Turkeys of the Year

Just stuff 'em

The BBB, it turns out, does not pursue complaints against government agencies.

"You could file something, but you'd just get a postcard from us saying thanks for the complaint and referring you to the right place to be heard, which in this case would probably be the Metro board," Parsons says.

If ever there was a situation to say "never mind," this would be it.

Criminal Turkey of the Year

They make movies about stuff like this -- a death row prisoner (sure, in Hollywood he'd have to be a falsely convicted death row prisoner) comes to the big city for a court hearing, somehow fashions a fake ID and calmly walks out of jail to freedom.

In the movies, the escaped prisoner would then begin a relentless search for the Real Killer. Instead, Charles Victor Thompson went looking for a killer daiquiri.

After four days of headlines about his daring and ingenious escape, Thompson was arrested when he was found drunk outside Daiquiri Unlimited, a strip-mall liquor store in Shreveport, Louisiana.

"It was a textbook example of breaking out and a comic-book example of getting caught," says Brian Wice, a criminal defense attorney and television legal analyst.

Thompson got the death penalty in 1999 after shooting a former girlfriend and her lover in north Harris County. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Thompson a new punishment hearing because his first one included prosecutors playing a tape of him ordering up a murder-for-hire from jail. (Hey, a man's got to keep busy.) He was in Houston for that new hearing -- which again resulted in a death sentence -- when he made his escape November 3.

Thompson had an ID showing him to be an investigator for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. He also had civilian clothes. Investigators believe he had some kind of help from a county employee.

Whether he did or not, it was one hell of an escape: strolling coolly past the guards, then stripping down to his boxers and a T-shirt in order to look like a jogger instead of some homicidal maniac running frantically from the jailhouse.

So if you've got the smarts, the connections, the cojones to pull all that off, how the hell do you end up drunk in Shreveport? Granted, if you're in Shreveport it's probably better to be drunk than sober, but still.

"If it was me, I'd be in Cancún with a drink that had an umbrella," Wice says. "I think that would be an adequate use of my final moments of freedom if I was going to be caught. But Shreveport? If all this guy could think of was Shreveport and getting blitzed on cheap booze, then I have to say I'm very disappointed in the end game."

The Houston Chronicle's lead on Thompson's arrest noted he'd been arrested with little in his pockets and he was drunk. "And," the story continued, "he had arrived at the pay phone outside the Daiquiri Unlimited liquor store on a bike that law officers think might have been stolen."

Oh, Christ -- he's in real trouble now, stealing a bike. Although the Chron did leave open the possibility that Thompson had purchased the thing.

USA Today reported that during his brief stint on the lam, he posed as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee to scam food, clothing and money from various people. So at least he was keeping up with the news while in prison.

Thompson showed that he hadn't lost the sense of style that led him to sign his letters from prison "Chuckster Killer." At a hearing after his arrest, he said he'd waive extradition back to Texas. "I'm not going to waste taxpayers' money in Louisiana," he said, apparently believing that fugitive-hunting cops work for free.

But that wasn't the only bit of panache. He was also asked if he understood his rights.

"Totally," he told the judge.

Fearmongering Turkeys of the Year

Nothing boosts a local news station's ratings better than a hurricane. A killer hurricane, poised to wreak havoc and destruction, right on Houston and the rest of the viewing area. TV stations loooove a hurricane.

What they don't love is when the hurricanes go elsewhere. Sure, you can still show video of people hammering plywood, but if it's in Florida, who cares? So it takes a lot to get the local meteorologists and news teams to finally admit Houston has dodged yet another bullet. Usually a hurricane has to be in the suburbs of Memphis before they give up the ghost.

This was a glorious year to be a weathercaster. Not only did they have the possibility of Katrina hitting Houston -- a possibility that eventually became Katrina hitting far eastern Louisiana -- but they had Rita.

And they loved Rita. They loved Rita like it was a very special gift sent down from the Ratings Gods. They held tightly to Rita, refusing to let her go.

As a result, Houstonians endured Satan's Traffic Jam.

Millions of cars, filled with people scared out of their wits by the Katrina pictures and the doom-laden Rita forecasts, clogged the roads headed west, north and east. (The people heading east were heading into the storm, just to make their lives a little more hellish.)

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