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News Quirks 

Published January 27, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Massachusetts State Police who stopped Francis Viliar, 36, for speeding said he showed troopers a driver’s license that had the name Luis Gomez but a different signature. When they asked him his birth date, he failed six times to match the one on the license, prompting his arrest. At the Brockton police station, officers noticed the pads of Viliar’s fingers were covered with scar tissue. They took fingerprints anyway, and federal officials were able to determine his identity and that he was wanted on 13 warrants. Viliar said he paid someone $400 to cut his fingers vertically, from the fingertip to the knuckle joint, so his prints would be unreadable. “Fortunately,” police official David Procopio told the Boston Globe, “our efforts to identify [suspects] are keeping pace with their efforts to mutilate themselves.”

Michael Anthony Randall Jr., 19, tried to rob a convenience store in Athens, Ohio, but when he tried to pull a sawed-off shotgun from his coveralls, he shot himself in the leg and foot, according to Athens-Clarke police, who said the blast caused extensive nerve, muscle and tissue damage. The Athens Banner-Herald said investigators believe Randall had his finger on the trigger of the shotgun with the barrel extending down his left leg when he tried to withdraw it.

As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fry

Allegedly intending to demonstrate the dangers of frying a turkey, morning disc jockeys on radio station WFLZ in Tampa, Fla., planned to use a crane to drop a turkey carcass through the open roof of a plumbing van into a vat of hot oil. The stunt began to unravel, according to the St. Petersburg Times, when the vat on a burner burst into flames that shot through the van’s roof. By the time the turkey landed in the vat, flames had engulfed the van. Station employees tried to put out the fire with handheld extinguishers before giving up and summoning the fire department. Noting that one of the firefighters injured himself pulling hoses off the truck, fire Capt. Bill Wade called the incident a violation of an understanding that, because of several previous stunts involving burning objects, the station needed permission anytime DJs planned to set anything on fire.

Temper Tantrum

A dispute over a $70 electric repair bill caused a member of a church in Spokane, Wash., to use his truck to ram the church several times with his truck, apparently trying to break in. reported that when Mark Heitman did get inside, he broke nearly every window, television and computer screens, and most of the lighting fixtures. He also reportedly smashed the church instruments and even crushed the toilets. “He’d done work on the church, and we paid him with a check, not cash,” pastor Dan Eubank of Country Crossroads Christian Church said. “I didn’t have cash, and he got mad.” Eubank added that before his rampage at the church, Heitman had stopped by and broken the windows in the parson’s truck.

The Party’s Over

A 49-year-old man who dropped his son off at a birthday party in Wauconda, Ill., returned to pick him up a few hours later but went to a house a block away. According to police Cmdr. John Thibault, when the homeowner who answered the door insisted he didn’t have the 11-year-old boy, the father and his 15-year-old son forced their way into the home, prompting the homeowner to shoot them. The 15-year-old was treated for wounds, but his father was hospitalized in critical condition. “They must have got lost in the snow and gone to the wrong street,” Thibault told the Chicago Sun-Times, adding, “We still have lots of questions.”

Conspiring Contrivances

Firefighters investigating a house fire in Dubois, Wyo., determined the cause was a magnifying glass. The Associated Press reported that the sun was shining at just the right angle to hit the glass, which magnified the sunbeam and ignited a nearby pile of mail. Sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Evagelatos said the fire was extinguished before it damaged the home.

Falling furniture causes 300 deaths a year and 14,700 injuries, according to a study in the journal Clinical Pediatrics by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, who reviewed reports from 100 emergency rooms. Television sets caused almost half the injuries. The injury rate has risen significantly over the past 17 years, despite the increase in the number of households replacing heavy cathode-ray TVs with lighter flat screens, which are not front heavy.

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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