News of the Weird November 28 2007

Laboratory-grown ears, terrorist fashion and more

Lead Story: Terrye Cheathem, a criminal-defense lawyer and adviser to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, has developed a line of greeting cards for a Hallmark-ignored demographic: the recently incarcerated. Among her selections are cards reading "Sorry to hear about your arrest," and "Honestly, I never knew anyone who was arrested before," and, simply, "Not You!" A remorseful correspondent could choose: "I know that I have not visited you. But I still care about you ... When are you getting out, anyway?"

Card sales are slow, according to an October Los Angeles Times story, and Cheathem acknowledges that people might prefer to ignore their connections to criminals.

Great Art! Australian performance artist Stelios Arcadious, 61, showed off the laboratory-grown ear that he had implanted in his arm in 2006 and which now fully resembles his other two ears, according to an October report in London's Daily Mail, reviewing his latest show at Britain's Newcastle Centre for Life. The next step, he said, is to implant a tiny microphone, connected to a Bluetooth transmitter, so his audiences can hear what his third ear "hears."

MIT sophomore Star Simpson, 19, was arrested at Logan International Airport in Boston in September when she walked by a security checkpoint wearing her own fashion creation of a hooded sweatshirt with a wired circuit board sewn onto the front, thus evoking the image of a suicide bomber. She compounded the problem by being uncommunicative, but shortly after her arrest, authorities determined that she is simply a bright but eccentric student who designs quixotic gadgets.

Police Blotter: Donald Turk, 48, and two associates were charged in Lake Elsinore, Calif., in September with kidnapping Turk's girlfriend, whom Turk was trying to push out of his life because she annoyed him. His plan, allegedly, was to take her to Mexico, drop her off, and hope that she would not return home. However, she was back several hours later, demanding that Turk pay off the cab driver who had driven her from the border. Arrested with Turk was a 47-year-old pal nicknamed "No Nose" because he has a hole in the middle of his face as the result of a gunshot. Said police Det. Joe Greco, "(This case) is like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie."

Least Competent Criminals: Police in Pittsburgh arrested a man in October for, they said, trying to get change at a Giant Eagle store for the bogus $1 million bill he was carrying (with a likeness of Grover Cleveland) and getting rowdy in the cashier's office when he was turned down. Also, in October, six men went on trial in England's Southwark Crown Court, charged with trying to get the Bank of England to exchange a large number of bills in the denominations of 1,000 pounds (currency that was discontinued in 1963) and 500,000 pounds (which never existed). (One British pound was worth about $1.90 at the time.)

Recurring Themes: About once a year, News of the Weird learns of an episode in which a motorist creeps up to a railroad crossing and then onto the tracks, but mysteriously at that point is unable to move the car forward or backward, and even more mysteriously, a train is coming at precisely that moment, and the motorist must either bail out or be killed. In the latest incident, Betsy DeVall wound up on the tracks in Greer, S.C., in October and later said she mumbled to herself, "Oh, my gosh, I'm on the track. I've got to get off." She was unable to move her car, for some reason, but fortunately police Sgt. Marcus O'Shields saw the whole thing and pulled her to safety just before an oncoming train crashed into the car.

Chutzpah! Trial lawyer Gary Baise is also the "lower taxes, limited government ... less spending" candidate for chairman of the Fairfax County (Va.) Board of Supervisors, but an October Washington Post investigation revealed he had collected nearly $300,000 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2005 on an already profitable farm he owns in Illinois. At first, he appeared outraged at himself: "There's no way you can justify this for guys like me. This is what's wrong with government." Nonetheless, he said, he'll continue to take the subsidies.

Even More Chutzpah! Authorities in Concord, N.H., arrested Frank Drake, 37, in October, after finding him watering one of his several marijuana-plant gardens alongside Interstate 89. Police seized 44 plants on the southbound side and 88 on the northbound side.