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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

Police accused Anthony Parkhurst, 20, of stealing a 2001 Honda van advertised on Craigslist by taking it for a test drive but never returning. Orlando police Sgt. Stanley Klem said Parkhurst then listed the vehicle on Craigslist himself and sold it to a couple for $4,000. He promptly stole it and listed it on Craigslist the next day. The couple spotted the ad, alerted police and identified Parkhurst as the seller of the van. Suspecting Parkhurst of belonging to a statewide car-theft ring that stumped investigators for months, Klem said, "Stealing back the car they had just sold could be the break we needed." (Orlando Sentinel)

FBI agents had no trouble identifying Alan Garrett, 43, as their suspect in a bank robbery in Galloway, Ohio. Bank employees not only got the license number of the getaway car, which was traced to Garrett, but also recognized him as a regular customer at the bank. (Associated Press)

Gun goofs

Police charged Cedric R. Newton, 52, with reckless discharge of a firearm after he used a .38-caliber revolver to chase a bat from his home in Maplewood, Minn., claiming it "attacked" his wife. Newton wounded the bat but not before shooting into an adjoining townhouse, where officers found three bullets in its freshly painted walls, a dent in a metal closet door and a dent in the stove. "Newton told police that he had the presence of mind to have his wife go upstairs while he shot at the bat," the criminal complaint said, "but apparently gave no consideration to the surrounding townhomes." (Minneapolis's Star Tribune)

Arnold Morris, 77, explained that he accidentally shot his wife of 54 years in the chest while the couple was training for "robbery scenarios" at their home in Cocoa, Fla. Brevard County authorities said Patricia Morris, 72, underwent surgery and is expected to recover. (Orlando's WKMG-TV)

No idle chatter

A California appeals court declared that a Roseville shopping mall's attempt to regulate conversation is unconstitutional. The Westfield Galleria behavioral-enforcement rule banned anyone in the mall's common areas from "approaching patrons with whom he or she was not previously acquainted for the purpose of communicating with them on a topic unrelated to the business interests" of the mall or its tenants. Anyone intending to talk about anything other than the mall, including the weather or to ask directions to somewhere outside the mall, must submit a written application for permission "four days in advance."

The three-judge panel's opinion cited the deposition of Gavin Farnam, the Galleria's senior general manager. Asked by an attorney for plaintiff Matthew Snatchko, who challenged the rule, if it prohibits approaching strangers to talk about any other subject than the mall, Farnam testified: "It doesn't prohibit you. It just means you have to come in and fill out the application for third-party access for noncommercial" speech. When the attorney asked if a sports fan would be violating the rules to tell a stranger, "Hope you're supporting the Giants this week," Farnam answered: "You can go in and again fill out a third-party access." (The Sacramento Bee)

Fatal distraction

Kathleen Gomez Collier, 47, drowned after she drove her Ford Expedition off a boat ramp and into the Sacramento River near Isleton, Calif., while she was on her cell phone, asking her daughter for directions. According to California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Bradley, just before the call was cut off, Collier told her daughter the car was filling up with water and to phone her insurance company. (San Francisco Chronicle)

No butts

While Nicholas Ryan Harris, 19, was being booked into Florida's Bay County Jail, officers conducting a strip search reported "several dollar bills ... fell from Nicholas' buttocks area." A thorough search recovered $45. (Panama City's News-Herald)

After being booked at the Martin County, Fla., jail, Elizabeth Athenia Progris, 22, showered and was drying off when a deputy noticed a clear bag drop "from her genital area to the floor by her feet." The bag contained pills, which were later identified as generic Xanax. (

Jason Graham, 33, was changing into his jail uniform while being booked into the Manatee County, Fla., jail when a supervising deputy said he heard a rubber band snap as Graham pulled up his pants. After recovering a package containing prescription pills, the deputy reported, "It is apparent that Graham had this package secured around the genital area, and it popped off during the changing of his pants." (Bradenton Herald)

Avoirdupois follies

A woman flying standby from Las Vegas to Sacramento, Calif., paid full fare for the last available seat, boarded and stowed her bags, only to be told she had to deplane because a late-arriving passenger assigned the seat next to her required two seats to accommodate her girth. The tardy overweight passenger was just 14 years old. "It didn't seem right that I should have to leave to accommodate someone who had only paid for one seat," the 5-foot-4, 110-pound bootee said, adding that Southwest Airlines personnel berated her when she questioned their action. Airline official Marilee McInnis admitted Southwest "should have handled it better" and promised the airline would apologize. (The Sacramento Bee)

A nail salon in DeKalb County, Ga., charges overweight customers $5 extra for pedicures. Kim Tran, manager of Natural Nails, explained that she instituted the surcharge to cover the $2,500 cost to fix broken chairs, which have a 200-pound weight limit. (Atlanta's WSB-TV)

Lest they forget

Concerned about the number of children who die from heat or cold after being left in cars by allegedly absent-minded parents, David Bell of Menlo Park, Calif., invented a device that he declared would help parents remember not to leave their children in the back seat when they get out of the car. VizKID is a 2-pound, 24-inch-tall, blue Hawaiian-print construction cone with a bright yellow ball on top with a painted-on happy face that rides in the passenger seat. (San Jose Mercury News)

Guilty as charged

New York City authorities accused Jennifer Mercado, 20, of stealing a credit card belonging to John Postrk when the two of them were serving on a jury hearing a burglary case involving a stolen credit card. Mercado was charged with using Postrk's card to buy more than $500 worth of shoes and clothing at stores near the Bronx courthouse. (New York's Daily News)

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