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News Quirks 09.14.05 

Curses, Foiled Again Avis Pilcher, 78, called police to render aid after she was awakened by screams for help in the middle of the night and found Joseph G. McQuade, 29, in the bedroom of her home in Fort Smith, Ark., bleeding badly from his left wrist. Officers arrested McQuade when they determined that he had kicked in Pilcher's front door and entered the home seeking help because he had severed his left wrist on some shards of broken window glass while breaking into Pilcher's car in her garage.

-After defense lawyer Donald Johnson was awakened by noises in another bedroom of his home in Cornwall, Ontario, he snuck up on an intruder and knocked a knife out of his hand. Then the two men struggled until they wound up face-to-face and did a double take. The burglar was one of Johnson's clients, Scott Best, 34. "I guess he didn't know it was my house," Johnson said after police arrested Best.

Second-Amendment Follies Kentucky State Police said that a disagreement between two friends over the war in Iraq ended with one of them fatally shooting the other. According to witnesses at a flea market in Prestonburg, where pro-war Douglas Moore, 65, and anti-war Harold W. Smith, 56, both had gun-trading tables, as the argument intensified, Smith pulled a small pistol out of his pocket, cocked the hammer and threatened, "I'm going to blow your [expletive] brains out." Moore responded by pulling a .38-caliber pistol from his pocket and shooting Smith once in the chest. "Doug was just quicker," witness Harold Hannah told the Lexington Herald-Leader. Prosecutors and police determined that Moore acted in self-defense.

-Authorities in Fond du Lac, Wis., said that a man who called 911 to report an accidental shooting explained that while he was using a screwdriver to try to dislodge a round from the chamber of a pistol, the weapon fired, dislodging the bullet, which struck the man in the abdomen.

Blinded by the Light When Star Wars Revenge of the Sith opened in England, Mark Webb, 20, and Shelley Mandiville, 17, decided to perform their own light-saber duel. Authorities in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, said that the pair apparently filled two fluorescent light tubes with gasoline, then lit them. One of the devices exploded, covering Webb and Mandiville with burning fuel and sending them to the hospital in critical condition.

It's a Jungle out There The government of India's Uttar Pradesh state announced plans to release 25 lions to flush bandits from their hideouts in the 14,400-square-mile, densely forested Chambal Valley. Officials said that the brigands, known locally as "dacoits," are wanted for more than 4000 kidnappings and 180 killings in the past five years. "They were never afraid of hyenas and wolves of the Chambal ravines," a forest ranger said. "But lions will scare them away this time, we are sure." Kidnap victim Guddu Khan, 32, doubted that the move would succeed, pointing out that the dacoits "are very good hunters as well. They will shoot down the lions the way they killed many leopards, wolves and other wild animals in the area."

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs The State Department responded to vandals who stuffed paper down the toilets in one of its Washington, D.C., buildings by taping signs on the bathroom walls and stalls urging the perpetrators to stop abusing the toilets and seek help. "Stop! I'm just a toilet!" the notices read. "If something's making you mad enough to abuse me, get it off your chest -- don't destroy the bathroom!" The signs, which offer counseling services and mental health hotline numbers, continue, "Can't control your destructive impulse? Seeking help is a sign of strength."

-In Florida, Pasco County sheriff's deputies cited Derick Cooper, 43, for spray-painting a sign on a house he owns that reads, "Die you miserable bitch." The sign faces next-door neighbor Carol Hastrich, 73, who is dying of cancer. The sign's message doesn't violate any laws, but Pasco Code Enforcement Officer Patrick Phillips said that Cooper was cited because the wording was too big for a sign in a residential area.

Should Have Seen It Coming Scottish authorities blamed a fire that destroyed three apartments in Edinburgh on an amateur psychic's shortsightedness. According to the Times newspaper, Edinburgh University student Herve Vandrot, 24, left his crystal ball on a windowsill while he went out and returned to find his top-floor apartment ablaze. Despite Vandrot's insistence that his fortune-telling device was not the cause of the fire, investigators concluded that the ball had concentrated a ray of sunshine on a pile of laundry and acted "like a magnifying glass" to spark the blaze.

Thin Mint Follies Doris LeAnn Taylor, 33, of Shelby County, Ala., admitted stealing more than 3500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies and failing to return or pay for them. Police recovered 117 cases of cookies from the former Girl Scout mom, who served as cookie manager, but were unable to collect the $4900 owed on the remaining 177 cases. A judge sentenced Taylor to 294 hours of community service.

-Four months after the mother in charge of cookie sales for Girl Scout Troop 1868 in Springfield, Va., disappeared, along with her young daughter and $4483 in cookie proceeds, forcing cancellation of the troop's summer camping trip, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital said that it considered the loss a bad debt and turned the matter over to a collection agency. "If someone steals from you, you call the cops and you report it," Emilio Velez, whose step-granddaughter is in Troop 1868, told the Washington Post. "You don't go through a credit agency."

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.


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