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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

After police investigating the shooting death of a convenience-store clerk in Pasadena, Texas, identified Michael Ray Morris, 29, as one of their two suspects, Morris returned to the crime scene to complain to a television reporter that he'd merely been a customer. The reporter jotted down Morris's license plate number and passed it along to police. Detectives contacted Morris, who'd also called the police station to object to being named a suspect. During questioning, Morris gave detectives information he thought was bolstering his alibi but that led police to Daniel J. Stiner, 22, who confessed to the shooting and implicated Morris as his accomplice. (Houston's KRIV-TV)

During a routine traffic stop in Dallas, Texas, Mario Miramontes, 22, hoped to conceal his arrest warrant by giving the officer the name of his cousin, Christopher Ayala, 25. He'd used the name before, but this time the officer's search disclosed that the cousin also had a warrant, on charges of fondling an underage relative. "I thought the name was clean," said Miramontes, who wound up spending 13 months in the Dallas County Jail without access to a lawyer. He was finally released after Ayala's attorney, who said he told prosecutors many times that they had the wrong man in custody, finally convinced Judge Larry Mitchell of the mix-up. (The Dallas Morning News)

Success = failure

Red-light cameras, which many motorists insist are aimed at enhancing revenue rather than safety, have reduced the number of tickets issued in Chicago suburbs so successfully that jurisdictions which counted on the fines in their budgets are experiencing significant shortfalls. Libertyville, Ill., for instance, projected net revenues from red-light violations at $462,000 this fiscal year, but after six months, only $32,000 had been taken in. Although municipal officials agree the decreased revenue is manageable if it promotes safer driving, Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association, which opposes red-light cameras, suggested, "It's not that driver behavior is being modified. It's just that people avoid those areas." (Chicago Tribune)

Who needs guns

A 49-year-old Australian mother told police in Mackay that a man wearing a leather mask broke into her home and attacked her with a rubber dildo. Prosecutor Sgt. Sabine Scott said the dildo "appeared to be wrapped in such a way with duct tape to make it a better bludgeoning weapon." (Mackay's The Daily Mercury)

Police said they arrested Carolee Bildsten, 57, after she raised a "clear, rigid feminine pleasure device" over her head and attacked an officer at her apartment in Gurnee, Ill. She claimed self-defense, explaining the officer had accompanied her while she got money to pay her meal check at a nearby restaurant. "I'm counting my cash to make sure I take out enough, and the officer walks into my bedroom and startles me," Bildsten said. "I got scared, and the only thing in my sock drawer besides my socks and my cash was a dildo." (Chicago Tribune)

Way to go

Authorities blamed carbon monoxide for the deaths of five boys, ages 16 to 19, in a motel room in Hialeah, Fla., that they rented for a birthday celebration. Investigators reported that the teens had borrowed a friend's car, but it wouldn't start and needed a jump. Reluctant to turn off the engine in case they couldn't start it again, they left the car running in the single-car garage attached to their motel room. The cleaning lady who discovered their bodies the next afternoon said the smell of gasoline filled the room. (The Miami Herald)

Fire officials in San Bernadino, Calif., determined that Steven Vego, 44, died after he heard a "pop" and saw a fire in his backyard, then went out to douse it, accidentally stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted. His wife, Sharon Vego, 43, tried to rescue him but also stepped on the power line and was electrocuted. Their son, Jonathan Cole, 21, tried to rescue his parents but he, too, stepped on the power line and was electrocuted. (Los Angeles's KABC-TV)

Not-so-great escape

When a police officer approached Jona Zeigler, 40, in Moses Lake, Wash., to arrest her for an outstanding felony warrant, she drove away. At one point, she decided to flee on foot. "She tried getting out of her car as it was rolling and tripped and was dragged underneath her vehicle," police Capt. Dave Sands said, adding that Zeigler was taken to the hospital for treatment prior to her arrest. (Moses Lake's Columbia Basin Herald)

Food fight

Competing potato chip distributors Richard Stackiewicz, 69, and Raymond Auringer, 56, have sabotaged each other's chips for the past decade at stores they service in Syracuse, N.Y., sometimes crushing each other's chips, other times slicing open bags. Their rivalry turned physical when Auringer found Stackiewicz on his knees stocking a shelf, jumped on him and began punching. "I'd gone to four stores and spent over an hour just cleaning my racks from him smashing them around," Auringer said. "Then I walk in the fifth store, and there he is. It's like God gave me a gift. I just went crazy on him." (Syracuse's The Post-Standard)

Tax dollars at work

When U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents detained Jose Centeno after investigating his immigration status and visa because of a previous felony drug conviction, the agency prescribed sex hormones so he could maintain his appearance as a woman. ICE officials said that since 2006, they're aware of 45 transgender detainees who've been prescribed taxpayer-funded hormones. Although Centeno, now known as Krystal, hasn't undergone gender-altering surgery, he insisted that if he's denied the drugs to control his facial hair and breasts, "you start going back to the person you weren't happy with — then it turns into depression mode."

"If he is depressed, then there are anti-depressants he could be put on — certainly prison is a depressing place," said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. He added he doesn't believe taxpayers should be footing the bill just because Centeno "doesn't want to have facial hair in prison." (Houston's KHOU-TV)

Fences, schmences

National Guard troops operating a remote video surveillance system near Naco, Ariz., observed drug smugglers using a catapult to hurl marijuana across the International Border fence. Border Patrol agents notified Mexican officials, who seized the metal-framed device, powered by heavy-duty elastic and mounted on a trailer, and 45 pounds of pot. (Tucson's KVOA-TV)

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