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Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

Jul. 21, 2011
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Just Couldn't Wait

On May 21, Jesse Robinson either established or tied the unofficial world record for unluckiest underage drinker when he was booked into jail in Hamilton County, Ohio, for underage consumption. According to booking records, Robinson's date of birth is May 22, 1990, which left him one day shy of his 21st birthday.

Police Report

Gregory Snelling, 41, was indicted in June for the robbery of a KeyBank branch in Springfield, Ohio—a crime more notable for the foot chase with police afterward. Police caught him, but Snelling deserves “style points” for the run, since he was covered in red dye that had exploded from the moneybag and was holding a beer in his hand during the entire chase.

Criminals With Chutzpah

A 2004 gang-related murder in a liquor store had frustrated Los Angeles police for four years—until a homicide investigator paged through photographs for another case and spotted an elaborate tattoo on the chest of Anthony Garcia that commemorated the liquor store crime scene. The investigation was reopened and eventually led to a confession by Garcia and, in April 2011, his conviction for first-degree murder. (Photos from Garcia's several bookings between 2004 and 2008 show the mural actually evolving as he added details—until the crime scene was complete enough that the investigator recognized it.)

Least Competent Non-Criminals

In May, in Rensselaer, N.Y., and in June, in Bluefield, W.Va., men noticed that police were investigating nearby and fled out of fear of being arrested for active warrants. Nicholas Volmer, 21, eventually "escaped" into the Hudson River and had to be rescued. As it turns out, however, the police had been looking for someone else and there was no warrant on file against him. Arlis Dempsey Jr., 32, left his three kids in a parked car in Bluefield to make a run for it before police caught him. He also was not wanted for anything. (Both men, however, now face charges—trespassing for Volmer, and child endangerment for Dempsey.)

Government in Action!

"Science does not trump the testimony of individuals," said Detroit prosecutor Marilyn Eisenbraun in April. She was explaining her office's decision to disregard DNA evidence that the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic said exonerates Karl Vinson, 56, who has spent 25 years in prison for rape. Despite the scientific results, Eisenbraun said she had to stick with eyewitness identification by the victim. Although Vinson has been eligible for release for 15 years, the Parole Board keeps turning him down—at least in part because he refuses to acknowledge guilt. (Update: This month, the Michigan Court of Appeals declined to order Vinson's release or a new trial, but did grant him an extraordinary right to appeal, based on the new evidence.)

Great Art!

Britain's Ben Wilson is one artist with the entire field to himself—the only painter who creates finely detailed masterpieces on flattened pieces of chewing gum found on London sidewalks. Frequently spotted lying nearly inert on the ground, working, Wilson estimates that he has painted "many thousands" of such "canvases," ranging from portraits and landscapes to specialized messages (such as listing the names of all employees at a soon-to-be-closed Woolworth's store). According to a June New York Times dispatch, Wilson heats each piece with a blowtorch, applies lacquer and acrylic enamel before painting, and then seals it with more lacquer. And of course he works only with tiny, tiny brushes.

A News of the Weird Classic

A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, W.Va., in October 1992 with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and reported accidentally shooting himself three times—as he attempted to clean each of his three guns. He said the first shot didn't hurt, the second "stung a little" and the third "really hurt," prompting him to call an ambulance.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd


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