News of the Weird

According to a story on the Agence France Presse wire, Stepan Kovaltchuk, 75, emerged from 57 years of living in his sister's attic in remote Montchintsi, Ukraine, in September, having hidden first from the Nazis and later from Soviet military recruiters. He apparently was not aware of Ukrainian independence and came out of the house only because his sister had just passed away. And three weeks later, a man identified only as Lu was arrested in Xinyuan county, China, for having stolen about $15 in 1987. He had been hiding from police in a three-foot hole underneath the floor of a closet in his house, emerging only at night.

In August the school district in Columbus, Georgia, assigned aides to alter textbook photos of Emanuel Leutze's famous Washington Crossing the Delaware painting because some grown-ups thought parts of Washington's pocket watch, dangling against his thigh, might appear to fifth-graders to be the Founding Father's penis. The aides located matching paint and spent two weeks touching up 2,300 textbooks. Officials in Cobb County (Atlanta's northern suburbs) merely snipped the page from its textbooks.

Solutions to Jail Overcrowding

In April in Alberton, Prince Edward Island, Judge Ralph Thompson gave drunk driver Dennis Joseph Peters, 45, only a suspended sentence for his fourth conviction, citing Peters's medical claim that he should not be jailed because he gets claustrophobic. And jailers in Quebec City sent drug trafficker Michel Racine, 57, home in July because the jail did not have furniture big enough to accommodate the 450-pound man. And in August, jailers in Independence, Iowa, released four Amish men who were serving time for vandalism, concerned that the lockup's modern conveniences (TV, running

water) would corrupt the prisoners.


Cox News Service reported in August that Florida state-agency DNA paternity tests on child-support-resisting men found that 36 percent of 1,025 "fathers" in four counties were not the fathers after all. However, Florida courts are split on whether even a negative DNA test will relieve men of support responsibilities once they voluntarily begin paying.

According to police in Honolulu, Denny Usui, 28, at first told investigating officers in July that his grandmother wasn't home, but when they insisted on looking around, he became progressively more helpful: "Oh, I don't know, she might be here." Then, "Yeah, okay, she's in the shower." Then, "Oh, go inside; my grandma's bathroom is inside her room." Then, "Oh, I think she's dead. She's in the shower." And finally (but probably too late), "I don't want to say anything else until I speak to my attorney because this is a felony and I never committed a murder before."

According to a June Los Angeles Times report, about 40 violent male offenders (including murderers) at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility near Sacramento, California, are thriving in a program that teaches the rehabilitative effects of sewing. The tough guys stitch, knit and crochet booties and blankets for premature babies and to achieve what one teen (an armed robber) called sewing's "calming" effect.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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