine. The park has introduced a live-action horror maze based on scenes from the Saw movie series and decided that it was missing a "signature stench [to] really push the boundaries" of disgustingness. Manager Laura Sinclair suggested that the pungency of submissions could be enhanced by consuming foods with garlic and/or asparagus and offered a prize of the equivalent of about $750 for the winning sample of urine.
  • The Times of London reported in February that at least six local government councils have been so avid about enforcing street-parking rules that they have issued tickets to vehicles registered to their own governments. In at least two recent incidents (involving Islington and Kingston), the councils pursued collection all the way to traffic court (though only in the latter case did the adjudicator actually require the council to hand over a fine to itself).
  • In January, Aretha Brown, 66, who has lived in the same house in Callahan, Fla., (pop. 962) for 30 years, suddenly had her access to the road blocked by CSX railroad cars. The only way she could leave her yard was to crawl between railroad cars. Railroad tracks had always been in place, but the railway only began storing train cars on them this year. CSX told The Florida Times-Union that it would soon build Brown an access road to the street.

Sub-“Zero Tolerance”

Seventh-grader Rachael Greer was suspended from River Valley Middle School in Jefferson, Ind., in February, even though it appears that she did exactly what parents and the school would want kids to do (by just saying no to drugs). When a classmate handed her a prescription pill in gym class, she immediately handed it right back. Nonetheless, an assistant principal, after investigating the incident, suspended her for five days because she had touched the pill. (The assistant principal expressed regret but said it is school policy.)

A News of the Weird Classic

Once an oddity, but now increasingly common, are reports of prisoners storing larger and larger inventories of valuables in their rectums. However, one accounting from a jail in Amarillo, Texas, might still be a record. A man was arrested in November 2000 with $12,300 inside of his body (80 $100 bills, two $50s, and money orders worth $4,200). The cash record before that was believed to be held by a Florida State Prison inmate who had $2,000 (although he also had room for six handcuff keys and an assortment of razor and hacksaw blades in a pouch).

2010 Chuck Shepherd


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