News of the Weird
In January government troops in Ratchaburi, Thailand, quashed a hospital takeover by members of the Burmese rebel gang "God's Army," largely ending the three-year victory run by the 200-strong Baptist fundamentalist insurgents headed by charismatic twins Johnny and Luther Htoo, now believed to be age 12. The Htoos inspired devotion from grown-ups by their preaching, having persuaded disciples that they were invincible, immune from bullets and land mines and with the ability to summon thousands of "spiritual" warriors to help in battle. The twins escaped and are still in hiding.
Demand-side regulation: A bill introduced in the Vermont legislature (by Representative Fred Maslack) in January would penalize any adult who chose not to own a gun, by requiring him to register with the state and pay a $500 fee for the privilege of being unarmed. A bill introduced in Mississippi (by Senator Tom King) in January would seek to dampen the sexuality in strip clubs by making it illegal for a male customer to have an erection, even though he remains entirely clothed.
Fifteen members of an alleged nationwide ring of pimps were indicted in July in Minneapolis, 12 of whom are related to each other. According to the indictment, Johnnie Lee Evans, Monroe Evans, Kiowan Evans, Levorn Evans, Clem Evans and others procured at least 50 women (some of them juveniles) on the street over an 18-year period and inducted them into a life of prostitution in Minneapolis and St. Louis, among other cities. An unindicted Evans daughter defended her father but was unable to explain to reporters how family members lived so well even though they had no steady jobs.
Diane Haunfelder, 29, was charged with theft in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in January after her seven-year-old son ratted her out as having directed him to shoplift a CD player and a camera from a Wal-Mart. But authorities say Haunfelder claimed she was actually performing a public service by setting the boy up to get caught so that he would learn the consequences of crime: "I picked out the most expensive [items] so he'd get in trouble."
In closing arguments in September in a Barrie, Ontario, murder case, the lawyer for Jack Heyden, 55, explained why the prosecutor's theory (that Heyden and his son conspired to kill a man) was ridiculous: because Heyden thought his son was "useless." "Mr. Heyden wouldn't hire his son to cut the grass. Why would he hire him to kill somebody?" (However, in October, the two were convicted.)
People Who Are Not Like You and Me
A 36-year-old father was arrested in Norwalk, Connecticut, in January and charged with allowing his two-year-old son to puff away on a cigarette in a restaurant. (According to an eyewitness, the child handled the cigarette like it wasn't his first one.) And a 33-year-old mother was arrested in Euless, Texas, in December and charged with permitting her four children to drink alcohol while at home, including a 16-month-old boy with a .126 blood-alcohol reading. (According to authorities, the woman said, "He wants what his mama wants. What am I supposed to do about it?")
-- By Chuck Shepherd
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