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 V.13 No.47 | November 18 - 24, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Dateline: England—A gang of inept thieves tried to break into an automated teller machine near a gas station in Worcester, using an oxyacetylene blowtorch. A spokesman for the local West Mercia Police summed up the results best: “The attempted theft, which was reported to police at 12:10 a.m. today, resulted in the cash machine catching fire.” With their victim in flames and their loot in ashes, the thieves ran away. Police are appealing for witnesses to the attempted theft.

Dateline: Germany—A supermarket in eastern Germany was evacuated after a suspicious looking avocado triggered a bomb scare. Store staff contacted police after finding an avocado that looked like it might be wired to explode. Bomb squad experts arrived, but soon realized that the fruit was not dangerous. The wire was apparently used by an importer as an aid in determining the ripeness of the shipment.

Dateline: New York—Albany resident Darrell Lewis, 40, decided to turn himself into police after he saw a picture of himself robbing a bank on the evening news. Lewis surrendered to police mere hours after his Nov. 1 holdup of a downtown Albany bank. Oddly enough, officers on duty told him to go away and try surrendering tomorrow. Lewis went to a different station the next day where he was promptly arrested and charged with robbery, Albany police spokesman Jimmy Miller told reporters. An internal investigation has been launched.

Dateline: Tennessee—Nadean Swarthout of Williamsport has been ordered by Maury County Jail officials to cut her fingernails, but the 37-year-old inmate has refused on the grounds that she is Catholic. Officials, believing that Swarthout's long, claw-like nails can be used as weapons, aren't buying the excuse and have confined the inmate to her cell. “Her mother called us and said that she was raised by her grandmother, who said you're not supposed to cut your toenails or fingers on Sunday,” Sheriff's Lt. Brenda Thomason told The Tennessean newspaper. Church leaders, however, don't seem to see much religious merit in Swarthout's argument. “She's more devout than I am,” an amused Rev. Patrick Conner of Columbia's St. Catherine's Catholic Church told the paper. “There are no such mandates.” Rick Musacchio, a spokesman for the Nashville Diocese of the Catholic Church, agreed: “I've never heard of anything like that,” Musacchio told the paper. “Catholics aren't prohibited from working or anything on Sunday. In fact, our Catholic cross-country meets were held on Sunday afternoons.” Maury County Chief Deputy Ashley Brown saw even less religious grounds for Swarthout's grooming. “She was asked to cut those nails on Friday, and she refused, then again on Saturday. We can't have her in jail with those long nails. They use them as a weapon.” Swarthout, who is in jail on a string of charges including aggravated burglary, was unavailable for comment.

Dateline: California—Following a fight with his wife, 36-year-old Claud Gipson-Reynolds started up a two-day drinking binge that culminated with his '83 Chevrolet breaking down on Sonoma County's rural Cavedale Road and getting stuck in some mud. The inebriated Mr. Gipson-Reynolds decided to tow the vehicle out himself; so, naturally, he broke into the nearby Mayacamus Volunteer Fire Department and stole their fire truck. Shortly thereafter, Gipson-Reynolds managed to get the fire truck lodged in a mud puddle on the windy, one-lane road between Sonoma and Napa counties. “I drove the fire truck off the road about 20 feet from my car,” Gipson-Reynolds told the San Francisco Chronicle. Two passersby stopped and Gipson-Reynolds told them someone at the fire station had loaned him the truck. “I could probably get on that show ’World's Dumbest Criminals,'” a sobered Gipson-Reynolds later told reporters. “I was pretty intoxicated at the time. My thinking was not the best.” When police and firefighters arrived, they found Gipson-Reynolds' car full of beer bottles and Narcotics Anonymous pamphlets.

Dateline: Massachusettes—William Hammond of Abington survived one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, but was tragically killed at a Veteran's Day parade honoring him and others when he was run over by a VFW van. According to Boston's WBZ radio, the 80-year-old Hammond was accidentally run over during the parade last Thursday in Whitman by a van owned by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter. Hammond had fought during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944.

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

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