News of the Weird December 24 2008

LEAD STORY: Change Oregonians Believe In: The voters of Sodaville (pop. 290) elected Thomas Brady Harrington, 33, mayor in November, notwithstanding his criminal rap sheet showing robbery, eluding a police officer, felon in possession of a gun and other crimes (with his electoral success perhaps due to voters’ confusing him with his father, a respected town elder). And the voters of Silverton (pop. 7,400) elected as mayor Stu Rasmussen, 60, an openly transgendered, longtime resident who previously served as mayor while a man but who now sports breasts and dresses exclusively as a woman (especially miniskirts and cleavage-enhancing tops). Actually, Rasmussen still describes himself as a man and lives with his longtime girlfriend, but explained his switch as just his particular “mid-life crisis.”

Compelling Explanations: “I’m really sorry. ... I thought he was just tired,” said Lynne Stewart, who was arrested in West Melbourne, Fla., in October and charged with stealing items from a 56-year-old, unconscious man who in fact had just suffered a fatal heart attack during sex with Stewart. She blamed her larceny on a cocaine binge that impaired her judgment such that (according to a police commander) she had sex with 20 men that weekend. (However, she was not charged with prostitution. Said the commander, “No, she just likes sex.”)

Lame: In a recent report of DUI excuses in the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, a 56-year-old woman had asserted that, though she had been drinking, her driving was not affected because she had remembered to keep one eye closed so as not to be seeing double.

Ironies: Hummer H2 driver Yvonne Sinclair, 29, was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter in November in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., from a 2006 crash that killed two people and in which her intoxication was a major factor. Sinclair had bought the Hummer from proceeds of a lawsuit settlement over the 2003 death of her boyfriend, who was killed by a drunk driver.

Strange Justice: Patricia Howard filed a lawsuit against her USA Environmental employer in 2006 (just recently unsealed by a judge) for subjecting her to dangerous work during 2003-2005. The workplace was in Iraq and involved detonating surplus munitions to prevent their falling into insurgents’ hands, but that was not the “danger” she feared. Rather, the munitions were located in abandoned football-field-sized warehouses that had long been home to pigeons. Foot-high piles of feces had dried and turned to powder, and Howard charged that the company’s respiration protection was nearly useless, subjecting workers to Hantavirus and other diseases.

Chutzpah! Veteran Massachusetts thief Robert Aldrich applied for compensation because his latest arrest happened to have been illegal, and a state law permits recovery for lost income during wrongful incarceration. However, in November, a Suffolk County judge turned him down as she was unable to find any “income” that Aldrich might have earned during his six wrongful months in jail except from more burglaries or for home-improvement money that Aldrich admitted he earned “off the books” so as to evade taxes.

Creme de la Weird: Ms. Hang Mioku, 48, is winding down her 20-year obsession with cosmetic surgery, having been at one time bulked up with enough silicone in her face to earn the nickname “the standing fan” because her head was so large compared to her legs. Hang moved from South Korea to Japan for better access to surgery and said she had convinced herself that each procedure in her odyssey only made her more beautiful than the last. When finally no surgeon would treat her, she began injecting cooking oil. Finally, she was talked into face-reduction surgery (removal of 260 grams of foreign substance from her head and neck) but, according to a November report in London’s Daily Telegraph, she remains grotesquely misshapen.

Oops! One of the items in a November seized-contraband auction by the Denver Police Department was a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass that was ultimately bought for $350 by a 19-year-old woman, but which is still evidence in an active murder investigation. Police eventually took back the car, which has bullet holes and a bloody interior and contained blood-stained clothing. Furthermore, a second shooting victim who was in the car survived and was among the bidders at the auction. He dropped out, but did later sell the winning bidder his spare key to the car for $40.

Update: The quasi-religious “philosophical” group Summum has been on News of the Weird’s radar since 1988, when leader “Corky” Ra and his small band in Utah began offering to mummify household pets for $7,000, or create statues of them for $18,000 (though the price is considerably higher today), with an eye toward future mummification of humans. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments that a city park in Pleasant Grove, Utah, must allow Summum to place a monument with “The Seven Aphorisms” next to the existing monument of the Ten Commandments. (Summum’s Aphorisms recognize such properties as psychokinesis and the constant vibration of bodies.) The court is expected to rule later this term.

A News of the Weird Classic (December 2000): A New York Times dispatch from India highlighted the growing problem of intra-family frauds in which one member claims a living relative’s land or wealth by swearing to the government that the relative is dead. According to the Times, the “deceased” had finally begun to fight back. An advocacy group, the Association of Dead People, helps aggrieved citizens figure out how to prove that they are alive, which can be difficult, given India’s slow-moving bureaucracies. The association’s founder said that he personally had tried to authenticate his existence by public actions such as running for office, filing lawsuits and getting arrested, but that he nonetheless remained officially dead.