News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*It took 26 years, but in June former inmate Frank Smith, age 64, became the first person to win damages related to the deadly 1971 riot at Attica prison, in New York. A jury awarded him four million dollars for injuries inflicted by guards after they recovered the prison from inmates. There are 1280 other Attica-related claims pending, totaling $2.8 billion.

*In May the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a jury decision that awarded one million dollars to Dale Scheffler, age 30; the jury had found that he had been molested at age fourteen by Catholic priest Robert Kapoun, but the court said Scheffler's lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations. Two weeks later the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that, as the winning party, it had filed a claim of $4937 against Scheffler to recoup some of its legal expenses. Father Kapoun filed for $1081.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
*In May the Convent nightclub, a traditional dance club but themed after the Catholic Church, opened on Armitage Street in Chicago. The non-Catholic owners, sisters Surita and Shar Mansukhani, conceived of restrooms labeled Hymns and Hers, house drinks called "Holy Water" and "Confessionals," waitresses in typical Catholic schoolgirl outfits (plaid skirt, white blouse, knee socks), and bartenders in priests' collars. The VIP rooms are Heaven (upstairs) and Hell (lower level). Said Surita: "We're certainly not intending to be sacrilegious in any way."

*In a May San Jose Mercury News story, local death-scene clean-up professional Neal Smither recalled his most trying cases: (1) the 82-year-old hermit whose house contained sixteen dead chickens, 2000 dead rats, two inches of rat feces in all kitchen cabinets, and a bathtub and toilet filled with rock-hard human feces, and (2) the man dead for a week in his unventilated apartment, whose body essentially oozed into the sofa.

*An April issue of New Scientist magazine reported that Australia's national research organization CSIRO has already made three sales of its "phalloblaster" device (costing about $3500) that inflates the genitalia of dead insects, making it easier to classify them.

Family Values
*Parents of the year: In May a seven-year-old girl was murdered by a man in a restroom stall at a Primm, Nevada, casino at 4:00 a.m. while her father, Leroy Iverson, gambled; security guards had already asked him twice to take charge of the girl, who had been roaming the casino for hours. And in June authorities in Cincinnati removed three toddlers from the feces-strewn bedroom in which they were locked for up to twelve hours a day; their mother, Sandra Hacker, allegedly did not want them disturbing her while she was on the Internet. And in Chicago in May, Dianna Meeks, age 25, was charged with manslaughter for ignoring a doctor's order to take her two-month-old, severely malnourished son straight to the hospital; instead, Meeks went shopping and then had a manicure at the Sunny Nails shop, where the baby died.

*Charles S. Wooton, age 27, was arrested in May and accused of putting out a contract to have his mother killed for insurance money on Mothers' Day as she left work in a hospital cafeteria in Hazard, Kentucky. (The place of death was important because Wooton reportedly also wanted to be able to sue the hospital for lack of security.) Said Det. Dan Smoot in Wooton's defense: "I'm not convinced he knew it was Mothers' Day."

-- By Chuck Shepherd