Odds & Ends

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
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Dateline: Canada—A notorious Ottawa drunk driver was found not criminally responsible on his latest impaired driving charge after invoking the age-old “Shania Twain” defense. According to CBC News, Matt Brownlee was arrested last October after police spotted a pickup truck speeding along a busy street in downtown Ottawa. The 33-year-old man told psychiatrists that he knew the legal repercussions of his actions, but believed that country pop singer Shania Twain was helping him drive. Brownlee pleaded not guilty to four charges, including impaired operation of a motor vehicle and driving while disqualified. Last Monday, the judge in the case agreed with Brownlee, drawing on several psychiatric assessments that the man was not criminally responsible for his actions because he suffers from delusions that female celebrities are communicating with him telepathically and controlling his actions. Ten years ago, Brownlee was given a seven-year prison sentence and barred from driving for the rest of his life after he killed an Ottawa woman and her 12-year-old son while driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. Earlier in March, a psychiatrist told the court that Brownlee suffers from psychosis resulting from a brain injury caused by that 1996 car crash.

Dateline: England–Three British schoolboys were recently cited by police in Hartley, Kent, for taking a picture of a lamppost. Danny Finn, 12, Michael Fearn and George Supple, both 13, were stopped as they walked home from school. Danny was questioned by police and handed paperwork which read, “Reason for stop: Was seen taking photos of lamppost … advice given.” Danny was quoted in The Sun newspaper as saying, “I couldn't believe it. I had no idea I could get in trouble for taking a photo of a lamppost. We thought it must have been a joke.” Danny had spotted a set of worn initials on the lamppost that matched his own, and he stopped to snap a picture with his mobile phone. Two police community officers saw them and quizzed the boys about their suspicious activities. “At first I thought there must have been more to it,” said Danny's father Steve Finn. “I asked him whether he had been damaging the lamppost or causing a nuisance, but he insisted he hadn't. He's not that kind of boy.” Kent Police confirmed the boys were spoken to because they were “taking pictures of graffiti.”

Dateline: Wisconsin—June Zurkowski, 40, died at her home in Spencer after apparently choking to death on a ceramic decorative plate shaped like the Easter Bunny. Authorities say the plate was placed there by her husband, 38-year-old Patrick Zurkowski, who has now been charged with murder. According to the Marshfield News-Herald, Zurkowski was charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the death of his wife last Monday. Assistant District Attorney Ken Heimerman said in court that an autopsy found parts of the plate had broken off and lodged in the victim's throat, blocking her airway. The pieces were believed to be the bunny ears missing from a plate found in the Zurkowski home. The defendant telephoned a funeral home last Saturday to say that his wife died suddenly. The funeral home phoned police, who arrested Mr. Zurkowski at his home. The criminal complaint said Zurkowski initially told police he was hit by his wife and acted in self-defense by shoving the bunny-shaped plate down her throat. Judge Vincent Howard set cash bond at $1 million.

Dateline: Wisconsin—The owners of a dog living in the 1100 block of Reed Street in Green Bay were shocked when the family pooch came home with what looked like a human hand in its mouth last Monday morning. Police were contacted immediately and an investigation was launched. The story created a bit of a sensation in area TV reports, but police quickly got to the bottom of the case. Turns out a taxidermist living in the same block had given a lion's paw to a family member, who took it home and hung it on a fence “to dry it out.” The neighboring dog apparently knocked the mummified item down and brought it home to his owners.

Dateline: Florida—The island of Islamorada may end up having to import human waste in order to test out its new sewage treatment plant. According to the Keynoter newspaper, Islamorada's first municipal sewage treatment facility is due to start operation in May. But not enough residents' homes are connected to the system to test it properly. “It's a brand-new plant,” Councilman Chris Sante said. “When it first gets on line is the hardest time, because there's no flow.” In a worst-case scenario, Sante admitted that Islamorada could wind up paying to import sewage so operators can get the plant up-and-running. Sante called for incentives to encourage residents to complete the hookup so the island won't have to pay for the poo. “To have to obtain sewage seems embarrassing,” Sante told the newspaper.

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

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