News of the Weird

Lead Story
*In March testimony began in Lesli Szabo's $1.7 million lawsuit against a Hamilton, Ontario, hospital for not making her 1993 childbirth painless. Physicians said that painless childbirth cannot be achieved without the child being endangered by anesthesia, but Szabo said she expected enough comfort to be able to read or knit while delivering the child. She admitted to previous run-ins with physicians, explaining, "When I'm in pain, the [words] that come out of my mouth would curl your hair." After five days of trial, the parties reached a settlement.

Family Values
*In November Howard and Jean Garber of Anaheim Hills, California, announced that they would soon have a grandchild despite their daughter Julie having died a year ago, at age 28, from leukemia. Julie had harvested twelve eggs before undergoing radiation treatment; after her death, her parents selected a father and a surrogate mother.

*In January in Union Township, New Jersey, Phyllis Klingebiel, who said she had always had a "close and loving relationship" with her adult son Michael, filed a lawsuit against him after he refused to share the winnings from a Pick Six lottery ticket that paid two million dollars. According to Phyllis, the two had each contributed $20 per month for tickets for more than ten years. Michael called her after the winning ticket was announced to say that "we" had won; the next day he called back to say that the winning ticket happened to be one that he had bought on his own.

I Don't Think So
*Two days after Arthur Downey's arrest in Phoenix in October during a drug bust in which an eight-year-old boy was detained as a runner, Downey (who is in his twenties) told the Arizona Republic that actually the boy was the boss and that he, Downey, was the runner.

*John Kieser, age 45, was convicted in Philadelphia in January of carrying a weapon on an airliner. While a passenger in August 1997, Kieser had uttered the word "hijack," which is illegal to do, but protested later that he was just responding to someone who had addressed him by saying, "Hi, Jack." A search of his carry-on bag revealed a flare gun and seventeen fire-starting flares.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time
*According to a December report in PC Week magazine about a recent computer convention, the exhibitor Prescient Systems installed its new Gotcha video surveillance software to record the construction of its convention booth as a means to help sell the software. During the night two convention-hall guards, unaware that Gotcha was operating, broke into the Prescient booth and stole two boxes of Pentium chips. The guards were identified on Gotcha's tape and arrested the next day.

*People who should have kept a low profile: Canadian Daniel Thorn St. John, on the lam for parole violation, was arrested at a Toronto Blue Jays game in September when he happened to take a seat a few feet away from his parole officer. And Steve Grave of Phoenix, behind in child-support payments, inadvertently revealed his whereabouts to his wife when his picture was published in the newspaper for having handed in $23,000 that he found on the street. And Neil Ramirez, also behind with child support and moonlighting as Santa Claus in December in Brooklyn, saw his unwitting daughter wander up to his lap. The kid recognized him and yelled, "Daddy is Santa!" at which point the ex-wife grabbed some child-support paperwork from her purse and crammed it into Ramirez's Santa suit.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd