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 V.13 No.44 | October 28 - November 3, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Austria—Somewhere in Europe a witch is homeless. Officials in Hietzing have decided to demolish a life-size gingerbread house constructed by a group of eccentric artists. The house, designed by the Austrian Guggenheim movement, was erected to “give locals something cheerful to look at.” Unfortunately, the locals say the structure has been a magnet for hungry rats and noisy birds, who have eaten away most of the gingerbread bricks and tiles. The Vienna-based artists have been ordered to dismantle the house after government inspectors declared it a health risk.

Dateline: Washington—Prosecutors in Port Angeles have charged a 63-year-old woman with arson for allegedly setting her apartment on fire because she “was depressed and upset that her kitty litter box was full and smelled.” Documents filed in Clallam County Superior Court allege that Marie Adeline Calkins started a fire last Tuesday afternoon inside the doorway of the apartment she rents. Calkins was charged Wednesday with felony first-degree arson. Judge George L. Wood set Calkins' bail at $50,000 and ordered a mental health assessment. No one was injured in the blaze, but firefighters did rescue a cat that was nearly overcome with smoke inhalation after being trapped in the apartment. The feline was taken to a veterinarian for treatment.

Dateline: Colorado—Randall Wagner, 50, of Lakewood decided that the best way to help Republicans win in the upcoming elections was to steal all the campaign signs he could find for Democratic candidates. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it), Wagner's late-night thievery ended when he tripped over a low-hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and knocked himself unconscious on the concrete driveway. Wagner's political stumping began late last Wednesday when he tried unsuccessfully to steal a “Dave Thomas” congressional sign from Wheat Ridge resident Pete Klammer's yard. Klammer's wife heard a noise in the front yard, and he went outside to investigate. There, he spotted a man trying to remove a “Dave Thomas” sign from his fence with a box cutter. Klammer and the stranger tussled. Eventually, the unknown vandal ducked into a waiting pickup truck and skedaddled. Klammer called police and relayed the license plate information. Police traced the plates to a Jan and Randall Wagner, but the couple were not at home. Later that night, a man identified as Randall Wagner was found unconscious in front of an office building. Investigating police officers found the Wagners' pickup truck full of Democratic election signs. Mr. Wagner was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Lutheran Medical Center where he was treated for facial cuts and issued a court summons. “I did a very stupid thing,” Wagner later admitted to the Rocky Mountain News. “I got caught up in the political passions of this highly contested election.” Wagner's wife, who was driving the pickup, was not cited and refused to discuss the incident.

Scott Rickson

Dateline: Oregon—A small contingent of local police, civil air patrol and search and rescue personnel came knocking on Chris van Rossman's door earlier this month. The 20-year-old college student was fine, but his television seemed particularly distressed. Authorities had traced an international distress signal broadcasting from van Rossman's living room. The distress signal had been picked up by a satellite, routed to Air Force Rescue at Langley Air Base in Virginia and a full search and rescue operation was launched. Authorities had expected to find a boat or small plane with a malfunctioning transponder, but the culprit turned out to be van Rossman's year-old Toshiba flat-screen television. “They'd never seen a signal come that strong from a home appliance,” said van Rossman, whose TV was asking for help at 121.5 MHz. “They were quite surprised. I think we all were.” Van Rossman was told to keep his TV off or face a $10,000 fine for “willingly broadcasting a false distress signal.” Toshiba Corp. was at a loss to explain the television set's strange behavior, but offered to send van Rossman a replacement--even though his warrantee has expired.

Dateline: Indiana—A Bloomington man convicted of forgery now stands accused of trying to get out of jail by--what else--forging his release papers. Jared Bailey, 20, now faces new charges of attempted escape and forgery. Investigators say Bailey signed the signature of Monroe Circuit Judge Douglas Bridges on a court order that purportedly changed his bail from $100,000 surety bond to $500 cash. Bailey's old roommate told police that Bailey asked him to fax the fake papers to Bailey's attorney. The friend said he went to a copy store with a fax number he thought was the attorney's, but the documents ended up at the jail instead. Jail staff viewed the papers as suspect and did not release Bailey, who is charged with six felony counts of forgery and theft. He's also awaiting trial on charges of burglary, felony battery, confinement with a deadly weapon, attempted armed robbery and impersonating a police officer. His bail is now set at $250,000.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.

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